Every college student reaches a point where they simply can’t focus anymore. They’re stressed, exhausted, and anxious. Sometimes, these are temporary side effects from pulling all-nighters or partying. Other times, these symptoms can be related to a more serious health issue: adrenal fatigue.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms that are the result of low functioning adrenal glands. This syndrome is most commonly associated with prolonged levels of high stress or chronic infections.
When experiencing adrenal fatigue, many changes occur throughout your body, affecting its metabolism, hydration levels, electrolyte balance, heart function, and even your libido. According to Dr. Todd Nippoldt at the Mayo Clinic, adrenal fatigue can also cause severe depression.
What are Adrenal Glands?
Adrenal glands are some of the most important glands in the body. The adrenals are best known for secreting a hormone called adrenaline.
These glands are made of two parts: the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. The cortex works to produce hormones like cortisol and aldosterone to help regulate your metabolism and control blood pressure and heart rate. The medulla produces non-essential hormones like adrenalin and norepinephrine.
Symptoms and Stages
There are four stages to adrenal fatigue: alarm reaction, resistance response, adrenal exhaustion, and adrenal failure.
The first stage is the fight-or-flight stage, and it doesn’t usually present any observable symptoms. Many people don’t realize they have reached the first stage of adrenal fatigue and tend to mask or ignore symptoms with caffeine.
The second stage begins when the adrenal glands are no longer able to keep up with the body’s demand for cortisol, often resulting in hypocortisolism. Your body no longer feels refreshed after a full night’s sleep and symptoms of hypothyroidism are present.
With the third stage, the body gradually enters a mode where conservation of energy is its primary goal. The body systematically slows down, breaking down muscle tissue, increasing the likelihood of depression, and severely affecting metabolic, immunological, and neurological systems.
At the fourth stage, advanced adrenal crisis manifests in the form of cardiovascular collapse, loss of consciousness, and dehydration. It has been shown that 25% of people experiencing adrenal failure present symptoms similar to an Addisonian crisis, which, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Most doctors suggest herbal supplement treatments for adrenal fatigue before starting various hormone therapies. There are several ways to improve the function of your adrenal glands, including improving your diet, reducing stress, and taking herbal supplements.
When improving your diet, you should avoid coffee, sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils, and instead consume healthier options such as green tea, honey, coconut oil, and avocados. Another key to helping your body overcome any kind of fatigue is proper nutrition. Some essential nutrients to help your body cope with stress include ashwagandha, zinc, and magnesium.
When college causes you anxiety and stress, bear in mind adrenal fatigue symptoms. Be careful what you eat, how you sleep, and how much work you take on. Don’t let this debilitating illness take over your life.