Signs of adrenal depletion
Although everyone manifests adrenal depletion differently, the classic way most patients present is with tiredness and fatigue. They often use the words "exhausted" or "can't get up in the morning" to describe how they feel. A lot of adrenally depleted patients feel the worst of their fatigue between 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. They describe this as their "most ineffective time of the day" or they feel like they just need a nap.
Moodiness is also a very prevalent symptom of adrenal fatigue. People usually seem to have a short fuse, meaning that it doesn't take much to get them very frustrated, or very angry, or weepy and sad. Reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hypotension (low blood pressure) are also conditions linked with this type of depletion. People that get tired, cranky or irritable if a meal is missed or delayed may have hypoglycemia. People that have this generally know what it is because as soon as they get something with sugar in it, they feel fine again. People that get a head rush or a sense that they may pass out when they stand up too quickly is a common complaint in patients with low blood pressure. Anxiety, panic attacks or even depression (where there wasn't a history) can be a symptom of the patient's "bucket reserves" being too low.
How your adrenal glands function
The adrenal glands are two small glands located on the top of kidneys (ad means "next to" and renal refers to the kidneys). The adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol when they go into their "fright, fight, flight" mode (sympathetic mode). Adrenaline is a short-lived hormone. We are all familiar with the feeling of released adrenaline, because we all remember being frightened at one point in life. It causes increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and sometimes sweating. Cortisol is a more long-acting hormone. It has some anti-inflammatory ability, increases blood sugar (glucose), but on the other hand, it suppresses the immune system, and is known for causing belly fat.
The parasympathetic mode (in contrast to the "stressed" sympathetic mode) is when your body does most of its maintenance, repair, digestion, and healing. When the body is forced out of that mode and into the worry/stressed mode, this will result in an impaired immune system (resulting in increased viral infections), chronic pain, excessive weight, suppression of the thyroid gland, low stomach acid (resulting in reflux or ulcers), damage to the hippocampus in the brain (resulting in short term memory problems), and osteoporosis.
Stress is everywhere. You hear people blame stress for their problems all the time. These are referred to as "stressors". You can't control most stressors: financial, job, marital, children, sickness, pain, death. Having said that, some people physically handle stress better than others. Dr. Berglund often refers to the ability to handle stress like a bucket. This is our reserve - what we save up for a "rainy day". (For some people, this is more like a thimble.) Unfortunately, things like a poor diet including sugar and caffeine, worry, viral infections, chronic pain, and even inadequate sleep can "drill holes in the bottom of our bucket", causing it to leak. Once that reserve goes below a certain level, people start showing signs of being depleted. We call this "adrenal exhaustion" or "adrenal fatigue".