Stage 1: Alarm/Alert
During the first stage of adrenal fatigue our body can create significant numbers of hormones needed for the response. If a lab test were given during this first stage it could show elevated levels of adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), norepinephrine and insulin.
Stage 2: Resistance Response
Your fatigue starts to get in the way of your daily activities, and you notice your performance at work or at home decreasing. You might also start to experience new symptoms such as anxiety, PMS, irritability, frequent colds and flus (and other infections), and insomnia.
Even if you do manage to sleep, you don’t feel rested and refreshed afterwards.
At this stage, your NEM’s Hormone Circuit is starting to dysregulate. Your hormones go out of balance and different hormone systems begin to affect the other circuits like the Neuro Affect and the Inflammation Circuits.
Because AFS is not yet recognized by mainstream medicine, each symptom you report will most likely be treated as a separate condition. For example, if you complain of feeling depressed, you may be prescribed antidepressants. If you complain of fatigue, you may be put on thyroid medication. If you get blood work done and it shows hormone imbalance, you may be put on hormone replacement. However, routine labs will not show adrenal issues. So your medical practitioners will likely not address your adrenal fatigue and it will progress to the next stage.
Stage 3: Adrenal Exhaustion
When your adrenals have overworked to the point of exhaustion, their cortisol output drops significantly. However, you are still remaining at a high stress level and it starts to affect other circuits in the NEM stress response.
By now, you may have experienced one or more adrenal crashes. Recovering from each subsequent crash takes longer than before. The organs and systems that are not needed for survival, such as reproduction, slow down. Even digestion slows in order to conserve energy, and that’s why you can get symptoms such as constipation.
Having adrenal exhaustion means that now you’re unable to function normally, even with stimulants and other coping mechanisms. That’s what differentiates this stage from the other three stages of adrenal fatigue. We can further differentiate four phases of this third stage.
Stage 4: Adrenal Failure
If you don’t get the help and support you need to stop the progression of adrenal fatigue, you will eventually reach the fourth stage: total adrenal failure. This is a very serious condition and you would be at a high risk of cardiovascular collapse and even death.
A lot of times, stage four can be confused with Addison’s disease, which is sometimes called adrenal insufficiency. This is also a very serious condition that can be fatal if not treated. Unlike AFS, however, the mainstream medical community does recognize Addison’s disease and has treatment protocols for it.
This stage of adrenal fatigue not only brings with it an increase in the severity of symptoms, it also brings new symptoms that can come on quite suddenly. They can be things like intense pain in the legs, abdomen and lower back, as well as severe vomiting, dehydration, constipation, a drop in blood pressure, and fainting.
We sincerely hope you have not reached this stage. Most people that discover they have AFS usually do so when they have reached stage 3C after trying to get treatment for the symptoms without finding full relief. But even if you believe you reached stage four, you can, with the right kind of support, recover and regain your health. We have many success stories of even the most desperate cases.
The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is what’s responsible for neutralizing the stress that can result from facing these stressors. It’s composed of different organs and systems organized into six circuits: The Hormone, the Bioenergetics, the Nerve Affect, the Cardionomic, the Inflammation, and the Detoxification Circuits.