Adrenal fatigue plagues many unsuspecting individuals, and you could be one of them if you are someone who often feels tired, especially late in the afternoon. If you experience an afternoon low—especially around 3-4 pm, followed by a second wind that keeps you going into the wee hours of the night (1-2 am or later), then keep reading.

Adrenal fatigue is often the cause of many other illnesses, as it decreases the body’s immune function and its ability to deal with stress (stress is noted as potentially the #1 cause of illness).

Yet adrenal fatigue is often overlooked as the underlying issue due to the fact that general fatigue (tiredness) has become such a widespread complaint these days, and is even a symptom of many of these very same diseases. However, adrenal fatigue has some unique distinguishing characteristics, which you’ll see in a moment.

It is estimated that over 80% of the American population is affected by adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives. Untreated, adrenal fatigue affects quality of life and overall health, and furthermore, can lead to a host of other health conditions.

20 Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

1) Difficulty getting up in the morning (without the use of stimulants!)

2) Not really awake until 10am

3) Fatigue not relieved by sleep

4) Lethargy or lack of energy

5) Increased effort needed to accomplish day-to-day tasks

6) Decreased interest in sex (low sex drive)

7) Decreased ability to handle stress

8) Increased time to recover from illness, injury, or trauma

9) Light-headed or faintish when standing up quickly

10) Slight-moderate depression

11) Less enjoyment or happiness

12) Decreased tolerance or patience

13) Symptoms worsen when meals are skipped or inadequate

14) Unfocused or fuzzy: often forget your train of thought; difficulty making decisions—even simple ones

15) Memory loss and absentmindedness

16) Increased symptoms of PMS

17) Craving salt or salty foods

18) Afternoon low between 3-4pm

19) Feeling better after your evening meal

20) Decreased productivity: difficulty completing tasks or staying on task

(*Above signs adapted from Adrenal Fatigue book cited below.)

How to Test for Adrenal Fatigue

If you have any of these symptoms, taking the quick home tests below is worth your time. They can help determine if you suffer from the high-low rollercoaster ride of adrenal fatigue.

1) Shine a flashlight across your eye. If your pupil contracts, but then dilates within 2 minutes, it is likely you are dealing with adrenal fatigue. (This dilation will remain for 30-45 seconds before it recovers and contracts again.)

2) After lying down quietly for 10 minutes, take your blood pressure. Then, stand up and again take your blood pressure. Normally your blood pressure rises when you stand—at minimum it should stay the same. If yours drops instead, this is almost always a sign of low adrenal function: The more severe the drop in blood pressure, the more severe the loss of adrenal function.

*Note: Blood pressure dips are also a possible sign of dehydration. If needed, retest on a day you’re sure to be hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid dehydrating beverages such as sodas, coffee, and alcohol. It’s important to be aware that all of these types of beverages also intensify adrenal fatigue and its symptoms.

3) Take the top end of a ball point pen & mark a line on your abdomen about 6” long. In a normal reaction, it will leave a white mark that will turn red within seconds. If adrenal function is compromised, it remains white for about 2 minutes and even widens. (This test does fail to indicate about 40% of adrenal fatigue cases, yet it is still fail-proof in the other direction, meaning if you test positive here, it confirms the presence of adrenal fatigue.)

If desired, further testing can verify whether or not adrenal fatigue afflicts you. Of lab tests, salivary hormone testing is by far the most effective, while urine and blood tests are not nearly as effective. A deeper analysis of such tests is required than most doctors are yet trained to conduct, and the standardized “healthy” range is skewed.

The effective and free home test offered here (with common symptoms) is your best bet. An even more in-depth personal questionnaire can be found in Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, by James L. Wilson (the guru on adrenal fatigue), which is a must read.

You can also find more information on alleviating adrenal fatigue in my other blogs on the subject, as well as those on stress, negativity, and toxic relationships.

Today, many people lean on stimulants—let’s be clear, they only perpetuate the issue. They may deceive you into thinking you’re fine, while further damaging your adrenals. That evening “second wind” can also fool us into complacency.

As a recovered sufferer, I can assure you, you are worth making the necessary lifestyle changes. If this condition is left unchecked, you and your quality of life will continue to spiral downward.

Here are a few simple things you can start doing right now to stop the deterioration of your adrenals.

  • Maximize recovery sleep from 10:00 pm-2:00 am

  • Eliminate caffeinated beverages

  • Eat a healthful non-processed diet

    • Never skip breakfast & eat often throughout the day

    • Eliminate stress.

    Don’t let the adrenals’ tiny size confuse you as to their importance—you cannot live without them!

    Sources for this article include:

    Wilson, James L. (2008). Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Petaluma, CA: Twelfth Printing