Fight or Flight Mode: Adrenal Fatigue-It’s Real

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Unknown 8 1 1 | Fight Or Flight Mode: Adrenal Fatigue-It'S Real



Feeling beat down? Stressed? Counting down the days until the holiday?




If so…you are not alone.


I’d be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every person I’ve talked to over the past couple weeks who is ready for a vacation.


There’s something about the end of the year that gets our panties in a wad.




Maybe it stems back to being a kid ourselves—climbing the walls in the classroom, ready for our LAST day of classes before Christmas vacation!


Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that stress and daunting to-do lists can do us in: fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, emotional distress, colds and illness, exhaustion, skin breakouts, pain, restlessness, poor self-care, are just some of the symptoms that may present when stress gets the best of us.


Thinking back to this time last year, I was definitely one of those victims—and I actually cannot believe it’s nearly been a full year since I recovered from a pretty chronic case of adrenal fatigue.


Adrenal what?


Adrenal fatigue.


If you’re not too familiar with the condition, you should probably familiarize yourself.


In fact, it is estimated that 80% or more of people in Western developed nations worldwide will suffer from it at some time in their lives.


Contrary to popular belief, adrenal fatigue may include fatigue or exhaustion—but not necessarily.


Some other common signs and symptoms of this epidemic include:



the cycle of adrenal fatigue



  • Your metabolism is out of whack (inability to lose or gain weight)


  • You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.


  • You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.


  • You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.


  • You crave salty and sweet snacks.


  • You experience respiratory difficulties


  • Panic/anxiety attacks and episodes


  • Low blood pressure


  • Dysmenorrhea advancing to amenorrhea, or Irregular Menstrual Cycle that “stops and goes”


  • Low potassium and sodium levels on blood labs


  • Waking up feeling tired in the morning after night’s sleep


  • Feeling tired in the afternoon between 3:00 and 5:00 pm, and/or between 9:00 and 10:00 PM, but resists going to bed


  • Exercise helps first, but then makes fatigue worse


  • Unable to get pregnant, requiring IVF


  • Dark Circle under eyes that does not go away with rest


  • Constipation for no apparent reason



Unfortunately, conventional medicine still does not recognize, adequately diagnose or treat this debilitating fatigue and stress syndrome.


I certainly had no idea what it was!


And boy, was it a long road to recovery.




Here is a link to a blog I wrote after going through it last year.


In short, my case of adrenal fatigue did not happen over night—it was a result of months, even years, of stressors I placed on my body.


From my history of disordered eating (my body lived in a malnourished state for years and also experienced ups and downs of weight gain to weight loss); to the pride I took in my ability to run off of 4-5 hours of sleep every night; the stress I took on as a grad student—studying my little brains out, staring at a computer screen and constantly trying to push through and perform at A-plus levels; my drive in the gym and some overtraining; and ultimately, my loss of touch with ‘tapping in’ to my body and self-care (‘so much to do and so little time’ mentality)…eventually these stressors caught up with me.


The straw that broke the camel’s back was a morning I woke up around 4:45 a.m. to get to the gym, then throw my scrubs on, hit my hospital rotation for a 9-hour day, then go to a meeting, then biblestudy, then home by about 9:30 or 10 p.m. that night.





I went about with my plan for the day, but I distinctly remember after finishing my workout that morning (‘Fran’ of all things people), that I began to experience difficulty with breathing.


Labored breathing. I chalked it up to a tough workout and went about my day…but my inability to get in a full breath did not go away.


Weird. I thought. Real weird.


Perhaps it would be better the next day?


I was in bed by about 12:30 p.m. that evening, and come 4:45 a.m. the next morning—same story.


Difficulty breathing.


It really freaked me out—and try as I might to push through and go about my daily routine…I felt ‘off’—and rarely did I ever feel ‘off’ (or at least let that feeling of ‘off’ actually throw me off).


48-hours passed…still not better, and by about that time, I was really worried. That weekend, I checked myself in to the local ER and told them I was experiencing difficulty breathing, some chest pains and lightheadedness.




That only began a long month ahead of doctor appointments, two more ER visits, and a laundry list of diagnoses of these professionals trying to help me get to the ‘bottom of it’.


The doctors told me:


“It’s anxiety.”


“It’s exercise-induced asthma.”


“It’s all in your head.”


“It was a blow to your chest of some sort—an inner bruise.”

“It’s a cold.”


They gave me inhalers, steroids, anti-anxiety medication prescriptions—all of which I was too afraid to take—as it seems like no one could come up with an ‘exact’ diagnosis of what the heck was going on.


All the while, my symptoms continued:


Shortness of breath and labored breathing daily. Tightness and squeezing in my chest. Fatigue—despite my ability and ‘energy’ to go on with my to-dos of my days. Numbness and tingling occasionally in parts of my body.


The climax of it all came the day I went in for a scheduled heart stress test with a cardiologist.


As I ran on the treadmill, plugged up to electrodes, the doctor said:




“Well your heart looks good—have no idea why you are experiencing these symptoms” (duh, I know you don’t—no one knew!)…


‘But….have you ever been tested for a pulmonary embolism?”


Just the thing a girl wants to hear while she is on a treadmill for a stress test (ie. Stressful!).


That day, I was scheduled for an emergency CT scan to see if there was a blood clot somewhere in my body.


The result?




While I was very relieved that both these tests yielded positive results, I was completely disheartened—why did no one know what was going on with me?!


At the end of my rope, I went home and Googled ‘integrative wellness doctor Austin’ on my computer at home—and began making phone calls.


Long story short…a week later, I set foot inside my integrative doc’s medical practice, and from the door, she saw ‘adrenal fatigue’ written all over me.


“I see this all the time—especially with grad students.”


From day one, my journey to healing began—and began to work.




I had a saliva test conducted, and came to find out that my cortisol hormone levels were on the rise throughout the day (as opposed to being higher in the morning, and gradually lowering like a bell curve throughout the day).


My body thought I was in ‘fight or flight’ mode all the time, ready to run from a bear at any time.


As I became more familiar with WHAT adrenal fatigue was (not necessarily being laid up on the couch or in bed all day), the more I began to learn how to take care of myself.


I began to:




  1. Develop healthier sleep habits (more than 4-hours per night)


  1. Supplement my health with natural key vitamins, minerals, and hormonal support it needed (Vitamin D, fish oil, Adreno Distress Guard, Adrenal Dessicated, a multi-vitamin, vitamin B and Vitamin C)


  1. Support healthy gut health and digestion (apparently a lot of ‘stress’ and distress is gut-related. I started taking a probiotic and fiber supplement throughout the day)


  1. Ensure all my meals were balanced with plenty of essential fats and carbs alongside protein


  1. Drink more water (at least 75-100 oz. per day)


  1. Practice stress-management techniques. I took a few more yoga classes. Purchased some lavender aromatherapy. Drank hot tea at night before bed.


  1. Made my workouts less intense.



The result?


Well I’m walking, talking, living proof today that you can overcome adrenal fatigue—and now, I am paying it forward.


Today, I love working with people to problem solve and develop a plan of care to help them feel their very best—and conquer adrenal fatigue.


Your body doesn’t have to feel like it got run over by a truck.


You don’t have to get sick easily or frequently.


Your stomach doesn’t have to be in distress.


Your hormones don’t have to be out of whack.


You don’t have to struggle to recover from workout to workout, or just get through the day.


You don’t earn gold stars for sleeping the least amount in your days.


For more information on this condition, check out this link,, or read this book: “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”.


Knowledge is power and you deserve to thrive, not just get by or merely survive in your day to day.

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