In addition to the “stress hormones” mentioned above, the adrenal glands produce a number of other hormones involved in other physiological functions. The glucocorticoids, for example, help direct metabolism and regulate blood sugar levels, which may become imbalanced if there is insufficient adrenal activity. Those with adrenal fatigue might find themselves more easily prone to “sugar crashes” or find themselves with intense salt or sugar cravings. Glucocorticoids also help control the immune response, modulating inflammation responses, so those with adrenal fatigue might also become more sensitive to infections, causing them to have to endure illnesses longer than usual. Low levels of mineralcorticoid hormones, which help balance the body’s sodium and potassium levels, blood volume, and blood pressure, may also cause pronounced changes in dietary habits and overall energy levels. In women, the adrenal gland also produces testosterone, a reduction of which can cause lowered sex drive.
Secretion of cortisol, another adrenal hormone, normally fluctuates following a day/night cycle, stimulated by light/dark patterns noted by the brain. Cortisol levels are normally highest in the morning, decrease throughout the day, and reach their lowest point several hours into sleep. Cortisol helps the body bounce back from stress by returning it to a more normal, “resting physiological state, and plays a wide variety of functions in metabolism, immunity, memory, and also plays roles in making the body sensitive to other hormones, like epinephrine. Lowered levels of cortisol can cause a person to become dehydrated, fatigued, run down, and have difficulties thinking. A person will have significant difficulty getting out of bed in the mornings and feel their energy continue to decline throughout the day.