Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue in Females

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue in Females
Scott Resnick MD 2022

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue in females are different from those in males. In many ways, the presentation between the two sexes overlaps. This blog will show you the ways in which a female may develop, and thus heal from, adrenal fatigue differently.

But first, let’s discuss the similar jobs the adrenals hold in males and females. In both sexes, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine) equally. These hormones help us to regulate our blood sugar and energy, and to react to stressors.

The adrenals also secrete a hormone known as aldosterone. This hormone helps us to regulate our blood volume by absorbing sodium (and losing potassium) in the kidneys. This, too, operates equally between the two sexes.

Lastly, the adrenals also make the sex hormones estradiol, testosterone, and DHEA. Here we begin to see differences between men and women.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue in Females: Loss of Muscle Mass

The stress response, blood sugar regulation, and sodium balance are maintained equally across both sexes. This makes sense, as these activities are foundational to basic biochemistry and survival.

However, many of the different symptoms connected with adrenal fatigue that women face are a product of changing levels of the sex hormones: testosterone, estradiol, and DHEA.

Cortisol is perhaps the most important hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. This raises our blood sugar, but it also has so many other functions in the human body.

However, cortisol is a catabolic hormone. This means that it doesn’t build but breaks down tissues in the body. So as a woman experiences more and more stress, she will find herself with less muscle mass. The cortisol is simply doing what it was designed to do.

This effect is typically more pronounced in a woman relative to a man. With their naturally higher levels of testosterone, men lose muscle mass more slowly than do women.

Clinically this presents as having less energy, less strength, and less muscle tone. I have seen several female patients in my career whose adrenal-related symptoms begin with this very complaint.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue in Females: Weight Gain

It is fair to say that in many ways women carry a disproportionate burden of responsibility when it comes to family management. This can be associated with a significant amount of stress.

One of the classic findings of elevated cortisol is water retention. This is reflected in weight gain that is not related to the menstrual cycling. That said, many women who suffer from adrenal dysfunction will often note that their weight gain is even more pronounced in the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Common complaints are changes in the way clothes fit, and increased snugness of rings and bracelets. On occasion a shoe won’t fit was well as it did previously; socks can leave marks in the skin by the end of the day.

Some of these symptoms can appear in men as well, but in women it is exacerbated by an unbalanced amount of estrogen, which we will discuss in the following paragraphs.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue in Females: Estrogen Dominance

Earlier I indicated that a primary job of the adrenal glands is to keep us alive. In ancestral times when food was often scarce, the threat of starvation was very real and always present.

It makes sense that for a female who is under significant stressors– there was a time we were frequently under attack, migrating or just plain hungry– this may not be the best time to reproduce. A pregnancy is an energy-demanding process, and the body knows when the timing was off.

With excessive stressors, a woman may not ovulate altogether. Periods just stop with advanced stress. With extreme stress, women stop making any sex hormones, namely estrogen. Estrogen’s job is to make tissues grow.

Just picture the body composition of a 16-year-old Russian gymnast. She has no body fat, no breast tissue, no hip development—and no periods. The stress of being on the National team has basically put a stop to her sexual development.

In the rest of the world, the outward manifestations of stress may not be as pronounced. One of the hallmarks of a less-effective ovulatory cycle is the production of less progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This is the regulatory “yang” to the growth stimulating estrogen “yin.”

Unbalanced estrogen promotes unregulated tissue growth, more water retention, and more fat deposition. This accounts for the weight gain discussed in the paragraphs above.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue in Females: Mental Status Changes

Many women with adrenal fatigue report having significant changes in mental status and mood.

The adrenal glands alter our moods via so many mechanisms. Cortisol itself is known to alter brain anatomy and thinking. In both sexes high cortisol can actually shrink a part of the brain known as the hippocampus.

But in women, these effects seem to be even more pronounced. I believe that cortisol’s effects are multiplied by the concurrent effects of low thyroid function and the unbalanced estrogen detailed above.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue: Conclusions

The symptoms that result from changes in our adrenal glands differ between men and women. Fatigue, insulin dysfunction and the ability to respond to a stressor are shared between the two sexes. Weight gain, muscle loss and the mental status changes appear to have a stronger influence in females.

“Adrenal Fatigue” is a wastebasket term that really doesn’t define what is happening in the adrenal glands. A better nomenclature would be to define the states of cortisol over the day, either trending high (hypercortisolism) or low (hypocortisolism).

In conclusion, both high and low cortisol can cause symptoms. To fully address and correct adrenal dysfunction, start with a history that considers first the individual’s gender. Then consider some of the unique factors outlined in this blog. With this information, a four-point salivary cortisol test that includes the adrenal hormone DHEA-s is an excellent second step.







Join the Conversation

Join my mailing list to receive a complimentary copy of my ebook, Think Different. In it you will learn to reignite your energy by changing your perspective on health.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Address Book Address Card adjust align-center align-justify align-left align-right ambulance American Sign Language Interpreting Anchor Angle Double Down Angle Double Left Angle Double Right Angle Double Up angle-down angle-left angle-right angle-up Archive Alternate Arrow Circle Down Alternate Arrow Circle Left Alternate Arrow Circle Right Alternate Arrow Circle Up Arrow Circle Down Arrow Circle Left Arrow Circle Right Arrow Circle Up arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up Alternate Arrows Alternate Arrows Horizontal Alternate Arrows Vertical Assistive Listening Systems asterisk At Audio Description backward Balance Scale ban barcode Bars Baseball Ball Basketball Ball Bath Battery Empty Battery Full Battery 1/2 Full Battery 1/4 Full Battery 3/4 Full Bed beer bell Bell Slash Bicycle Binoculars Birthday Cake Blind bold Lightning Bolt Bomb book bookmark Bowling Ball Braille Briefcase Bug Building bullhorn Bullseye Bus Calculator Calendar Alternate Calendar Calendar Check Calendar Minus Calendar Plus Calendar Times camera Retro Camera Car Caret Down Caret Left Caret Right Caret Square Down Caret Square Left Caret Square Right Caret Square Up Caret Up Shopping Cart Arrow Down Add to Shopping Cart certificate Area Chart Bar Chart Line Chart Pie Chart Check Check Circle Check Square Chess Chess Bishop Chess Board Chess King Chess Knight Chess Pawn Chess Queen Chess Rook Chevron Circle Down Chevron Circle Left Chevron Circle Right Chevron Circle Up chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up Child Circle Circle Notched Clipboard Clock Clone Closed Captioning Cloud Cloud Download-alt Cloud Upload-alt Code Code Branch Coffee cog cogs Columns comment Alternate Comment comments Compass Compress Copy Copyright Credit Card crop Crosshairs Cube Cubes Cut Database Deaf Desktop Dollar Sign Dot Circle Download Edit eject Horizontal Ellipsis Vertical Ellipsis Envelope Envelope Open Envelope Square eraser Euro Sign Alternate Exchange exclamation Exclamation Circle Exclamation Triangle Expand Alternate Expand Arrows Alternate External Link Alternate External Link Square Eye Eye Dropper Eye Slash fast-backward fast-forward Fax Female fighter-jet File Alternate File Archive File Audio File Code File Excel File Image File PDF File Powerpoint File Video File Word File Film Filter fire fire-extinguisher flag flag-checkered Flask Folder Folder Open font Football Ball forward Frown Futbol Gamepad Gavel Gem Genderless gift Martini Glass Globe Golf Ball Graduation Cap H Square Lizard (Hand) Paper (Hand) Peace (Hand) Hand Pointing Down Hand Pointing Left Hand Pointing Right Hand Pointing Up Pointer (Hand) Rock (Hand) Scissors (Hand) Spock (Hand) Handshake Hashtag HDD heading headphones Heart Heartbeat History Hockey Puck home hospital Hourglass Hourglass End Hourglass Half Hourglass Start I Beam Cursor Identification Badge Identification Card Image Images inbox Indent Industry Info Info Circle italic key Keyboard Language Laptop leaf Lemon Level Down-alt Level Up-alt Life Ring Lightbulb Link Turkish Lira Sign list list-alt list-ol list-ul location-arrow lock Lock Open Alternate Long Arrow Down Alternate Long Arrow Left Alternate Long Arrow Right Alternate Long Arrow Up Low Vision magic magnet Male Map map-marker Map Marker-alt Map Pin Map Signs Mars Mars Double Mars Stroke Mars Stroke Horizontal Mars Stroke Vertical medkit Meh Mercury Microchip microphone Microphone Slash minus Minus Circle Minus Square Mobile Phone Alternate Mobile Money Bill-alt Moon Motorcycle Mouse Pointer Music Neuter Newspaper Object Group Object Ungroup Outdent Paint Brush Paper Plane Paperclip paragraph Paste pause Pause Circle Paw Pen Square Alternate Pencil Percent Phone Phone Square Phone Volume plane play Play Circle Plug plus Plus Circle Plus Square Podcast Pound Sign Power Off print Puzzle Piece qrcode Question Question Circle Quidditch quote-left quote-right random Recycle Redo Alternate Redo Registered Trademark Reply reply-all Retweet road rocket rss RSS Square Ruble Sign Indian Rupee Sign Save Search Search Minus Search Plus Server Share Alternate Share Alternate Share Square Share Square Shekel Sign Alternate Shield Ship Shopping Bag Shopping Basket shopping-cart Shower Alternate Sign In Sign Language Alternate Sign Out signal Sitemap Horizontal Sliders Smile Snowflake Sort Sort Alpha Down Sort Alpha Up Sort Amount Down Sort Amount Up Sort Down (Descending) Sort Numeric Down Sort Numeric Up Sort Up (Ascending) Space Shuttle Spinner Square Square Full Star star-half step-backward step-forward Stethoscope Sticky Note stop Stop Circle Stopwatch Street View Strikethrough subscript Subway Suitcase Sun superscript Sync Alternate Sync table Table Tennis tablet Alternate Tablet Alternate Tachometer tag tags Tasks Taxi Terminal text-height text-width th th-large th-list Thermometer Empty Thermometer Full Thermometer 1/2 Full Thermometer 1/4 Full Thermometer 3/4 Full thumbs-down thumbs-up Thumbtack Alternate Ticket Times Times Circle tint Toggle Off Toggle On Trademark Train Transgender Alternate Transgender Trash Alternate Trash Tree trophy truck TTY Television Umbrella Underline Undo Alternate Undo Universal Access University unlink unlock Alternate Unlock Upload User User Circle user-md Add User User Secret Remove User Users Utensil Spoon Utensils Venus Venus Double Venus Mars Video Volleyball Ball volume-down volume-off volume-up Wheelchair WiFi Window Close Window Maximize Window Minimize Window Restore Won Sign Wrench Yen Sign 500px Accessible Icon Accusoft Adversal affiliatetheme Algolia Amazon Amazon Pay Amilia Android AngelList Angry Creative Angular App Store iOS App Store Apper Systems AB Apple Apple Pay Asymmetrik, Ltd. Audible Autoprefixer avianex Aviato Amazon Web Services (AWS) Bandcamp Behance Behance Square BIMobject Bitbucket Bitcoin Bity Font Awesome Black Tie BlackBerry Blogger Blogger B Bluetooth Bluetooth BTC Büromöbel-Experte GmbH & Co. KG. BuySellAds Amazon Pay Credit Card American Express Credit Card Apple Pay Credit Card Diner's Club Credit Card Discover Credit Card JCB Credit Card MasterCard Credit Card Paypal Credit Card Stripe Credit Card Visa Credit Card Centercode Chrome Cloudsmith cloudversify Codepen Codie Pie Connect Develop Contao cPanel Creative Commons CSS 3 Logo Alternate CSS3 Logo Cuttlefish Dungeons & Dragons DashCube Delicious Logo Deskpro deviantART Digg Logo Digital Ocean Discord Discourse DocHub Docker Draft2digital Dribbble Dribbble Square Dropbox Drupal Logo Dyalog Earlybirds Edge Browser Elementor Ember Galactic Empire Envira Gallery Erlang Ethereum Etsy ExpeditedSSL Facebook Facebook F Facebook Messenger Facebook Square Firefox First Order firstdraft Flickr Flipboard Fly Font Awesome Alternate Font Awesome Font Awesome Flag Fonticons Fonticons Fi Fort Awesome Alternate Fort Awesome Forumbee Foursquare Free Code Camp FreeBSD Get Pocket GG Currency GG Currency Circle Git Git Square GitHub Alternate GitHub GitHub Square GitKraken GitLab Gitter Glide Glide G Gofore Goodreads Goodreads G Google Logo Google Drive Google Play Google Plus Google Plus G Google Plus Square Google Wallet Gratipay (Gittip) Grav Gripfire, Inc. Grunt Gulp Hacker News Hacker News Square Hips HireAHelper Hooli Hotjar Houzz HTML 5 Logo HubSpot IMDB Instagram Internet-explorer ioxhost iTunes Itunes Note Jenkis Joget Joomla Logo JavaScript (JS) JavaScript (JS) Square jsFiddle KeyCDN Kickstarter Kickstarter K KORVUE Laravel Square Leanpub Less Line LinkedIn LinkedIn In Linode Linux lyft Magento MaxCDN MedApps Medium Medium M MRT Meetup Microsoft Mix Mixcloud Mizuni MODX Monero Napster Nintendo Switch Node.js Node.js JS npm NS8 Nutritionix Odnoklassniki Odnoklassniki Square OpenCart OpenID Opera Optin Monster Open Source Initiative page4 Corporation Pagelines Palfed Patreon Paypal Periscope Phabricator Phoenix Framework PHP Pied Piper Logo Alternate Pied Piper Logo Pied Piper PP Logo (Old) Pinterest Pinterest P Pinterest Square PlayStation Product Hunt Pushed Python QQ QuinScape Quora Ravelry React Rebel Alliance red river reddit Logo reddit Alien reddit Square Rendact Renren replyd Resolving Rocket.Chat Rockrms Safari Sass SCHLIX Scribd Searchengin Sellcast Sellsy Servicestack Shirts in Bulk SimplyBuilt SISTRIX skyatlas Skype Slack Logo Slack Hashtag Slideshare Snapchat Snapchat Ghost Snapchat Square SoundCloud Speakap Spotify Stack Exchange Stack Overflow StayLinked Steam Steam Square Steam Symbol Sticker Mule Strava Stripe Stripe S Studio Vinari StumbleUpon Logo StumbleUpon Circle Superpowers Supple Telegram Telegram Plane Tencent Weibo ThemeIsle Trello TripAdvisor Tumblr Tumblr Square Twitch Twitter Twitter Square Typo3 Uber UIkit Uniregistry Untappd USB us-Sunnah Foundation Vaadin Viacoin Viadeo Viadeo Square Viber Vimeo Vimeo Square Vimeo Vine VK VNV Vue.js Weibo Weixin (WeChat) What's App What's App Square WHMCS Wikipedia W Windows WordPress Logo Wordpress Simple WPBeginner WPExplorer WPForms Xbox Xing Xing Square Y Combinator Yahoo Logo Yandex Yandex International Yelp Yoast YouTube YouTube Square