You will know all about menopause, right? As a woman, you know exactly when you are likely to start experiencing symptoms and what happens. It is something you will hear happening to every woman at some point.
Only did you know that some of the symptoms you experience may not be menopause? There is a chance that your symptoms are that of adrenal fatigue. At the same time, adrenal fatigue can be experienced at the same time as going through menopause. It makes managing your symptoms difficult, both before and after the initial stages.
It is time to understand the differences between the two and how they can also link together. The more you understand, the more you can protect your physical and mental health.
Adrenal Fatigue: Stress-Related Affects the Glands
Adrenal fatigue is described as a condition related to stress that affects the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands, and the hypothalamus. When the glands cannot function properly, you can experience a weakened immune system, low energy levels, and a lack of sex drive. It is easy to see how it can be confused for menopause instantly.
A one-off stressful situation is not going to affect your adrenal glands and surrounding areas. The stress needs to be constant and happens in times of emotional distress. The number of neurotransmitters and hormones in the body drops, affecting all parts of your body. However, since we are all unique in the way our bodies react to hormones, we can get different symptoms—or the same symptoms on a different level.
There are some similar complaints among sufferers. Food cravings and fatigue are the most commonly experienced symptoms, which is not surprising with the term “fatigue” in the name. Some women can experience frequent urination, low blood pressure, a lack of sex drive, low blood sugar levels, and insomnia. These symptoms are less common, but certainly happen!
Because of the fatigue, it can be different to get up in the morning. Despite the fatigue you can find it hard to sleep. The brain goes a million miles a minute as the stress hormones continue to climb. The stress hormones, specifically cortisol, cause problems for the blood sugar too. When you do finally get to sleep, you can wake up from hunger pangs. There are many late night snackers in those who suffer from adrenal fatigue.
Handling stress becomes difficult. You can feel overwhelmed and depressed, affecting the rest of your hormones. It is easy to start questioning every decision you make and find it hard to handle small situations that do not quite work out to plan. Many patients experience apathy, anxiety, and lack of enthusiasm, which are often side effects to the overwhelmed feeling; it is the body’s way to counter situations.
And of course, the increased amount of cortisol causes problems for the immune system. It has an anti-inflammatory affect, which in small doses is a good thing. However, when the cortisol levels get out of control, the immune system cannot set off the inflammatory response when necessary to promote healing. Without the immune system functioning properly, you are more likely to suffer from diseases and viruses. Autoimmune disorders are also more likely to occur.
Confusing Menopause for Adrenal Fatigue
It is easy to see now how you can confuse both menopause and adrenal fatigue. In fact, adrenal fatigue can certainly occur at the same time as menopause. Menopause is a time that your body goes through major hormonal changes. You can experience effects on your blood sugar, blood pressure, and many other levels.
However, the two are different. The biggest difference is the permanence of the conditions. Menopause cannot be reversed. It is a natural part of aging. However, adrenal fatigue can be reversed with some help. One of the best things you can do is take steps to reduce the amount of cortisol in your body. Prevent the stress levels from rising through activities such as yoga, exercise, and medication, and you will find it much easier to protect your adrenal gland function.
Menopause must be managed to help with the symptoms. Doctors can prescribe hormone replacements, but they just help to manage symptoms instead of reversing the condition.
There are many other differences between the two. Here is a look at the major ones to help you determine if you are going through adrenal fatigue or menopause.
Menopause and Increased Risk of Urinary Tract Infections
While adrenal fatigue causes a weakened immune system, you are at a higher risk of specifically developing more urinary tract infections with menopause. This is due to the lowered levels of estrogen rather than due to the weakened immune systems. Estrogen helps to keep your immune system working effectively within the urinary tract. When those levels drop, your body is susceptible to more of the bad bacteria that causes UTIs.
Frequent urination is one of the signs of a UTI, but you will also likely experience a burning sensation when you do urinate. After you have finished urinating, you may feel the need to go back to the toilet, but nothing happens. You will need to see your doctor for antibiotics. Leaving a UTI is dangerous for your whole body and can lead to kidney problems.
Vaginal Atrophy and Decreased Sex Drive
Adrenal fatigue can lead to a lowered sex drive, but it is not one of the most common symptoms that women experience. The lowered sex drive is also usually linked to the lower levels of energy. Think about when you get tired. The last thing you want to do is something that requires energy.
When it comes to menopause, a decrease in the libido is extremely common. It is linked to the decreased estrogen levels, which controls so many of the female feelings. The clitoral reaction time becomes delayed, the vagina dries, and it can be harder to have an orgasm. All these elements make sex less enjoyable or interesting, meaning women are just less interested in it.
The lack of estrogen can also make sex painful. While you have interest in it, sex hurts too much because of the dryness of the vaginal walls. Many women require more lubrication to get rid of the pain and still enjoy sex, but a doctor can also help.
However, the reduction in estrogen can also lead to the vagina health declining. The vaginal walls are more at risk of inflammation, thinning, and atrophy. This is one of the reasons intercourse becomes painful and can lead to a decrease in interest. Localized estrogen therapy may be required to help treat and prevent the condition. This is not something that is noticed in patients with adrenal fatigue.
Tissue and Skin Changes
During adrenal fatigue, the skin can become dry and more prone to acne. The natural oil production can change due to the changes in the hormonal levels. However, the changes are usually temporary and reversible once the hormones are back in order.
When it comes to menopause, the changes to the estrogen levels affect the skin, hair, and all other tissues in the body. Some of these changes are visible and can be repaired using creams and lotions. However, some changes are internal and can cause major health problems.
When it comes to the skin and hair, the collagen and fatty tissue help with the health, elasticity, and brightness. As you get older, the collagen production decreases. The lack of estrogen can lead to thinner skin and a permanent change to your oil production. Your skin becomes thin and dry while being more prone to acne. You may need creams to help eliminate the dryness and improve elasticity, but you cannot completely prevent the condition from occurring.
Your hair becomes more brittle, as do your nails and skin. Harsh chemicals will further dry out the body, which will continue to affect the collagen growth and damage tissue. You will want to avoid them. While avoiding the use of them does not reverse the condition, it will help to prevent further damage.
It is not just your hair and skin that are affected. The tissues in your body can also change for the worse. Your bones will struggle to absorb as much calcium, meaning they become more brittle. You are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, which is not the case with adrenal fatigue. Your ligaments, muscles, and joints can also suffer. Inflammation is more common, which can lead to more chronic pain issues.
You can get some of these chronic pain issues with adrenal fatigue, but many of them are manageable and reversible. After menopause you can need constant treatments due to the lower levels of estrogen.
Permanent Changes to Your Menstrual Cycle
You will know that menopause is the time in your life that your menstrual cycle permanently changes. Your periods are no longer regular. You can go months without a period and then have one that does not fit with the old dates that you used to follow. At first, you may question if you are pregnant and then realize that you are going through this normal stage of aging. Of course, you cannot rule out pregnancy at first.
When you do have a period, they may be lighter or heavier than they used to be. Occasional spotting is also common. Some women experience longer periods than previously or even shorter ones.
Adrenal fatigue does not bring this issue to the menstrual cycle. You may have some changes due to stress, but they will not be permanent, and you will still usually find that you have frequent periods.
You should not have any spotting after no period for 12 consecutive months. If you do, this could be a sign of something more serious. Talk to your doctor if this happens.
Experiencing Hot Flashes on a Regular Basis
The changes to the way your adrenal and pituitary glands function can certainly affect your body temperature. While there may be some experiences of hot flashes, they are not as frequent as when you go through menopause.
Menopause is also usually very specific in the places that you experience the hot flashes. They often affect the upper part of your body, and often in the face or neck. There are times that the sudden influx of heat wakes you from your sleep and in some cases, they can last for 10 minutes. Your sleep is disrupted you tired and can cause the lack of energy the next day.
The hot flashes will occur after your final period and usually for 12-24 months. They lessen in intensity after menopause. If you have adrenal fatigue, you can continue to experience the flashes throughout the body until you get the glands under control.
While hot flashes are normal, they can also be embarrassing. Your doctor may be able to help prescribe treatments to help you manage the symptoms.
More Food Cravings and Fatigue
While menopause is linked to food cravings because of your changing hormones, this is a symptom more commonly experienced with adrenal fatigue. The same applies to the fatigue. You can experience more sugar or salt cravings, as your body tries to add energy back into its system. Caffeine cravings are also common for quick bursts of energy.
Of course, giving into these cravings cause some health problems. You can put your heart under more stress from the caffeine, increase your blood sugar levels due to the sugar cravings, disrupt electrolytes with the salt, and cause more energy crashes and more fatigue later in the day.
Sometimes it feels like you just have no energy at all to even get out of bed. This is not tiredness, but the feeling of your whole body giving in. You are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, including cognitive impairment and depression. Mood swings and irritability are extremely common. While you can experience irritability with menopause, the hormone replacement treatments can help to manage them to an extent. With adrenal fatigue you need to get to the bottom of the reason for the symptoms, making it harder to rectify them.
In both cases, exercise can help with your mood and manage your food cravings. However, with adrenal fatigue, you can find it harder to get the energy for the exercise. Meditation, yoga, and low impact exercises can help to get started, along with following a healthy and balanced diet.
Knowing the Condition, You Have
Your doctor will be able to help determine if you are going through menopause or adrenal fatigue. If you are considered young for menopause, then your doctor will carry out other tests first. These tests will usually consider your stress levels, blood pressure, and the activity in your glands. You may also be tested for thyroid gland issues, as they can also cause some of the above symptoms.
When you are around menopause age, this is usually the first conclusion doctors will jump to. That does not mean you are suffering from it just yet. You will need to listen to your body. If you know your stress levels are high, take steps to reduce them and protect your health. Make it a habit to practice deep breathing techniques and try out forms of exercise. Even if it does turn out to be menopause, taking these stress-reducing steps will help to manage some of your menopausal symptoms.