Oh, that coffee didn’t do anything… I’ll get another one…

Have you ever had a coffee and expected to feel better, but instead you felt worse? Or more tired? Prolonged tiredness and/or fatigue can be symptoms of many ailments or illnesses, though it is important to consider “Stress hormone fluctuations”, previously known as Adrenal Fatigue. With recent changes to the modern lifestyle, including being able to be switched on and accessible at all times, has placed many individuals at greater risk.

It is important to seek the right medical attention for you, and also collecting some pathology like Cortisol, blood glucose, ACTH and a full Thyroid function test.  Stress hormone fluctuations can lead to a gamete of symptoms and is primarily caused by prolonged stress. Stress may come from many sources like; illness, excessive working hours, prolonged or excessive exercise. Also emotional stress from adverse events in life and being in a stressful environment without sufficient restoration of the body, mind and spirit.

Be aware of the symptoms:

It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between “coming off night duty” and actual prolonged fatigue and lethargy. Asking yourself these questions may help you become aware, should you need to seek further attention.

1. Are you feeling tired, lethargic and physically drained?

2. Do you crave sweet sugary foods or salty foods?

3. How is your mood affected, do you feel irritable, apathetic, depressed or anxious?

4. Have you endured a prolonged stress or illness recently?


Asking yourself these questions over a period of 5 days, writing them down or recording your symptoms can be very effective at taking an objective view. To then seek appropriate medical attention and avoid the burnout phase.

Stages of a Hormonal Stress Disorder.

Stage 1, The beginning alarm phase the body is capable of producing hormones which increase arousal and alertness. This can be in response to a job interview for example, or an acute minor illness, sleep can be disrupted slightly, though many people can go in and out of stage 1 repeatedly through life.

Stage 2, The continuing alarm phase your immune system is still able to respond and produce enough hormones to maintain alertness, though crashing hard of an evening is common. This is where the body produces additional cortisol at the expense of sex hormones. The individual may experience a lower sex drive, and also become dependent on things like caffeine and sugar at this time.

Stage 3, The resistance phase where the immune system continues to produce cortisol at the expense of sex hormones. The individual may still be able to hold down a job, though may start to feel less satisfied with life with low sex drive, lack of enthusiasm and prolonged tiredness. This individual may stay in this phase for months or even years.

Stage 4, The burnout phase where the body is no longer able to produce the hormones needed and cortisol starts to drop. Sex hormones and neurotransmitters are also now low. The individual can suffer from extreme tiredness, depression, anxiety, weight loss and disinterest in themselves and the world. The treatment is a healthy diet and often requires a complete lifestyle change and prolonged time.

Treatment and prevention.

Prevention is always better than cure, and making positive lifestyle adjustments right now is critical and pivotal in the process to health. Enjoying a balanced diet make up of at least 80% wholefood unprocessed food. Staying hydrated all the time, limiting caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake is essential. Also, taking active measures to work on your sleep, rest and restorative practices is essential. 

By Amy Benn written in collaboration with Natasja Fox

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