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Women and Adrenal Fatigue

  • Women seem more prone to adrenal fatigue
  • There are a few possible reasons

If you spend enough time on adrenal fatigue forums and support groups, you may notice:

  • More woman participate on these forums
  • Women tend to have the most serious cases of adrenal fatigue
  • Women tend to have a harder time improving

Most Site Visitors are Female

A survey on this site asked people if they were male or female.

Out of 372 site visitors surveyed, 81.1% said they were female. These are people researching adrenal fatigue.

And Google also estimates that about 80% of visitors to this site are women (Goggle uses things you search for to guess your gender..... I know... a little creepy).

But Why ???

Below are a few possible reasons that adrenal fatigue is more common in women.

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Estrogen and Fear Conditioning

This could be the main reason women are more prone to adrenal fatigue.

It seems that due to estrogen, women may be more prone to Fear Conditioning.

An example of fear conditioning is how once someone might be terrified of all dogs if they have been attacked by a dog. They would tend to be jumpy, or have an exagerated startle response.

  Estrogens exert important actions on fear and anxiety-like behavior both in humans and non-human animals....
...evidence suggests that estrogens may exert their influence on fear within the amygdala.
..These data raise the possibility that estrogens could influence fear responses in females through their actions in the amygdala. 39

So it seems that women may be more prone to becoming stuck in a state of stress (fear conditioning) after being exposed to stressors.

Menstrual Cycle: Hormone Changes

  • Adrenal hormones increase during your menstrual cycle

Your adrenal glands are involved in the menstrual cycle.

Compared to men, your adrenals seem to have some extra work to do every month during the menstrual cycle.

One study showed changes in cortisol and ACTH level1. ACTH is a produced by your pituitary gland, which stimulates the adrenal glands.

  These results suggest that pituitary hormones other than gonadotropins may be involved in the ovulatory mechanism, and reveal a degree of stimulation of the pituitary-adrenal axis....1

Your progesterone levels (adrenal hormone) greatly increase during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. 2

Another adrenal hormone, 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC), has been show to have large changes during the menstrual cycle8.

  ....during the ovarian cycle of women, significant changes in the plasma levels of DOC occur that are coupled to fluctuations in plasma progesterone concentrations.8

So ... your menstrual cycle results in your adrenal glands having to produce increased hormones due to stimulation from the pituitary gland. This makes it a stressor.

Women with adrenal fatigue often mention that they have menstrual issues. It might be because they have trouble producing the hormones and energy needed for a regular menstrual cycle

In female athletes for example, an energy deficit is the suspected reason for reproductive issues21.

This is possibly why women with adrenal fatigue report symptoms related to their menstrual cycle 13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20, including:

  • Irregular cycles
  • No menstrual cycles
  • Increased moodiness and cramping
  • Premenstrual Fatigue

If you are interested in what other women experience, see the article:
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms in Women.

Menstrual Cycle: Mood Changes

  • Negative emotions are a source of stress.

Extreme emotions are a source of stress, even positive ones11,12. But negative emotion are more damaging.

  The emotions that are most damaging are rage, unforgiveness, depression, anger, worry, frustration, fear, grief, and guilt.12

Even healthy women tend towards more negative emotions during the luteal phase (pre-mense) of the menstrual cycle22. Therefore, even healthy women experience a little stress every month due to negative emotions.

However, women stuck in state of stress experience more severe PMS symptoms23.

Also, women with more PMS symptoms tend to have lower levels of saliva cortisol7 (adrenal hormone), which is common with advanced adrenal fatigue. The women in this study were also more depressed.

For more info on Adrenal Fatigue and PMS symptom, see the article:
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms in Women

Stress of Pregnancy

  • The adrenal hormone cortisol increases during pregnancy.
  • Your adrenal glands actually grow during pregnancy4

One study found that both blood levels and saliva levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol increase during pregnancy3.

  Serum cortisol and sAA levels are increased during pregnancy 3

Organs grow (hypertrophy) from increased activity9. Another study found that a woman's adrenal glands grow during pregnancy4, indicating they are doing more work than normal.

If your adrenal glands grow, and cortisol levels increase, pregnancy is a stressor.

Pregnancy is one more stressor women may need to deal with, which would make them more prone to adrenal fatigue.

Zinc/Copper imbalance in Women

  • Zinc is lost at a high rate during stress
  • Women are more prone to Zinc / Copper imbalance.

Great book on Copper Toxicity

Why Am I Always So Tired?

A great book to learn about stress, copper toxicity, and adrenal fatigue is:
Why Am I Always So Tired , by Ann-Louise Giddleman.

This book will connect a lot of dots for you.

Copper is an essential mineral. However, at high levels, it acts as a toxic metal25, 32.

With stress, removal of all toxins slows down. Your Vitamin C levels and Glutathione (anti-oxidant) levels become lower during stress. Both of these are used to remove toxins.

Zinc is also lost at a very high rate during stress28.

The combination of accumulated copper and zinc deficiency will cause your zinc/copper to become unbalanced.

However, women may be more prone for a few reasons. For more info, see the article:
Copper Toxicity in Women.

More prone to under eating?

  • Under eating is a source of stress
  • Women may more prone to under eating

A 2010 study of 122 women found that dieting (restricting calories) increases total output of the stress hormone cortisol36.

  this study found that monitoring one's diet increased perceived psychological stress, and restricting one's caloric intake increased total daily cortisol 36

Due to cultural pressures, women are more concerned about being thin, and spend more time worrying about body image, body checking, etc.35, 38.

Worry about body image, and the actual dieting, are both sources of stress that women are more prone to.


Women are definitely more prone to developing adrenal fatigue. And the constant hormone swings from your menstrual cycle are a continuing source of stress that make recovery more difficult.

Copper toxicity is also a big factor for women.

I have been on various adrenal fatigue forums and support groups for years. A lot of women have been making good progress with protocol:
Nutritional Balancing

It is not an easy protocol, and it takes time. But it seems to have a higher success rate than other adrenal fatigue treatment methods.

Good luck to you. This is frustrating to live with, but people do get better.

If you are Female, please answer .... 3 quick Questions about
Your Symptoms

If you are Female, please answer .... 3 quick Questions about
Your Symptoms
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1. Pattern of plasma ACTH, hGH, and cortisol during menstrual cycle.
2. Patterns of Salivary Estradiol and Progesterone across the Menstrual Cycle
3. Salivary and serum cortisol levels, salivary alpha-amylase and unstimulated whole saliva flow rate in pregnant and non-pregnant.
4. Maternal and fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axes during pregnancy and postpartum
5. Stress-induced changes in human salivary alpha-amylase activity -- associations with adrenergic activity
6. Cortisol, estradiol-17B, and progesterone secretion within the first hour after awakening in women with regular menstrual cycles.
7. Salivary cortisol in women with and without perimenstrual mood changes.
8. Plasma concentrations of 11-deoxycorticosterone in women during the menstrual cycle
9. hypertrophy
10. Moods in everyday situations: effects of menstrual cycle, work, and personality.
11. Dr Archibald Hart. Adrenaline and Stress.
12. Don Colbert M.D.. Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You (Kindle Location 259). Kindle Edition.
13.Curezone post-mood swings and copper-indianagirl
14. Curezone post - thelaughingdogs
15. Curezone Post - gopala
16. Curezone post - irregular periods - tiredandwired
17. Curezone post - irregular periods - irregular menstruation
18. Curezone Post - no menstrual cycle
19. Curezone post - ex-athlete loses menstrual cycle
20. Curezone post - no menstrual - painful intercourse
21. Energy balance and reproductive function in active women
22. Effects of the menstrual cycle on mood, neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function in healthy premenopausal women
23. Arousal and stress response across the menstrual cycle in women with three perimenstrual symptom patterns.
24. Menstrual mood disorders are associated with blunted sympathetic reactivity to stress
25. Copper toxicity
26. Estrogen
27. Why Am I Always So Tired?. HarperCollins. Ann-Louise Giddleman
28.! An Antidepressant? The essential mineral for resiliency Published on September 15, 2013 by Emily Deans, M.D. in Evolutionary Psychiatry
29. Zinc and copper interact antagonistically in the regulation of linolenic acid metabolism
30. Effect of estrogen on serum and tissue levels of copper and zinc.
31. Serum copper in rural women taking combined oral contraceptive.
32. The Role of Glutathione in Copper Metabolism and Toxicity - The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 1989
33. Effect of estrogen-progestogen administration on tissue cation concentrations in the rat.
34. Estrogen impairs glucocorticoid dependent negative feedback on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis via estrogen receptor alpha within the hypothalamus
35. Gender Difference in the Prevalence of Eating Disorder Symptoms
36. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol.
37. Cognitive dietary restraint is associated with higher urinary cortisol excretion in healthy premenopausal women
38. Gender differences in compensatory behaviors, weight and shape salience, and drive for thinness
39. Estrogen facilitates fear conditioning and increases corticotropin-releasing hormone mRNA expression in the central amygdala in female mice

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