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Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue

  • How do you know if you are in Stage 3?
  • What are the symptoms?

Stage 3 adrenal burnout is like having your gas pedal stuck down, but your gas tank is not nearly as big as it used to be.

Your nervous system is still telling your adrenals glands to produce as many stress hormones as possible..... but they just cannot keep up anymore.

This explains the Wired and Tired feeling that you may have as you slip into Stage 3. You are exhausted, but your nervous system is still wired.

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The image below shows the overall pattern of the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). The GAS has been essentially renamed Adrenal Fatigue by Dr James Wilson.

The Stages of Adrenal Fatigue are really based on the stages of the General Adaptation Syndrome.

stage 3 adrenal fatigue

Stage 3 adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the demand.

The following article is a nice summary of the work of Dr. Hans Selye, published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry : Hans Selye and the Field of Stress Research (pdf).

Chronic stress does eventually lead to exhaustion, and he proved it over and over.

What happens in Stage 3?

Some people clearly remember transitioning from high energy to low energy.
Others had low energy as long as they can remember.

Here is an excerpt from an article published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry summarizing what happened to rats as they were forced through the stages of the General Adaptation Syndrome.

  the animals lose their resistance and succumb with symptoms similar to those seen in the 1st stage, this phase of exhaustion being regarded as the third stage of the syndrome2

It a nut shell ... your adrenal glands simply can no longer produce the above average level of hormones they did during Stage 2 adrenal fatigue.

You have been whipping a horse (your adrenals) for years, but the horse just can't keep up with the demands anymore..... regardless of how hard it gets whipped.

Your nervous system is still stuck in stressed mode (sympathetic dominance), which is like the whip....demanding that your adrenal glands pump out high levels of hormones.

But like a horse, no matter how hard you whip the poor thing, eventually it starts to slow down.

What are symptoms of Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue

  • If you are having Energy Crashes in the afternoon or evening ..... you are likely in Stage 3

Here are some signs that you are starting to slip into stage 3 burnout:

  • Energy crashes in the afternoon or evening. (92.5% of visitors to this site responded they have this symptom)
  • Loss of Libido. (when you lose your libido, you are starting to run out of energy).
  • Anxiety. You might start having panic attacks for no reason at all.
  • You may start to develop mild depression, lack of motivation.
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle aches and pains.
  • Increased craving for salt.
  • You may notice you don't sweat as much.
  • But you still have an exaggerated startle response.

As time passes, you will likely have more and more of the symptoms listed on the page:
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

You are not alone with these symptoms. See the page:
Surveys of Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Stage 3 Hormones

  • Your may have high cortisol in the morning....
  • ...... but run out of gas later in the day.

Early Stage 3

At the beginning of Stage 3, you may actually have high cortisol during certain times of the day, usually in the morning or late evening.

For example, the table below shows the first Saliva Test I ever took.

July 16, 2004 Value Range Result
Cortisol - Morning 21.2 ng/mL 3 - 8 High
Cortisol - Noon 2.3 ng/mL 2.0 - 4.0 OK
Cortisol - Evening 0.9 ng/mL 1.0 - 2.0 Low
Cortisol - Night 1.4 ng/mL 0.5 - 1.5 OK
DHEA - Morning 33.2 ng/mL 3 -10 High

Here is the actual saliva test report (2004-07-16) (pdf).

You are reading that correctly. My morning cortisol was 21.2, and the reference range was (3 -8). Morning DHEA was also sky high.

Did you notice the evening cortisol? It is low. That explains the afternoon energy crash that many experience. This is also a sign that the adrenal glands are running out of gas later in the day.

This is very common. In fact, 91.5% of visitors to this site answered Yes that they have energy crashes in the afternoon or early evening.

(See Surveys of Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms ).

During this period, I had no libido, muscles were aching, hair loss, anxiety, lots of eye floaters, etc.

I also stopped sweating (dehydration), which can indicate the adrenal glands are not producing aldosterone, which is needed to retain sodium (which in turn retains fluids).

Mid Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue

A couple of years later, and I had gone deeper in Stage 3.

3 of 4 cortisol reading were low.

July 17, 2006 Value Range Result
Cortisol - Morning 12.7 ng/mL 3 - 8 High
Cortisol - Noon 1.8 ng/mL 2.0 - 4.0 Low
Cortisol - Evening 0.9 ng/mL 1.0 - 2.0 Low
Cortisol - Night 0.4 ng/mL 0.5 - 1.5 Low
DHEA 9.0 ng/mL 3 -10 ok

Here is the full saliva test report (2006-07-17) (pdf).

And I sure felt a lot worse during this period. I was very groggy in the mornings, even after sleeping for 10-hrs.

I had slurred speech around this time..... so barely enough energy to move my tongue :)

I was still able to work at this point, but I didn't know for how much longer.

This was close to rock bottom for me. From this point, I have slowly been getting better. (Hopefully, my experience will help you get better even faster).

Do you notice that I still had high cortisol in the morning? Since I have been focusing on detoxing using Nutritional Balancing, I believe I know why this is common.

High cortisol in the morning may be from the stress of your body trying to eliminate toxins during the night (more on this in another article).

Advanced Stage 3

Many people get to the point of being nearly house bound, or even bed bound.

There are many people who get to the point of being unable to look after themselves. They can't get groceries, can't work, and simply cleaning up the house wipes them out.

These people often have low cortisol on all (4) saliva samples.

But even people that are that far along can recover.

Treatment of Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue?

  • Nutritional Balancing seems to be the best overall protocol
  • Buteyko Breathing is also very helpful.

I spent years and years participating on the adrenal fatigue forum on I have also tried just about everything imaginable.

I have seen what works .... what makes people worse. There is no easy treatment protocol.

The two most helpful things I have tried and/or seen others try are:

  • Nutritional Balancing : I have seen it help extreme cases that nothing seemed to work. Also, the only people I've seen completely recover from adrenal fatigue made detoxification of metals a central focus of their treatment
  • Buteyko Breathing Technique : This is more about reducing symptoms. Many symptoms (some of the worst ones) come from subconscious hyperventilation. Subconscious hyperventilation is the result of chronic stress. Buteyko Breathing works to retrain your breathing to reduce hyperventilation.

You can read an over view of adrenal fatigue treatment on the following page:
Overview of Adrenal Fatigue Treatment

If you would like to jump right in to the Treatment Hub, go to the page:
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment

Whatever you decide to try .... I wish you all the best.

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1. General Adaptation Syndrome
2. Hans Selye and the Field of Stress Research (pdf)
3. Voluntary exercise impacts on the rat hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis mainly at the adrenal level.

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