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Adrenal Fatigue FAQ: Effects of hysterectomy on adrenal glands & Handling stress through rotating shifts and travel


June 25, 2012 | Published by


Question: What’s the effect on the adrenal glands when a woman has a total hysterectomy and the ovaries are removed? I am asking specifically about women after menopause.

A total hysterectomy is the removal of the entire uterus, as opposed to a partial hysterectomy which is the removal of only a portion of the uterus. In either case, the ovaries remain intact and continue to function and produce estrogen. An oophorectomy is the removal of the ovaries (the glands which produce estrogen in a woman’s body) and is sometimes, but not always, done at the same time as a hysterectomy.

In the case of either natural menopause or an oophorectomy (“surgical menopause”), the ovaries no longer make estrogen, but small amounts continue to be produced by the adrenal glands and the fat cells. In addition, the adrenals produce other hormones which can be converted by fat, muscle, and breast tissue into estrogens. However, the amount of estrogens circulating in a woman’s body after menopause is much lower than the amount circulating in her body prior to menopause.

Question: Do you have any advice for someone who works rotating shifts? I am a police officer and we rotate days/nights every 2 months. I NEVER feel good. and Can you travel through different timezones when you have adrenal fatigue? If yes, how do you prepare?

Rotating shifts and traveling through different time zones are hard on the body because many hormones have daily cyclical patterns that are related to light and dark and affect the sleep/wake cycle. For example: cortisol, one of the primary adrenal hormones, typically reaches its highest level during early morning, then falls throughout the rest of the day to reach its lowest level in the middle of the night. In contrast, melatonin—a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that assists sleep—rises at night. However, changing shifts and time zones disrupt the normal rhythms of these hormones.  This is why it takes most people a few days to adjust. If your adrenals and/or stress response system are compromised, it will be significantly more difficult to adapt to these types of changes. In addition, these time changes are stressors themselves and put increased demand on your stress response system.

Some of the best things you can do to help your body adapt to the change are the things we’ve mentioned over and over to support your nervous system and adrenals:

-Get enough rest
-Eat nutritious foods
-Keep your blood sugar stable by avoiding sugary foods or skipping meals
-Avoid stimulants
-Get the proper nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium
-Use adaptogens—herbs which help the body deal with stress and adapt to change—such as ashwaganda, maca, and eleutherococcus

In addition to this, there are some specific things you can do to help your body adapt to the new sleep schedule:

•Begin to relax and do quiet activities about an hour before bed to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that helps you relax) using things like warm baths, massage, or yoga.

•Avoid television and computers for at least an hour before bedtime and keep your sleeping area very dark. Light (especially light shining directly in your eyes) shuts off the body’s production of melatonin.

•Keep your sleeping area comfortably cool. Sleep is associated with a lowered body temperature.

•Consider sitting under a full spectrum light for 30 minutes when you wake. This helps to reset the circadian (daily) rhythm.

•Keep a note pad by your bed. If your brain has difficulty turning off at your new bedtime and bombards you with concerns and “to dos,” you can write them down to deal with later and allow your mind to relax.

Dr. Lise NaugleAbout the Author: Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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  • Rebecca Ryan says:

    Since I had a my ovaries removed I have gad “breathing difficulty” I was misdiagnosed more than diagnosed. pulmonary embolism, (none) respiratory therapist (fine oxygen level) 6 months, tCOPD treated for 4 years. Nothing relieved my chest pains and difficulty breathing. I am practically unable to function. The doctors – Cardiologists) spent two weeks preforming studies on my heart.While prescribing nitroglycerine. Ekgs, Monitors and excellent cardiologist ordered something similar to an MRI on my heart. My heart is fine. My primary care MD was prescribing oxygen to relieve the symptoms, but still I had daily episodes with difficulty breathing accompanied by chest pains. Because I was afraid this would occur in public, I became home bound, with no friend and very little quality of life. The general practitioner I have now had a bad experience with estrogen herself and prefers not to prescribe the patches that relieve the panic attacks – Anxiety Disorder I received earlier. ( I understand anxiety disorder presents with the symptoms of Heart problems, COPD and respiration problems)
    Before my ovaries were remove I NEVER experienced these symptoms. I have referred primary care nurse practitioner to Collage data bases where this information is available.However, she treats me as if I am insane or lying or both. I just want my life back. Perhaps, the best I can hope for is controlling the symptoms.
    I believe that this condition is more wide spread that realized. I think that many women are diagnosis with mental illness and treated with anti psychotic drugs – virtually producing zombies who could otherwise be productive citizens that contribute to our society with proper medications.
    Do you have suggestions as to what I might do to convince MDs that I need a low dosage hormone supplement therapy?
    I once forgot to apply my hormone patch, noticed I was having problems breathing, again, but did not make the correlation. When I used my hormone patch, within days my anxiety attacks diminished.
    I understand that correlation is not causation, however there are quite a few “coincidences” related to my use of estrogen patches. It is not the same as having ovaries, but it greatly improve the condition.
    I have also experienced sever problems with insomnia which began when I had my ovaries removed. I believe this is related as well. I read in a medical journal that estrogen is secreted into hypothalamus which helps induce and maintain sleep. Right now, I sleep in 15 minute to 1 hour intervals. When I awaken I am not able to go back to sleep. I sleep an average of 4 hours (in increments, every three day cycle)I practice every sleep hygiene ritual I have been able to find. This makes my life miserable. I am barley able to function. I am afraid to drive for fear I will fall asleep, as I do at computer for a few moments after a few days without sleep.The sleep I experience resembles narcolepsy. I am awake one moment, then find myself on the floor or my face on the computer key board. When I do sleep, it is not a normal sleep, I don’t drift off into a relaxed semiconscious state, I have no rem sleep, I do not dream. It is not a restful sleep. I know I cannot have my ovaries is replaced, but need to find out what I can do to control the symptoms so I may return to the most normal life as possible.
    Any information you can provide I greatly appreciate.
    Rebecca Ryan 6614 622 4213

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for writing. I’m very sorry to hear of your current situation, and it’s easy to see how you could be scared and frustrated with your current state. Instead of convincing your current practitioners of the need for hormonal therapies, it may be time to seek a second opinion–perhaps with a practitioner who specializes in hormonal treatments. They would be able to measure your hormone levels and assess which hormones you may need, and in what amounts/forms. If you’re interested, we may be able to help refer you to a practitioner.

      Can anyone in a similar situation provide additional help or encouragement?

      • Cindy says:

        Sharing my personal research and success. My anxiety attacks, mood swings, breathing issues and leg/ankle swelling totally went away when I added sea salt (not table salt) to my diet. I found in my research that the adrenal glands need minerals which is 85% of the makeup of sea salt. The adrenals secrete cortisol which is cause the anxiety attacks. After awhile reduce the sea salt because the sodium can affect aldosterone (which monitors blood pressure ) and is also produced by adrenals.

  • Kim says:

    I had a hysterectomy and ovaries removed. I’m 47 yrs old I’m on hormon shots estrogen and testron but I never feel good, I’m always tired to the point I could sleep all the time, I’m ill feeling inside like every gets on my nerves. My doctor has change the doses I get but nothing is working I have no sex drive at all. It’s has to stay awake in the day time. I feel like I’m going crazy. Can you please help. I been told I still need progestin with my hormones but my doctor doesn’t tell me this. He says my sex hormon is very low. I been told I could have high cortisol that could be making my tired. I can’t take it anymore I don’t want to do anything but sleep I don’t have the energy to do anything.

  • Tina hooper says:

    Hello, I had a hysterectomy and ovaries removed back in 2002 and was put on Hormone replacement therapy for 1 year before having a stroke and then being taken off it. Later in 2005 I had another blood clot Develop in my neck, its was resolved with blood thinners. I was Sent to me a hematology where he had sent me for a blood panel of 20 tubes of blood at one time. I had found out that I had a clotting disorder, a high factor 11 and a factor 5, I also have C677 which is a platlet disorder. So with all this Against me I cannot take hormone replacement.
    I set back today a did some read on Adrenal hormone insufficiency and all there was on Adrenal and I was very surprise on what it all said on it.
    Let me tell you about me. I am a 49 yr old women that has already went through Menopause about 6 or 7 yrs ago. I would rather sleep then hang out with friends and family, I’ve even called off doctors appointment cause i was to tired. I do have low thyroid so I do take medication for that and i get that check reg. I also take anti depression meds and a sleeping pill 3 or 4 times a week to help me sleep more then 3 or 4 hrs. I have been with the same partner for 16 years and probably about about 3 or 4 after my Hysterectomy I stopped wanting sex period! Its drives him crazy and i give in probably once a month, and we have broken ul over it a few times but then worked it out.
    I don’t know if there is other medications out there that i can take other then Hormone replacements that will not cause me to get clots. But if so i would love to find out cause i would really love to be normal and have my sex life back. If you can help please let me know. Thanks Tina

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Tina,

      Thank you for writing. To address the libido problem, you’d need to address the root cause(s) of the issue. We’re not healthcare practitioners, so we wouldn’t be able to determine the root cause(s). Hormone levels are certainly a big part of libido, and it sounds like there could be several factors at play. Are you currently seeing a healthcare practitioner? If not, we may be able to provide you some referrals. You may also find an article from our blog helpful as well, which addresses the effects of stress on sex drive, and ways you can support yourself. You can find the article here:

  • Megan Gerould says:

    I had my ovaries removed to help get rid of my estrogen as they weren’t producing enough progesterone (even when I took supplements) I also have PCOS and Catamenial Epilepsy so my seizures and auras were related to my non existent cycle so after several drugs, and the Lupron Depot shot which worked for three months, I decided to go with the oophorectomy.

    At first I felt amazing/ a light feeling, was energetic and full of hope. I was able to make it one month with no auras/ seizures on one progesterone. This March is the 5th month post oophorectomy, and I had a few seizures earlier in late Feb and another grand mal last night,

    do the adrenal glands try to make up for the lost ovaries and produce more estrogen?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Megan,

      Thank you for writing. The adrenal glands produce sex hormones, including estrogen, but the amount produced is small compared to the amount produced by the ovaries. The adrenal glands aren’t able to compensate for the production lost by the ovaries, which is why many women end up needing some sort of estrogen treatments. Menopause itself can be a cause or aggravating factor in adrenal fatigue due to the shift and loss in hormone production.

  • Anna Rudzki says:

    Hi. I had a total hysterectomy with removal of ovaries over 3 .5 years ago. I didn;t start taking estrogen HRT doctor told me I was a car without an engine. I didn’t take HRT estrogen as I was scared of Cancer and everyone tells you its dangerous. I now take Sandrena gel of a night but only half of the strip as full strip was too much. I have been diagnosed with pineal cyst on brain with white matter being where grey matter should be, and I also have 2 nodules on my thyroid. In 2016 I had a benign tumor on my parathyroid and had it removed. Will I get back on track with my body. I have a healthy diet, exercise, listen to my body.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Anna,

      That is a great question, but outside our scope of knowledge and expertise here. That question would be best for a specialized healthcare practitioner. If you’re looking for a referral, we may be able to provide one depending on your area.

  • mary says:

    I underwent a total hysterectomy around three years ago. I wish I had never done it. i feel like complete crap all the time and i am only 38 years old. i am extremely fatigued and dont feel like doing anything. my body aches all the time. i only sleep maybe 4 or 5 hours a night. horrible night sweats. if you know if anything that will help, I’m all ears.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Mary,

      A hysterectomy can certainly take a toll on the body, especially the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands). Supporting your adrenal glands could certainly be beneficial. Are you currently working with a healthcare practitioner?

  • Ana says:

    I wanted to share my experience. Like Mary, I too had a hysterectomy and oophorectomy at the tender age of 38. Not educating myself on the subject was my greatest mistake ever. I did not take under consideration the role my uterus, ovaries and glands play in our developing and aging process. Just like many others, I share symptoms such as night sweat, memory loss, concentration is difficult, thinning skin, brittle hair, dry skin, a number of health issues starting to set in as the years role on. I have learned that cooking my own meals has helped me. Eating pre-packaged food disbalances me and I sweat profusely, day and night. My sleep is disturbed. I have since anxiety and depression, one thing I have learned that the less I eat of the pre-packaged or fast food the better I feel. My question for the Adrenal Fatigue Team is; Can I decalcify my pineal gland?
    Thank you

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Ana,

      Thank you for writing. That is not something we have experience with, and would have to defer to a healthcare practitioner.

  • Kyla L Dimmett says:

    I have a 4 cm fibroid on the left of my uterus. It is causing pain and too much estrogen, period issues. I also have too low of cortisol throughout the day. My gyn is recommending continuing progesterone two weeks on two weeks off OR removing my uterus. What advice can you give me to consider regarding the affects of hysterectomy on adrenal fatigue, high estrogen levels?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Kyla,

      We can’t offer medical advice, but can say that a hysterectomy is a stress on the body and could exacerbate or potentially bring on something like adrenal fatigue.

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