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Adrenal Fatigue FAQ: Why Does Adrenal Fatigue Give Me a Racing Feeling?

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June 18, 2012 | Published by


Question: My cortisol levels are finally normal after several years of being quite low. However, it’s taking my body much longer to regain strength and i still “race” inside all the time. What exactly is going on physiologically when i race? It increases with stress, being overtired and food reactions?

A: To answer your question I need to explain a little bit about the anatomy and physiology of the adrenal glands. The adrenals are two small glands that secrete a large number of hormones, most of which are designed to help the body meet the demands of stress in one way or another. Stress is a broad term and may be mental or physical, including such things as illness, food sensitivities, extreme physical exertion, being overly tired or overly hungry, or feeling emotionally “stressed out.”

The adrenal glands have two primary layers: an outer layer, called the cortex; and an inner layer, the medulla. Each layer is responsible for secreting different hormones. Cortisol, the primary hormone responsible for the body’s stress response, is one of the hormones secreted by the cortex. Adrenal fatigue is characterized by the inability to secrete enough cortisol to meet demand when the body is under stress.

The medulla, or inner portion of the adrenal glands, secretes other hormones, including epinephrine and norepinephrine (also called adrenaline and noradrenaline). These are secreted under stress as well and help create the familiar “fight or flight” response in which heart rate increases, airways open, and blood is shunted to skeletal muscles.

If a person has adrenal fatigue and cannot secrete sufficient cortisol levels under stress (which can occur even after cortisol levels have returned to normal levels at rest), the body will still secrete more epinephrine and norepinephrine (sometimes in even greater quantities), inducing the familiar racing heart and associated symptoms.

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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1 Comment

  • CJ says:

    Does the racing effect have any long term consequences? Is there any relationship between racing sensations and cardio fitness?

    I get the racing sensation often. I’m crashed out, plum exhausted and feel like my heart is pounding out of my chest. I was prescribed dr Wilson’s therapy last year and test results are thankfully normal again. But I worry the racing heart effect for SO many years may put too much wear n tear on the muscle. And may put me at risk for heart health issues later. And/or, I waivered that maybe it was a sign of poor cardio fitness, but of course I NEVER had energy to exercise. Now that my adrenals seem recovered, i am more inclined to exercise tho not vigorously, but I can’t seem to build cardio stamina. Never know whether to push myself thru it or whether to listen to my body in case it’s signaling too much stress. I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made, ya know?!?!

    Great article! I thought it was just me. Glad to know its actually somewhat “normal” for adrenal fatigue. My diagnosis was SOOO controversial among my family. Thanks so much!

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