How to Measure Blood Sugar to Monitor Adrenal Fatigue

Blood sugar level is an important value that needs to be evaluated. Changes in blood sugar levels can be a symptom of adrenal fatigue. In early stages of adrenal fatigue, you may see hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a common occurrence.

Technically speaking, the blood sugar level is the blood glucose level. Glucose, which is a simple sugar present in human blood, is the main source of energy for the body's cells. It's also vital for brain function.

Be aware that many people with adrenal fatigue present with normal blood pressure and blood glucose levels. These are just important things to be aware of concerning signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

Basics of high blood sugar: Hyperglycemia

In response to an initial stress, the adrenal glands secrete hormones, including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine). These hormones can raise the blood glucose levels in the body.

What exactly is a normal blood glucose level? Well, if you ever look at the blood work (the “labs”) that your healthcare provider orders, a numerical value for a normal blood glucose level is about 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). If your blood glucose level is higher than 100 mg/dL, you have hyperglycemia.

An abnormally high blood glucose level increases the risk of developing other chronic conditions, including diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a syndrome that includes high blood pressure, higher than normal glucose levels, high triglyceride levels, and obesity, among others symptoms. Sustained cortisol secretion over time is a major contributor to the development of the metabolic syndrome.

If your fasting blood glucose level is slightly above normal range (say, approximately 110 to 125 mg/dL), you usually have no symptoms. Just the same, having your blood chemistry tested is important. Having a fasting blood glucose level greater than 126 mg/dL indicates diabetes.

Adrenal fatigue in and of itself usually doesn't cause diabetes; however, for someone with a genetic susceptibility to diabetes, adrenal fatigue — which develops in the setting of increased adrenal hormone production and chronic stress and inflammation — may contribute to the development of diabetes. For someone already diagnosed with diabetes, adrenal fatigue may aggravate diabetes and cause higher-than-normal blood glucose levels.

How to handle low blood sugar: Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is related to the action (or lack thereof ) of the adrenal hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones are called the counter-regulatory hormones because they can cause a rise in blood glucose levels. The lack of production of these hormones in the setting of advanced adrenal fatigue is one aspect of what causes hypoglycemia.

The other hormone involved in the genesis of hypoglycemia is insulin, which is made by the pancreas. Insulin secretion increases in the setting of a high-carbohydrate meal. Insulin promotes glucose entry into the cells and thus lowers blood glucose levels. The combination of increased insulin secretion and lack of production of the counter-regulatory hormones contributes to the development of hypoglycemia.

In the setting of advanced adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia may occur after meals (postprandial hypoglycemia) or between meals (fasting hypoglycemia).

The symptoms of hypoglycemia can include one or more of the following. (Note that these severe symptoms are very rare in adrenal fatigue. They are included because they may occur, so you should be aware of the symptoms.)

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness; if your blood glucose levels are really low, you may faint

  • Lethargy and confusion

  • Profound sweating

  • Palpitations (a strange heart rate) or tachycardia (a fast heart rate)

  • Personality changes; in the phenomenon known as hypoglycemia unawareness, the person has noticeable personality changes from his or her baseline but doesn't demonstrate any other symptoms

Do you know anyone who gets cranky around mealtimes? It's amazing how people who want to start arguments on an empty stomach are a lot nicer after they eat. The personality change may be due to low blood sugar. In particular, when you eat a healthy breakfast, you're less likely to bite someone's head off before lunch.

How to check your blood glucose at home

Your healthcare provider may ask you to monitor your blood glucose levels at home. If you have diabetes, taking these measurements is probably second nature to you. If not, you need to learn the process, which is inexpensive and easy.

You measure your blood glucose levels using a blood glucose meter (everybody calls this a Glucometer, which is actually a trademark for Bayer’s meters). You put a test strip in the meter. Then you put a tiny needle (a lancet) in a spring-loaded lancet device, hold it against your fingertip, and press the button.

The lancet makes a tiny puncture, and one drop of blood comes out. Touch the drop with the test strip, and the meter goes to work.

Your healthcare provider can tell you how often to check your blood glucose level. If your blood glucose levels are really labile (up and down), he or she may instruct you to check up to four times a day — often before meals. If you have post-prandial hypoglycemia, then you may need to check the blood glucose level two hours after each meal.

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