The Role of Adrenal Fatigue in Heart Palpitations & Panic Attacks
Continuing on with our discussion on heart palpitations and panic attacks for the month of January, I wanted to talk more about adrenal fatigue, which, along with low progesterone levels and issues with thyroid function, is one of the root causes of anxiety, heart palpitations and panic attacks for women in perimenopause.
I’ve often said that adrenal fatigue is a lot like The Eagles’ song, “Hotel California.” “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”That’s because once the symptoms start, they set in motion an exhausting, self-perpetuating cycle that can be very difficult to interrupt.
Women suffering with adrenal fatigue are usually very stressed and overwhelmed. The stress creates more feelings of being overwhelmed, which creates more stress on the adrenal glands, which in turn creates more fatigue, and the cycle continues ad infinitum.
What is Adrenal Fatigue and How Exactly Does One “Get it?”
In a perfect world, our adrenal glands release in perfect balance and harmony, the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA, in order to help us cope with the day-to-day stresses and demands of life. They also have plenty of time to recover, rejuvenate, and replenish themselves in order to come to our aid when called upon.
Unfortunately, few of us live in a perfect world, especially middle aged women whose lives are generally quite full and taxing. We have families to care for, hormonal teens to look after, perhaps even aging parents, and for some, a full time career as well. All of which can place an enormous stress and strain on our lives and our adrenal glands.
By the time perimenopause begins (which itself is a source of stress), our adrenal glands can become so overwhelmed and exhausted, they are unable to adequately meet the body’s demand for adrenaline, cortisol, and DHEA.
What Causes Heart Palpitations and Panic Attacks in Adrenal Fatigue?
Take a moment and hearken back, if you will, to the last time you swerved your automobile to avoid a collision. How did you feel? Were you shaking? Was it difficult to catch your breath? Was your mind racing? Were your muscles tense, or did you feel butterflies in your stomach?
All of the physical reactions during that moment were the result of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. During perimenopause, when our bodies are under physical stress due to the hormone imbalance of progesterone and estrogen, these same stress hormones can become out of balance as well. They can be too high or too low, waxing and waning, rising and falling, and at all points in between.
As they rise and fall, surges of either one or both of them, can cause feelings of anxiousness, the jitters, and heart palpitations and panic attacks. They can even cause you to bolt awake out of a deep sleep in the dead of night.
Balancing Stress Hormones and Adrenal Support
Depending on how fatigued and depleted your adrenal glands are, adrenal support supplements might be needed in order to help you recover. In other cases, simple sleep and relaxation is all that is generally needed.
In fact, I’m of the opinion that good old fashioned sleep - and lots of it - is some of the best medicine for adrenal fatigue. At the very least, it’s a great place to start, because any diagnosis with the “fatigue” in it is just begging for sleep if you ask me!
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.