Constant Feeling of Fight or Flight Response a Sign of Adrenal Fatigue?

Updated on September 26, 2016
A.C. asks from Lebanon, OR
12 answers

Hi mama's,

As we have been figuring out my son's issues I seem to be having my own that I need advice on. Quick update: his hives are from nerves or sress-- appearing when he is about to experience developmental leaps or sickness. The day before he spoke two new words, he broke out in hives. The day he was at the doctors for sickness, he broke out in hives. We had never heard of such a thing, but it is good to know they are harmless. We have been using a soothing lavender salve when breaks out occur and it seems to sooth him, cutting down on the amount of time he has the hives.

On that note, does anyone know of any natural stress reducing tinctures for adults? I have started my own business, separate from my husband's, and have been working tirelessly since June. I was doing it all at nap/quiet time and night time after the kids were in bed, which made for late nights. Now I do the majority when they are in school and at night after they are in bed. The rest of the time, the kids are with me as I source products and travel locally. I started this particular business because I could be a SAHM and take them with. It's just a lot of juggling.

For the last couple of weeks during the day and night, I have been feeling like I am always in fight or flight mode-- when something sudden happens, your heart starts to race, you feel a stomach flip sensation, and your body produces hormones preparing for fight or flight. I feel it the most when I am trying to sleep. I have never experienced this before for an extended period of time, which I know is not good for my body, which makes the feeling worse. I can't just shut it off anymore and it is interfering with sleep.

Anyone have any suggestions on breastfeeding safe tinctures or essential oils for nerves that would help during the day and at night? I tried my son's salve, but it has peppermint in it, which can reduce milk supply in the larger dose that I would use. Does anyone know what this feeling is? A family member suggested adrenal fatigue. Anyone experienced that? How did you treat it naturally? I have read you can do it through diet; however, our diet is already organic, whole foods based. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have an appointment with my GP soon just to double check, but would prefer treating it at home, if I can. Thanks so much for your advice!

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So What Happened?

Thank you for the great advice, as always. After reading your responses, I realized that I am feeling overwhelmed which was leading to insomnia, which was causing anxiety. I broke down and called my mom for help. She came over and helped me tackle a lot of small but overwhelming house projects; helped organize my office; and make a to do list. I went to bed with a spotless house, business projects completed, a clear direction, and very happy munchkins. I slept better than I have in weeks and woke up feeling great.

I see know that I was overwhelmed by the amount of house-business-life tasks that needed my attention. With my husband working as much as he does, I am on my own with pretty much everything-- cooking, cleaning, kids, business, budget, animals, garden. You name it, it is my responsibility. My mom had been there, so she gave me tons of great advice for keeping everything manageable. I know what your thinking-- but that is a separate post for another day. Thanks again!

More Answers


answers from Boston on

I think it's risky to go to the internet to diagnose yourself. Looking for adrenal fatigue, for example, or trying to pin everything on a condition your read about, can take you down one path and have you ignore others.

That said, I will tell you that my husband just went through a period of several years of mounting anxiety, which we attributed to the sort of things you are experiencing: too much to do professionally and personally, exhaustion and inefficient/ineffective sleep, rising blood pressure despite an extremely healthy lifestyle/diet, and general unexplained symptoms. Eventually they manifested as extreme BP (290/180 - yes, really), irregular heartbeat, insufficient heart pumping (called ejection fraction) and more. He spent 4 days in Cardiac ICU and other than massive amounts of drugs, there was no explanation or treatment other than "You're in your 60s, so just sit around, do nothing, don't exercise, take your BP 6 times a day, and count out your pills." We got out of one major hospital system and into another, where we found a fantastic team of cardiologists who brought in an endocrinologist because my husband's totally healthy lifestyle (looks 48 instead of 68) and the absence of shortness of breath (which most heart failure patients have, yet my husband was easily running over 25 miles per week). Turns out, after a bunch of tests and scans, my husband had a very rare (and treatable) condition called a paraganglioma, which is a non-cancerous tumor that does nothing but produce massive amounts of stress hormones (causing the "fight or flight" feeling). Long story short, these were bombarding his heart over a period of years, causing all the symptoms of heart failure. Removal of the tumor laparoscopically and some simple follow-up treatments have restored him to full health. There is a similar condition called a pheochromocytoma and actually the surgeon didn't know which one he would find until he got in and took a look. Anyway, my point is - get a team approach to diagnosis!

I expect you will get lots of recommendations to take this vitamin or that mineral or some amino acid or essential oil - let me just caution you about that approach. The body does not absorb individual nutrients like that. For effective cellular nutrition, you need various nutritional elements in combination, because so many need their "partners" in order to function. Most people know that calcium requires Vitamin D, for example, but there are over 70 that work in this way. So standard multivitamins don't even have enough. Even our ridiculously healthy diet and regular exercise weren't enough to meet our nutritional needs, and the American Medical Association issued a paper about 15 years ago saying everyone needs to supplement. We have been doing this for 9 years, and there is no question that it reduced my anxiety/depression (which seems to be related to inflammation, as so many conditions are), and this enabled my husband to have such good heart strength, low cholesterol, energy and even elasticity in his blood vessels to allow him to survive the ravages of this very rare tumor over an estimated 5+ years. We use an anti-stress nutritional supplement regimen too. We have energy without caffeine or those deadly energy drinks.

So, while I'm not suggesting you have the condition my husband had, I'm saying there can be things that occur in combination with a stressed out lifestyle, and it can be hard to sort out what's manageable through more effective supplementation and what needs medical involvement. There are things that can be ruled out or ruled in. Our team of cardio/endocrine/surgery were terrific together, and very much viewed us as valuable partners in my husband's care. (They are even taking some of my management techniques/records and trying to implement them hospital-wide for the benefit of other patients.) They felt strongly that there was a role for the products we use, alternatives like yoga and meditation, and medical procedures. They now have pronounced my husband's heart fully recovered and say that he exhibits no signs at all of having had heart failures. A true miracle - but it isn't really - it's science and food science. So please investigate sooner rather than later.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

That's the definition of anxiety- there's a rush of adrenaline, kicking off the fight or flight response. It's usually a reaction to a trigger, it can especially be caused by stress and fatigue if you aren't taking enough down time to process your day or take time for self care.

Diane B's response is excellent. There is a lot you can do to lessen your symptoms on your own. But definitely see a doctor. Anxiety only minimally responds to positive self talk, it's not, I repeat NOT, all in your head. Don't listen to anyone who tells you just to "control your mind", it's not helpful advice.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Your husband works 60 hours a week, you are nursing a preschooler and a toddler, and trying to run a business late at night and during the day, often with your kids in tow.
Yes, you are FATIGUED. Of course you are. Women fall for this illusion that somehow they can do both full time parenting and run a full time business but that's just not possible. You need to bring in someone to watch your kids so you can work during the day and get your family time and SLEEP at night.
I'm glad you're going to the doctor, I'm pretty sure s/he will tell you the same thing.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I urge you to go to a doctor for a dianosis. Perhaps go to a doctor that will work with you in terms of what is natural. A homeopathic doctor.

I also believe this is anxiety because you're not getting enough sleep. How is your diet? And you're juggling too many responsibilities. I suggest that you find a schedule that works better. Get at least 8 hours of sleep, eat 3 meals snd st least 2 snacks a day and take breaks during which you feed.your soul as well as your body. Have one day a week for fun.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Not sure how to treat adrenal fatigue, but I know the feeling you are talking about. First, stop working tirelessly. You need time off. Your body is trying to tell you something. Time to listen to it.
Some suggestions:
Talk therapy
Mindfulness meditation
Walking outside--nature is a great healer
Chamomile tea--Tazo Calm is great
Benadryl at bedtime--just try a small amount. I have allergies and it helps for sleeping too. Same ingredient as Tylenol pm.
L-theanine--perfectly safe. It's just an amino acid
Regular sleep time each day.
Breathing exercises
Try to search for an on line full body relaxation exercise or CD.

Added: sorry, forgot you were breastfeeding. Skip the benadryl and l-theanine until you are finished.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When I read this, I thought anxiety. Fight of Flight response can be a symptom of anxiety - same with the stomach flip sensation, and heart racing.

The other thought is maybe just get your blood work done. Anemia can cause fatigue and also palpitations, that kind of thing and interfere with sleep, such as B12 anemia.

I suggest you read this from the Mayo clinic on adrenal fatigue. They say it's not an accepted medical diagnosis (there's an actual condition that they can test for that involves your adrenal system) - so definitely have that checked out if you are concerned. Here is the link from the Mayo Clinic on what to watch out for

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

I went through a particularly stressful period, basically 2004-2010 and in the middle somewhere (I was on autopilot) I was so tired I couldn't move. My husband had to take over EVERYTHING I was doing. Blood tests showed not only adrenal fatigue but I was close to adrenal failure. It was treated at home with bedrest, good food and lots of sleep. It took a long period (sorry, I don't remember how long) but I was (within several weeks) was able to resume my life. It's very serious. Please be tested for this specifically to make sure it's what you have.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Standard Process, whose products are widely available through chiropractors and naturopaths, has a number of products that address adrenal support. I personally have used Drenamin and one of my kids has used it as well along with other products as part of a personalized overall wellness program. I would look for a chiropractor or other natural health practitioner in your area for advice on what they think would be most effective and is safe for breastfeeding. Your symptoms actually sound like anxiety/panic, which can lead to adrenal fatigue. The fatigue though is more a pervasive exhaustion without recovery. I experienced the anxiety/panic bouts when going through a time of tremendous stress several years ago and a few times over the past year when dealing with my divorce and selling my house. There are "adaptogens" such as rhodiola, ashwaganda and a Standard Process complex called Withania Complex that can help with this as well, but again, check with someone to make sure that they are OK to take while breastfeeding.

Dr. Sara Gottfried is also a great resource for understanding the connections between hormones, cortisol, adrenal function, and overall wellness. She has a couple of books out and a very informative website. I am actually a "sustenance" member of her Reset 360 circle and that gives me access to a ton of information as well as 3 guided detox programs a year, an aging reset program that I just did, etc. Her first book, The Hormone Cure, might be a good read for you - it not only will guide you in taking your nutrition to a higher level, but she includes a lot of the science behind what's happening in your body and how to heal and renew with food, supplement, movement and practices like meditation and yoga. But she's practical too - as a physician and author with two school-age kids, she doesn't live in a bubble and understands that demands of working mothers. I found her books to be informative, practical, and full of info that is easy to digest.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You need to learn how to cope. That means breathing techniques or even yoga.

Anxiety comes from the need to learn how to "control" the mind and quell the anxiety.

Breast feeding? Not sure how to help you on that one - with my oldest son - no issues - breast fed him until he was 2 years 4 months. My youngest? Self-weaned at one year. I didn't have anxiety either.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sounds like hyperthyroid - racing heart is a classic symptom as well as anxiety and trouble sleeping.
Have your thyroid levels checked - TSH, free T3 and free T4.

Hyperthyroid can be very dangerous.
You want to work with a doctor and take your meds every day.
My sister messes with not always taking her meds - she's had horrible eye problems and several surgeries to get them back into her eye sockets.
Natural, organic, essential oils, etc will not treat hyperthyroid.
Natural is all good and well but death is natural too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I have had this happen and I believe it is related to stress and hormones. I got my thyroid checked and did blood work and all was fine. Essential oils give me massive migraines. I do not believe they would help but you know if you believe in them it is a well known fact that the placebo affect really does help for many people. Yoga, meditation, less stress in my family life, and taking vitamin B12 seems to have helped me. I can't do much about the hormones...I am in perimenopause. Practice your breathing to relieve stress as in meditation...this has been very helpful for me. I also have a good diet. Good luck.



answers from San Antonio on

There is a great OTC homeopathic relief called Calms. I take it and they have a formula for kids as well. Just a few herbs known to calm down your body and lower stress.

My son will ask for it if he is feeling super stressed out. I usually take it at bedtime if I can't sleep. Or even during a really stressful day.

I will rub lavender oil on my temples if I am getting a stress I love love love lavender to the scent is very soothing to me. I will also hit up in insides of my wrists with a drop or two.

Glad you are getting a full work up at the doctor. Mayo clinic says adrenal fatigue is not a "real thing" but personally I know when my fight or flight is in overdrive and this can cause panic attacks it needs time to rest. To recharge and let all the hormones work their way out of my system. Epsom salt soaks in the tub followed by several glasses of water to re-hydrate can leach some toxins out of your body...and last but not least a really good cry releases toxins and and help purge your system.. Once again hydration is important.

Good luck!! These have helped me. Hope maybe one of them can help you as well. Hugs!!

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