- Adrenal fatigue is an unrecognized disease that collectively refers to a group of non-specific symptoms.
- It is a theory that relates chronic stress to adrenal exhaustion which results in tiredness and lacking energy.
- Adrenal glands produce hormones that are responsible for some vital tasks inside the body.
- Adrenal fatigue has similarities and differences with adrenal insufficiency.
- There are several ways to treat adrenal fatigue. These include a proper diet, taking health supplements, and lifestyle changes.
- The health supplements that you can try include vitamin and mineral supplements as well as herbal supplements.
Have you ever felt worn out and low on energy most of the time? Have you consulted a doctor but they can't diagnose what is wrong with you? You might have adrenal fatigue.
In this article, we will tackle everything you need to know about this condition. What exactly is adrenal fatigue? What are its causes? What is the available treatment for adrenal fatigue?
What is Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue collectively refers to a group of non-specific symptoms. It is a theory that relates chronic stress to adrenal exhaustion, which results in tiredness and lacking energy. There is yet a shred of medical evidence that proves this condition. However, it has been accessible to specialists in the field of alternative medicine.
Adrenal fatigue was coined by Dr. James Wilson in 1998. He is a chiropractor and a naturopath. Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that is based on a theory that treatment and prevention of diseases are possible without using drugs but through natural means such as a proper diet and exercise.
Naturopaths describes adrenal fatigue as a condition wherein the adrenal glands function less than its usual capacity. Adrenal glands are positioned on the upper part of both kidneys. They produce hormones that are responsible for helping the body with vital tasks such as:
- Maintaining metabolism
- Burning fat and protein
- Managing the immune system,
- Regulating blood pressure
- Regulating blood sugar levels
- Managing stress response
- Controlling sexual maturation through puberty
- Maintaining pregnancy
- Managing inflammation
Naturopaths further highlight high stress levels as a main contributing factor. According to experts that regard adrenal fatigue as a real condition, affected people are those who have endured stress for a long time. These people include those who are shift workers, those who have stressful jobs, those who are alcoholic, and single parents.
Still, adrenal fatigue is considered a myth. The condition is not accepted as a real disease by the endocrine societies, which are organizations of endocrinologists or experts who specialize in the treatment of diseases related to glands and hormones. The societies’ take on this matter is simple. The symptoms are so common that they can apply to other diseases and conditions.
The next part of this article will reveal the signs of adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue theorists propose that the condition occurs due to chronic stress. It affects the adrenal glands to the point that fewer hormones are produced, thus affecting the needed adrenal hormone levels considered to be healthy.
It was further theorized that blood tests couldn't detect a small decline in adrenal function. The detection capacity of current technology available is not sensitive enough.
The following are said to be symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Body aches
- Sleeping difficulties
- Difficulties in waking up
- Cravings for sugar and salt
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lack of motivation
- Brain fog
- Reliance on caffeine and other stimulants
- Non-specific digestive problems
Even though adrenal fatigue is not considered as a real disease, you should not be negligent. As endocrine societies say, these symptoms are so common that it may be because of other diseases or conditions. The condition may not be considered "real"; however, keep in mind that these symptoms are real and you are feeling it.
The symptoms may also be a result of lifestyle and daily habits. These include:
- Busy lifestyle
- Lack of sleep
- Stressful work
- Caffeine addiction
- Poor diet and nutrition
The next part of this article will reveal more about the theory behind adrenal fatigue and its causes.
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
Chronic stress is believed to be the leading cause of adrenal fatigue. It somehow affects the hormone-producing action of the adrenal glands, but how exactly does this happen?
When you are under stress, it is a normal response that your immune system "revs up" your body. The adrenal glands also respond by releasing hormones called cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol is the body's chief stress hormone. Due to its function, you can also describe it as the body's built-in alarm system. It operates with particular parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling motivation, mood, and fear.
Adrenaline is a hormone that is released in the body while feeling intense levels of emotions, which results in having more energy. You might have already heard the term adrenaline rush, but what is it about? It merely means that your body is reacting faster. It works by increasing your heart rate, blood flow, and the body's sugar conversion to give more energy.
Both the cortisol and adrenaline hormones are part of the so-called "fight or flight response." It is the body's automatic physiological response to an adverse event or a threatening situation. It prepares the body to either stay and resist forcibly (fight) or to flee or run away (flight).
If someone has long-term stress, the adrenal glands eventually burn out due to the extended production of these hormones. This, in turn, by theory, causes adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue versus Adrenal Insufficiency
Another condition that is linked with the adrenal glands is adrenal insufficiency. It is also known as Addison's disease. It refers to a condition wherein there is inadequate production of hormones by the adrenal gland. These hormones include cortisol and aldosterone, a hormone responsible for helping regulate potassium and sodium.
The following are symptoms of adrenal insufficiency:
- Body aches
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Low blood pressure
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
- Excessive sweating
- Abdominal pain
- Body hair loss
- Hyperpigmentation or skin discoloration
- Irregular menstruation
Adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency have the same symptoms. However, in adrenal insufficiency, some signs and symptoms need immediate medical attention. Life-threatening complications may also arise in worst-case scenarios.
Adrenal insufficiency is a recognized disease, unlike adrenal fatigue which is unrecognized. It can be diagnosed through laboratory tests, including blood tests and special stimulation tests. These tests will reveal the inadequacy of adrenal hormone levels.
Adrenal fatigue theorists claim that adrenal fatigue is a minor type of adrenal insufficiency triggered by intense stress levels.
Diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue
The doctor will conduct a thorough evaluation to rule out other possible diseases and conditions since adrenal fatigue has generic symptoms. Some possible diseases and medical conditions include:
- Sleep apnea
- Heart diseases
- Lung diseases
- Kidney diseases
- Liver diseases
- Hormonal impairments
- Autoimmune diseases
- Irritable bowel syndrome
If you are consulting an alternative medicine specialist, they might require you to undergo blood testing and salivary cortisol testing. The results may show if you have adrenal fatigue or not.
Since adrenal fatigue is an unrecognized disease, it may be frustrating to have symptoms that medical books and experts can't explain why. There are no actual methods to diagnose it. This lack of biological and medical explanation can be unsatisfactory.
Even though it is not a recognized disease, it is best to know the available treatment for adrenal fatigue. Remember, the symptoms are real, and you are feeling it. It is best to consult with your doctor when symptoms start to appear.
Treatment Options for Adrenal Fatigue
There are several treatment ways for adrenal fatigue. Since it is an unrecognized disease, much of this treatment are home remedies which are mainly focused on improving one's healthy lifestyle.
Diet: Foods to Eat
First on this list is the diet. This food-based approach is focused on alleviating stress. This diet involves most of those in the recommended balanced diet, which includes:
- High-protein foods
- Whole grains
The goal of a balanced diet is to improve your immune system and promote overall health and well-being. Furthermore, it increases your energy levels. This might be the best way to combat adrenal fatigue and fatigue in general. It is because these conditions tend to affect the immune system and the production of energy.
If you are having a hard time planning your meal, here is a list of foods that you can try.
- Lean meats
- Leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-sugar fruits
- Healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil
It also best to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the day. It can lessen occurrences of stress and can help your adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
Your diet should also be appropriately-timed to help maintain your blood sugar levels. Avoid skipping meals as it makes the body burn your stored nutrients. It will result in a decrease in your energy levels that will contribute to the fatigue.
Diet: Foods to Avoid
If there are recommended foods that you should consume, there are also foods to avoid. These foods include those high in sugars and unhealthy fats. It is suggested that you limit the intake or altogether avoid the following:
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- White sugar
- White flour
Limiting the intake of these foods will regulate your blood sugar levels. It is also known that fats from some of the listed foods are unhealthy for the body. They may have adverse effects on your overall health and well-being.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
In combination with a balanced diet, taking vitamins and mineral supplements is also recommended. Adrenal fatigue theorists suggest that your balanced diet must be supplemented with:
- B Vitamins especially B-5, B-6, and B-12
- Vitamin C
The intake of supplements with these vitamins can help promote healthy adrenal glands. However, there is no direct link that these can help with adrenal fatigue since the latter is an unrecognized disease. It is best to consult first with your doctor before taking any supplements.
On a positive note, these vitamins can help promote overall health and well-being and boost up your immune system and body functions.
Other Recommended Health Supplements
Aside from the given kinds of vitamin and mineral supplements, there are also herbal supplements that you can try. Natural healing specialists recommend these supplements. These include:
Licorice Root. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement for digestive problems as well as for bacterial and viral infections.
Maca Root. It is traditionally used as a supplement for enhancing fertility and sexual drive. It may also improve mood and learning, and it may boost energy and stamina.
Golden Root. It is widely used as a dietary supplement due to the health benefits it can provide. In Russia, it has been used for centuries for treating anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It can help manage stress by helping your body adapt to it.
Siberian Ginseng. The roots of this plant are traditionally used in making medicine. It can help strengthen the body against stress, improve athletic and work performance, boost the immune system, and increase appetite. Furthermore, it is used in certain medical conditions such as regulating blood pressure and treatment for diseases like ADHD, Alzheimer's Disease, diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and much more.
While these herbal supplements show promise of health benefits, take note that the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements. It is best to consult with your health care provider first to avoid complications.
Aside from managing your diet and taking supplements, there are also plenty of ways you can do as a treatment for adrenal fatigue. It includes changing your lifestyle and avoiding activities that can worsen the condition and can affect your overall health and well-being. Changes that you can apply to your lifestyle include:
- Quitting alcoholic drinks
- Quitting cigarettes
- Quitting beverages with high caffeine content
- Regular exercise
- Getting a healthy sleep
- Engaging in healthy activities
Even if adrenal fatigue is an unrecognized disease, these lifestyle changes are worth the try. It is best to keep our bodies healthy to avoid infections and to maintain a good quality of life.
It is unavoidable that we may get stressed about work and other activities. We all have different ways of coping up with stress. However, it is best to avoid activities that harm our health.
It was repeatedly said that adrenal fatigue is an unrecognized disease. However, if you are feeling its symptoms, you should not neglect it. Consult with your doctor. You can try home remedy treatments for adrenal fatigue. They may be essential to maintain your body in the best shape. Manage your diet and take supplements that can promote your overall health and well-being.