How Is Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosed
There is no test which can tell whether or not you have adrenal fatigue. A 24-hour salivary adrenal test has been used to check the function of the adrenal glands. However, many doctors, including adrenal gland specialists, do not consider that this test is appropriate to measure the function of the adrenal glands.
A 24-hour salivary adrenal test involves taking saliva samples four times during 24 hours. The samples are usually taken at 8 am, 12 noon, 4 pm and midnight. The early-morning steroid level should be the highest level of the day but may be reduced if the adrenal gland is not working properly.
You may need blood tests to make sure there are no other reasons why you feel very tired, such as anaemia or an underactive thyroid gland. Further tests will also be needed if there is any concern that your adrenal glands are not working properly.
Myth # : Your Adrenals Need A Lot Of Pills
Ultimately, it is important to realize that adrenal stress is not the same as fatigue in order to understand what helps your adrenals work better.
If they are fatigued, and the problem is that they could not make enough cortisol, all you would need to do would be to take cortisol pills or herbs that raise cortisol to feel better.
Since the cause of the problem is factors that disrupt our rhythms, the key is to help restore these rhythms to their proper patterns. As it happens, strategically using sunlight is one of the best-documented ways to help.5
Within an hour of waking, a good idea would be to expose yourself to sunlight or a light box emitting at least 10,000 lux Do not wear sunglasses, do not look directly at the source of light, and get at least half an hour of exposure.
Get low wattage red colored light bulbs for your bedroom. For the last 50 minutes of your day, feel free to read a book our journal, but use no other sources of light or electronics.
In your bedroom, make sure your windows block all outdoor lights and cover any lights on thermostats, or alarm units. Make sure that any lights used to find your way around are colored red.
Distinction From Addisons Disease
Adrenal fatigue is closely related to, but not to be confused with, Addisons Disease, a disorder characterized by insufficient cortisol production due either to a pathology directly affecting the adrenals or a disruption of signaling between the brain and the adrenals. While symptoms of Addisons Disease are similar to adrenal fatigue, the primary difference is that adrenal fatigue is considered a possible result of the overuse of otherwise healthy adrenal glands due to stress.
The adrenals are necessary to have gluconeogenesis to take place in the liver, as well as the glycogen storage where it stimulates the production of blood glucose, says Dr. Wilson. So, most of the major symptoms of either adrenal fatigue or Addisons Disease are a result of either a lack of cortisol or a lack of blood glucose and the many effects that it has systematically throughout the body.
He theorizes, Unlike Addisons, adrenal fatigue doesnt have a pathological origin, with the exception of the overuse of antibiotics which may partially shut down the use of the adrenal glands. So, you do get different symptoms with versus adrenal fatigue, because youre talking about the difference between a body that cant secrete cortisol versus a body that isnt secreting sufficient cortisol.
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Adrenal Fatigue Vs Adrenal Insufficiency
While adrenal fatigue can be referred to as adrenal insufficiency, it should be noted that many physicians consider adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency to be two different conditions. Adrenal fatigue cannot be detected by any test, while adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed through a series of blood tests. Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands cannot produce enough hormones, or when there is damage to the adrenal glands, or if there is a problem with the pituitary gland.
Symptoms for adrenal insufficiency may include dehydration, a constant state of confusion, weight loss, feeling weak, tired, or dizzy, low blood pressure, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Is There Such Thing As Adrenal Fatigue And If So How Would You Know If You Have It
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But Is Adrenal Fatigue A Real Disease
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones, among them, cortisol. When under stress, we produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream. The adrenal fatigue theory suggests that prolonged exposure to stress could drain the adrenals leading to a low cortisol state. The adrenal depletion would cause brain fog, low energy, depressive mood, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness, and other vague symptoms.
Numerous websites mention how to diagnose and treat adrenal fatigue. However, the Endocrinology Society and all the other medical specialties do not recognize this condition. The Endocrinologists are categorical: “no scientific proof exists to support adrenal fatigue as a true medical condition.” This disconnect between conventional and complementary medicine adds to the frustration.
How To Learn If You Have Hashimotos Low Thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimotos until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimotos Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimotos goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimotos low thyroid, contact my office.
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Adrenal Fatigue: What Is It And How Can You Avoid It
Do you find yourself feeling exhausted and no amount of caffeine seems to help? Do you notice when you finally fall into bed at the end of the day, the Sandman is nowhere to be found? That could be a symptom of adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenal glands are located on the top of each kidney, and they produce hormones that aid in controlling blood sugar, burning protein and fat, and regulating blood pressure. They also react to stressors such as an illness or injury.
The adrenal glands produce two very important hormones called cortisol and aldosterone and also create other hormones such as adrenaline, and sex hormones called androgens. Most adrenal-related disorders are caused by the adrenal glands producing either too much or too little of these hormones.
When Conventional Medicine Lags Behind
Twenty-five years ago, a new set of symptoms cropped up, largely, though not exclusively, in women. It was commonly called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As with adrenal fatigue, women were similarly dismissed by the medical community who thought they were hypochondriacs or had mental health problems. Since there were no lab findings to prove that they were having these symptoms or that anything real was going on, they were told they were fine. Or depressed. Or anxious. Because in medicine, if you cant measure it, it isnt happening.
We now know that this Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is very real and has a solid medical explanation. Its now called ME and is due to a complex array of inflammatory responses. Its recognized as a formal medical diagnosis though in reality, the problem of women with it getting dismissed still persists about 30% of doctors still dont know its a real thing, and only 70% even learn about it in medical school!.
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How Is Adrenal Insufficiency Treated
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
Your age, overall health, and past health
How sick you are
How well you can handle certain medicines, procedures, or therapies
How long the condition is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
You will need to take hormones to replace those that your adrenal glands are not making. That mainly means cortisol. But if you have Addison’s disease, you may need to take aldosterone as well.
Addison’s disease can be deadly. Treatment often starts with IV fluids and medicines called corticosteroids. You may take these medicines by mouth or by IV. You may have to take them for the rest of your life. You may also need to take other medicines . These can help keep your body’s sodium and potassium levels normal.
Other Conditions That Affect The Adrenal Glands
Certain conditions, such adrenal insufficiency , can prevent your adrenal glands from making enough hormones. Addisons disease is a rare but serious disease.
The symptoms of Addisons disease include fatigue, body aches, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of body hair and skin discolouration.
Addisons disease is recognised by doctors and can be detected through blood tests that show insufficient hormone levels. On the other hand, these tests are often normal in people who are told they have adrenal fatigue.
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Solve Adrenal Stress Today
Today, we dove into some of the basics of adrenal stress and the myths which tend to dominate a lot of the conversation.
That said, everything we discussed today as a myth is just that its not something you have to adhere to, because while adrenal stress is real, its not a life sentence.
I want to help you start feeling your best. So, if you take some of the action steps that I recommended today, I hope you will be on your way to your best health.
This is Dr. Christianson signing off on the topic of adrenal stress for now take great care of yourself and check back in soon!
1. Nippoldt T. Mayo Clinic office visit. Adrenal fatigue. An interview with Todd Nippoldt, M.D. Mayo Clin Womens Healthsource. 2010 Mar 14:6.
2. Husebye ES, Allolio B, Arlt W, Badenhoop K, Bensing S, Betterle C, Falorni A, Gan EH, Hulting AL, Kasperlik-Zaluska A, Kämpe O, Løvås K, Meyer G, Pearce SH. Consensus statement on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with primary adrenal insufficiency. J Intern Med. 2014 275:104115. doi: 10.1111/joim.12162.
3. Tomas C1, Newton J1, Watson S2. A review of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in chronic fatigue syndrome. ISRN Neurosci. 2013 Sep 30 2013:784520. doi: 10.1155/2013/784520. eCollection 2013.
4. Frodl T, OKeane V. How does the brain deal with cumulative stress? A review with focus on developmental stress, HPA axis function and hippocampal structure in humans. Neurobiol Dis. 2013 52:2437.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is caused when your adrenal glands cannot cope when you are very stressed. The adrenal glands are an essential part of your body’s responses to any kind of physical, emotional or psychological stress. During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands can respond but not well enough to stop you feeling very tired.
Many different types of stress can cause adrenal fatigue. Examples of physical stress include any severe or recurrent infection or illness, having an operation, poor diet or a severe injury. Emotional or psychological stress may be caused by many situations, including relationship, family or work difficulties.
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Is Adrenal Fatigue Real Forget The Label And Treat The Stress
Who isnt tired these days? Were constantly on call for work, family and friends, and often forget to take time for ourselves. Most of us recognize that chronic stress can take its toll on our health and well-being. But what if youre so fatigued that even getting more sleep doesnt seem to help?
Complementary and alternative medicine provide an explanation for stress-induced fatigue that offers hope to the chronically tired. According to naturopathic doctors, holistic nutritionists and others, adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenals, glands that sit above the kidneys, dont produce enough cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a role in managing stress and regulating metabolism, sleep, blood sugar and inflammation.
Fatigue is probably the number one complaint among new patients in my practice, says Leila Kirdani, a family physician specializing in functional medicine. Anyone with prolonged fatigue, with difficulty sleeping, who feels burned-out or lack of enjoyment in life, may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Basically, the theory goes that too much stress wears out our adrenal glands they get tired and dont produce enough cortisol for us to feel energized. So why arent our family doctors telling us about this?
And so we see the bipolar worlds of conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine are firmly divided into two camps: adrenal fatigue doesnt exist vs. adrenal fatigue is an important medical issue.
Q: What Is Adrenal Insufficiency
A: Adrenal insufficiency is a state in which your adrenal glands dont function properly and cannot secrete the vital hormones your body needs to function normally.
Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by Addisons disease, a pituitary disorder or another disorder. Some symptoms of this life-threatening dysfunction include extreme exhaustion, lack of appetite , diarrhea, nausea, low blood pressure and low blood sugar.
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What Is Adrenal Fatigue
The idea underlying the condition is that constant stress puts an undue burden on the adrenal glands to produce hormones especially cortisol and the glands burn out. The lack of adrenal hormones leads to a host of generalized symptoms, including tiredness, trouble falling asleep or waking up, and a need for stimulants like caffeine to get through the day. With the fast-paced demands of modern life making many people feel consistently stressed out and sleep-deprived, its easy to understand the appeal of a diagnosis that promises an explanation and treatment to counteract their feelings of fatigue.
The fallacy of this logic is that there is no evidence that the stress of day-to-day life could have any such effect on the adrenals. Endocrinologists believe correctly that under stress your adrenals work harder and make more cortisol, not less, says Theodore C. Friedman, MD, PhD, chief of the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and molecular medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. Friedman says that the patients may be given the diagnosis by naturopaths, chiropractors, functional medicine doctors, and anti-aging doctors.
At A Glance
Key Points About Adrenal Insufficiency
Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands dont make enough of the hormone cortisol.
The primary kind is known as Addisons disease. It is rare. It is when the adrenal glands dont make enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.
Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland doesnt make enough of the hormone ACTH. The adrenal glands then dont make enough cortisol.
Mild symptoms may be seen only when a person is under physical stress. Other symptoms may include weakness, fatigue, and weight loss.
You will need to take hormones to replace those that the adrenal glands are not making.
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Adrenal Fatigue: Is It Really A Thing
Have you been feeling more tired in the afternoons and burned out at work? Having difficulty concentrating and getting anything done? Are you gaining weight, or having trouble losing it especially in your tummy? Losing hair on your head, but gaining it on your chin? Not interested in sex at all anymore or just not feeling sexy? Noticing changes in your menstrual cycle like lighter/heavier periods or irregular cycles? Having night sweats or insomnia, and then cant get going in the morning? Or generally just not feeling yourself?
A Q& a With Dr Alejandro Junger
What exactly are the adrenals? And what systems in the body do they control?
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of our kidneys. They are involved in the production of the hormones that regulate the fight or flight reactions, adrenalin, and noradrenalin. The way I think about them is kind of like the power strip into which the organs are plugged for energy, much like your home appliances are plugged into a socket. If the adrenals are not working optimally, your organs will run low on voltage and not be able to run optimally.
What happens to the adrenals when were in a constant state of stress, i.e., fight or flight levels of anxiety? How can you tell if your adrenals are out of whack?
When we are in a constant state of stress, the adrenals are overworked, and much like anything that is overworked in the body, they can run into exhaustion. When this happens, we feel exhausted, and depending on what organs are most affected, the symptoms may vary. Common symptoms of adrenal exhaustion are a general lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, clouded mind, depression, weak immunity with frequent colds or other infections, and difficulty digesting. But pretty much anything else can go wrong when our adrenals are exhausted, such as infertility, low blood pressure, and anemia.
Is it true that caffeine taps out the adrenals? How much is acceptable?
Can you destroy your adrenals? Is it possible to revitalize them?
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So Whats A Person To Do
Navigating this ocean of uncertainty is not an easy task. Symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue probably have multiple causes. Frequent follow-up visits and a strong patient-clinician partnership are critical elements for success. Alternative and complementary clinicians often have better results, because the appointments tend to last longer and they view patients through a more holistic lens. An important word of caution: some medical professionals prescribe cortisol analogs to treat adrenal fatigue. Cortisol replacement can be dangerous even in small doses. Unintended consequences can include osteoporosis, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.
Regardless of what we call it, there are millions of people suffering from similar symptoms, and a personalized plan that involves counseling, medications, supplements, lifestyle change, among others could work for many. Improvement following these programs is slow, and the evidence is weak, but I hope advances in big data, genomics, and its relationship with the environment and the microbiome, may shine a light on how to better help people who suffer from these ailments.
The adrenal fatigue theory may fit like a glove to explain your symptoms, which are very real. But before buying expensive protocols over the Internet to treat something were not even sure exists, take a deep dive and reexamine your lifestyle. The path to feeling better may be closer than you think.