What is it?
The term “adrenal fatigue” is used to explain a group of symptoms that are said to occur in people who are under long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress – the fact however is this – there is NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF to support Adrenal Fatigue as a true or documented medical condition!
Supporters of the adrenal fatigue “theory” say that you may be more likely to develop this condition if, for example, you have a stressful job; are a shift worker, working student, or single parent; or if you abuse alcohol or drugs.
THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC TESTING FOR ADRENAL FATIGUE – and diagnosis is normally based on a set of symptoms. Sometimes, a blood or saliva test may be offered, but tests for adrenal fatigue are not based on scientific facts or supported by scientific studies, so the results and analysis of these tests may not be correct.
Symptoms said to be due to adrenal fatigue include tiredness, trouble falling asleep at night or waking up in the morning, salt and sugar craving, and needing stimulants like caffeine to get through the day. These symptoms are common and non-specific, and are more often than not attributed to a hormone imbalance (coritsol, menopause etc), chronic stress or other disease/illness.
The theory behind adrenal fatigue
Supporters of the adrenal fatigue theory have been led to believe the problem begins when many different life stressors become too much for the body to handle – ie. when people are faced with long-term stress, their adrenal glands cannot keep up with the body’s need for these hormones. It is when this happens that supporters, of “adrenal fatigue” believe that symptoms may appear.
What’s the difference between Adrenal Fatigue and Adrenal Insufficiency?
While the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue is NOT accepted by most doctors, adrenal insufficiency IS a real medical condition that occurs when our adrenal glands cannot produce enough hormones. Adrenal Insufficiency (AI) is caused by damage to the adrenal glands or a problem with the pituitary gland—a pea-sized gland in the brain that tells the adrenals to produce cortisol.
The symptoms of a person with adrenal insufficiency may be dehydrated, confused, or losing weight. They may feel weak, tired, or dizzy, and have low blood pressure. Other symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. These symptoms are quite different to those of Adrenal Fatigue but can be diagnosed through blood tests, and treated with medications that replace the hormones the adrenals would normally make.
And the treatments for adrenal fatigue? Helpful or harmful?
Most supporters of the adrenal fatigue theory may advise you to improve your lifestyle by giving up smoking, alcohol, and drugs. Starting an exercise program, eating healthy foods, and following a daily routine for sleeping and waking – ALL of which will almost always make you feel better, no matter what your current health or medical diagnosis is.
You may also be told to buy special supplements or vitamins. These supplements claim to be made just for adrenal health. While regular vitamins and minerals may be good for your health, however some supplements or vitamins sold as a treatment for adrenal fatigue may not be good for you and many of these supplements have not been tested for safety.
If you take adrenal hormone supplements when you don’t need them, your adrenal glands may stop working and become unable to make the hormones you need when you are under physical stress. When these supplements are stopped, a person’s adrenal glands can remain “asleep” for months. People with this problem may be in danger of developing a life-threatening condition called adrenal crisis.
What should you do if you think, or have been told you have adrenal fatigue?
Do not to waste precious time and money accepting an un-scientifically proven diagnosis such as “adrenal fatigue” if you are feeling tired, weak, or depressed.
The adrenal glands do not get “adrenal fatigue” or lose function because of mental or physical stress, and true Adrenal Insufficiency is a rare health problem that only an endocrinologist, (an expert in hormones), should diagnose it using standard tests. If you have these symptoms, you may have adrenal insufficiency, but more than likely you may just need to re-assess and invest into your overall health – both physical and mental!