How many times have you felt fatigued days or even weeks on end, making you wonder what might be wrong with you, if anything? Could it be an oncoming bout of flu that is taking its sweet time in lowering the boom on you? Or maybe it’s a vitamin deficiency that can be easily solved with a quick tweak of the diet or a vitamin shot? Another thought is that it might be an immune system left tuckered out after fighting off a chronic infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia
Then again, perhaps it’s none of those, and what you have is a case of what’s known as adrenal fatigue, referring to a condition whose name was coined 20 years ago by naturopath James Wilson, an alternative medicine expert, per webmd.com. Wilson described adrenal fatigue as a “group of related signs and symptoms (a syndrome) that results when adrenal glands function below the necessary level.” Symptoms can also include body aches, nervousness, sleep disturbances, and digestive problems, per mayoclinic.org, as well as low blood pressure, frequent urination, dry skin, depression, dizziness, and anxiety, per adrenalfatiguesolution.com.
Diagnosing adrenal fatigue can be tricky. For one thing, many medical experts don’t even recognize adrenal fatigue as an actual illness, which is understandable considering that it typically is not accompanied by actual or measurable signs of sickness. There’s no denying, though, that anyone with it still feels constantly weary with a fatigue that just doesn’t get better with lots of sleep. Another noticeable sign of adrenal fatigue – a craving for salty foods.
Adrenal Fatigue Linked to Chronic Stress
The adrenal glands, which are located just over the kidneys, release hormones such as cortisol as a response to stress, in the process increasing your blood pressure and blood sugar while also affecting how the heart functions. The thing is, long-term stress (like workplace stress or death of a family member) and an accompanying long-term release of cortisol can lead to adrenal fatigue when the adrenal glands stop producing that stress-induced cortisol, effectively emptying the gas tank. Result: lingering fatigue or exhaustion.
Adrenal Fatigue: Myth or Reality
Although many U.S. health experts don’t recognize adrenal fatigue as an actual illness, they do recognize “adrenal insufficiency,” which has many of the same symptoms as adrenal fatigue, as well as others, such as loss of body hair and skin discoloration. This condition, also referred to as Addison’s disease, is a condition characterized by inadequate production of one or more of the hormones essential to life.
Where adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed by blood tests as well as other tests that can reveal insufficient levels of adrenal hormones, adrenal fatigue’s “problem” in the world of medical science is that similar testing can’t diagnose the unproven theory that states adrenal fatigue, essentially, is a condition in which adrenal glands can’t keep pace with the demands of the fight-or-flight syndrome associated with chronic stress. Per Mayo Clinic, existing blood tests simply aren’t sensitive enough to detect such a small decline in adrenal function, even when your body can.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue
There probably are as many suggested treatments – many of which are grouped together below – for adrenal fatigue as there are signs and symptoms of its presence in your body. Before you get started on any of these, though, if you have enough of the above-mentioned symptoms to make you think you might have adrenal fatigue – or any other type of sickness – you should see your personal physician ASAP to get a proper diagnosis:
- Nutritional supplements. A number of supplements have been pegged as helpful in counteracting the effects of adrenal fatigue. These include vitamins B5, B6, and vitamin C; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; CoQ10; and probiotics. CoQ10, in particular, plays a key role in helping your body to handle stress, with research showing that it can decrease blood inflammation and battle oxidative stress.
- Herbal supplements. These can help in regulating cortisol levels, per adrenalfatiguesolution.com, and they include licorice root, ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, Siberian root ginseng, and maca. Ashwagandha, which also goes by the name Indian ginseng, can control cortisol levels and induce a feeling of serenity.
- Get better sleep. OK, so this isn’t something you can just declare and make happen, but with some preparation and a plan, it can be done. For one thing, de-stress for about an hour or so before you hit the hay. Avoid caffeine. Get off the computer and turn off the TV. Regular daily exercise can help a lot as can yoga, meditative techniques, and natural sedatives.
- Eat better. Fruits and vegetables. Also foods high in protein, such as organic meats and eggs, and foods low on the glycemic index (GI). Low GI fruits include berries and green apples. Check out healthy fats as well, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts and seeds.