Tired all the time? Hate to get out of bed in the morning? Need to jumpstart yourself with coffee, Red Bull, salty or sugary snacks? Do you only feel at your best after 6 PM?
Your problem may be adrenal fatigue (AF). You look and act like the same old you and show no symptoms of physical illness, yet you go through the day feeling “gray,” tired or unwell. Sleeping doesn’t seem to help.
AF affects an estimated 80% of people who live in industrialized countries. It threatens anybody who experiences ongoing or intense emotional or physical stress. AF also contributes to health problems ranging from allergies to obesity. Mainstream medicine hushes up the adrenal fatigue story. Could you or someone you know be suffering from the syndrome your MD does not want to talk about?
Dr. James Wilson is the author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Dr. Wilson believes AF is caused by the adrenal gland functioning below the body’s necessary level. “Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress,” he writes, “it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia.” Other specialists include thyroid problems among the contributing factors to developing adrenal fatigue.
The adrenals balance the blood sugar, which helps the body manage its daily ebb and flow of energy. When blood sugar drops, the adrenal hormones elevate it again, and this releases energy. The same chemistry happens when the “fight or flight” response kicks in. Today’s nonstop “fight or flight” stress — traffic jams, arguments and work pressures — is a normal part of daily living. Constant emergencies deplete the adrenals, and when they stop producing sufficient hormones, especially cortisol, adrenal fatigue is the result.
Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Dr. Todd Nippoldt, who is no friend of alternative medicine, disagrees. “The unproven theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal.”
Neither traditional nor mainstream medicine disagrees about the syndrome’s symptoms, including aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. However, endocrinologists ask, if chronic stress keeps the adrenal gland from producing enough of the hormones patients need to feel good, shouldn’t their bloodwork detect sub-par adrenal functions? The current tests do not.
Alternative practitioners point out that mainstream tests cannot diagnose AF because they are prepared only to diagnose extreme dysfunction in the adrenals, such as Addison’s disease, a potentially fatal condition where the adrenals essentially shut down. The test many alternative practitioners trust to diagnose more subtle dysfuctions of the adrenal glands is a saliva cortisol test.
While managing their adrenal fatigue, most people feel better after drinking a glass of salty water, especially in the morning. Sometimes the laxative Magnesium Citrate is recommended. However, the management of AF is recovering.
Recovering means a real commitment to dealing with 24/7 stress by looking into diet and exercise life changes. If necessary, calming methods that really work are easily available from anger management groups to tai chi classes. Various unproven brands of dietary supplements are also available online, including “hormone-free glandular extracts.”
The medical jury may still be out on what causes adrenal fatigue, but everybody recognizes the universal symptoms of too-much daily tension. Alternative professionals and mainstream doctors all agree stress is a killer. The ultimate long-term treatment for tension-related illnesses such as adrenal fatigue remains the healthy synergy operating within wellness-conscious living.
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Updated: May 12,2011