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Adrenal fatigue–is it the answer to all of our problems, or is it too good to be true? There is a new theory out there that may help answer your questions about your perpetual tiredness and other symptoms that are hard to find reasons for.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is the theory that long-term exposure to stress exhausts your adrenal glands which produce many hormones, the most important being cortisol. Cortisol is your fight or flight response, so if you are constantly stressed it is thought that your adrenal gland would be overused and eventually produce less (or no) cortisol, as well as loss it’s other functionalities.
Adrenal fatigue manifests itself in vague symptoms that are hard for medical professionals to string together into a diagnosis.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms
If you’re like most people, you will put a little check mark next to each of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue I’m about to list.
- Brain fog
- Low energy
- Depressive mood
- Salt and sweet cravings
- “And other vague symptoms” says Marcelo Campos, MD and contributor to Harvard Health Blog
The adrenal fatigue symptoms are a mood and a vibe and begging to be turned into a meme, because all of us want to justify sitting on the couch, hibernating while switching off between popcorn and ice cream.
The validity of adrenal fatigue?
However, most medical professionals and the Endocrinology Society believe there is not sufficient evidence to support adrenal fatigue being a real disease, although there is contention on this point, with most of the backlash coming from a homeopathic standpoint. The best part about the world of health today is that you can find a wide-base of opinions and make your own informed decisions.
While science doesn’t back the theory that adrenal fatigue is caused by prolonged exposure to stress, they have a different term with a similar meaning. Something doctors and holistic professionals can agree on is adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease), a disease where your adrenal gland doesn’t produce enough of any of the hormones it’s responsible for.
Signs you may have adrenal insufficiency
- Body aches
- Unexplained weight loss
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of body hair
- Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation)
How to help adrenal insufficiency
1. Survey your intake
Sometimes when someone suffers from adrenal insufficiency, it can be traced back to another drug they are taking. If you habitually take medication, such as the steroid prednisone, often used to combat allergic reactions, your adrenal glands will begin to produce less hormones in response.
It will take your adrenal glands some time to even out and return to their natural state of production if you stop taking the medication. Check with a healthcare professional to see if any drugs your taking may be interfering with your adrenal production.
2. Set a regular sleep pattern
Sleep is key to refreshing all of your body systems including your adrenal glands. Not only do you need enough sleep, but you also need regular sleep.
Training your body on a sleep schedule will help your body settle into its natural rhythm allowing you to enter R.E.M. sleep more often and for longer periods of time. R.E.M. is where the magic happens and your body finds the most benefits from sleep.
3. Be weary of cortisol analogs
The new trend to help with adrenal fatigue is prescribing cortisol analogs. Some medical professionals caution against this practice since cortisol replacements may have large and long-term effects on the body, like osteoporosis, heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.
4. Take a holistic approach.
Since the jury is out on classifications and treatments for adrenal fatigue or insufficiency, it is always beneficial to seek lots of opinions and take a holistic approach. Regardless of what we call it, the symptoms are real and many people suffer from them.
Holistic doctors recommend looking at your wellness and assessing different areas that may impact your stress. Getting enough exercise daily will help reduce stress levels. Meditation and breathing techniques, like pranayama, can keep you centered and stress-free throughout your day.
Adaptogenic herbs are also a useful aid in lowering stress. Also known as adaptogens, adaptogenic herbs are agents that help the body cope with physical and emotional stressors.
Medical Herbalist Jennifer Pottruff says “adaptogens may be considered regulators and they support the stress response system. In doing so, they help to modify and regulate hormone production and flow.”
You can craft a tea from the herbs, take them in supplement form, or as a tonic.
- Wild Yam
- Eleutherococcus senticoccus
Caring for our adrenals
Whether we call it adrenal fatigue or insufficiency, the symptoms don’t change. For those of you feeling extreme fatigue it is time to look deeper into how we can combat it.
As always, consult with medical professionals before you make any changes to your medication or diet, but don’t be afraid to ask if one of these adrenal solutions is right for you.