What causes adrenal fatigue?
There are multitudes of individual causes of adrenal fatigue but they usually stem from one of four common sources that overwhelm the body.
- Disease states such as severe or recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis or flu, cancer, AIDS, auto-immune and other illnesses.
- Physical stress such as surgery, poor nutrition, addiction, injury, exhaustion, etc.
- Emotional stress, usually arising from relationship, work or psychological origins.
- Continual and/or severe environmental stress from toxic chemicals and pollutants in the air, water, clothing or food.
If adrenal fatigue is so common, why doesn’t my doctor know anything about it?
Most medical doctors are not aware of adrenal fatigue or the syndrome. Adrenal fatigue was first diagnosed over 100 years ago and has been successfully treated for decades. However, for various reasons that largely have to do with the close association between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, the medical community has ignored the existence of adrenal fatigue syndrome over the past 40 years.
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Adrenal Fatigue: 21st Century Stress Syndrome
Most doctors only recognize Addison’s disease, which is the most extreme end of low adrenal function. Because of our stressful lifestyles, adrenal fatigue typically develops gradually. Usually the symptoms (what we sense and feel in our body) usually precede the signs (visible changes, and laboratory or clinical test findings). As the problems progress, these symptoms and signs accumulate to form a syndrome, which is a collection of signs and symptoms attributable to a known medical condition. Unfortunately, medicine does not often recognize a condition until it has progressed to a full-blown syndrome.
Are there laboratory tests that detect adrenal fatigue?
Yes. The most accurate and valuable test for detecting adrenal fatigue is a saliva adrenal hormone test. This is a simple and relatively inexpensive test and has been unavailable until recently. There are other lab tests but they need special interpretation by physicians trained to recognize and treat adrenal fatigue. Many doctors who are aware of adrenal fatigue syndrome use some form of questionnaire to help make their diagnosis.
Can adrenal fatigue become chronic?
Yes, in some people the adrenal glands do not return to normal levels of function without help, either because the stress was too great or too prolonged, or because their general health is poor. However, when adrenal fatigue becomes chronic it is almost always because of factors that can be changed.
Can children suffer from adrenal fatigue?
Yes, especially children born to parents suffering from adrenal fatigue themselves. These children are often more sickly, have less ability to handle stressful situations, and take longer to recover from illnesses.
Is adrenal fatigue common in someone with cancer that is going through chemotherapy?
Yes, the extreme fatigue of this and any other chronic illness is often the result of decreased adrenal function. Chronic illness and toxic treatments like chemotherapy are both large stressors for the body and the adrenals are intimately involved in trying to balance these stresses.
Does adrenal fatigue affect the thyroid gland?
Yes. Approximately 80% of the people suffering from adrenal fatigue also suffer some form of decreased thyroid function. Often people who are shown to be low thyroid and are unresponsive to thyroid therapy are suffering from adrenal fatigue as well. For these people to get well, the adrenals must be supported in addition to the thyroid.
Am I more prone to infections if I have adrenal fatigue?
Yes. Adrenal fatigue often goes hand in hand with decreased immune function, which makes someone more prone to illnesses. There is a definite association between adrenal fatigue and respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
How often can I have a bout of adrenal fatigue?
It varies with the person. Some people have only one episode of adrenal fatigue during their lifetime, some have several, and others experience chronic adrenal fatigue from which they never fully recover.
Can adrenal fatigue affect my sex life?
Yes. A common complaint from people suffering from adrenal fatigue is decreased sex drive. This is because some of the sex hormones are manufactured in the adrenal glands, as well as in the sex organs themselves. Low adrenal function can lead to low performance or low desire. Both usually return to normal as the adrenals recover.
Is adrenal fatigue related to fibromyalgia or clinical depression?
Yes, adrenal fatigue can be related to both. Most people who suffer from fibromyalgia have a form of adrenal fatigue. Sometimes the adrenal fatigue comes before the fibromyalgia. A mild depression is also a chief sign of adrenal fatigue and although there are other conditions that cause clinical depression, if clinical depression is present, a saliva test for adrenal hormones will determine whether the adrenals are involved.
Is adrenal fatigue related to chronic fatigue syndrome?
Yes, adrenal fatigue is a common, but usually unrecognized, component of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The most likely connection between them is that the infectious agent(s) that lead to the development of CFS also set up conditions that foster adrenal fatigue. The direct effects of a smoldering pathogen in the body as well as the systematic stress the infection creates put the adrenals on overload. With new diagnostic procedures available for detecting the specific infectious agent(s) responsible, there have been encouraging results using a combination treatment that eliminates the specific pathogen(s) while strengthening the adrenals.
Does diet have anything to do with adrenal fatigue?
Yes, definitely. Diet has a lot to do with adrenal fatigue, both in its cause and in its recovery. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” aptly describes the relationship between what we eat and adrenal fatigue. If we eat garbage, our bodies eventually become trashed and one of the common results is adrenal fatigue.
Does adrenal fatigue affect a woman’s menstrual cycles?
Yes, adrenal fatigue can affect menstrual cycles. PMS, altered menstrual flow and difficult menopause can definitely be related to adrenal fatigue.
- Wilson, James L, M.D., Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Smart Publications, November 2001