The Facts About Adrenal Fatigue

Always feel like you’re dragging or go through life like you’re stuck in quicksand?

Have trouble sleeping due to stress or anxiety?

Or how about just a general sense of fatigue and malaise that never seems to go away?

 

No doubt you’ve felt this way at some point in life, and with that, if you’ve felt this way for a prolonged period of time, you’ve probably enlisted the help of “Dr. Google” to see what’s wrong with you.

Chances are pretty high that you’ve been self-diagnosed with the dreaded “adrenal fatigue.” This affliction is getting more and more attention lately, as it seems to be affecting virtually everyone in the over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived state today.

But, what is adrenal fatigue and is it really as serious as some websites make it seem?

Let’s find out!

 

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

 

Image courtesy: National Cancer Institute

 

The adrenal glands are a pair of glands that sit atop the kidneys and produce several hormones, including the stress hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) that are known to stimulate the “fight or flight” response in the body.

“Adrenal fatigue” is an alternative medicine term created to explain a group of symptoms that are said to occur in individuals who are subjected to prolonged mental, emotional, or physical stress. Symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue are rather non-descript and include, but not limited to, the following:

- Excessive fatigue
- Unexplained tiredness
- Crave salty or sweet snacks
- Reliance on caffeine and other stimulants to stay awake
- Decreased sex drive
- Lack of ambition

 

As you can see, these symptoms are extremely common and nonspecific, meaning they’re associated with numerous ailments. On top of that, they can occur just as a result of everyday, normal life, particularly if you have a demanding job and family life!

Proponents of adrenal fatigue suggest that when life becomes too stressful, the body is overwhelmed from the chronic stress, and their adrenal glands cannot keep up with the body’s need for certain hormones like cortisol. When this happens, individuals may develop symptoms of “adrenal fatigue.”

Now, let’s take a look and see what the medical community actually has to say about this so called “disease.”

 

Debunking Adrenal Fatigue

The facts of the matter are that adrenal fatigue is not a disease or affliction according to any established medical board. The Endocrine society published a “Facts Sheet” essentially debunking the trumped up disease[1] and says:

“Adrenal fatigue” is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms.”

Adrenal fatigue cannot be verified or proven through any medical test, and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision doesn’t identify it as a credibly ailment either.[2]

Now, don’t confuse adrenal fatigue with Addison’s disease, which is an autoimmune disease that causes adrenal insufficiency. Also, it’s important to note that adrenal insufficiency can result from the pituitary gland giving insufficient hormonal signals to the adrenals, resulting in insufficient hormone production from the adrenals.

 

The Real Reason You’re Tired

Image Courtesy: NIH - National Cancer Institute

 

It’s not your adrenals, let’s get that straight. The real reason you’re lethargic, cranky, and down in the dumps is due to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is primarily responsible for how fatigued we are, due to orexin and histamine neurons. Orexin is a neurotransmitter that wakefulness, alertness, and hunger.[3]

Inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to suppression of orexin[4,5], which leads to decreased orexin levels and results in fatigue, lethargy, and a general “blah” feeling.

On top of that, hectic home lives, high-pressure jobs, lack of sleep, and a number of other factors all contribute to elevated cortisol levels resulting in increased stress and impaired recovery.

 

Takeaway

Adrenal fatigue is a fabricated disease spread by lots of misinformation and misconceptions about the physiology of the human body. Sure you may be overworked, under appreciated, and stressed around the clock, but it’s not because your adrenal glands stopped functioning properly.

If you’re serious about lowering your stress levels, consider taking some personal time to relax, meditate, decrease your workload, and, most important of all, SLEEP to help restore your vitality and reduce cortisol production.

 

References



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