Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adrenal Fatigue: Fact or Fiction?

Adrenal fatigue is described as a collection of signs and symptoms that occur when the adrenal glands are functioning below their necessary level. The main job of your adrenals are to enable your body to deal with stressful situations such as physical threats, injury, disease, chronic sleep deprivation or possibly work and relationship problems. Whether you want to run or stay ("fight or flight"), it is through the actions of adrenal hormones that your body is able to utilize the body's resources for survival. Adrenal fatigue is believed to be associated with intense or prolonged stress; but it can also occur during or after a serious disease or infection. The theory is that the adrenals were not originally designed  for fighting stressful situations on a daily basis and may possibly or eventually wear out, causing chronic fatigue and other symptoms. Patients with a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue are usually very tired in the morning and will often not feel fully awake until lunchtime or later. Individuals may look and act relatively normal, yet they live with a general sense of lethargy, unwellness, depression. and a myriad of other symptoms. The most common symptom is fatigue not relieved by sleep; therefore, they will often use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get up and keep themselves going during the day.

The adrenal glands allow your body to respond to all types of stress through hormones that regulate energy production, heart rate, your immune system, and basically all other physiological processes that enable you to deal with stress. Whether you have an emotional crisis such as a death or divorce, a physical situation such as trauma or surgery, or any type of a significant, repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals respond. If their response is inadequate, you may, theoretically, experience chronic adrenal fatigue. Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue are believed to include a lack of energy, a decreased ability to handle stressful situations, depression, a lack of focus, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), salt cravings, worsening menopausal symptoms, weakness or decreased libido.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue: 
 Excessive fatigue.
 Increased weakness.
 Nervous or irritable.
 Decreased libido
 Worsening allergies..
 Worsening menopausal symptoms.
 You feel overwhelmed.
 You feel rundown.
 Irritable bowel.
 You have difficulty bouncing back from an illness.
 You crave salty foods.
 You crave sweet foods..
 You feel more awake and alert in the evening.

Diagnosis of adrenal fatigue:
The belief is that these individuals experience a chronic drop in their cortisol levels (the main stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland); and as a result, they generally feel fatigued until the afternoon. Those affected will then often begin to feel better; however, they are usually tired again by nighttime and ready for bed. When a suspicion of adrenal fatigue is believed, certain tests will often help the diagnosis. Although there no specific tests that will provide a true diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, there are tests that will give a hint of this condition. Most commonly, cortisol testing, or an ACTH stimulation test combined with thyroid testing and possibly testing for menopause is used to give clues of adrenal fatigue. An elevated plasma ACTH level in association with a low plasma cortisol level is considered diagnostic.

Treatment of adrenal fatigue:

The first and single most important thing to do is remove the stress if possible. The initial stress may have actually occurred years before (death of a loved one, illness or injury, divorce, ...) and may be difficult to isolate. The second thing is to try and change your response to the stressor. Next consider a healthy diet, exercise and helpful supplements called adaptogens. An adaptogen is a herbal product that is thought to increase resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. There are numerous adaptogens available and I cannot say which is better. I would simply suggest a knowledgeable and reliable supplier if you chose to try them. Other helpful products include magnesium, vitamin C and Phosphatidylserine (PS), an essential component in all our cells. Sometimes a short course of cortisol (Cortef) may be used to boost the adrenal system while the other therapies also begun. Lastly, be sure there are no other contributing factors such as thyroid problems, other hormone issues or other health issues (anemia, blood disorders, diabetes, hypertension, ...).


1 comment:

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