Adrenal Fatigue - what is it?

Officially, ‘adrenal fatigue’ (AD) is not an existing medical condition, but experts maintain AD is a real and very common problem today. The term ‘adrenal fatigue’ was first introduced and used by Dr James Wilson 1998.


Dr Josh Axe wrote from a personal narrative about the condition saying ‘all I can say is that adrenal fatigue is something I’ve seen personally. It is my opinion, through years of healthcare practice and supporting scientific evidence, that hyponatremia is very real and associated with several complications. In addition, adrenal fatigue treatment is relatively non-invasive and is beneficial to your health, no matter the diagnosis’. 


What is AD?


AD is a consequence of us struggling to cope with situations which cause stress daily. Each time we get annoyed, stress or worried or physical trauma occurs, our adrenal gland start making stress. Interestingly, our adrenal glands which are found at the top of our kidneys, are about the size of a walnut. 


What are stress hormones?


Cortisol reacts to stress, increasing conversion of fats, proteins, carbohydrates to energy, therefore increasing appetite and sugar craving.


Adrenaline quickly responds to stress by increasing heart rate and rushing blood to the brain and muscles, also spiking blood sugar levels by helping convert glycogen to glucose in the liver.


Noradrenaline quickly responds to stress by causing vasoconstriction, the narrowing of blood vessels, therefore increasing blood pressure. 


Since our adrenal glands have to make stress hormones so often, they finally get exhausted and are unable to produce enough of these hormones during stressful situations and also in between them, thus triggering various unpleasant symptoms. 


As well as this overload and deficiency of cortisol and adrenaline, individuals with adrenal fatigue often experience low levels of DHEA, a hormonal substance required to produce many hormones in the human body.


It is believed that adrenal fatigue is closely linked to Addison’s disease, known as primary adrenal insufficiency, which is a common and long-term endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones.


Symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, lack of motivation and enthusiasm, poor memory, problems with concentration, insomnia, feelings of apathy, irritability, anxiety, depression, low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) especially in the morning, hair loss, sugar craving, weight gain, decreased sex drive (libido) insulin resistance etc
  • In addition, lower cortisol levels make the immune system to become oversensitive and over-reacting leasing to chronic inflammation and contributing to allergies and even auto-immune diseases. Also, if you experience craving for salty foods, it can be one of the symptoms of Adrenal fatigue as it leads to sodium imbalance. 

Possible causes:

  • The following factors may cause or contribute to adrenal fatigue: stress, any B vitamin deficiency (especially vitamin B12 and folate), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level, which is a very common problem today), iron deficiency (often cause by refined diet and heavy menstruation), candida overgrowth, depression, IBS, allergy, anaemia, poor blood circulation, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, Epstein Barr virus, cancer, diabetes, etc.
  • Consuming foods and beverages containing or high glucose/fructose syrup and eating refined carbohydrates (white flour products, white rice, etc) or any products containing empty calories also put stress on the adrenals and pancreas triggering production of extra cortisol and insulin, thus contributing to adrenal fatigue.
  • Any chronic disease including cancer, asthma, arthritis or diabetes and other conditions place increased demands on adrenal glands making them overwork and fatigue. You should also know that the treatments for these chronic diseases are often stressful to your body too.
  • Adrenal fatigue is also linked in inadequate sleep, sedentary lifestyle, chronic inflammation, high-fat diet, malnutrition or malabsorption of nutrients, prescribed medication and use of stimulants such as caffeine products (coffee, black tea, cola drinks, etc), chocolate (high in theobromine), drugs or alcohol.
  • Use of stimulants such as caffeine products (coffee, black tea, cola drinks, etc) chocolate (lower in caffeine but high in another harmful stimulant theobromine). There is no doubt that the state of fight or flight is also fuelled by caffeine, theobromine, sugar, alcohol, drugs or other substances that stimulate us to keep going when in reality we need rest.
  • An important point of view which comes from a personal view is from Dr Agatha Thrash, ‘since caffeine first stimulates the nerves than causes depression, presence of fatigue in those who use caffeinated drinks is common. It is a fact that the commonest complaint in physicians’ offices today is that of fatigue. Yet, many people mistakenly believe that coffee helps them get through a difficult day. In addition to fatigue, mental confusion and depression also result from the use of caffeinated drinks. While caffeine drinks cause an immediate increase in the leaning ability, the overall result is a decrease in learning; the physical fatigue resulting from phrenological depression of the nervous system produces emotional depression, leading to a reduction of interest in and retention of new material. Headaches are common amongst caffeine users and often clear up after only a short period of caffein abstinence, a week or two. Headaches may occur as a caffeine-withdraw symptom; some people are so sensitive that they get a headache soon after drink their last cup’.
  • Dr Lawrence Wilson blames artificial sweeteners, MSG, caffeine and other dangerous chemicals for causing adrenal fatigue: ‘Nutrasweet (also labelled as Equal, Canderel, Spoonful, Aspartame, Aspartic acid, Neotame or Phenylalanine) is notorious for causing brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, depression and panic attacks to name just a few of its symptoms. It is found in over 5000 products and affects some 25% of Americans who can use it. It is often hidden in prescription medication, vitamins, toothpaste, breath mints and all types of diet products. Everyone should avoid this food chemical. Other food chemicals that affect sensitive people include excitotoxins such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), caffeine, pesticide residues, bacterial and fungal toxins, fluoride, chlorine and hundreds of other substances that either contaminate or are added to drinking water and food. Caffeine and other stimulants can give one a boost, but eventually contribute to adrenal exhaustion.’ 

How to cope with adrenal fatigue?

In order to cope with AD, unfortunately you must make lifestyle changes like increased consumption of plant0based unrefined foods, regular energetic exercise, vitamin and mineral supplementation, herbs, natural adaptogens and emotional counselling. 

But there is other ways to be effective you know, this is to address any underlying health conditions. We know it’s hard and yes it might not be fun to talk about private stuff, infact we even know its hard, but hey, everyone has been there, and doctors and professionals are only trying to help you. Not saying what the problems are can lead to the wrong treatment, which could in fact make you more poorly than you actually are. So, best piece of advice BestLyfe could offer you is BE HONEST TO YOURSELF!! Where it is simply saying you’ve had one extra piece of chocolate that you maybe shouldn’t had done to help you lose that pound you’ve been fighting against since you last in the mirror, or whether it is the face that you’re stressed up to you eyeballs and you have no idea where it has come from, get help. Go out and find someone to you. Whether that person is simply someone just to talk to like your 80-year-old neighbour from down the road or whether it is your local GP who you see for other things. Whoever it is, it doesn’t matter. All that counts is that you are getting help and the right help for you. 

Lifestyle and diet:

It is important for exercise for at least 1 hour day. We recommend doing something you really enjoy like Zumba or even going a walk with your friends, just something to get your heartrate going. One of the main reasons for feeling tired is not having the right amount of mitochondria in your cells – this is due to not enough physical activity happen. Imagine you are a solar powered battery, if a battery doesn’t get enough light, it doesn’t charge enough. If you don’t get enough exercise, you don’t produce enough energy. Simple when you think about it!

Nutritional supplements and herbs:

  • Having low Zinc levels in your body can contribute to adrenal fatigue. It is important to maintain the correct amount of Zinc in your body as it contributes to the working of hormones such as the thyroid hormone, progesterone, cortisol and aldosterone. As well as not contributing to adrenal fatigue it also prevents the body’s ability to fight inflammation.