Adrenal Fatigue - Symptoms and Treatment

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Published: 28th July 2009
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Adrenal Fatigue should not be confused with Addison's disease, which is a condition where the Adrenal Glands simply shut down. Addison's is often caused by autoimmune dysfunction, while Adrenal Fatigue is typically brought on by stress.

The History And Future Of This Condition

Adrenal Fatigue is a condition that was first described in medical texts in the 1800's. However, over most of the last one hundred years, doctors argued as to whether it was a legitimate medical condition or not. The main stumbling block to the recognition of Adrenal Fatigue as a scientifically valid medical condition was that science had yet to determine a way to test for its existence.

The medical science community has set a baseline for the determination as to whether a condition exists or not. Doctors need to know what is normal and what is abnormal in the human body, before the conventional medical community will recognize a condition as a real medical condition. Just as Hyperglycemia can be diagnosed when blood sugar levels are too high, and Hypoglycemia can be diagnosed when blood sugar levels are too low, doctors need to be able to do laboratory tests to make measurements, in order to make a diagnosis.

This is one of the main challenges that the alternative medicine community faces. In order to get official recognition for a treatment from the conventional medical community, scientists must show empirically, what is normal and abnormal in the human body, to trigger a condition. Alternative medicine providers typically recognize a condition, well before the mainstream medical community is willing to accept it as fact, because mainstream medicine is waiting on proof of concept before it is willing to embrace a diagnosis or treatment.

Where Adrenal Fatigue is concerned, a laboratory test has recently been developed to make a proper diagnosis of this condition, although your doctor may not yet be aware of this fact.

Adrenal Gland Function

The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit atop the kidneys. Each adrenal gland has two compartments. The inner or medulla affects the sympathetic nervous system and is responsible for producing two hormones,epinephrine and norepinephrine. They play a role in helping to cope with physical and emotional stress and are responsible for the fight or flight response. The outer adrenal cortex is responsible for producing more than 50 different hormones in three major classes - glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids and androgens. The most important glucocorticoid hormone is cortisol. When cortisol output is too low, then the body is unable to appropriately deal with stress when it occurs.

The adrenal cortex produces all sex hormones, with the exception of the DHEA, which is a weak androgenic hormone that both males and females receive in large doses. DHEA is important to the production of cortisol, in that DHEA in conjunction with testosterone and estrogen, are made from pregnenolone, a substance derived from cholesterol. Prolonged deficiencies in pregnenolone will reduce glucocorticosteroids such as cortisol and mineralcorticoids like aldosterone.

The most important anti-stress hormone in the body is cortisol. When the adrenal gland is working correctly and producing the proper amount of cortisol, then the body will be able to handle stress appropriately. Cortisol works to normalize blood sugar and to suppress the immune system to keep white blood cells from attacking healthy cells. Cortisol also serves as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and a vaso-constrictor - helping to normalize blood pressure.

In summary, cortisol is the primary regulator of the body's defenses. It controls the start of the defense response and it prevents the body's defenses from overreacting to a perceived threat.

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

• Weight gain and inability to lose it, especially around the waist.

• High frequency of getting the flu and other respiratory diseases that tends to resist treatments.

• Experiencing upper back or neck pain with no apparent cause.

• Reduced sex drive.

• Lightheaded when rising from a prone position or in general.

• Forgetfulness.

• Difficulties waking up in the morning.

• Need coffee or stimulants to get started in the morning.

• Experiencing a lack of energy in the mornings and late afternoon.

• Lethargic in the late evening, but resist going to bed.

• Briefly feel better after eating.

• Cravings for salty, fatty, and high protein foods such as meat and cheese.

• Increase symptoms of PMS for women; periods are heavy and then stop, only to start flow again a couple days later.

• Having a tendency to tremble when stressed.

• Feels better when stress is relieved, such as on weekends and vacation.

Additional Symptoms

• Mild depression

• Food and or inhalant allergies

• Lethargy and lack of energy

• Increased effort to perform daily tasks

• Decreased ability to handle stress

• Dry and thin skin

• Hypoglycemia

• Low Body Temperature

• Nervousness

• Palpitation

• Unexplained hair loss

• Alternating constipation and diarrhea

• Dyspepsia

Causes of Adrenal Fatigue

None of these given symptoms can definitively prove Adrenal Fatigue, and should only be considered when all other organic pathologies have been ruled out.

One of the most common overlooked causes of Adrenal Fatigue is a chronic or severe infection that gives rise to an inflammatory response. Frequently, these infections can reside within the body with no obvious signs. The most common type infections that can cause adrenal fatigue include parasitic and bacterial infections, including Giardia and H. pylori.

Adrenal Fatigue is the result of acute severe or chronic excessive stress that a person's body is unable to properly combat. The ability of the human body to handle physical and emotional stress is essential to human survival, and we have been given a full set of tools to combat stress in the adrenal glands. But when the adrenal glands are not operating efficiently or correctly, the body will begin to handle stress less effectively and symptoms will begin to make their presence known.

Common causes of adrenal fatigue include:

• Anger

• Chronic fatigue

• Chronic illness

• Chronic infection

• Chronic pain

• Depression

• Excessive exercise

• Fear and guilt

• Gluten intolerance

• Low blood sugar

• Mal-absorption

• Mal-digestion

• Toxic exposure

• Severe or chronic stress

• Surgery

• Late hours

• Sleep deprivation

• Excessive Exercise

• Excessive sugar in diet

• Excessive caffeine intake from coffee and tea

Laboratory Testing For Adrenal Fatigue

In adrenal fatigue testing, clinicians seek the markers cortisol and DHEA. Tests can be performed using a blood test or a saliva test, but the saliva test is preferential because it measures the amount of free and circulating hormones instead of the binded hormones commonly measured in blood test.

DHEA can be measured anytime during the day. Cortisol is the higher in the morning and lower in the evening before bed, so the adrenal fatigue test should be given in the morning.

As previously mentioned, testing should also be done to rule out sub-clinical infections as the cause for adrenal fatigue. So as a companion to the cortisol and DHEA measure, the lab should couple a specialized test measuring the immunoglobulin response to the process, searching for bacteria and parasites in the culture.

Proper Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue

First and foremost, an individual diagnosed with adrenal fatigue needs to take steps to reduce stress in their lives. That is the number one way how to cure adrenal fatigue.Getting a good night sleep is also important to recovery, since the adrenal glands do their best repair work between 10pm and 1am. One should avoid caffeine altogether and stay away from computers and televisions after 8pm.

As with most every health situation, exercise is always a good recipe for a healthy outlook. Exercise reduces stress and depression, increases blood flow and oxygenates the blood, normalizes level of cortisol, insulin, blood glucose, growth hormones, thyroid, and helps you feel better overall. You don't need to go to the gym everyday to get good exercise, even a brisk walk or climbing stairs would provide the needed exercise. You should set aside 20-30 minutes per day for exercise, and that exercise can be broke down into ten-minute blocks.

Adrenal fatigue supplements are the final piece to the treatment puzzle for adrenal fatigue to optimize the adrenal gland functions. The basic recommendations for adrenal fatigue suggest 15 to 30 mg of DHEA, 25 to 50 mg of pregnenolone, 25 to 50 mg of low dose natural cortisone (Isocort) and 20 mg of natural progesterone. Alternatively, one could consume a cortisol-enhancing herb such as licorice root extract.

The use of adrenal fatigue supplements and herbs for adrenal fatigue needs to be individualized, based on each individual's history, adrenal stress test results, adrenal background, and body metabolic system. Keep in mind that one person's nutrient may be another person's toxin. So, it is always recommended that you consult with a healthcare practitioner to find the proper balance of vitamins and minerals. As always, it is recommended that one should always seek an optimal balance of vitamins and minerals, and your practitioner will be able to help you to find that balance.

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