Is Adrenal Fatigue Real? A Closer Look at a Growing Health Concern
You’ve been feeling out of it for quite some time now. No matter what you do, you never seem to get a good night’s sleep anymore. Your concentration levels are below zero, and you lost that pep in your step a long time ago.
You make an appointment with your doctor, and after sharing your concerns some tests are run. The numbers come back normal.
But you don’t feel normal. So what’s going on?
You and your doctor are both left puzzled, which can be frustrating and discouraging. A theory has been tossed around that suggests a possible link between stress and how it impacts your body --- and one of those ways is something called adrenal fatigue.
Is adrenal fatigue even real? Let’s take a closer look at how these glands work, why this idea is so popular, and what the research shows us so far.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Just above your kidneys sits a small, triangle-shaped gland. These glands, known as your adrenal glands, are responsible for producing important hormones like:
- Epinephrine (also known as Adrenaline)
- Norepinephrine (or Noradrenaline)
Some of these hormones play a role in making sure your kidneys keep your salt and water ratios balanced, while others are key to proper muscle growth and development, healthy response to stress, and optimal immune function (1).
Sometimes nodules can develop on your adrenal glands, creating an imbalance in how some hormones are distributed. Can this contribute to what many are calling adrenal fatigue?
Put simply, adrenal fatigue is thought to be when your adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to keep up with everything you face on a daily basis. The right balance of hormones are not being released as they should, so over time you begin to feel symptoms and signs (2) such as:
- Unintended weight loss
- Hair loss
- Digestive issues like
- Aches all over your body
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Feeling tired or fatigued
While conventional medical communities don’t recognize adrenal fatigue as an official diagnosis, the idea is growing in complementary medicine fields and seems to add to the frustration.
Diagnosing it is part of the problem. According to a review of 58 studies, there isn’t enough evidence to support the idea of adrenal fatigue. Part of that is due to questions on what to test (blood, saliva, urine), when (best time of day), how often samples should be tested, as well as what types of ranges should be considered normal (5).
It’s frustrating when you feel you aren’t getting relief, but it’s important to realize that conditions and diseases can share similar symptoms. What you think is adrenal fatigue might be fibromyalgia or depression. Talk with your doctor if your symptoms have been ongoing for weeks to discuss testing and treatment options.
Other conditions relating to your adrenal glands include (4):
- Overactive Adrenal Glands
- Addison’s Disease
- Congenital Adrenal hyperplasia
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Adrenal Cancer
Adrenal Fatigue Treatments
Even if adrenal fatigue isn’t a disease per se, it’s hard to argue with a chronic lack of motivation, sluggish digestion, brain fog, and fatigue.
And because hormones play such an important role here, aiming to make certain lifestyle changes can help improve the severity of your symptoms as you care for yourself on a cellular level.
How do you reverse adrenal fatigue naturally? It can be difficult to create a treatment plan when there isn’t a diagnosis. While getting to the root cause of the issue is always best, you may need something to help alleviate your symptoms in the meantime.
These key areas not only help regulate your hormones, but they can also support you in ways you didn’t even know you needed.
The famous Hippocrates quote that “food is medicine” is as true today as it was back then. The foods you eat today will affect how you feel tomorrow, which is why a healthy diet is more imperative now than ever.
Se best foods for elevating mood, boosting your energy levels, regulating bowel movements, and lifting brain fogs include (6):
- Fermented foods
- Colorful vegetables and fruits
- Omega-3 fatty fish
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins
- Nuts and seeds
What makes these foods so special? These foods are rich in antioxidants, DHA, fiber, and probiotics that fuel your cells and can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Supplements can also make a big difference where diet alone isn’t enough. Choose quality brands that offer a wide variety, provide transparent ingredient testing, and have plenty of positive customer reviews.
There’s no getting around it, sleep is essential to health and wellness. Making quality sleep a priority gives your body a chance to refresh itself, especially where hormones are concerned.
Consider making a bedtime schedule that includes a winddown routine, turning off screens, and doing a relaxing stretch to calm your muscles and mind.
Weights and cardio aren’t only good for losing weight. Studies show that regular exercise boosts dopamine levels, which is your feel-good hormone.
It also lowers insulin and cortisol levels, which help prevent the negative effects of stress (9).
If keeping your adrenal glands healthy means keeping cortisol levels from getting out of control, some of the best ways to keep your stress levels in check are:
- Reduce screen time whenever possible
- Practice deep breathing
- Staying actively involved in your relationships with God, friends, family, and your community
Living in the 21st century can be hectic, but with careful evaluation, you may be able to determine what areas in your life need adjusting in order to live a more peaceful, purposeful, and less stressed existence.
Life can be hectic, and when you try to juggle too much at one time, eventually your body starts to give off warning signs.
Fatigue, brain fog, digestion issues and mood swings shouldn’t rule your life. Adrenal fatigue is a conversation many people are having, and while it isn’t a recognized disease your symptoms and feelings are valid.
If you’ve been feeling off and don’t know why, don’t give up. Consider making an appointment with a functional medicine practitioner to talk about aspects of your health that may not be covered elsewhere - such as your emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
With a few lifestyle adjustments, you may be closer to the answer than you think.
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author