Is adrenal fatigue the reason I feel so worn out?
Updated: Dec 3, 2018
If you are interested in wellness and health, you are likely to have come across the term adrenal fatigue. Although widely used, it is actually a recent term that has emerged to describe people who feel very tired and whose symptoms could be explained by the fact that the adrenal glands are not working.
The first thing to know:
The first thing to know is that, the adrenal glands produce three main hormone groups. Firstly, Corticosteroids (cortisol) which is known as a ‘stress’ hormone. Cortisol has a number of key functions including, helping the body deal with stress, immunity, control of blood pressure and effect of insulin.
Fatigue and low energy are complex symptoms that can be rooted in a combination of physical and mental health issues.
The second set of hormones produced by the adrenal glands are mineralocorticoids which have a role in controlling the salt and water balance in the body. Thirdly, the adrenal glands produce our sex hormones.
Now, separate from the notion of ‘adrenal fatigue’, adrenal failure is a medical disease. It is when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of one or all of the three hormones above. Adrenal failure can be caused by a range of issues but probably the most common is as a result of taking synthetic cortisol (in the form of steroids) to help cope with diseases like asthma, inflamed bowels or rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune disease). Adrenal failure can be confirmed through a blood test showing whether the cortisol level is low, followed by a cortisol test known as the Short Synacthen test.
Here’s is what’s important:
Most doctors don’t believe adrenal fatigue is a single condition, mainly because the symptoms are non-specific and on testing the adrenal gland is often found to be ‘functioning’ well on other counts. Fatigue and low energy are complex symptoms that can be rooted in a combination of physical and mental health issues. There is no test or series of tests that can diagnose ‘adrenal fatigue’. So, before accepting the notion that you have adrenal fatigue, you need to know that this remains a grey area within medicine and that in reality your symptoms may have other causes.
Have a simple blood panel to exclude things like anaemia, low iron, thyroid function and so on. Go through it with your doctor. There is ample evidence to show that improving exercise, optimising diet and focusing on mental wellbeing can help with symptoms of fatigue and low energy. If need be – ask to see an endocrinologist (hormone specialist) and be open to other potential causes for your symptoms.
There is ample evidence to show that improving exercise, optimising diet and focusing on mental wellbeing can help with symptoms of fatigue and low energy.