Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?
It has been some time since I have talked about Adrenal Fatigue. As with anything in medicine, there is debate as to whether this is a real condition or a made up label for where there is no answer.
Before we can answer that question, it is important to understand the purpose of the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands, also known as suprarenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped glands that rest on top of the kidneys. Their primary role is produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and regulate an appropriate response to stress.
The specific hormones released by the adrenal glands include:
- Cortisol – Cortisol helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar and helps control our sleep patterns. Cortisol is released during times of stress to help in the flight or fight mode.
- Aldosterone – Aldosterone regulates blood pressure by directly by affecting the sodium and potassium pump. Aldosterone sends signals to the kidneys that direct sodium into the bloodstream and release potassium out into the urine.
- DHEA and Androgenic Steroids – These are precursor hormones that are converted in the ovaries into female hormones (estrogens) and in the testes into male hormones (androgens).
- Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline) – These hormones increase the heart rate and force of contractility of the heart muscles. This leads to an increase in blood flow to the muscles and brain. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are often activated in stressful situations when our body needs additional resources and energy to endure ongoing stressors.
So what does all of this mean?
Let’s simplify our understanding. Adrenal glands are needed to live. Period. It is our fuel tank. When we are born, the tank is full. Then, life happens that requires us to tap into those reserves. And when the demands out weigh the supply, a deficit occurs.
As we have understood from above, the hormones released from the adrenal glands are needed for overall survival. What happens when we run on empty? Fatigue sets in. Hormones are in chaos. The entire ecosystem of the human structure and function is in peril.
How do you know if you have this? Well, this is where we need to take a step back and really understand what our body is going through.
With the current lifestyle the world lives, I am sure we all have some degree of adrenal fatigue. Google the symptoms and I am sure most of us check off 90% of the list.
However, the difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) is that the latter is a TRUE diagnosable medical condition.
Those that suffer from Addison’s disease are unable to produce the hormones in adequate supply to maintain bodily function. The diagnosis is confirmed with laboratory testing. Every symptom must be watched and treated quickly and aggressively. Time is of the essence with Addison’s.
Conversely, adrenal fatigue doesn’t always have abnormal test results. This doesn’t mean that patients don’t have some diminish of hormone production. It just means that it is not as profound as in Addison’s.
I am sure you’re thinking that is great but how do I treat this so I can move on with my life?
When I first started learning and understanding about adrenal fatigue in 2007, I was sure the answer was replenishing with unproven garland of supplements. What I soon discovered was the supplements caused more issues than the fatigue itself. It didn’t make sense to treat one thing only for it to lead into another issue. Over the years, I have continuously asked myself how can we treat something we are not sure is a real entity? Whether the label is real or not, the symptoms are!
Ok. So we know it is real, but now what?
How about looking back through previous years and recognizing the habits that could have led to this?
- How much processed foods did you consume?
- How strict were you about your sleeping habits?
- How active were you, really?
- How much did you handle and resolve stress rather than sweeping them under the rug?
- How many times did you make a choice you knew wasn’t right?
- How many days did you neglect your “me time” thinking it was selfish?
- How many times did you put yourself at the end of the priority list?
There is no judgement here. We have all been there. Hind sight is 20/20. But it is never too late to refuel, replenish and revive!
Try and begin with these five basic steps.
1. Move at least 20 minutes a day.
2. Stop all screens 1 hour before bedtime.
3. Take a 5 second pause before acting on any choices you make.
4. Move yourself up on the priority list.
5. If it isn’t going to matter in one year, let it go.
This will take time. Keep expectations out of the equation. Work for a lifestyle change. Not for an immediate gain. It all starts with simplicity. Simply staying present. Simply starting. Simply observing. Simply being!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.