The Facts About Adrenal Fatigue

Julie Shenkman
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Adrenal fatigue has several symptoms, including body aches, sleeping difficulties, dark circles under the eye and physical fatigue. The difficulties are that these symptoms are nonspecific to one disease; these maladies could come from something other than the adrenal glands on kidneys and this disease is not generally recognized.

Endocrinologists, medical experts who study how hormones interact within the body, doubt adrenal fatigue even exists as a condition. Proponents of alternative medicine, specifically James L. Wilson, coined the term in 1998 as a way to explain stressed out people with low cortisol levels in the adrenal glands. Wilson wrote an entire book on the subject.

Since the time of Wilson's book, no one has been able to come up with a way to conclusively test for adrenal fatigue. The Endocrine Society purports that stress has little to do with the adrenal glands. Many people get the symptoms associated with this misdiagnosis, but they could be caused by other factors or underlying conditions.

Bad sleeping habits, poor diet, feeling stressed out and depression may all point to other health conditions that need to be treated instead of the mythical adrenal fatigue. Fatigue could come from anemia, arthritis, heart failure and diabetes. Fatigue could also come from a thyroid condition or irritable bowel syndrome.

Instead of adrenal fatigue, the actual medical malady called primary adrenal insufficiency is a real problem. This is also known as Addison's disease. This disease is rare, and it only affects 144 out of 1 million people in developed countries. The underlying cause of Addison's disease is an autoimmune condition. Secondary adrenal insufficiency, which is much more common, happens when a gland the brain, called the pituitary gland, doesn't send the right information to the adrenal glands on the kidneys. Both types of adrenal insufficiency are detectable by blood tests.

So what do people do about the symptoms of fatigue in general? In terms of letting go of stress, patients might consider taking a break from the daily routine, scheduling a little "me" time every day, exercising with a workout or yoga, and putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper. A doctor might prescribe a regimen to combat sleeplessness or lack of energy.

Patients who think they have some renal problem with fatigue and they really don't might end up taking supplements without medical supervision. The problem with this is that these over-the-counter supplements might do more harm than good. A doctor might miss a diagnosis because of interference from the supplement within the body's chemical makeup.

The best thing for someone to do is to see a doctor if a person thinks he has adrenal fatigue, as the condition doesn't actually exist. A primary care provider can run tests to determine if a patient needs to see a specialist for further study to find out what's really causing these nonspecific symptoms.

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