Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, including fatigue, generalized aches, brain fog, depression, irritability, nervousness, sleep disturbances, salt and sweet cravings, and digestive problems thought to be caused by chronic stress. It is not a recognized medical diagnosis, although Addison’s disease (or adrenal insufficiency), which involves the inadequate production of hormones is, and needs to be treated.
Adrenals are the two small glands located atop the kidneys, which produce several hormones, amongst them, cortisol. During times of stress the body produces and releases cortisol from the glands into the bloodstream. The adrenal fatigue theory posits that prolonged stress results in adrenal depletion and a low cortisol state which causes the above-mentioned symptoms.
Oftentimes salivary cortisol testing will be done by holistic practitioners to help achieve a diagnosis of “adrenal fatigue,” but in studies researchers have been unable to find a difference between fatigued and healthy patients in over 61% of people who undergo such testing. As such, this type of testing and diagnosis has not been established or accepted in the mainstream medical community and oftentimes individuals have a difficult time addressing their symptoms or obtaining ‘treatment.’ This is exceptionally difficult because, while no medical diagnosis may exist, the symptoms are most definitely real.
From our standpoint, first and foremost, it is important your symptoms are assessed in full by all appropriate individuals (including a physician) to ensure you are not experiencing symptoms as a result of another treatable condition – anemia, Addison’s, sleep apnea, infection, auto-immune disorders - being only a few. Simultaneously we assess lifestyle factors – are you eating enough? Sleeping enough? Do you have massive external stressors we could reduce? Are you overtraining? Perhaps you suffer from specific nutritional deficiencies because of either inadequate intake or a reduced ability to metabolize them in their unaltered form?
Many individuals who come to MTMM are either under-eating or overtraining or both! Addressing these issues is key to achieving long-term health, and regaining capacity in your day to day life. Be very wary of any practitioner who immediately recommends remedies such as ashwaganda or another form of adrenal support as a quick fix to your problems. While these can be beneficial adaptogens (more on this later) they aren’t mandatory, necessary, or safe for everyone, and it is important to holistically assess the root cause of your symptoms rather than simply slapping on a band-aid.
If you think you might suffer from adrenal fatigue talk to one of our nutritionists to help determine the best course of action for YOU. Every individual is unique, and there is no one size fits all approach. Often it's a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes that must be put into place to help get you back on the road to living your best life. In a society of instant gratification this can be be tough to swallow, but trust us, you're worth it.