What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

This syndrome has been known by many other names throughout the past century, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue. Although it affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, conventional medicine does not yet recognize it as a distinct syndrome.

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected.

Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?

The main symptom of adrenal fatigue is tiredness. Other symptoms can be:

  • trouble falling asleep
  • trouble waking up
  • salt and sugar craving
  • weight gain

These symptoms are common with lots of other conditions. It’s important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor to try to find a cause.

What causes adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is thought to be caused by ‘overuse’ of the adrenal glands. This is thought to be due to ongoing exposure to:

  • mental stress
  • emotional stress
  • physical stress

The theory of adrenal fatigue was first introduced in 1998 by a chiropractor. However, at the moment there is no scientific evidence that this condition exists.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have unexplained fatigue or adrenal fatigue, check with your doctor that there isn’t another cause for your tiredness.

Your doctor will probably ask you about your symptoms and run some tests to rule out other health problems.

You may have another underlying health issue, such as:

  • iron deficiency
  • hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels)

There can be many reasons why people feel tired all the time. It’s often not easy to find a cause.

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