What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Matt Brady

Adrenal fatigue syndrome is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms, such as muscle weakness, nervousness, and trouble sleeping, that are punctuated by chronically low energy levels. The syndrome isn't generally accepted by mainstream doctors; it has instead been primarily propagated by members of the alternative medicine movement. Those who believe in adrenal fatigue syndrome claim that the adrenal glands aren't able to produce enough hormones to satisfy the demanding activity of life, causing the body to feel constantly worn down. Mainstream doctors admit there are cases in which the adrenal glands do underperform, but many doctors insist that a dysfunctional adrenal gland is symptomatic of a larger condition, such as Addison's disease.

An adrenal gland that produces too much cortisol can raise blood pressure as well as result in conditions such as Cushing's syndrome.
An adrenal gland that produces too much cortisol can raise blood pressure as well as result in conditions such as Cushing's syndrome.

Those suffering from adrenal fatigue syndrome, also known as hypoadrenia, constantly feel tired. In some cases, the individual experiences such extreme fatigue that even minor tasks, such as taking a walk around the block or mowing the lawn, completely wipe out energy levels. Other symptoms usually accompany the extreme fatigue, such as a lowered sex drive, a loss of appetite, digestive problems, weight loss, and nausea.

An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.

In many cases, adrenal fatigue syndrome is the result of some underlying problem. This is most often the case with Addison's disease, a condition in which the adrenal glands don't produce enough hormones because they've been damaged by some other factor, such as HIV, tumors, an autoimmune disease, or drug side effects. Treatment for Addison's disease usually includes a regular injection of replacement corticosteroids, which help to bolster diminished hormone levels.

People suffering from adrenal fatigue constantly feel tired.
People suffering from adrenal fatigue constantly feel tired.

One of the major possible factors in the development of adrenal fatigue syndrome is low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Adrenal glands produce levels of cortisol during periods of stress or when a person has been injured to help deal with trauma and return the body to normalcy. As a result, low levels of cortisol could affect one's ability to function normally throughout the day. On the other hand, an adrenal gland that produces too much cortisol can raise blood pressure as well as result in conditions such as Cushing's syndrome, which among other things, causes a person to quickly gain weight.

If someone is constantly under stress she make develop adrenal fatigue.
If someone is constantly under stress she make develop adrenal fatigue.

Those suffering from adrenal fatigue syndrome, but who aren't thought to be suffering from a condition such as Addison's disease, are often instructed to adopt different diets. Many people are encouraged to take more vitamins, particularly B and C vitamins. Reducing levels of sugar and carbohydrates is also often recommended. Other supplements may be recommended to adopt a healthier diet and stimulate energy as well. Before self-medicating, it's important to see a doctor about chronic fatigue; the possible underlying reasons for symptoms of fatigue, such as HIV or thyroid problems, are simply too dangerous to not seek medical attention.

In some cases, adrenal fatigue syndrome signals an underlying physical ailment.
In some cases, adrenal fatigue syndrome signals an underlying physical ailment.

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