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Is there such a thing as Adrenal Fatigue?

Is there such a thing as Adrenal Fatigue?

The physicians at Spartan Medical Associates practice sound medicine with an open minded, progressive approach and we pride ourselves on accepting new therapies when science supports efficacy but also weeding out pseudoscientific treatments.

Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, body aches, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. The term often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis.

Your adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones that are essential to life including cortisol, DHEA, testosterone and aldosterone. The medical term adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease) refers to inadequate production of one or more of these hormones but mainly aldosterone which causes the kidney to hold onto water and sodium.  Signs and symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness when standing
  • Passing out
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of body hair
  • Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation)

Adrenal insufficiency is a very real medical disorder that can be diagnosed by blood tests and special stimulation tests that show inadequate levels of adrenal hormones.  There is no such definitive test for Adrenal Fatigue.

Proponents of the adrenal fatigue diagnosis claim this is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress. The unproven theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal. As a result, they can’t produce quite enough of the hormones you need to feel good. Existing blood tests, according to this theory, aren’t sensitive enough to detect such a small decline in adrenal function, but your body is.

It’s frustrating to have persistent symptoms your doctor can’t readily explain. But accepting a medically unrecognized diagnosis and treatment protocols that are unproven, likely won’t help and could be potently unhealthy is not the answer. Unproven remedies for so-called adrenal fatigue may leave you feeling sicker, while the real cause, such as suboptimal thyroid, testosterone, estrogen or progesterone or depression or fibromyalgia, continues to take its toll.  

At Spartan Medical Associates we believe that combating symptoms that may be misconstrued as Adrenal fatigue are better addressed by treating overall health such as optimal hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle changes such as optimal nutrition, exercise, stress relief and better sleep habits.  Almost always we can improve symptoms and adrenal function with these strategies.

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