Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome –an Exhausting Battle
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
Is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome Real?
Adrenal fatigue syndrome is a condition that has caused a lot of controversy in the medical community. Some feel it is a tremendously under diagnosed disease and others most believe the symptoms the patient has are for another reason all together.
Adrenal fatigue according to Mayo Clinic’s endocrinologist, Dr. Todd Nippoldt, is a term applied to several nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. While the term shows up on numerous medical websites and alternative medicine websites, it is not an accepted medical diagnosis.
The walnut size adrenal glands set on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing several hormones that are essential to life. Addison’s disease, which is adrenal insufficiency, refers to inadequate production of some of these hormones. The hormones are chiefly responsible for regulating the body’s stress response through the synthesis of corticosteroid and catecholamine, including cortisol and adrenalin. These are the chemicals that put your body into that “fight or flight” mode by increasing production of adrenaline and other hormones. If you are healthy, the adrenal glands can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release your energy stores for immediate use, slow your digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen your senses.
Adrenal Glands on Kidneys
President John F. Kennedy
Addisons VS Adrenal Insufficiency
If you have Addison’s disease these are the signs and symptoms; fatigue, body aches, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness and loss of body hair. This insufficiency is diagnosed by blood tests and special stimulation tests that reveal inadequate levels of adrenal hormones. As most of you probably know President John F. Kennedy had Addison’s disease and it was kept quite secret during his presidency.
Those that believe in the adrenal fatigue syndrome think it is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, modern life is so relentlessly stressful that the adrenal glands get overworked and just peter out. They suggest that your adrenal gland is under performing due to constant emotional stress or illness, and they further suggest lifestyle changes as a cure, meaning dietary changes and reducing the stress in your life.
Diana Schwarzbein, M.D. - Adrenal Gland Burnout
Factors Affecting the Adrenal Gland
The chronic fatigues symptoms are:
- Being tired for no reason
- Getting lightheaded when you stand up quickly
- Lowered blood pressure and blood glucose
- Frequently get colds or infections and have a difficult time recovering
- Feel as if you are constantly walking uphill
- Unexplained hair loss
- Craving either salty or sugary foods to keep going
- Sleep difficulties
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea
- Unexplained pain in the upper back or neck
- Increased PMS symptoms for women
- Tendency to gain weight and be unable to lose it
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Stress Not a Cause
Physicians say that there is no evidence that prolonged stress results in the adrenals producing less cortisol. The symptoms may be due to stress, fractured sleep, poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Furthermore, the symptoms mimic some other some other diseases as well, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or possibly Fibromyalgia
Although there are no specific tests that will provide a true diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, there are tests that may contribute to an assessment. A blood test for cortisol can be done but cortisol is at its peak at 8 Am and it fluctuates throughout the day, plus if you are stressed being in the doctor’s office you will get a false positive. It is customary for a physician to get lab work for the adrenals together with the thyroid tests to rule out insufficiency, which sometimes occurs in long-standing hypothyroidism.
Dietary Suggestions to Help Fight This Disease
Even though there has been no medical research into this problem there are many dietary suggestions which seem to help with these symptoms:
- Add ground flax meal to your diet since it contains healthy dietary fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Magnesium may also help.
- Add organic extra virgin olive coconut oil to your diet to benefit from the saturated fat that can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Add foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids to your diet in the form of fish oil, wild salmon, minimal amounts of albacore tuna, and sprouted walnuts.
- Add mineralized salt to your diet, especially upon rising (1/2 to 1 teaspoon mixed in water) and at least a half-hour before your lowest energy point of the day; Himalayan crystal salt is preferred.
- Eat lightly cooked animal and vegetable proteins (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes).
- Eat dairy products with live, active cultures (probiotics), such as organic, un-pasteurized yogurt and kefir (unless you are allergic to dairy).
- Eat plenty of unrefined low-glycemic carbohydrates (brown rice, sprouted grains, and winter squash).
- Limit intake of fruits that have a high glycemic index such as apricots, raisins, banana, papaya, and mango.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and vegetable juices (kelp, sprouts, green and black olives, peppers, spinach, chard, celery, zucchini).
- Add nutrient-dense and unprocessed foods such as sprouted nuts and seeds to your diet.
- Drink purified water throughout the day
Avoiding Harmful Foods
There are foods to avoid:
- All foods containing refined sugar or artificial sugar substitutes, such as aspartame, or Splenda. Choose a natural sugar like Xylosweet instead.
- All simple or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc.
- Foods high in potassium since they make adrenal fatigue worse (bananas, all melons, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit, etc.)
- Moderate amounts of caffeine may be okay but avoid excessive amounts.
- Alcoholic beverages should be drunk sparingly.
- Fermented foods such as cheese and wine
- Fungi such as mushrooms
- Pickled foods.
- Fungi such as mushrooms.
- Sodium nitrite found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon.
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils/trans fats found in many processed foods, deep-fried food, fast food, and junk food.
Other Tips to improve your health:
Regular exercise can help relieve anxiety, stress and tension, plus it is good for your body. If you have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, you may struggle with feeling like you don't have the energy to exercise, but research has shown that even just 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week, can significantly help regain and maintain overall health as well as promote energy production. You should avoid highly competitive exercise programs. Just a brisk walk or bike ride is adequate.
This seems to be a difficult disease as it is not recognized by many medical doctors and there is essentially no good treatment. Don’t take extracts of bovine adrenal cortex as it is absolutely ineffective because the hormones are present. Apparently this is listed on some of the alternative websites. You can consider supplements from a class called adaptogens which would include things like licorice root, ginseng and you would want to use them under the guidance of a trained integrative provider. You will have to look on the internet or in the phone book to find someone with schooled in this specialty.
Try to avoid stressful situations and don’t expect too much of yourself. If some chore isn’t done, it can wait. Enjoy the company of loved ones, laugh and play any chance you get as that produces good hormones in your brain. Do everything possible to avoid adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
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© 2010 Pamela Oglesby
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