How have you been feeling lately? Tired and achy? Having trouble getting to sleep or waking up? Are you craving salt and sugar? Moody? Losing weight without dieting? Lightheaded? Have you been losing body hair or experiencing skin discoloration?
Some of our patients will come to us with such non-specific-but-real symptoms and suggest that they are suffering from “adrenal fatigue,” a condition that was first mentioned in 1998 by chiropractor and naturopath James Wilson in his book of that title. Supposedly, the condition is characterized by the above symptoms and is the result of prolonged and excessive stress, either mental, physical, or emotional.
Unfortunately, there are no medical tests that can prove the existence of “adrenal fatigue,” and nearly all conventional medical sources deny its existence. What is real is a condition known as adrenal insufficiency, and it can be confirmed by blood tests.
The theory as proposed by Wilson and others is that adrenal fatigue is a milder form of adrenal insufficiency, and that existing blood tests aren’t yet sensitive enough to detect the condition.
Your adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys, produce cortisol, among other necessary hormones. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, too much stress interferes with the production of cortisol, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. The problem is, those same symptoms can be attributed to any number of other illnesses, lifestyle factors, or simple stress.
According to the Endocrine Society, which represents the opinions of 1,400 endocrinologists, “Adrenal fatigue is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many symptoms.” The Mayo Clinic calls the condition “unproven.”
While medical science is always advancing, and there may in the future be some medical confirmation of adrenal fatigue, Dr. Robert Vigersky, a past president of the Endocrine Society, says the very common symptoms attributed to adrenal fatigue can also result from poor sleep habits, poor diet, depression, or stress at work or at home. And general fatigue, which plagues so many of us, can also be a symptom of more serious diseases like diabetes, arthritis, anemia, and even heart failure.
The important thing is not to attempt to treat any of these symptoms yourself, because some of the recommended treatments can actually be harmful, as they contain extracts of human hormone glands. Your concierge primary physicians at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, FL, will discuss any such symptoms with you, review your medical history and lifestyle, including any current stresses, and recommend the best course of action to address your concerns.