Do I have Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue

Feeling Fatigued?

If you have been feeling fatigued of late you may have googled your symptoms and found information online about a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue. You may also be aware that there are funky looking saliva tests for Adrenal Fatigue and are tempted to buy one, but should you?

The theory of adrenal fatigue.

The theory is that we can overuse adrenal glands through stimulants, lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and other lifestyle factors. When this happens, it forces them to work harder to keep up with the levels you are demanding. They can reach a point where they cannot maintain functionality, resulting in an uneven hormonal balance.

Persistent tiredness, lightheadedness, feelings of depression, cravings for sugar or salty foods, and sleep problems can accompany this hormonal imbalance. However, many other health conditions can cause these symptoms, including gut dysbiosis and thyroid imbalances.

What are the adrenal glands and why are they important?

The adrenal glands are two triangle-shaped glands above the kidneys. Their primary function is regulating the release of energy in periods of stress.  They produce sudden bursts of energy during emergencies. We know this effect as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This response is a valuable tool in human survival as it enables the body to perform at increased strength, energy, and levels of awareness during moments of danger.

Besides emergency response, the adrenal glands are vital in the body’s reaction to stress. Today we are often subject almost endless daily stressors.  Emotional stressors like children, money, marital issues; and physical stressors like fatigue, diet, lack of exercise. A stressed body reacts to adjust to the stimuli.  The body releases cortisol, a hormone that allows the body to cope with stress and attempts to eliminate it.

high resolution image of location of adrenal issues

The adrenal glands produce cortisol, and are key in the production and regulation of other hormones, including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, aldosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

Is it worth taking an Adrenal Fatigue test?

Possibly not, although salivary testing of your cortisol awakening response (CAR) might still be of use, and there is some positive research in this regard.

Whilst adrenal fatigue testing has been available for years and have been widely used by many complementary health practitioners (including IBS Clinics) a recent review of the evidence for these tests does not support this type of testing for the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue.

The theory is that when measuring levels of the salivary hormones, cortisol and DHEA, as shown in the diagrams below, depressed levels are observed when Adrenal Fatigue is suspected, this sounds reasonable as a hypothesis, but the evidence has not been consistent or proven.

adrenal test results
adrenal test results and samples

Can Adrenal Fatigue be identified?

Persistent tiredness, lightheadedness, feelings of depression, cravings for sugar or salty foods, and sleep problems can accompany this hormonal imbalance.

However, many other health conditions can cause these symptoms too, including gut dysbiosis and thyroid imbalances.

In fact, there is no hard evidence to support adrenal fatigue theory, and systematic reviews of research continue to undermine its validity.

So what to do?

If you are feeling fatigued, then we recommend being checked for chronic fatigue syndrome, and a detailed review of possible underlying causes. The most common causes of fatigue include:

  • Stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Thyroid problems
  • Auto-immune problems

To talk to us about fatigue please book an initial, free 15 minute call.

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