If you are feeling fatigued, some functional medicine practitioners recommend adrenal fatigue tests.
But there is no clear supporting evidence for the adrenal fatigue theory, so we do not believe that these tests can help you understand what is causing you fatigue.
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.
In fact, there is no hard evidence to support adrenal fatigue theory, and systematic reviews of research continue to undermine its validity.
Is it worth taking an Adrenal Fatigue Test?
Many studies have shown that these tests don’t provide any useful clinical information or correlation between symptoms and results.
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:
• nutritional deficiencies
• thyroid problems
• auto-immune problems
To talk to us about fatigue please book an initial, free 15 minute call.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal Fatigue describes the under-functioning of the adrenal gland. This makes the gland less able to perform at optimal levels of hormonal and steroidal production.
Adrenal glands can be taxed from overuse of stimulants, lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and other lifestyle factors. If so, they are forced to work harder to keep up with the levels you are demanding.
As your adrenal glands continue to work in ‘overdrive’, the adrenal system eventually cannot maintain functionality at such a demanding pace. The result is an uneven hormonal balance.
Since the adrenal hormones are vital for many of the body’s processes, adrenal fatigue is accompanied by persistent tiredness, feelings of depression, cravings for sugar or salty foods, and sleep problems.
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.
The adrenal glands produce cortisol, and are key in the production and regulation of other hormones, including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, aldosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
How can Adrenal Fatigue be identified?
Testing Adrenal function -the Adrenal Stress Index (ASI)
The ASI makes it easy to identify where an individual is on the Adrenal Fatigue Scale. By measuring two key stress hormones: Cortisol and DHEA. a programme to restore adrenal function can be created.
The test results below show the extremes seen in patients:
The test below is for a person in the first alarm stage, cortisol levels are high whilst DHEA remain in reference range, and this person is “wired but tired”.
This second test result below is for someone experiencing low mood, slight depression and fatigue, more of a stage 3 adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Fatigue not relieved by sleep
- Craving for salt or salty foods
- Lethargy/lack of energy
- Everyday tasks take increased effort
- Decreased sex drive
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Increased time to recover from illness
- Light-headed when standing up quickly
- Mild depression
- Less enjoyment or happiness with life
- Increased PMS
- Skipping or inadequate meals make symptoms worse
- Thoughts less focussed, more fuzzy
Memory less accurate
- Reduced tolerance
- Don’t wake until 00am
- Afternoon low between 3 and 4pm
- Feel better after evening meal
- Decreased productivity
Lifestyle factors that contribute to Adrenal Fatigue
- Lack of sleep
- Poor food choices (high-sugar and refined foods)
- Using foods and drinks as stimulants when tired
- Staying up late even when tired
- Feeling powerless to influence or change a situation
- Being a type A personality, pushing yourself to succeed
- Being a perfectionist
- Putting up with and living in no-win situations
- Having a life lacking in fun and refreshing activities.
What to do next
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