Adrenal Fatigue

Definition:
One common condition that frequently accompanies thyroid problems is adrenal exhaustion, also known as adrenal fatigue. It is claimed by alternative medicine practioners to be a condition of the body in which the adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate hormones, notably cortisol, the stress hormone of the body.

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This so-called condition is unrecognized by the medical community. However, this fact accompanied by the suffering of many people gave rise to an industry of supplements and treatments for this supposed syndrome. General practitioners and psychologists routinely ascribe other causes for the claimed symptoms of adrenal fatigue, especially mental.

There is large confusion regarding the relation of this supposed syndrome to another very misunderstood syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome. The two may have common symptoms and it is difficult to distinguish.

About Adrenal Glands: Your two adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped endocrine glands located on the top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland is approximately 3 inches wide, and a half inch high.

 

Each gland is divided into an outer cortex and an inner medulla. The cortex and medulla of the adrenal gland secrete different hormones. The adrenal cortex is essential to life, but the medulla may be removed with no life-threatening effects.

Symptoms:
Persons claimed to be suffering from adrenal fatigue often suffer from chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, trouble getting out of bed in the morning, depression, low energy, cannot recuperate/regain energy levels, lack of endurance, decreased libido, weight gain/loss,feeling rundown or overwhelmed, craving salty and sweet foods, low stamina, slow to recover from exercise, slow to recover from injury, illness or stress, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, poor digestion low immune function, food or environmental allergies, premenstrual syndrome or difficulties that develop during menopause, consistent low blood pressure, extreme sensitivity to cold and trouble handling stress(physical/emotional).

Causes:
Adrenal fatigue is not typically said to be caused by one source, rather a host of lifestyle factors that supposedly contribute to adrenal fatigue as a whole. Such contributing factors include: stress (physical and emotional), poor diet, lack of exercise, significant use of stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines), lack of refreshing sleep, lack of relaxation, illness, being overworked, being post-surgery, as well as other stressors.

Adrenal stress is claimed to tend to occur suddenly after a serious illness or stressful point in life.
Diagnosis:
Adrenal insufficiency can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor will begin by asking about your medical history and about any obvious symptoms you are experiencing.

Tests that measure the levels of cortisol and aldosterone are used to make a definite diagnosis and include the following:

*ACTH Stimulation Test — This is the most specific test for diagnosing adrenal insufficiency. Blood cortisol levels are measured before and after a synthetic form of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), a hormone secreted from the anterior pituitary, is given by injection.

*Insulin-Induced Hypoglycemia Test –– The insulin-induced hypoglycemia test is used to determine how the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands respond to stress. During this test, blood is drawn to measure the blood glucose and cortisol levels, followed by an injection of fast-acting insulin. Blood glucose and cortisol levels are measured again 30, 45 and 90 minutes after the insulin injection. The normal response is for blood glucose levels to fall (this represents the stress) and cortisol levels to rise.

Other Tests:
Once a diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency has been made, a computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen may be taken to see if the adrenal glands are diminished in size, reflecting destruction, or enlarged, reflecting infiltration by some independent disease process. The scan also may show signs of calcium deposits, which may indicate previous exposure to tuberculosis. A tuberculin skin test may be used to address the latter possibility.

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A number of imaging tools may be used to examine the size and shape of the pituitary gland. The most common is the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which produces a series of images that provide a cross-sectional picture of the pituitary and the area of the brain that surrounds it.

In addition, the function of the pituitary and its ability to produce other hormones are tested. Typically, measurements of ACTH — the pituitary hormone most relevant for maintenance of normal adrenal function — along with thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and prolactin are made under resting conditions and following provocative simulation, such as following the administration of corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), which leads to an increase in ACTH levels under normal conditions.
Treatment:

Naturopathic Treatment:
According to various “specialists”, usually naturopaths, adrenal fatigue can be treated and reversed with proper lifestyle changes and dietary considerations. By leading a lifestyle more conducive to a healthy lifestyle, avoiding stressful situations, and eating a balanced diet, the adrenal glands can supposedly repair themselves and return to proper functioning. There is wide acceptance among the supplement-makers for adrenal fatigue that the most important nutrient deficiencies are vitamin C, pantothenic acid, vitamin B5. Of the claimed herbal remedies it is worth mentioning licorice, that has a claimed effect of slowing down the breakdown of cortisol. This is said to keep more cortisol in the body, thus relieving some symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

The naturopathic treatment is known as a “long road”, with lots of ups-and-downs, and the way to recovery is said to long and difficult. However, naturopaths consider this more “healthy” since it is based on “healing the body”, rather than simply replacing the missing hormones.

You may click to see:->Articles about “natural thyroid treatments”

Drug Treatment:
Of great supposed importance to treatment of adrenal fatigue is the adrenal hormone cortisol. It is generally recommended by alternative medicine practitioners that in severe cases of adrenal fatigue, the patient should consume low-doses of cortisol for quick relief of symptoms. This also supposedly (never proven) allows the adrenal glands time to heal themselves, and then the person can wean himself off cortisol.

If there are other hormonal deficiencies, they should be corrected as well using either HRT or supporting nutrients (this includes a malfunctioning thyroid gland, and the sex hormones). The medical treatment (using cortisol mostly) is claimed to be quick and efficient, with no noticeable side effects. However most medical doctors tread this treatment as dangerous. This results from the fact that cortisol is usually given in very high doses (~300mg/day) to relief various serious illnesses, resulting in very serious side effects. The doctors believe that giving low dosages (~20-30mg/day) would bear the same side effects, only taking longer. However, in one research paper it has been shown that low dosages of cortisol (<15mg/day) or low dosages of prednisone (<10mg/day) bear no long-time or short-term side effects in the patients, even at long term treatment.

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Herbal Treatment:
YOU can protect against adrenal stress with symptoms that include blood sugar swings, low energy, weakness, lethargy, dizziness, headaches, memory problems, food cravings, allergies, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome with the herbs like:Milk thistle guaranteed-potency extract, licorice root, eleuthero root, suma root, astragalus.

Criticisms:
As of 2008, adrenal fatigue is not an accepted medical diagnosis. It has gained popularity primarily through alternative-medicine books which claim to offer cures for this “disorder”, which is allegedly ignored by the mainstream medical community.

The term adrenal fatigue may also refer to:->

Addison’s Disease
Hypoadrenia
chronic fatigue syndrome

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrenal_fatigue
http://herbnews.org/adrenaldone.htm

http://www.ucsfhealth.org/adult/medical_services/hormone/adrenal/conditions/insufficiency/diagnosis.html

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