Adrenal Fatigue is a real and rampant diagnosis affecting millions daily
March 30, 2016
Your adrenal glands are each no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape, yet are responsible for one of the most important functions in your body: managing your stress.
When your adrenal glands are overtaxed, a condition known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion sets in, which in turn can set a cascade of disease processes into motion. One tell-tale sign of adrenal burnout is feeling chronically fatigued.
It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of adults experience adrenal fatigue during their lifetimes, yet it remains one of the most under-diagnosed illnesses in the United States.
It is possible to integrate scientific testing via saliva with natural health solutions to heal your adrenals and restore their normal function.
There are protocols that exist, and are profoundly effective—capable of restoring health in most individuals in as little as six to 12 months.
The basis of adrenal fatigue or burnout is stress, which over time can tax your adrenal glands to the point of causing other health problems, such as:
- Sleep disorders
- Weight gain
The precipitating event for most people is a period of intense emotional stress. Most of the time patients report having experienced major emotional stress around the time their health began to falter.
How to Test Your Adrenal Function Conventionally, you’d see an endocrinologist who would evaluate your adrenal glands, or perhaps a doctor of internal medicine. Unfortunately, they tend to primarily test for specific diseases like Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease, both of which are relatively rare.
As one holistic physician states:
In the conventional medical world, they’re really not aware of the kinds of lab tests called a functional adrenal stress profile. It means that we’re not worried about the disease processes as an endocrinologist would be, but we’re really looking at functional problems. Those are problems that are not going to send people to the hospital, but are more of disrupting your day-to-day life. These would be fatigue, depression, problems with weight gain, and problems with sleep. Those types of issues – the functional adrenal problems – that aren’t severe disease processes, are determined better by salivary testing.”
Testing your adrenal function by taking four saliva samples over the course of a normal day. This maps out your circadian rhythm, showing how your cortisol levels rise and fall throughout your day. Saliva is collected at approximately four-hour intervals: first thing in the morning upon waking, then at noon, late afternoon, and again at night before going to bed. At Murray Avenue Apothecary we have been using Salivary testing for adrenal and hormonal dysfunction for many years.
How you can normalize Dysfunctional Adrenals. The goal of healing Adrenal Fatigue is aimed at normalizing dysfunctional adrenals and restoring normal adrenal function. It’s a clinically validated method that’s been used for a long time, yet most physicians are still not aware of it.
“What we find is that if we just restore what’s missing in the person for a period of six months or maybe at the most 12 months, the adrenal glands and the internal production of these hormones comes back,” Dr. Kalish explains. “So, we’re actually restoring the normal production of these hormones in the body. The treatments, therefore, are relatively short-term; six months to a year. The only way we’ve found to do this real repair process is to use these really low dosages of DHEA and pregnenolone over a period of time.”
These hormones are sold over the counter and we compound them but they should be used under the guidance of a hormone specialist.
Three Stages of Adrenal BurnoutIn a stage one pattern, your cortisol levels are very high, and you’re under a lot of stress. But it’s usually an enjoyable type of stress. Perhaps you’re a student or a new parent, who is stressed, yet you’re enjoying yourself and you feel more charged and alive than anything else. You need that excitement. Your body requires it. It’s somewhat like exercise. But the key is to have the adaptability and the resiliency to absorb that stress, enjoy it, benefit from it, and then dissipate it.
If you don’t sufficiently rest and recharge, your adrenals will get overtaxed, causing your cortisol levels to drop, and this is where most people notice there’s a problem.
“If you stay in this high-cortisol state for long enough – at stage one – you eventually go to stage two. Stage two means that the cortisol levels are now starting to fail. This is when people start to gain weight. This is when people start to not be able to sleep. This is when your sex drive starts to go away. This is when people just know that there’s some health problem.”
If you stay at stage two long enough, and you fail to change your lifestyle to address your failing adrenals such as not eating right, not resting, and not exercising, you eventually enter stage three. Here, your adrenals are actually burned out and your cortisol levels are low all the time, causing you to feel chronically fatigued and unable to recover your energy despite resting.
Think about cortisol like units of energy. In the morning, you’re supposed to wake up with around 20 units of energy. When you go to bed, it should be down around two. That normal fall of cortisol is what creates that feeling of a “normal” day that ends restfully. But many are waking up with reduced cortisol levels, which translates to feeling exhausted despite having just slept. And many are going to bed with dramatically elevated cortisol levels, making it virtually impossible to shut down your brain and fall asleep.
“This natural rhythm you’re hardwired for is based on your exposure to light and day. When the sun comes up, cortisol goes up. When the sun is down, cortisol is low... You pretty much have to fall in line with this rhythm in order to be healthy... Now, when we do the labs, we’re analyzing where you’re at and then restoring you back to this normal rhythm. That’s the point of the testing,” Dr. Kalish says.
There are three main reasons for adrenal fatigue and dysfunction:
- Emotional stress, typically related to grief or loss
- Poor diet: Eating too many carbs can disrupt cortisol and a certain group of corticosteroids (a blood pressure-stabilizing hormone), and the Standard American Diet is “a perfect recipe for destroying your adrenal glands”. One of the most important things that cortisol does is regulating secretory IgA in your gut. What this means is that the immune response in your gut is controlled by cortisol. Hence, if you’re stressed, the immune response in your gut suffers, the gut tissue becomes damaged, and good bacteria give way to bad bacteria, causing immune dysregulation that is centered in and around your gut. Two important components to address this problem are to 1) regularly eat fermented foods, which will dramatically increase the beneficial bacteria in your body (which automatically will help decrease pathogenic bacteria) or take a good refrigerated Probiotic-one we love is Probiotic 30BU, and 2) to eat a diet low in sugars and carbs, as that will also promote a healthy gut flora.
- Chronic inflammation in your body: Inflammation is the hallmark of virtually every disease you can think of, from diabetes to cancer, and when chronic, it stresses your system, including your adrenals.
At the Apothecary we see people with Adrenal Fatigue all the time and we test their 4-point salivary cortisol with one of our at-home Saliva Test Kits to get the best picture combined with symptoms. We have supplements that help with all phases of Adrenal Dysfunction including Adrenal Px Balance, Adrenal Rebuilder, AdrenAdapt, and more! Please note: It is important to deal with the adrenals first before supplementing with thyroid hormone. In today’s hectic society it is important to stop and breathe and yes, smell the roses…..
To Your Health,