Time to bust a myth: You will NOT feel more energetic if you focus on “adrenal fatigue”. Adrenal fatigue is not the reason why you feel tired- allow me to break down what the real culprit may be with a bit of personal history tied in.
I went through a time where I felt extreme low energy and subsequently looked online for an explanation of my symptoms. All signs pointed to adrenal fatigue and the symptoms matched the health issues that I was experiencing including:
- Trouble falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning
- Cravings for both sweet and salty
- Excessive need for stimulants such as caffeine
- Digestive problems that could not be categorized
Early in my training, I had studied the adrenal glands and their function (adrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol production) but had never heard about adrenal fatigue or any type of disease associated with these particular glands. My internet research was met with amusement from my colleagues and my ensuing questions were dismissed. "Never hear of such a thing" my doctor colleagues would day. But I KNEW something was off with my hormones and I was tired all the time. So I did my own research. I found out that both camps were right. Adrenal fatigue did not exist but that these symptoms DID exist.
As I kept investigating I found my answer. It was a hormonal axis dysfunction not a singular diagnosis that could be fixed by adrenal supplements.
A large scale meta-analysis done by NIH which indicated that adrenal fatigue was a misnomer and that it may lead people down the wrong path.
So I developed my own hypothesis based upon the interconnectedness of our bodily systems.
Think of the adrenals as part of an interconnected hormonal highway. I am talking a complex busy highway system like New York or LA or Tokyo (although never been there). They all respond to hormonal signals from the brain and are all constantly moving and changing depending on what's happening with your other hormonal glands.
Think of it this way. Your hypothalamus is connected to your pituitary glands which impacts your thyroid which in turn is connected to your adrenals and your ovaries or testes. And it all connects back to each other and the brain! A continuous highway!
Each of the hormonal glands, if dysfunctions, will impact everything on this highway. So if one thing malfunctions- the entire system will be affected and your overall health will suffer! A real life example is New York City during rush hour- if one avenue or street is jammed, the entire island of Manhattan will be impacted!
So back to this interconnected highway, if your thyroid or adrenal glands functioning is suboptimal, it is a systemic issue and NOT a singular problem that is focused on one gland or one type of hormone. As a result, a singular diagnosis as it relates to hormones is mythical and it is worth examining your full hormonal picture. This is exactly why hormonal imbalances are difficult to pinpoint but CAN and WILL impact your overall health if not addressed correctly.
Furthermore, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are very common and can be attributed to a host of other issues. When you visit your MD, make sure you check your iron, b12, vitamin d, cbc, magnesium, and more to make sure that you are not classifying any health issue as “adrenal fatigue” when a more severe problem may exist.
Do not look to supplements to “treat” adrenal fatigue as the answer to your problems. Remember the message above, the adrenal gland does not function singularly- examine your full hormonal picture and find out IF you have a hormonal imbalance and HOW to address the issue so that your hormonal highway will flow normally again and the interconnectedness will take place without any impediments.
Here are a few easy tips on how to improve the hormonal flow along this highway:
- Eat Your Vegetables: Focus on prebiotic vegetables such as artichokes, leeks, garlic, and asparagus. Don’t forget cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. In fact, eating 6-8 servings a day will have a tremendous positive impact on your hormonal levels so further treatment may not even be necessary!
- Sleep: Sleep is key to improving any type of previous hormonal blockage or imbalance. Try to sleep 9-10 hours a night rather than 6-8 and assess how you are feeling after a period of more rest.
- Exercise: Be mindful of the type of exercise you integrate into your daily routine. Limit crossfit or high intensity training to 3x a week and the remaining days opt for low intensity exercises such as walking 8-12K steps a day and yoga. Being easy on your body is best when trying to regulate any type of hormonal imbalance.
- Supplements: Consider taking supplements that are beneficial for your overall health picture such as Vitamin D, Omega 3, Vitex, Maca Root, Turmeric, and Rhodiola. Take supplements in addition to eating well, sleeping, and exercise for greater impact.
To summarize, adrenal fatigue is not what you think and will never impact you on a singular level. There are many professionals that can help you work through any type of hormonal imbalance and associated fatigue. Your symptoms will get better and it is highly unlikely that these symptoms are made up or exaggerated. Finally, Google may be a decent starting point to assess your health status but do not believe everything you hear or read. Medical terminology and diagnosis are confusing- so please always check with a professional in addition to taking control of your health using the easy steps outlined above. “Adrenal fatigue” and all associated “treatments” are great examples of this confusion.
I hope this was helpful and for more questions, coaching, or inquiries, visit amymdwellness.com.