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Frequently Asked Questions on Adrenal Fatigue, Part 2


April 24, 2014 | Published by

stressed soldier with head in hands by Flickr user Justin Connaher

Part 1 can be read here

Q: What exactly is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is any decrease (but not failure) in the ability of the adrenal glands to carry out their normal functions. The chief symptom of adrenal fatigue is, indeed, fatigue, but is accompanied by many other signs and symptoms. Adrenal fatigue occurs when stress from any source (physical, emotional, mental, or environmental) exceeds, either cumulatively or in intensity, the body’s capacity to adjust appropriately to the demands placed upon it by the stress. When this happens, the adrenals become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress. Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life.

In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Q: What’s the difference between adrenal fatigue, hypoadrenia, Addison’s and Cushing’s?

Hypoadrenia more commonly manifests itself within a broad spectrum of less serious, yet often debilitating, disorders that are only too familiar to many people. This spectrum has been known by many names throughout the past century, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue. I prefer to use the term adrenal fatigue when referring to this common form of hypoadrenia. Not only does it remind us of the chief symptom of hypoadrenia, but it also most aptly describes this common syndrome in which the paramount symptom is fatigue. Adrenal fatigue affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world in many ways and for many reasons.

Addison’s Disease is a rare, chronic endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones. This condition is typically caused by damage to the adrenal glands, usually by the body’s own immune system. Cushing’s Syndrome is the result of prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol–the stress hormone–usually due to external causes, like prolonged corticosteroid use. Cushing’s Disease is also the result of excess cortisol, though is caused by internal sources (typically a pituitary tumor). Addison’s and both forms of Cushing’s are quite serious and require immediate and sometimes chronic treatment.

Q: Does adrenal fatigue affect the thyroid gland?

In short, yes. Approximately 80% of the people suffering from adrenal fatigue also suffer some form of decreased thyroid function. Often people who are shown to be low thyroid and are unresponsive to thyroid therapy are suffering from adrenal fatigue as well. For these people to get well, the adrenals must be supported in addition to the thyroid. If your adrenal fatigue has a thyroid component, it is usually necessary to strengthen both the adrenals and the thyroid simultaneously for full recovery to take place.

Q: Can adrenal fatigue become chronic?

Yes, in some people the adrenal glands do not return to normal levels of function without help, either because the stress was too great or too prolonged, or because their general health is poor. However, when adrenal fatigue becomes chronic it is almost always because of factors that can be changed. That is why I wrote this book, to provide the knowledge people need to recover from adrenal fatigue.

Q: My physician says there’s no such thing as adrenal fatigue. What do I do?

Unfortunately, this is the view of many conventional doctors, but they are not as well informed as they believe. Adrenal fatigue was first diagnosed over 100 years ago and has been successfully treated for decades. However, for various reasons that largely have to do with the close association between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, the medical community has ignored the existence of adrenal fatigue syndrome over the past 40 years. The best thing to do is to switch to a doctor who is familiar with adrenal fatigue. If you need help, you can search our database of practitioners nationwide.

Image credit: Soldier on floor with head in hands by Flickr user Justin Connaher

Dr. James L. WilsonAbout the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.


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  • Steven says:

    I have adrenal fatigue but i was wondering if I would continue to be able to box and excercise after recovery if I continue to eat healthy and take vitamins to support my body

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Steven,

      That is a great question. Dr. Wilson encourages exercise and physical activity as part of the recovery from adrenal fatigue. The key is to not overdo it, which can work against already fatigued adrenals. Post-recovery, if you are taking care of yourself and managing stress as best as you can, it would certainly be possible to continue boxing. Keep in mind that boxing can be a heavy stress on the body, mentally and physically, so self care is very important.

  • Laurayne says:

    How do I know if I am producing too much cortisol or too little cortisol

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