“Am I crazy? The doctor said I am normal! I have every test and then was prescribed an anti-depressant!”
No, no, you are not crazy. The doctor is just looking in the wrong place for the answers to your health issue.
I would like to address one of the most common underlying causes of exhaustion, and that is…Adrenal Fatigue.
Our two adrenal glands, are endocrine glands that are located near our kidneys and control many parts of our health. They secrete adrenaline which gives us energy and resilience during stressful times. They wake us up in the morning and get us going, and put us to bed at night. They help control the immune system and keep allergies in check. Other functions include helping control our blood sugar, convert thyroid hormone and help with blood pressure.
First, let’s check in and see if you pass the test. Here is a Self-Test you can take to determine if adrenal fatigue is your underlying cause. Or maybe you do not have adrenal fatigue, yet you are just not handling stress well.
There are other underlying causes of fatigue that must be ruled out, such as low-level anemia, sub-optimal thyroid function, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity and sex hormone imbalance. Testing may be needed if one of these causes is suspected. Don’t worry, I use functional medicine or optimal function ranges, not “normal” ranges to determine imbalances.
Ok, so here are some clues for you. Some of the common things I hear from patients that may make me suspect adrenal fatigue
- “I get dizzy when I stand up quick”
- “my stress level is very high”
- “I cannot handle stress like I used to”
- “I wake up and feel as if I haven’t slept”
- “I get a burst of energy at night before bed”
- “I’m always cold”
- “I bruise easily”
- “I have allergies now, and never did before”
How do I confirm I have adrenal fatigue? Well testing is helpful to understand the stage and severity of the imbalance, but it is not always necessary. Testing to confirm the suspicion is done via a saliva test from specialty lab. The test samples are taken at 4 times during the day to give a full picture of their function, or lack of function.
So what to do if your adrenals are fatigued? Now what to do?
Remember, this is an IMBALANCE not a permanent, incurable disease! The adrenal gland is a part of the body that has been overworked. So the answer is most often to REST the gland (give it a break), then feed it what it needs (certain nutrients), and change the reasons why it got off-balance in the first place.
Yes supplementation can definitely help you feel better quickly yet we need to ask, “why and how did your adrenals get fatigued?”. Here lies the real healing. The treatments can vary greatly, this is the art of what I do. Once all the information is gathered a treatment plan is put in place using naturopathic principles, recovery happens in 3-6 months for most.
- Remove obstacles to cure (if possible) – i.e. high stress lifestyle is primary obstacle to cure
- Establish a healthy regimen – i.e. include more techniques to deal with stress in life, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, massage
- Support weakened systems – i.e. feed the glands what they need – vitamin C and minerals, and take their work load off so they can rest – give herbs and glandulars
Here is an example. 54-year-old man, new onset of chronic fatigue, wakes up tired, cannot stay awake during the day. He has a history of running marathons (EXCESS STRESS). He was eating a whole foods diet, nothing processed. Testing revealed very low cortisol throughout the day (adrenal fatigue stage 4) and low testosterone. Treatment is to discontinue exercise for now, vitamin C intravenously to replete the stores in the adrenal gland, high dose glandular adrenal supplementation. After several months he began to “wake up” and felt good in the morning even before taking his supplement. This was the sign to begin weaning down off the medicine and introducing mild exercise. At this point, he has weaned off and is doing fine on his own.
Another example. 39-year-old female, executive, high stress job, 2 teenage sons, and mother just passed away (EXCESS STRESS). She got a second wind of energy every night at 9pm and had trouble sleeping. She was truly exhausted and was not eating well or drinking enough water. She had adrenal fatigue, stage 1. Treatment began with support for sleep, grief counseling, and a nutrient dense diet. We added 2 liters of water per day with minerals, anti-oxidants and adrenal support that lowered cortisol and helped her adapt and deal with the stress. This was all she needed. After 6 months, she fully recovered.
Side note: I often prescribe an active meditation technique that helps you be stronger in yourself and not be so influenced by the outside world. Here is the video and the handout for this healing meditation technique. Also, here are some other stress management techniques and Things to do to avoid getting too stressed out.