Is this the latest buzz word in the naturopathic community? What exactly does this mean? Why doesn’t my “regular” doctor look for this? If I have this, how can I heal? These are all legitimate questions that I will try to answer.
It’s a buzz word!?: There are lots of different names for Adrenal Fatigue which has been recognized, discussed, written about and treated for over 100 years! Thousands of doctors deal with it, personally and clinically. Endocrinologists deal with the extreme versions of this known as Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease. The clinical terminology for those who aren’t “normal” but aren’t to the extreme ends of Addison’s or Cushings are: hypoadrenia, hyperadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, subclinical adrenal exhaustion and neurasthenia.
Wow, there are lots of names but what is Adrenal Fatigue? The definition is a sub-optimal functioning of the adrenal glands at rest, under stress and in response to constant, intermittent or sporadic demands. What it looks and feels like to those who have adrenal fatigue: decreased ability to handle stress and pressure, less productivity at work/home, symptoms of burnout (life isn’t fun anymore, can’t get out of bed), decreased cognitive ability among the other symptoms on the hand picture below. You don’t need to have all of these symptoms, but if you are suffering from many of these issues, it is worth talking to someone with experience in Adrenal Fatigue. From there, the correct labs can be requested to determine what is really going on.
Testing for Adrenal Fatigue: The typically requested lab work is a 4 point salivary cortisol level with a DHEA sulfate level. There are several labs that can do this testing for you and saliva is the preferred method. You can get blood testing, but there are limitations to the results. Some of the limitations include testing time and the stress of needles and waiting. I’ve been victim of these labs and it isn’t the needles that scare me (although for some it is the added cherry on top of the blood draw sundae), it is the prolonged wait time. Ideally we want your level within 30 minutes of waking. I typically get up at 5:30am but the lab doesn’t open until 7am and even if I get there at 7am, I probably won’t see the phlebotomist until 10am at best! The other limitation is the multiple data points. They can probably get your lunchtime and before dinnertime draw, but there won’t be anyone in the lab to tuck you in with your before bedtime draw. The pattern of your cortisol can help pin point what is going on and helps with treatment decisions.
Another, less accurate but valid tool, is the adrenal fatigue questionnaire found on Dr. Wilson’s website AdrenalFatigue.org. This gives comparisons of past to present and the quiz can be done to see progress of treatment. It is a great tool because many times we don’t notice the small incremental improvements.
The best news regarding adrenals, your body wants to heal them! There are nutritional supplements we use to fuel the healing process of the adrenals. We use Vitamins B5 and B6 along with a complex of additional Bs. Vitamin C is also important for the healing. Adaptogenic herbs assist your body with the production of the stress hormones and adapt the production by increasing or decreasing the levels. If you under produce the stress hormones, the adaptogens will help increase the production and if you over produce they also work to decrease the over production. The last part of the healing puzzle is the glandular support. Glandulars can provide micronutrients and “building blocks” to support the healing process.
There is a lot involved with healing the adrenal glands and seeking guidance from your doctor or pharmacist who is knowledgeable in this arena will move you toward healing. Stop by our locations and present code Stress15 to receive 15% off our adrenal supplements.