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What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

adrenal fatigueAdrenal fatigue may be one of the major causes of your lack of energy and why you feel tired all the time. It is often not diagnosed. This is because western medicine usually only classes adrenal fatigue as Addison’s Disease. Addison’s Disease is usually identified by a cluster of symptoms which includes low blood pressure, feeling very tired, muscle weakness, loss of weight, mental confusion, and sometimes a dark discolouration of the skin. It is essentially where a disease state is acting either directly or indirectly on your adrenals to cause them to have a reduced output of hormones. Diagnosis of Addison’s Disease is usually determined by various blood test, scans and a challenge test involving an injection of synthetic ACTH (ACTH is the hormone that stimulates your adrenal glands to produce their hormones).

In contrast Adrenal Fatigue is milder and may be classed as a state where you are not completely burnt out, but you are starting to approach a state where you soon will be. It will still make you feel absolutely lousy, and you may not exhibit all of those symptoms for Addison’s disease but usually just have the sensation of extreme tiredness, lethargy and feeling very unmotivated. Importantly, there is usually no disease process affecting the adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands can simply become pushed beyond their normal capable limits, and so can no longer produce the hormones you need at an adequate level.

The adrenal glands are two small glands that are situated on the top surface of your kidneys. They produce a selection of hormones that are essential for our life and well-being. These hormones include cortisol, adrenaline, aldosterone, DHEA and dopamine. They interact with our immune system, nervous system and psyche (cortisol helps us to manage our emotional stress). That’s why if your adrenal glands start to slow down, you can be adversely affected in many ways.

It’s important to understand that there may be many other factors that can cause fatigue. For example the feelings of lacking energy can also be caused by low vitamin B12, low iron, poor blood sugar control, lack of sleep, post viral fatigue, bacterial diseases such as Lyme Disease, and an inadequate diet. Adrenal fatigue may be identified by a salivary hormone test. Four saliva samples are taken throughout the day, usually starting at 8 AM, then at midday, and then at 4 PM and at approximately 8 PM to 10 PM. The cortisol in the saliva samples is then measured. This gives the practitioner a good overview of the secretory pattern of your adrenal glands. If you have a low cortisol pattern throughout the day, your naturopath will be able to develop a prescription for you that will help nourish your adrenals back into a better state of health.

A naturopathic prescription for adrenal fatigue may include many different types of herbs and nutrients. Nurturing your adrenal glands back to full health may also require a reasonable amount of time. Anything from 6 to 12 months may usually be required, but sometimes even more time is necessary.

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