Are You Suffering From Adrenal Fatigue?

What are the Adrenal Glands?

These important glands sit on top of each kidney and are approximately the size of a grape. The hormones that are produced by these glands have important functions such as regulating levels of minerals in the blood including sodium and potassium, determining how the body metabolizes food, blood pressure and heart beat regulation as well as for stress reaction functions.

What Does the Term “Adrenal Fatigue” Mean?

Adrenal apathy is another name for adrenal fatigue, a condition potentially affecting millions of people around the world. However, it frequently goes unrecognized as an illness in the realm of conventional medicine. Since some argue that there is no specific scientific evidence to support the condition, it is not well understood or explained by the majority of general practitioners. Underlying illnesses may also be responsible for causing or can be interrelated with the symptoms of “adrenal fatigue”. Conventional medical tests may not be sensitive enough to detect malfunctioning adrenal glands unless the dysfunction has become severe. When the adrenal dysfunction has become severe, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome are conditions that are generally recognized and diagnosed by medical doctors. However, many alternative practitioners argue that adrenal dysfunction can begin long before a disease diagnosis is made and therefore can also cause many distressing symptoms. The good news is that in many cases, changing your diet and lifestyle and using specific supplements that support healthy adrenal function can help you to feel better and recover your adrenal health.

What are the Causes of Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is believed by some to be precipitated by either acute or long lasting circumstances or events that cause physical and or mental distress on the body such as: experiencing long lasting negative emotions and stress, sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, chronic illness, chronic infection, over-exercising, toxin exposure, surgery or other. Adrenal fatigue can affect any person at any stage in their life, even people who have healthy lifestyle habits. Adrenal fatigue can occur if the glands have been over-functioning for an extended period of time or if they do not function properly and cause either the overproduction or underproduction of hormones. It is very helpful to have your adrenal function tested in order to correctly determine how well they are functioning.

Can Adrenal Function be Tested?

The adrenal glands are extremelypowerful glands in the body which produce hormones that you cannot exist without including cortisol, DHEA, adrenaline, sex hormones, and the stress hormones epinephrine and norepiniephrine that are associated with the “fight or flight” response. A saliva cortisol and DHEA hormone test can provide insight into the health of the adrenal glands by measuring the hormonal activity in the body over a period of time; you may also have other blood hormone tests and hair tissue mineral analysis completed in order to determine adrenal function. These tests can offer insight into the 2 basic phases of adrenal imbalance: adrenal hyperfunction and adrenal hypofunction. The 4- point saliva cortisol test measures the level of stress hormones and is highly effective for indicating the intracellular cortisol level, while the blood testing can reveal the extracellular level. Alternative medicine practitioners may agree that this test can also pick up on some biochemical imbalances associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, and insomnia.

Adrenal Malfunction – Hypofunction and Hyperfunction

When cortisol levels and adrenal activity are in excess, the adrenals are said to be hyperfunctioning. This indicates an excess of [mineralocorticoid] hormones that influence sodium and water balance in the body and results in a loss of potassium in the urine. This condition can result in hypertension caused by a loss of potassium and the retention of sodium in the cells and the blood. Examples of accompanying symptoms may include headaches, irritability and anxiety. Blood tests indicate adrenal hyperfunction when potassium levels are decreased and when sodium is increased. If potassium is low inside the cells, blood and urine, this can lead to metabolic acidosis.

If cortisol and adrenal activity is insufficient, this is called adrenal hypofunction. When adrenal hypofunction occurs, there is a reduction of mineralocorticoid hormones in the blood. The cells and the blood will have an increased amount of potassium in them. Adrenal hypofunction can result in exhaustion after exercise, chronic fatigue, low blood pressure, hypothryroid conditions and abnormal fluid dynamics. Blood tests will show elevated potassium levels and lowered sodium levels. Metabolic alkalosis can result from these levels of electrolytes and is just as concerning as metabolic acidosis.

In summary, adrenal disorders can cause your adrenal glands to make too much or not enough of the steroid hormones. With Cushing’s syndrome, too much cortisol is produced, while with Addison’s disease, there is too little. Some people are born without the ability to make enough cortisol. Tumors can also cause disorders in the adrenal glands. Infection and bleeding may cause adrenal gland problems that can be fatal without prompt treatment.

What are the Treatment Options for Adrenal Fatigue?

Alternative health practitioners believe that in some cases adrenal gland malfunction may become chronic, mainly because of prolonged stressful events and poor health. However, with proper adrenal support and lifestyle modifications, most patients can be treated effectively. Lifestyle modifications include eating healthily, acquiring a regular sleep-wake cycle, getting at least seven to eight hours proper sleep each night, and reducing stress as much as possible. Supplements such as glandulars can also be very helpful in supporting the health of the adrenal glands.

How Glandulars Became Known to Support Adrenal Health

Historically, “organotherapy” was the term used to describe the administration of extracts of glandular tissue. The first experiments were conducted using extracts of thyroid tissue. If injected, significant toxicity resulted, but when taken orally, relief of syndromes associated with thyroidectomy was observed. Arsene D’Arsonval experimented with self -injections of bovine testicular extracts, as well as administering the extract to patients. He observed reversal of senility and “rejuvenation”. For centuries before this, a prevailing approach to treating diseased organs was to administer the said organ orally.

Another researcher, Thomas Addison (for whom Addison’s disease is named) observed adrenal gland atrophy in patients presenting with symptoms he had already categorized as a result of deficiency of adrenal secretions. Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands are not producing enough of the steroid hormones.

The first prepared adrenal extracts failed to alleviate the symptoms of Addison’s disease. The basis for the failure was that they were based on medullary material (cortex material is required), and that they were glycerine based extracts (more lipid-based extracts are required). Their extract did however have vascular effects (increased blood pressure). Adrenaline was soon isolated from the extract, and became the first synthetically synthesized glandular secretion by the early 1900’s.

William Osler administered whole pig-sourced adrenal extracts orally to patients with Addison’s disease with moderate success. Porcine adrenal tissue contains more hormones than most animal sources of adrenal gland, but again, glycerine was used as the extraction method. This would therefore significantly decrease the potential efficacy of the intervention.

Since this time, adrenal extracts have been used extensively by naturopathic physicians and some health care practitioners with great success. One such example of this success included feedback from 5 naturopathic doctors and one medical doctor whom have used adrenal glandular extract. Cumulatively, they reported that in 3800 patients given a dose of 250-500 mg per day for a total of 21 cumulative years, improvements related to primary adrenal insufficiency, chronic fatigue and burnout syndrome were noted in 70-90% of the patients prescribed adrenal extracts. Just as important, no adverse reactions were noted.

Adrenal Treatments with the Help of a Health Care Practitioner.

Glandulars and other nutrients and adaptogens such as vitamin C, pantethine, licorice, Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola and ashwagandha are among the most popular supplements taken to support adrenal function. Working with a health care practitioner is always recommended before starting an adrenal health treatment program. It is important to know what state your adrenals are functioning at to ensure the best possible treatment outcome. In some cases of adrenal fatigue, supplements may cause further complications depending on the state of adrenal function. However, eating healthy, getting adequate rest and reducing stress can also have beneficial effects on the entire body.

What You Need to Know

Adrenal fatigue is a health condition that frequently goes unrecognised by medical practitioners. Both physical and emotional stress and strain on the body can eventually cause the adrenals to become fatigued and to malfunction, and as a result cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms in the body. However, some people are born with adrenal disease. Adrenal malfunction may cause symptoms of illness and can also be life threatening if it progresses to an advanced stage. Adrenal fatigue can be tested for by using saliva and blood hormone tests. Lifestyle changes as well as the appropriate supplements including nutrients, herbs and or glandulars may be helpful for improving and restoring adrenal health.

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