Do I have Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue represents one of the most commonly overlooked problems in modern medicine, yet can explain such a wide variety of different ailments. Because of the wide variety of functions that cortisol performs in the human body, anything that causes fluctuations in these levels can cause a long list of symptoms. Just considering the number of conditions that typically respond to hydrocortisone use (eg joint pain, rashes, inflammation) demonstrates the wide variety of conditions that can manifest when levels of steroid hormones drop. Typically, symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

– Pronounced fatigue, all the time, possibly further ‘dips’ or ‘crashes’ at particular points in the day.

– Everything feels like it takes more effort than it should. You may be thirsty but walking to the kitchen is a massive effort.

– You find it hard to think clearly. Having to concentrate hard makes you more tired afterwards.

– Loud noises startle you more than they should. For example, knock at the door or the phone ringing makes you jump and makes your heart pound.

– Despite being tired all day, you struggle to sleep and often wake at the same time each night.

– Your blood pressure is low and you sometimes feel dizzy or spaced out upon standing.

– You crave salty and sugary foods, and constantly need ‘topping up’ with these snacks or caffeinated drinks between meals to function as normal.

– You are getting colds more often than ever before, and have developed allergic reactions to things you previously had no problem with.

– You have a need to use exercise as a ‘whip’, and when you cannot exercise your energy levels slump.

If you have noticed more than one of the above, you should take the Adrenal Stress Index test. This test can be taken at home, and involves providing saliva samples at approximately 8am, 12noon, 4pm and 8pm. These samples are then analysed and your levels of cortisol and DHEA, both important adrenal hormones, can be measured.

Other tests available include the ACTH challenge test, which is useful for determining the reactions occuring between the hypothalamus and pituitary glands and the adrenal cortex. 24-hour urinary cortisol is sometimes used, as is a morning blood draw for cortisol, but both provide very limited information.

Anyone with adrenal fatigue, or the symptoms listed above, should consult a knowledgeable practitioner. Self-navigation in an area that confuses even doctors is rarely a good option.