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Adrenal Fatigue, What Is It and Do I Have It?

Adrenal Fatigue, What Is It and Do I Have It?

Feeling tired all the time?

Have trouble falling asleep?

Super-irritable and jumpy?

Read any wellness blog or ask a holistic coach what’s going on, and they’re likely to suggest “adrenal fatigue.”  It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a few years now— struggling to get up in the morning, craving salty foods and little energy to make it through each day. I thought it was due to my former career in broadcast journalism with days that were never consistent and stressed to the max because there were never enough hours in a day. But to be honest, anyone I confided in about these feelings seemed to have it too (even the Goddess of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow, developed a special supplement to combat it).

For those of you who aren’t sure whether or not you may have adrenal fatigue or just need to slow down, smell the roses and get a good night’s rest… Here’s what you need to know about adrenal fatigue.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Your adrenals are glands that produce and regulate many different hormones, most importantly the fight-or-flight stress hormone, cortisol. When a stressful situation pops up, the adrenals release cortisol to prep the body for action (i.e. your heart rate and blood sugar spike). When it passes, things should settle back down and continue on your body’s own natural rhythm.

The problem: Doctors who practice functional and alternative medicine (and other holistic health practitioners) believe that our crazy stressful lives (deadlines! To-do lists!) put our bodies into constant fight-or-flight mode so that the adrenals are continuously pumping out cortisol, instead of powering down. After a prolonged period of time, those adrenals are just spent from all of that pumping and stop producing it altogether, or just function at very low levels. In other words, your hormones are burnt-out, so you are too.

Health practitioners claim symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: chronic exhaustion, low libido, craving salt and sugar, dry skin and hair, irregular periods, and weight fluctuations.

The Science

Of course, there are some conventional physicians who don’t recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical diagnosis. Adrenal insufficiency, also called Addison’s Disease, is a real, serious condition in which the adrenals stop making cortisol. It comes with many of the symptoms mentioned above but at a more serious, intense level. The controversy is that to be diagnosed, your adrenals have to almost entirely have stop working.

The Bottom Line

So where does that leave me and maybe your potentially overworked adrenals?

If you have some or all of the symptoms mentioned here, you should probably get checked out by a doctor either way. If you do have an adrenal insufficiency, you’ll need to be treated. But if the symptoms are more nagging than awful and you tend to lean towards alternative and complementary approaches, he or she will likely prescribe supplements like Ashwagandha, and a lifestyle change to reduce stress in your life like – getting more sleep, eating better, meditating, exercise and disconnecting from the hectic world around you.

All of those things will hopefully make you a healthier, more balanced person no matter what.


By Rebecca W.