Adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical diagnosis.
Adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical diagnosis. It is a theory that links chronic stress exposure to adrenal insufficiency and adrenal exhaustion. The common symptoms are lack of energy, fatigue, tiredness, body ache, nervousness, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, and other vague symptoms.
The adrenal glands (also called adrenals) are two small glands present on top of both kidneys and produce several hormones, including one of the most important hormones, cortisol. When exposed to physical or emotional stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol in short bursts into the bloodstream. The adrenal fatigue theory suggests that prolonged exposure to stress could result in draining and exhausting the adrenals, causing low cortisol levels and several symptoms. This condition causes brain fog, fatigue, decreased energy levels, depressive mood, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness, and other vague, nonspecific symptoms. As of now, none of the medical specialties recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical condition because there is no scientific evidence to associate adrenal impairment or adrenal insufficiency with fatigue. Studies have shown that when the cortisol level was checked several times over 24 hours, there was no difference in the levels between fatigued and healthy patients in most of the studies.
If one is having symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, lack of energy, among other symptoms, it is advised to seek medical attention to obtain a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. It could be several other medical conditions, such as anemia, sleep apnea, autoimmune diseases, infections, mental illness, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, other hormonal insufficiencies, mental illnesses, and heart, lung, kidney or liver diseases.
How is adrenal fatigue treated?
Despite what many sources claim, since adrenal fatigue is not recognized as a real medical diagnosis, there is no specific treatment plan. Symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue could be a result of several other medical conditions that require a medical diagnosis and treatment. If one still believes that they have adrenal fatigue despite the adrenal function and other tests being normal, stress management may help. Other lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, exercise, counseling, medications, alternative and holistic treatments, may also help improve the symptoms if no other cause can be diagnosed.
What is adrenal insufficiency?
Adrenal insufficiency is different from adrenal fatigue, though some symptoms may be similar. It is a recognized medical disease that can be diagnosed and treated. Adrenal insufficiency occurs due to the damage or other diseases of the adrenal glands resulting in decreased production of the hormone, cortisol. Adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed through blood tests and treated with cortisol replacement.
Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Abdominal pain
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Loss of body hair
What percentage of the human body is water?
Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2021
Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Adrenal fatigue does not exist: a systematic review [published correction appears in BMC Endocr Disord. 2016 Nov 16;16(1):63]. BMC Endocr Disord. 2016;16(1):48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997656/
Endocrine Society. Adrenal Fatigue. https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/adrenal-fatigue