If you've been feeling tired, run-down, and just plain exhausted lately, you may have heard the term "adrenal fatigue" thrown around by Dr. Google or your alternative healthcare practitioner. But what exactly is adrenal fatigue, and is there some myth-busting needed to bring some clarity to the topic? We think there is!
In this blog, we'll take a deep dive into the world of adrenal fatigue and what it actually entails. While some medical professionals may not acknowledge it under the name ‘adrenal fatigue’, it's essential to understand the symptoms and signs of this condition—and the steps you can take to manage it so that you can get that spark back in your step!
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
The human body has two tiny glands called the adrenals that sit on top of your kidneys and produce cortisol, which is a steroid hormone. When you're under stress, your adrenals release bursts of cortisol into your bloodstream to help your body maintain homeostasis during stressful times.
The theory of adrenal fatigue suggests that chronic stress can wear out your adrenals, eventually causing them to produce less cortisol. While cortisol is sometimes considered a ‘scary stress hormone’, it can also have some positive effects on your body, including:
- Regulating your stress response
- Helping control your metabolism
- Suppressing inflammation
- Regulating blood sugar
- Regulating blood pressure
- Maintaining your sleep cycle
When people feel exhausted no matter how much sleep they get, it's only natural to seek a diagnosis explaining their low energy levels. Doctors run tests, examine medical histories, and do physical exams, but sometimes, the results don't provide any answers—and that's where the theory of adrenal fatigue might be suggested as an explanation on why you’re feeling like you’ve lost your mojo, even when you’re doing your best to tick all of the wellbeing boxes you should.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Constant exhaustion
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Often feeling overwhelmed or stressed
- An inability to concentrate
- Irritability or mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
- A weak immune system
The Big Debate: Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?
Currently, adrenal fatigue is not recognized by any endocrinology organization or researchers. While we all know that chronic stress can wreak havoc on the mind and body, the fact of the matter is that there is little evidence to support the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue.
After analyzing multiple studies to check whether adrenal fatigue is real, researchers found no formal basis to diagnose adrenal fatigue. However, while these researchers don't consider it a medical condition, their study does emphasize that the lack of standardized testing means a more comprehensive approach is needed to study adrenal fatigue effectively.
So, does that mean it's all in your head? Even though the term "adrenal fatigue" isn't recognized by mainstream medicine, the symptoms of this condition are very real for those experiencing them, and if you’re one of the individuals with these symptoms, you can and absolutely should seek help from a healthcare provider.
Adrenal Fatigue vs. Adrenal Insufficiency
While "adrenal fatigue" and "adrenal insufficiency" are often used interchangeably in online publications and social circles, they are, in fact, not the same condition.
The difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency (also called Addison's disease) is a recognized endocrine disorder that happens when the adrenal glands don't produce enough cortisol. It can be caused by a number of factors, including autoimmune disorders and genetic disorders.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
This article addresses the lesser studied adrenal fatigue, so let’s look deeper into some of the symptoms that might lead to an adrenal fatigue diagnosis.
Stress is the most commonly cited cause of adrenal fatigue. According to the theory, prolonged exposure to stress can overwork the adrenal glands and decrease hormone production.
A diet that is high in sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats may contribute to adrenal fatigue, along with other health issues, like diabetes and hypertension.
Lack of Sleep
A good night’s sleep is the body’s secret weapon. Not getting enough of it can result in fatigue and exhaustion, which can really take a toll on your adrenal glands. The Irish proverb that “a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book” couldn’t be closer to the truth in this case.
Exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and pollutants may contribute to adrenal fatigue. Toxic toxin exposure is known to induce autoimmune responses and may contribute to the development of Addison's disease.
While Addison's disease is considered irreversible, there are documented cases of spontaneous remission. Although adrenal fatigue differs from Addison's disease, which we’ve explained above, these cases support the idea that a change in environmental conditions may play a role in adrenal recovery.
Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue
If you're feeling tired, stressed, and having difficulty coping with everyday life, it might be time to seek help from your trusted healthcare professional.
However, keep in mind that not all medical professionals recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical condition. Some alternative healthcare providers, like naturopaths, may be more likely to recognize and diagnose it.
While there is no standardized test for adrenal fatigue, your healthcare provider may recommend various hormone tests, including:
- Cortisol levels
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Free T3 (FT3)
- Free T4 (FT4)
- ACTH hormone test
- DHEA-sulfate serum test
Instead of focusing on a specific diagnosis, it may be more helpful to work with your healthcare provider to address the underlying causes of your symptoms (lets’ face it, getting more sleep and focusing on less stress can never be a bad thing!)).
Natural Ways to Manage Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
Diet Changes to Support Adrenal Health
To banish adrenal fatigue and give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive, your healthcare provider may recommend the adrenal fatigue diet. Think lean protein, colorful veggies, and whole grains—the ultimate power trio!
Specific foods that experts recommend avoiding while on the diet include:
- White sugar
- White flour
- Fried food
- Processed food
- Artificial sweeteners
Supplements That May Help
Certain supplements are believed to boost your adrenal health and fight fatigue. Some of the most commonly recommended supplements for adrenal fatigue are:
- Holy basil leaf
- Asian ginseng
- Vitamin C
Remember, when it comes to supplements, it’s just like purchasing a LBD online - one size definitely doesn't fit all! Always consult a healthcare professional to find the correct dosage for your body and avoid unwanted interactions with other medications you may be on.
Stress Management & Relaxation Techniques
No matter how peachy our lives are, stress is impossible to avoid. We hate to admit it, but it’s simply part of being human. While a healthy diet and the correct supplements in the right doses can alleviate the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, it’s vital that you’re aware of your personal stress response and know how to manage it.
Experts recommend incorporating the following practices into your daily life to help you destress and relax:
- Deep breathing
- Getting enough sleep
- Spending quality time with friends and loved ones
- Essential oils
- Mindful journaling
- Meditation apps (we love Headspace and Calm)
Exercise as Part of Your Wellbeing Routine
Because one of the most common symptoms of adrenal fatigue is exhaustion, getting into a regular workout routine can feel like an uphill battle (you’re not alone if you just cringed!)—but there’s no need to do exercise that wears you down! In fact, overexercising can make adrenal fatigue worse.
You can still (gently) get your sweat on and reap the benefits of exercise. The trick is to start slowly, like taking a stroll in the park. As your fitness improves, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Putting on a Pear of compression socks during exercise can increase the circulation-boosting benefits of being active because compression socks apply pressure to the legs, which helps improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
Getting Enough Rest & Sleep
Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, a good night's sleep is essential for living your best life. Adrenal fatigue can be particularly tricky because exhaustion and insomnia often go hand-in-hand which is not ideal.While you’re tired, you may have difficulty falling (and staying) asleep—it’s the ultimate catch 22.
Experts recommend these strategies to help you get a good night’s rest:
- Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks throughout the day (sorry coffee fanatics)
- Gentle yoga before bed
- Meditation and relaxation techniques
Avoiding Environmental Toxins
Avoiding toxins can be tricky, but some of the common ones you may come across in your day-to-day life include mercury, asbestos, and Bisphenol A (BPA).
Here’s what you can do to reduce the levels of toxicity in your home:
- Keep dust to a minimum
- Take your shoes off at the door
- Open your windows (let the sunshine in!)
- Choose BPA-free packaging and bottles
Diagnosing and managing adrenal fatigue can be challenging, but with the right tools and support, you can conquer it and live a life of vigor and fulfillment! From dietary changes and superhero supplements to regular exercise and getting enough sleep, there are many ways to regain your vitality.
A core essential that should feature in your adrenal fatigue recovery toolkit? Of course, we’re always going to recommend a chic Pear of compression socks! Compression socks for adrenal fatigue can help manage symptoms of exhaustion by improving circulation and reducing inflammation. As a bonus, they also increase oxygen uptake in the muscles, stabilize body temperature, and prevent swelling in feet and ankles—all of which enhance your overall wellness.
If you're on the journey of managing the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and looking for an effective way to support your body, try out a Pear of Italian-made compression socks. Our breathable compression socks are designed to provide functional benefits that can help manage symptoms of fatigue and pain, and are available in a range of colors and styles to suit any taste.
Visit our online store to find the perfect Pear of compression socks to help you manage the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and boost your overall wellness.
While we do make every effort to produce accurate and up-to-date content, the information in this blog article is provided for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.