What Is Adrenal Fatigue? How To Reverse Naturally

What Is Adrenal Fatigue? How To Reverse Naturally

Without a doubt, we are experiencing more burnout and fatigue today than ever before. In some ways, it’s an epidemic in and of itself. Many of us are facing some level of challenges due to social isolation, financial strain, health challenges and increasing mental health struggles. Very likely you, or someone you know, has said more than once, “I’m totally exhausted. No matter what I do, I never feel rested.”

Severe and prolonged fatigue can be looked at in two ways:

  • Adrenal Fatigue, or
  • Adrenal Insufficiency

This blog will discuss the differences between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency, and we’ll discuss natural methods for treating adrenal fatigue. As a naturopathic doctor in Singapore, Dr. Radhika Kamat helps patients find the root cause of their fatigue, and she creates individual plans that will promote holistic healing. To set up a consultation, please get in touch.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue, believed to be caused by chronic stress leading to the underperformance of the adrenal glands, describes a clinical presentation of symptoms that is not yet a medical diagnosis by current standards in conventional medicine. Symptoms often include fatigue, sleep disturbances, and craving for salt or sugar, despite the lack of widespread recognition in the medical community as a distinct syndrome. In short, prolonged stress purportedly exhausts the adrenal glands, diminishing their ability to produce hormones effectively, especially cortisol. 

What is Adrenal Insufficiency?

Adrenal Insufficiency, on the other hand, is a serious, potentially life-threatening medical diagnosis. Adrenal insufficiency is a medical condition characterized by the insufficient production of hormones by the adrenal glands, including cortisol and, in some cases, aldosterone. This deficiency can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, weight loss, low blood pressure, and darkening of the skin. Adrenal insufficiency can be primary (Addison’s disease) or secondary, resulting from inadequate secretion of ACTH by the pituitary gland. It requires medical diagnosis and treatment, often involving hormone replacement therapy.

What’s the Difference Between Adrenal Fatigue or Insufficiency? 

Chronic stress affects our vitality in innumerable and sometimes immeasurable ways. For most people, the human body is not so fragile that it is immediately thrust into a state of physiological fatigue so intense that the adrenal glands lose their ability to function. Usually, people progress from health to illness along a spectrum, where dysfunction occurs first and, if not addressed, can become a life-threatening illness such as adrenal insufficiency.

Adrenal insufficiency is also known as Addison’s Disease, a rare and potentially life-threatening illness. In this condition, the person does not make enough cortisol and other essential hormones to sustain life. To test for Addison’s Disease, a doctor will order specific blood tests that measure cortisol and the other hormones.

Adrenal fatigue is considered a clinical diagnosis that is made when a set of symptoms and / or certain lab values, like dysregulated cortisol patterns, are present. Many of these symptoms are the same as those for Addison’s Disease and include:

  • Body aches not explained by other illness or physical exertion
  • Exhaustion that does not resolve in a reasonable time or occurs in flares
  • Poor cognitive function and brain fog
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Digestive problems
  • Mental – Emotional: Depression, lack of passion and motivation, apathy

What Do The Adrenal Glands Do?

To better understand adrenal fatigue and provide a natural method of resolving it, it’s important to understand what the adrenal glands do. The adrenal glands are small organs in the endocrine system that sit on top of the kidneys. The adrenals are part of a system called the HPA Axis (hypothalamic-pituitary axis), which is involved in numerous physiological events within the body, most notably the stress response.

Each adrenal gland has two parts: the cortex (outside) and the medulla (inside). Each part secretes different hormones. The medulla, which is a smaller region of the adrenal gland, secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine (catecholamines). Catecholamines are the “fight or flight” hormones that are secreted in response to acute stress. These hormones get your heart racing and palms sweaty.

The cortex is the larger region and it secretes several hormones: cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and DHEA (glucocorticoids). Glucocorticoids play a role in regulating blood sugar, metabolism, insulin levels, sexual function, anti-inflammatory responses and immune system suppression.

When the Mind and Body Recognize Stress

When you perceive something as stressful, the brain makes a decision in nano-seconds as to whether or not that stressor is a real threat to your wellbeing. If it is a threat, your body must decide to fight it, flee from it, or somehow adapt to it. This comes in handy when running away from a bear, in the face of a mental-emotional crisis or even being bombarded by fear-based news. Regardless of the stressor, the HPA Axis is engaged, triggering various hormones to be secreted to prepare the body for action. Ideally, once the stressor is removed, the body and mind get feedback that the stress is abating and the goal becomes to restore balance (called homeostasis). However, if the stress persists at a high level for months or even years, the HPA Axis thinks it is constantly in “fight or flee mode.” When that happens, adrenal dysfunction (fatigue) can occur.

With prolonged stress, there is continued adrenaline response stimulating the production of cortisol and in my opinion, there is a resistance to cortisol like in insulin resistance. but it has not been studied yet. The body will not respond adequately to the cortisol bursts and hence it will switch to adrenaline for survival. This leads to burnout in the long run. Testing for cortisol in these cases may not have much value since the cortisol could be within normal range but the body cannot utilise it.

How To Naturally Reverse Adrenal Fatigue

When we talk about restoring adrenal function, functional doctors always go back to the basics of health. Depending on individual needs, a program to restore balance to the adrenal glands and overall health would incorporate:

  • Detoxing the body from the physiological impact of emotional, physical and environmental stress
  • Identifying and addressing nutrient deficiencies
  • Dietary changes that include removing foods the body is reacting to, such as food sensitivities and sugar, and increasing foods that act as medicine, such as whole foods, dark leafy greens, colorful veggies, lean meats, etc.
  • Sufficient hydration
  • Coaching/ counseling to recognize, prevent, and manage stress
    Stress reduction techniques (yoga, meditation, mindful movement/walking, breath work)
  • Enhancing social support
  • Supporting healing through the use of individualized supplements and well researched herbs that can restore and nourish the glands. I custom blend formulas for my clients in the clinic based on the presentation.
  • Therapies such as craniosacral
  • An individualized exercise routine

Life can be challenging. It doesn’t have to wear us down. If you understand that chronic stress of any kind eventually takes a toll on the body– and can even be life threatening if not addressed properly–then you can do something to protect your health and wellbeing.

When it comes to medical conditions in which fatigue is the primary symptom, there are many possible root causes. Holistic doctors will work with you to understand why you have these symptoms, find and treat the root cause, and restore balance to the body. This is often a multifaceted approach, as intense fatigue and the toll it takes on many body systems often develops over time and stems from various factors.Sometimes the solutions can be difficult to see on our own and may be impossible without medical testing and advice. If you are experiencing persistent and ongoing fatigue, get in touch. Dr. Kamat offers homeopathic medicine consultations, and she helps patients with a wide range of gastrointestinal issues, chronic fatigue, autoimmune conditions, and more.


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