What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal Fatigue is a common disorder that includes symptoms such as:
- Persistent fatigue
- Non-restorative sleep
- Difficulty rising in the morning with afternoon sleepiness
- Dependence on caffeine, energy drinks, and salty, sugary foods to stay awake
This term refers to a less than optimal state of adrenal function where the adrenal glands are not making enough of and/or inappropriately making hormones, namely cortisol. This concept has been around for over a century but has been largely ignored by mainstream medicine for lack of standard blood tests with enough sensitivity to detect this subtle derangement of adrenal function.
In recent years, testing has emerged that can indicate and diagnose adrenal fatigue. Salivary cortisol testing can reveal a pattern of cortisol production consistent with decreased and inappropriate adrenal function. Salivary testing is already being used for diagnosis of other adrenal disorders and is quickly gaining acceptance as a valid way of evaluating the adrenal system.
In addition to abnormal salivary cortisol values, people with adrenal fatigue tend to have blood tests with:
- Low or low/normal morning cortsiol
- Low or low/normal DHEA
- May have mild electrolyte abnormalities such as high normal potassium and low normal sodium
- Salt cravings and intolerances to potassium rich foods such as bananas, tomatoes, and protein
rich foods such as steak
Adrenal Fatigue is a distinct diagnosis from and has different pathophsiology than Adrenal Insufficiency or Addison’s disease, where there is loss of adrenal organ tissue and its function. Compared to Adrenal Fatigue, Addison’s disease is much more rare and has more exaggerated symptoms than Adrenal Fatigue and may lead to other serious medical issues.
Adrenal Fatigue is an issue with supply and demand. Your body cannot supply the necessary product to meet the demand placed on the body by chronic and/or recurrent stressors. This leads to a persistent syndrome that is often left undiagnosed and untreated by mainstream physicians.
With Adrenal Fatigue, people often live with a persistent feeling of being unwell despite vacations, rest, and “normal” blood tests according their doctors. The hallmark is a fatigue that never leaves, feelings of body aches, mild depression, either weight loss or weight gain (depending on your cortsiol profile), and salty food cravings.
Other common symptoms are:
- Evening ankle swelling
- Morning under eye puffiness
- Need for caffeine and energy drinks
- Decreased sex drive in men and women
- Heavier, more painful menses in women
Adrenal fatigue may be brought on by chronic stress at work or home (both “good” stress such as
a promotion with more responsibility and “bad” stress such as loss of employment or relationship
problems), medical illness, prolonged use of certain medications for medical necessity (such as
oral steroids) and any other long-term stressors.
Fatigue is a very general symptom and may also be caused by a wide array of medical conditions from inflammatory to infectious as well as heart disease and lung conditions.
The body is an inter-connected web of systems and internal as well as external variables. Therefore, at Vitality Logix we use an integrative internal medicine approach and advanced diagnostics to thoroughly investigate other possible causes of fatigue.
Through our custom laboratory panels, Dr. Gizersky will evaluate for:
- Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)
- Inflammatory markers
- Immune disease
- Cardiovascular markers
- Novel cancer screens
- Hormonal imbalances such as thyroid and testosterone
This meticulous and comprehensive approach will detect other treatable causes of fatigue
and provide you with a detailed assessment and targeted treatment plan.
How do you test for and diagnose Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal Fatigue is diagnosed by a set of symptoms as described above combined with a simple 4-point salivary cortisol test. This test checks for levels of cortisol present in your saliva. The samples are collected at specific times over 24 hours, as directed by your physician. Blood tests such as ACTH, cortisol, and DHEA may be helpful, especially if symptoms are deemed to be severe enough to require evaluation for Addison’s Disease. At your consultation, your doctor will discuss the specific tests required for you.