Have you been told you have Adrenal Fatigue?

The term "adrenal fatigue" is probably not an accurate way to describe the symptoms it is referring to. And this term is criticised by the medical profession and is not a medical term or diagnosis.

However, fatigue is real. The term "adrenal fatigue" usually refers to the deep exhaustion and often associated physical symptoms, after a period of stress and/or trauma. Some people just cannot function normally or are even bedridden, just from fatigue.

Adrenal insufficiency IS a diagnosable medical condition (Addison's Disease), but this is usually not what we are referring to when we talk about adrenal fatigue.

The issue with the term "adrenal fatigue" is that it is referring to the adrenals sort of burning out and it's not quite like that. The adrenals, hypothalamus and pituitary glands are all connected (HPA axis) and there are feedback mechanisms in the body which regulate all hormones. When we are stressed for months or years- and this is becoming increasingly normal- the body is continuously flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin.

Long term exposure to these hormones is not good for the body, so it downregulates their production after some time. It stops producing so many of them- it is actually an intelligent mechanism by the body to stop long term damage from being flooded with hormones which are meant to only be produced for short periods.

But when there are less of these hormones in the system- and these can be measured in blood and salivary tests- we feel exhausted and just can't keep functioning at the level we were functioning before. Adrenaline and cortisol make us hyper-functional for a while ( in order to run away from that tiger)- but eventually, we do collapse and feel exhausted and wonder why we can't keep going like before.

Can you see this is the body's protection mechanism- to keep us safe and to slow us down? And do we listen? Usually not! We just want a magic pill to be able to get back up and keep going! We take herbs and supplements and do the minimum of rest in order to "get back to normal". As if the symptom is the main problem.

If you use herbs that help support the adrenals and build tolerance to stress (adaptogens) avoid taking steps to reduce stress in your life, or change the way you handle will only head toward a deeper burnout further down the track. Herbs need to be respected too. They have their place but they shouldn't replace a good evaluation of one's stress levels.

Stress breeds stress. When we are stressed, we feel we HAVE to keep going at that pace. But it's rarely actually true, it just feels like it. And if it is true, then there are many ways to ameliorate the stress. Fatigue after long term stress is a gift. It is the body's message, hey, its time to slow down, this isn't working any more.

So I suggest we stop using the term "adrenal fatigue" and just refer to it as fatigue. Deep fatigue, from being stressed or going through trauma.

Fatigue can also be related to so many other things of course- chronic virus infections, or many different health conditions. But "adrenal fatigue" as it is commonly used, refers to that fatigue that happens after long term stress.

This level of fatigue is becoming more and more common, unfortunately.