How Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome Can Morph Into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome Can Be A Bitch

Adrenal fatigue syndrome is pretty easy to recognize once you know what to look for as it is an illness that presents with a fairly well defined set of symptoms.

And nowadays it is becoming increasingly well-known as sufferer numbers increase due to our stress filled, fast paced, competitive and hard driving lifestyles.

Recovery is possible if you take appropriate action during the early stages of the illness. You can get better by taking adequate rest, eating a healthy diet, adding some nutritional and herbal supplements, laying off hard core exercise for a while and most importantly reducing the stressors in your life.

In the early stages of this illness it is crucial to be gentle on yourself and rest when you need to. In fact rest more than you normally would, your adrenals need it.

However, if you don’t tackle adrenal fatigue syndrome in the early stages you will soon find out how adrenal fatigue syndrome will become more difficult to recover from.

Basically, stress is the root cause of adrenal fatigue syndrome. And the stress your adrenals feel can take many forms. Chronic long term stress or an acute episode of stress can both contribute to your adrenal glands becoming overworked and exhausted.

Over time your adrenals become depleted and finally no longer able to carry out their normal function as they become completely worn out. In their location lying just above your kidneys, your adrenal glands play a huge part in the body’s stress response. Although small in size, your adrenal glands contribute greatly to your overall health as part of the HPA axis.

When your body registers any threat, emotional, physical, or psychological, your adrenals go to work releasing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline in an effort to help you react to that threat. They provide you with an extra energy boost to get you out of danger.

Your adrenals don’t differentiate between the various types of stress you experience, it’s all the same to them. Stress is stress. Whether you are under pressure at work, you are trying to meet study deadlines, dealing with a bad marriage, have a low level infection or you are being chased by a rabid dog.

keto low carb diet man being chased by dog

The stress is all the same to your adrenals and they react by doing what they are designed to do. They produce stress hormones to help you deal with the threat. And when this occurs your body goes into a ‘fight or flight’ pattern.

Nowadays, we all lead such fast paced lives that our bodies go into fight or flight mode several times during a normal day. Think of the number of times each day you feel pressure, rush or stress. If you really stop to think about it, you’ll be surprised by just how often your poor adrenals are pushed to work hard during a normal day.

Running to catch the bus to get to work on time, rushing to get the kids off to school, feeling the pressure of finalizing an important report for a scheduled meeting. These are just a few examples of stress that you deal with every day.

When you are healthy, throughout the day your adrenal glands release cortisol in concert with your body’s natural diurnal rhythm. In the early morning, cortisol levels rise to wake you up. Then levels fall again at night allowing you to get a restful and full night’s sleep.

But when you have ongoing stress you are forcing your adrenals to constantly work, continually pumping out cortisol and adrenaline.

Over time all of this overwork causes your  adrenals to become worn out and they are no longer able to work effectively. This leads to a disruption in your body’s cortisol levels. It is at this early stage you start to experience the typical symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome:

  • Difficulty coming fully awake in the morning
  • Waking from sleep regularly at around 3am
  • A distinct energy crash during mid afternoon
  • Feeling more energetic during the early evening
  • Cravings for salty and sugary foods
  • Fat accumulation around your middle
  • General feelings of low energy


How Do You Cure Adrenal Fatigue?

Taking action during the early stages of adrenal fatigue syndrome by identifying and reducing stress, taking some nutritional supplements such as a quality vitamin c supplement, vitamin B5 and some adaptogenic herbs can nudge your body back into a balanced state. A simple adrenal fatigue treatment plan can set you on the road to recovery.

It is also advisable to treat your body gently during this time. Make sure you get to sleep by 10pm every night to work with your natural diurnal rhythm. If you have been suffering with a lack of sleep due to adrenal fatigue insomnia, it is important to catch up on any sleep deficit you have. And eating several small healthy meals each day help you support your adrenals by keeping blood sugar under control.

Emphasis should be on stress reduction at this time and it can be worthwhile trying some meditation, deep breathing, gentle walking etc., whatever techniques you find useful to switch your mind and stress response off to let your adrenals know you are not in danger.

woman doing yoga

In fact, reducing stress cannot be emphasized strongly enough if you want to recover fully from adrenal fatigue syndrome. You MUST identify what is causing this stress on your adrenal glands and take action to reduce it. Personally, I learned the hard way just how important stress reduction is for healing.


Doing Everything Right But……

I was doing all the ‘right stuff’ with regards to eating well, taking supplements etc., which kept me propped up for a while, allowing me to feel OK and function semi normally. But, time and time again I would feel all of the familiar symptoms start to appear again. Before long the horrible feelings of fatigue would once again take over my life.

The mid afternoon energy slump, a typical symptom would start again, letting me know my adrenals were not functioning as they should.

My attitude towards my illness was all wrong. Thinking that I just had an ‘annoying little fatigue issue’, I kept treating my adrenal fatigue syndrome with supplements and diet changes, but did not adequately address the underlying stressors which were preventing me from fully healing.

Disappointingly, my adrenal fatigue would get better for a short time, then I would relapse again. All the annoying symptoms would return once again. The mid afternoon tiredness, the sugar and carb cravings, falling hair, weight gain and general feelings of low energy and tiredness that are typical of this illness.

woman looking at falling hair

I was able to fool myself into thinking this annoying little fatigue issue would disappear once I started taking whatever new supplements my naturopath was suggesting at the time.

But, what I kept ignoring was the root cause of my adrenal fatigue. Unremitting stress from over work and being in a job that no longer provided a sense of satisfaction.

And dealing with all of this while living in a foreign country was all too much for me. Putting a brave face on things and battling through each day wasn’t doing my health any good at all.


Something Had To Give

Several years of living like this and I got to the stage where something had to give. I was at the point of being unable to work full time and consequently set about making changes in my career to allow me to work part time.

Long work hours and business travel all had to take a backseat as I tried hard every day to deal with even a reduced workload. And the feeling of struggling through each day with meager energy became my new normal.

I set to work making further changes to my diet, my lifestyle and my work hours but still I couldn’t recover from the fatigue. Not only that but the main symptom of fatigue had been joined by several other baffling symptoms that didn’t fit the definitive description of adrenal fatigue syndrome.

Sadly for me, at this stage I was back on thyroid medication in an attempt to get some relief from the fatigue, but that wasn’t working to fully improve the fatigue either.

My health was in free fall in a dizzying downward spiral as I bounced from the naturopath who had been treating me for several years to an online doctor specializing in treatment of adrenal fatigue. The bad news was despite the doctor’s best efforts and me being a fully compliant patient I still wasn’t recovering.

Not only was I not recovering, I was getting worse. Why couldn’t I get my adrenal fatigue under control and why couldn’t I recover completely from it no matter what I tried and how many changes I made to my diet and lifestyle?


Here’s The Thing

The thing I didn’t realize was I no longer had a relatively straightforward case of adrenal fatigue syndrome. Disappointingly, the health professionals treating me didn’t realize this either. 

After several years of battling with adrenal fatigue and underactive thyroid issues my illness had morphed into something else………..chronic fatigue syndrome, but I was still unaware of this.

The online adrenal fatigue doctor sold me a truck load of supplements. The main component of his treatment was using high dose Vitamin C. Of course stressed out adrenals need high dose Vitamin C to help them heal, so this made complete sense to me.

which vitamin c should I take

But I now had a new problem as I developed intolerance to Vitamin C. One of my new symptoms was an irritated bladder and taking Vitamin C exacerbated this symptom. At a time in my illness when I was desperate for a full night’s sleep I was getting up for bathroom visits about six times a night.

How was I going to heal from adrenal fatigue if I couldn’t take Vitamin C and importantly I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep? Sadly, my online doctor had no answer for me and we came to a mutual decision to give up on his treatment.


Now I Was Scared

Even after several years of experiencing this fatigue nonsense, I was still firmly of the belief that I could recover from my illness if only I could get the right help.

But this was scary, where on earth could I turn to get help, I was completely out of ideas. If a well known online doctor specializing in adrenal fatigue syndrome couldn’t help me, who the hell could?

Sometimes you can just get lucky, or maybe it was a case of someone up there looking out for me because the answer to who could help me came in a surprisingly unexpected way.

From a purely serendipitous meeting with a new friend in a Bangkok bar,  I was led to a naturopath in Melbourne Australia who specializes in treating people with fatigue issues, in particular chronic fatigue syndrome.

At this time I didn’t know I even had chronic fatigue syndrome. In my deluded state of denial I still thought I had adrenal/thyroid issues. However, after a two hour consultation during which the discussion covered all of my completely baffling symptoms. My new EXPERIENCED naturopath confirmed I did indeed have chronic fatigue syndrome.

It may sound weird to find out you have an illness and be relieved. Particularly an illness that is recognized as being so debilitating and for which there is no known ‘cure’.

Nonetheless, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that a health professional not only could relate to my health struggle but perhaps most importantly she assured me I could recover.

I had no reason to doubt her as she became a naturopath after healing herself from her own particularly debilitating form of chronic fatigue syndrome.


Woohoo……….. At Last

What a relief, at last I felt I was being understood, now all I had to do was follow my naturopath’s guidance and I’d be rid of this fatigue and all of the other nasty symptoms I was struggling with.

Being a very compliant patient and willing to do whatever I had to do to recover,  I set forth on my healing journey with a renewed sense of confidence and most of all, relief.

My journey to recovery wasn’t straightforward, nor was it easy, however after two years I did manage to recover fully.

Lots of testing was done before clues to the reasons for my chronic fatigue syndrome started to emerge. And under the guidance of my naturopath, one by one we tackled and treated them.


The Moral Of The Story

If you have been continually struggling with adrenal fatigue syndrome for several years and are not recovering, your adrenal fatigue syndrome may have morphed into something else entirely.

Your body becomes weakened from dealing with adrenal fatigue over an extended period. As your health spirals downward one by one your body systems becomes affected in a cascade effect. Pain becomes a constant companion and chronic inflammation leads to a myriad of other symptoms.


Putting It All Together

In treating your adrenal fatigue syndrome it is extremely important you make all necessary changes to diet and lifestyle in order to reduce the stress in your life.Without addressing the source(s) of stress in your life you will have a very difficult time getting better.

Your stress may be coming from physical, mental or emotional sources (or all three) and you need to carry out close examination of each area and deal with it if you are to recover.

If you can honestly say you have made all of the necessary changes to deal with your stress.

  • And have been battling with adrenal fatigue syndrome for many years.
  • And your symptoms no longer fit those of typical adrenal fatigue or you have a lot more symptoms.

Your adrenal fatigue may have morphed into chronic fatigue syndrome and you will need help to unravel what exactly is going on. At this stage it is important to get the help and guidance of a naturopath or functional medicine doctor experienced in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Continuing to treat your illness as if it is still only adrenal fatigue syndrome will not bring about a full recovery. You will need the help of a professional to unravel what is contributing to your chronic fatigue syndrome. Which body systems are being affected and a treatment plan to turn your health around.

Please Feel Free To Leave A Comment Below.

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  1. Hi I’m passing a hard time and my story seems very similar to yours ! Find it hard to find a good doctor , could you pass me your naturopathic details ? Thank you !

  2. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and one of the comorbidities it has caused in me is Adrenal Insufficiency. It’s a step above adrenal fatigue and I have had multiple tests done from early morning pees in cups to several hour of peak and troughs (what a pain). I had to be on a very high dose steroid called Fludrocortisone. It’s a glucocorticoid which lead me into much more serious problems after 2 years on a high dose. I just went off the steroid and have noticed the symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency are coming back in spurts of full body sweats and the horrible sleeping issues. When it said the schedule of waking up at 3 and sleeping in the afternoon I was shocked by how accurate it was. The insomnia is awful. It is 1am right now. My fear is my major intolerance to heat with summer approaching. To the point that I shaved my head. My hair (thin and coming out) is a major source of heat for me. I have come to a point in my illnesses that I am not concerned about my appearance anymore. I never feel good and I’m afraid I’ll have to go back on the steroid which has caused me to gain weight (although I had already gained 65 pounds from the Adrenal Insufficiency) and it caused very severe dry and very thin skin, stretch marks, and AVN in my hips which was what made me go off the steroid. I don’t want a hip replacement but it was coming to that. I don’t know what trade off is worse but I’m sick with CFS already from EDS but this has caused it to go into overdrive. I’m housebound almost completely and in bed all the time unless I’m dealing with bladder issues as well falling asleep on the toilet trying to pee but having urinary retention and overflow. It’s been some ride.


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