A Case Of Mistaken Identity
If you have been dealing with adrenal fatigue for quite some time, and you are doing all the right things but your symptoms are not improving. Or if you have been trying to self treat and your symptoms are getting worse and you are experiencing new symptoms, it is time to reassess what’s going on with your health. Adrenal fatigue syndrome has some easily recognizable core symptoms. It may no longer simply be adrenal fatigue syndrome you are dealing with.
10 Core Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome:
- Difficulty coming fully awake in the morning
- Feeling ‘tired and wired’
- Energy slump in the middle of the afternoon followed by feeling more energetic after dinner time
- Out of control cravings for salt, sugary snacks, caffeine and fatty carbohydrate laden foods
- Excess fat around the waist
- Waking up around 2 or 3 am each night
- Brain fog
- Falling hair/brittle fingernails
- General feeling of tiredness and low energy
- Light headed when getting up from a lying position
Many people, and I was one of them start by having a straightforward case of adrenal fatigue. But over time, due to incorrect care or not addressing the stress in their lives adrenal fatigue not only doesn’t improve but is joined by other health issues.
The single biggest mistake you can make is to keep on trying to treat your illness as adrenal fatigue when it is no longer simply adrenal fatigue. It will be pretty impossible to make any sort of recovery under those circumstances.
In my case, as time went by and I was unable to get the appropriate help I needed for my adrenal fatigue my health spiraled downward as other body systems were affected. At the time I started experiencing fatigue little was known about adrenal fatigue syndrome, even in alternative health circles.
One of the ways poor adrenal health affects other body systems is its adverse effect on thyroid function. Due to the close connection between your adrenals and thyroid gland you can become hypothyroid too.
But if you treat your adrenal fatigue quickly and correctly your hypothyroid condition will improve and all of your nasty hypothyroid symptoms will be a thing of the past. At a couple of stages during the time I was ill I was hypothyroid and was treated with thyroid hormone meds which enabled me to function semi normally.
However, as I always try to follow the ‘natural route’ if possible I was uncomfortable staying on thyroid medication for an extended period. Happily, once I started getting appropriate natural treatment for my adrenal fatigue I was able to ditch the thyroid meds as the health of my adrenals and thyroid gland improved.
The difficulty I had using thyroid medication was it never completely resolved my symptoms and it was a constant struggle to maintain the correct dosage of meds. There were times during treatment where I went from hypo to hyper thyroid and experienced a whole other set of symptoms.
Sadly, it is not only your thyroid that can be affected, ongoing adrenal fatigue can play a role in other health conditions too such as:
- Ongoing anxiety
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Food allergies and sensitivities.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Get It Under Control Quickly
If you have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue by your naturopath or functional medicine doctor it is advisable to have it correctly treated as quickly as possible to prevent it developing further and causing other health issues.
There are a few important nutrients your adrenals need in order to heal:
Some herbal adaptogens that help you deal with stress and support your adrenals can be useful too. A good quality supplement which combines both nutrients and botanicals is this one.
And following a fresh healthy diet rich in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, oily fish and lean meat, will help. Cutting out caffeine and sugar completely is a must which will seem impossible at the beginning of treatment as you will likely be using both of these to prop up your flagging resources and provide an energy lift. Processed food full of artificial additives and fizzy drinks are also on the ‘big no no’ list.
It’s All About Stress
Perhaps one of the least tangible and therefore most difficult aspects of adrenal fatigue to treat is addressing the stress in your life. Taking supplements and making adjustments to your diet might be a little uncomfortable at first but with application both are relatively easy for most people to implement.
However, if you want to get completely well and recover from adrenal fatigue syndrome identifying and reducing the stress in your life is a must. Taking supplements and eating a healthy diet are important, but will only get you so far. You MUST address the stress.
The effect of stress on the adrenals is now estimated by some experts to affect 80% of the population without them being aware of it. That is a pretty big number, it means 4 out of 5 people may be dealing with adrenal fatigue to some degree.
But, How does Stress Affect the Adrenals?
Your adrenals pump out hormones adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones to provide you with extra physical and mental energy when you perceive a threat. This allows you to take action for survival.
This rise in hormonal action by your adrenals can last for anything from a few minutes to several hours depending on how long it takes to escape or run away from the particular threat. Following this there is a natural recovery period during which you can feel a bit tired and listless.
All of this is perfectly normal, but if you are subject to ongoing low levels of stress as many of us are in our fast paced modern world, your adrenals keep pumping out higher levels of hormones, particularly the hormone cortisol. Over time due to this constant stress your adrenals become worn out and exhausted.
Key then to recovery from adrenal fatigue is identifying where your stress is coming from and taking steps to reduce it.
Have You Made Changes But You Are Still Sick?
If you have carried out a thorough review of your diet and lifestyle and implemented the changes needed to identify and reduce stress but you are still experiencing symptoms, it is possible something else is going on.
I see many people on adrenal fatigue forums and FB groups who think they are dealing with adrenal fatigue syndrome, but they are most likely not, particularly with the many varied and weird symptoms they claim to have. Adrenal fatigue syndrome has a fairly distinct set of symptoms and energy patterns.
This can be due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, it may be due to more general awareness of adrenal fatigue nowadays. Out here in the cyber world people read about it and think ‘yeah I’m stressed I have a lot going on in my life, so I must have adrenal fatigue syndrome’.
While stress is the main factor in adrenal fatigue syndrome, being stressed doesn’t mean everyone ends up with adrenal fatigue syndrome. It depends if you are predisposed to it. You must get the help of a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner, carry out correct testing and work out if you have adrenal fatigue or if something else is going on.
The second reason many people think they are still dealing with adrenal fatigue after months and years have gone by is a little different. This was my situation, where over several years I was being treated by a couple of naturopaths with insufficient expertise in fatigue issues.
Actually I had chronic fatigue syndrome, not only adrenal fatigue and I had other health issues going on which were not tested for. I continued to be treated for adrenal fatigue syndrome but my health was actually getting worse instead of better.
Putting It All Together
If you can honestly say you have made the required changes to your diet and lifestyle but you continue to struggle with what you think is adrenal fatigue syndrome. If your core symptoms have altered and/or been joined by a host of others there is probably something else going on.
Getting the help of an experienced naturopath/functional medicine doctor at this point is important to work out what is going on and finally get you on the road to lasting wellness.
Have you been struggling with adrenal fatigue and found out there were other issues going on with your health? Share your experience with others in the comments section below.