Stressed, tired and can’t sleep? Your body could be telling you it has adrenal fatigue
Feeling tired all the time? Having cravings for salt, sugar or stimulants like coffee? Find it difficult to wake up after a disturbed sleep? This one's for you.
Do you feel burnt out all the time? And do you tend to fall sick very quickly and often? Are you stressed all the time and not being able to sleep because of it? Maybe these symptoms have already led you to get tested to check if something is wrong and you got normal results every time. A traditional doctor may tell you that you are alright, and you definitely could be - but there is a term for this group of symptoms in alternative medicine. It is called adrenal fatigue.
The term was first used by a Naturopath James Wilson, in the year 1998 and since then Adrenal fatigue has been constantly under scrutiny. While conventional medicine does not even recognise it as a disease, supporters stand by their claim and say that the existence of the condition is not proven yet but it does exist.
Here is what you need to know about adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal glands are a pair of triangle-shaped glands situated on top of our kidneys. They release a hormone called cortisol that controls the ‘fight or flight’ response in our body - think of it as an inbuilt system to deal with stress. Every time we get anxious, the adrenal glands release cortisol which then increases your blood pressure and heart rate and help you cope with the emergency. Adrenal hormones also play a role in controlling metabolism and sleep/wake cycle.
Adrenal fatigue is believed to occur when the adrenal glands start to get tired and function less than optimally. Unlike adrenal insufficiency, where the cortisol levels fall really low, it is said that the reduction in cortisol is almost negligible in patients with adrenal fatigue so it does not even show up in lab tests. This can happen due to everyday stress.
A person with adrenal fatigue supposedly starts to feel tired all the time, gets salt and sugar cravings or craves stimulants like coffee, finds it difficult waking up in the morning, has a disturbed sleeping pattern and often has difficulty dealing with stress.
But before you go ahead and self-diagnose yourself with adrenal fatigue, doctors say that you at least get a diagnosis and see if your symptoms are due to any underlying medical condition. Certain heart, lungs, kidney and liver diseases have these symptoms too. Also, if your symptoms are very severe, it could be Addison's disease — which is also caused by low production of adrenal hormones.
How to deal with the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
Since adrenal fatigue is not a medically accepted condition, there is no treatment for this condition. According to Harvard Health, an online resource by Harvard University, a lot of healthcare practitioners prescribe cortisol supplements to deal with it. However, cortisol supplements are harmful even in small doses. They can cause weight gain, osteoporosis, diabetes and heart diseases.
Instead of taking the supplements, doctors recommend the following to deal with the condition:
- Do not self-diagnose. Visit your doctor and see if you have an underlying health condition.
- Try to reduce stress in everyday life. Try counselling to see if it works.
- Work on maintaining your blood sugar levels, the cravings may be due to this.
- Take a balanced diet and avoid caffeine whenever you can.
- If sleep disturbances are a problem, try making a sleep schedule and stay away from the TV and smartphones for a few hours before going to bed.
For more information, please read our article on Cortisol Test.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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