Adrenal fatigue is a condition that isn’t always considered when a patient has consistent symptoms of fatigue. Often, the thyroid is the first (and sometimes only) explored option to explain fatigue, nervousness, digestive problems and a host of other similar complaints. Usually a blood test is performed to check the health of the thyroid to determine hormone levels, and imaging tests are commonly used when enlargement of the glands is physically noticed. When thyroid tests do not detect an abnormality, adrenal gland treatment may be appropriate.
When adrenal glands are not functioning correctly, the body produces an inconsistent level of cortisol resulting in what is commonly referred to as a “flight or fight” reaction. The condition appears most often in females, and often correlates with depression.
The presenting symptoms of both adrenal gland issues and thyroid dysfunction are often so similar that the symptoms are treated identically. However, if the adrenal gland is what is prompting the reaction patients reports, there is a way to alleviate the discomfort and interruption in daily activities caused by the condition.
Dr. Katie State is a licensed naturopathic physician and registered herbalist at the SCNM Medical Center. See sees patients who often complain of fatigue, body aches, lightheadedness, and other related issues. She usually delves into the stress level that the patient experiences on a long-term consistent basis, along with medical tests such as stimulation of the adrenal glands to determine whether there are adequate levels of hormones present. Dr. Stage told us that existing blood tests aren’t often sensitive enough to detect a small decline in adrenal function, therefore symptomatic treatment may be prescribed to determine if a non-invasive path to treatment is what is appropriate for the individual.
If the results of medical testing point to an adrenal fatigue diagnosis, a combination of stress reduction, diet and natural adrenal supplements can, over time, adjust hormone levels and reduce the difficulty adrenal glands are having to eliminate the condition. Although stress in life can never be entirely avoided, Dr. Stage recommends adding certain natural supplements into a patient’s routine to boost healthy adrenal functioning.
“Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, schisandra and holy basil in combination with vitamins B and C do support adrenal fatigue syndrome recovery when combined with the proper diet and stress management. Avoid caffeine, sugar, processed and microwaved foods and consider the addition of raw honey and ‘superfoods’ like olives, avocado, bone broth, nuts and fatty fish (such as wild-caught salmon) into the diet, and often just the two lifestyle changes in diet and supplements will help the person feel better overall, thereby reducing stress and ultimately, adrenal fatigue symptoms.”
Dr. Stage concludes that the root cause of adrenal fatigue is still primarily stress related, putting strain on the adrenal glands. Approaching the issue through assessment of the mind/body connection is still the best way to get the cortisol levels of the adrenal gland closer to normal functioning, and recommends exercise, enough sleep and seeking counsel for reducing stress.