MYTH VS. FACT Adrenal Fatigue

What is the theory behind adrenal fatigue?

Supporters of adrenal fatigue believe the problem begins when many different life stresses become too much for the body to handle. Our adrenal glands—small organs located above the kidneys—usually deal with stress by producing hormones like cortisol. According to the theory of adrenal fatigue, when people are faced with long-term stress, their adrenal glands cannot keep up with the body’s need for these hormones. When this happens, symptoms of “adrenal fatigue” may appear.

What’s the difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency?

While adrenal fatigue is not accepted by most doctors, adrenal insufficiency is a real medical condition that occurs when our adrenal glands cannot produce enough hormones. Adrenal insufficiency is caused by damage to the adrenal glands or a problem with the pituitary gland—a pea-sized gland in the brain that tells the adrenals to produce cortisol.

A person with adrenal insufficiency may be dehydrated, confused, or losing weight. He or she may feel weak, tired, or dizzy, and have low blood pressure. Other symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed through blood tests, and can be treated with medications that replace the hormones the adrenals would normally make.

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