Adrenal fatigue is an alternative medicine notion that adrenal glands can be exhausted and left with the inability to produce enough hormones. This, in turn, is blamed for a slew of generic symptoms, most of which apply disproportionately to persons under long-term mental or physical duress.
There is no scientific evidence supporting the concept of adrenal fatigue and it is not recognized by any medical organizations. That means zero in the naturopathic world, where blood and saliva draws are regularly used to ostensibly diagnose any number of conditions. There is no explanation for how these draws would demonstrate the presence of these conditions, nor do they offer support for the notion that the conditions even exist.
Still, there are many believers, including ones on a website that challenges supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the syllable department, natruropathicwomenswellness.com. Writing about adrenal fatigue, the site’s authors proclaim, “Saliva testing is used to diagnose candida, parasites, and fungal, bacterial, and viral infections in the system.” It might do this, but there is no correlation between those items and adrenal fatigue’s supposed symptoms, nor does it demonstrate the reality of the condition.
Dr. Todd Nipplodt of the Mayo Clinic said, “Consistent levels of chronic stress have no effect whatsoever on the adrenals and the only true endocrine disorders are those caused by other diseases and by direct damage to the adrenal glands.”
Pharmacist Scott Gavura, writing for Science Based Medicine, noted that a society of 14,000 endocrinologists stated that, “Adrenal fatigue is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms.” I performed a PubMed search and it produced just one hit for “adrenal fatigue,” and that was for a systemic review which concluded there is no such animal.
To counter these medical findings and consistent data, we need us a good old-fashioned anecdote. Perhaps Dr. Axe can oblige. “To that, all I can say is adrenal fatigue is something I’ve seen personally.” What he has never seen personally is a medical degree with his name on it. Despite his preferred prefix, Axe is not a doctor, but instead has “degrees” in chiropractic and naturopathy.
Axe states that adrenal fatigue can be fixed with regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a diet that emphasizes fish, turkey, and fruit, and which eschews caffeine and sweets. Oh, and buy his vitamins. Other than the last one, these are solid health tips, but it also speaks to adrenal fatigue being a nonentity. Following these pieces of advice would do nothing for legitimate conditions like arthritis, lupus, or carpal tunnel syndrome. The fact that adrenal fatigue can be “cured” with a treadmill, bananas, and a down comforter shows it’s not a disease.
The lesser danger is throwing away money on sham treatments, while the greater concern is not being treated for a genuine medical issue. This could include Addison’s disease, whose symptoms include the glands producing insufficient cortisol.
According to Gavura, adrenal glands “sit on the kidneys and produce several hormones, including the stress hormones associated with the fight or flight response. 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.”
Chiropractor and naturopath James Wilson, who made up this idea, said symptoms include being tired, having trouble getting out of bed, body aches, moodiness, needing extra sweets or salts to get going, overreliance on caffeine, muscles feeling weaker than they should for the person’s output, and feeling continually stressed.
These common complaints are found in many diseases, disorders, and afflictions and are also routine parts of a hurried lifestyle. The symptoms are widespread enough that Dr. John Tinterra, who specialized in low adrenal function, estimated that approximately two-thirds or all people experience them occasionally.
Fabricated diseases usually have this vague-symptoms hallmark. The patient may be experiencing a real issue, but whereas a genuine doctor might run a proven test to see what the illness is, their alt-med counterparts default to whatever diagnosis they favor. This can include chi needing fixed, experiencing low energy fields, being plagued with wifi rot, or having chronic lyme disease, leaky gut syndrome, or adrenal fatigue. And the “treatment,” will, again, usually be whatever the naturopath most likes, be it herbs, homeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, applied kinesiology, or being wrapped in a shaman’s blanket.