Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms, Treatment & Diet

Instructor: Jenna Liphart

Jenna teaches undergraduate nursing courses and has a master's degree in nursing education.

Adrenal fatigue is an uncommon medical condition that can cause serious problems if left untreated. In this lesson, we will learn about adrenal fatigue, including its symptoms and treatment.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Most times feeling constantly tired is a product of our busy lifestyles, but what if there is more going on? People are diagnosed on a daily basis with medical conditions that leave them feeling worn out and unable to manage their daily lives. Adrenal fatigue is one of those diagnoses that when managed effectively, the person living with it can lead a normal, high-energy life.

Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome characterized by a collection of symptoms that indicate the adrenal glands are working at an insufficient level for the body's needs. Your body has two small adrenal glands that are located right above the kidneys. These glands secret hormones responsible for a variety of bodily functions, such as regulate the fight-or-flight response (the stress response), regulate the balance of sodium and water in the body, contribute to metabolism, and regulate blood pressure. They are also partially responsible for the immune response.

When the adrenal glands are not functioning properly, these hormones are reduced in the body and negative effects occur. Many medical conditions can directly cause or contribute to adrenal fatigue, such as Addison's disease, Cushing's syndrome, adrenal cancer, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Certain medications, such as extended corticosteroid use, can also contribute to adrenal fatigue. However, short-term adrenal fatigue can also occur when a person undergoes a great deal of prolonged stress and the adrenal glands cannot keep up with the demand.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be vague at the beginning and therefore make diagnosis difficult. However, as the syndrome persists, the symptoms worsen, thereby making proper diagnosis important. Symptoms include:

- Extreme fatigue not relieved by rest

- Craving salt

- Difficulty recovering from minor illness (flu or common cold)

- Darkened skin (hyperpigmentation)

- Light headedness

- Hair loss

- Body aches

How is Adrenal Fatigue Treated?

If adrenal fatigue is caused by something that can be treated, such as a medication or cancer, the symptoms are managed until the cause is fixed. However, in many cases, the cause is irreversible, as in Addison's disease and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and the symptoms are continually managed. Medications are often prescribed to replace the hormones that are not being secreted adequately or surgery may be used to remove tumors. If you have adrenal fatigue, you may also be placed on a special diet.

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