Many practitioners of alternative medicine treat patients for adrenal fatigue. The symptoms are extreme fatigue accompanied by sleep difficulties, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and body aches. Doctors typically can’t pinpoint a reason for the symptoms, which is what often leads patients to seek relief elsewhere. Although more and more people are being treated for adrenal fatigue, traditional medicine still does not recognize it as a legitimate diagnosis. So does it really exist?
Traditional medicine does recognize adrenal insufficiency, a disorder with similar symptoms. Besides the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue, adrenal insufficiency is also indicated by low blood pressure, unexplained weight loss, loss of body hair, and dizziness. Blood tests verify the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency, and it is treated with hormonal replacement medications.
Proponents of the idea of adrenal fatigue say that blood tests won’t indicate the problem because the difference between normal hormonal levels and those that can produce the symptoms are too small to be clearly indicated through current testing procedures. The difference between the two conditions is sometimes expressed by saying that adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands are in trouble, but traditional medicine won’t help until the glands completely fail, adrenal insufficiency.
So why is there a conflict between traditional and alternative medicine about this disorder? The lack of a clear, scientific way to diagnose adrenal fatigue is certainly one of the biggest issues. Traditional doctors typically claim that what is diagnosed by other practitioners as adrenal fatigue is often a different disorder, sometimes something serious. They worry that practitioners treating this “non-existent” problem may be preventing patients from pursuing treatment for these other problems, such as Addison’s Disease, other thyroid problems, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
These claims make one wonder what is dangerous about the way adrenal fatigue is usually treated. Sometimes specific micro-nutritional supplements are used, called adrenal terrain. However, most patients are given guidelines that don’t involve purchasing products beyond the norm.
For instance, the importance of getting enough rest is emphasized, but it must be in conjunction with regular, mild exercise. Healthy eating habits are stressed; not only should the diet be balanced, but patients should be certain to avoid skipping meals. Patients should also engage in fun social activities and all kinds of behaviors that help them relax.
Reducing the amount of stress the body encounters helps regulate hormone levels, an idea both traditional and alternative medicine agree upon. Practicing relaxation, then, certainly should be helpful for anyone experiencing such symptoms.
As long as traditional doctors have exhausted the possibilities, it certainly seems that accepting a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, even temporarily, and following the treatment suggestions may be helpful and certainly can’t hurt. Patients should stay in contact with their traditional doctors. Perhaps a blood test will be available in the near future that will allow for more detailed numbers and allow for a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue that would be accepted by all members of the medical community. Surely the combination of drug therapy in addition to the behavioral changes would be more effective therapy.
Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D. “Addison’s Disease.” Mayoclinic.com
Dr. Paul Sirbaddana. “What is adrenal fatigue?” helium.com.
Cyn Vela. “How to treat and cure adrenal fatigue.” Ehow.com.
Dr. James Wilson’s www.adrenalfatigue.org. adrenalfatigue.com.