Hello everyone and welcome to article #2 of our series on chronic fatigue. Today we are going to be talking about some of my experience with my chronic fatigue patients.
If you suffer from chronic fatigue, you know this can be a frustrating condition. I get patients who want to live life, but are too exhausted to do it! They can’t be the husband, the wife, the parent, the friend, the employee, etc. that they want to be! Maybe you saw a chiropractor or naturopath, or did some good research, but somehow you came across the term “adrenal fatigue”.
One of the most famous pioneers of the term “adrenal fatigue” is Dr. Wilson and on the front page of his website www.adrenalfatigue.org, he asks these questions to help determine if you have adrenal fatigue:
- Tired for no reason?
- Having trouble getting up in the morning?
- Need coffee, colas, energy drinks, sodas, salty or sweet snacks to keep going?
- Feeling run down and stressed?
These symptoms make sense when we consider what your adrenal hormones do. Cortisol and DHEA are two hormones produced by your adrenal glands that are responsible for many important functions.
Cortisol helps us mobilize amino acids and stored glucose for energy. Cortisol has anti-inflammatory effects which play an important role in balancing our immune response. In animal experiments when the cortisol is removed, the animals are unable to resist minor stresses including physical activity, mental challenges, and minor illnesses can even prove to be fatal. This sounds like my chronic fatigue patients! They struggle with any challenges be it physical, mental, and a simple cold or illness of any kind is much more significant for them than for other people.
DHEA is a precursor to your other sex hormones. Also, the glial cells in the brain can take up DHEA and use it locally to manufacture hormones for brain signaling. I believe this is why I see so many brain related dysfunctions when I find a patient with low DHEA.
The best test available for adrenal function is a salivary test which takes 4 samples throughout the day. Cortisol is released from your body on a normal, daily rhythm. In order to get an accurate evaluation of cortisol, you must test this rhythm. A single spot blood test for cortisol is not adequate! In my office, we use a company called Diagnostechs. Here is a link to their adrenal test:
Last but not least, if you do have adrenal fatigue what can you do to help yourself feel better? I will give as simple of an answer as I can muster here, but there are some options.
- Adrenal tonics and adaptogens can be very helpful in helping restore adrenal function. Herbs like Ashwagandha, Rheumania, and Ginseng can be extremely helpful.
- Supplemental licorice can help specifically if cortisol is low. (Typically with chronic fatigue we find a low cortisol. It can be high, however, that is a more rare pattern in someone with chronic fatigue and a topic for another day).
- Other basic adrenal support can be Vitamin C, Zinc, and making sure someone is not having the adrenal exhaustion due to a no salt diet. Salt can actually help your adrenal glands function. In my office, I recommend Celtic Sea Salt to my patient which can be found at the local health food store.
In closing, I must give a warning. Remember your adrenal glands are part of your stress handling system. This means they are always responding to some stress! I find in most patients, it is necessary to remove or reduce the stress along with the supplements in order to get the best response. For example, if you are anemic because you have a parasite, that stress may put you in adrenal fatigue. Taking licorice and ginseng may help, but until you remove the parasite and get your red blood cells back to normal you will not see optimal benefits.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for our next article on chronic fatigue and anemia.