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Adrenal fatigue, or hypoadrenia, is a term that is not recognized by traditional medicine. Dr. James Wilson crafted the term “adrenal fatigue” in 1998.  Adrenal fatigue, which describes the belief that the adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones, is used exclusively in alternative medicine. Adrenal fatigue has nothing to do with other clinically defined medical conditions such as adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease, and should not be confused with them.

Causes of adrenal fatigue

The adrenal glands, located just above the kidneys, provide a diversity of hormones that help the body to maintain various metabolic processes: convert food into energy, respond to stress, and maintain the body's balance of sodium, potassium and water to keep blood pressure normal.  If the glands fail to produce sufficient amounts of hormones, patients experience profound fatigue and cannot maintain a normal blood pressure.

The primary hormone produced by the adrenal glands is cortisol, an important hormone that regulates the responses of the body to stress. Cortisol levels normally increase in response to stress, decrease when the stress is over. However, if the stress is chronic, adrenal glands become fatigued and fail to produce hormones needed for a person to feel good. The other unpleasant effect of chronic stress is that the presence of high cortisol levels in the body, over a long period of time, causes many undesirable effects.

Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is a set of different symptoms and thus rather qualifies for a syndrome than for a disease. This syndrome is usually characterized by tiredness, aches, difficulty sleeping, nervousness and problems with the digestive system. People with adrenal fatigue usually feel exhausted all the time, no matter if they had enough of rest. As the time goes by, chronic fatigue makes a severe impact on patients’ daily activities and responsibilities. It is also claimed that adrenal fatigue affects the health at many other levels as it, for example, contributes to obesity, allergies and other auto-immune diseases.

Treatment of adrenal fatigue

Proponents of the adrenal fatigue diagnosis claim that treatment depends on patients’ current stage of adrenal fatigue. They are commonly using a simple questionnaire in order to classify the severity of patients’ adrenal fatigue symptoms. More advanced and less subjective results are obtained through saliva testing, which measures only the active hormones and determines hormonal levels. Most commonly used treatment methods include cleanse and detox therapy, various adrenal fatigue supplements, and lifestyle moderations especially tailored for each patient.

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