used by alternative health care practitioners. Adrenal Fatigue is an enticing diagnosis. I used to take it as fact, until I did more research on the subject.
What is "Adrenal Fatigue"?
The Adrenal Fatigue Model is described as a stress-related condition, which causes your adrenal glands to weaken. It states that when the adrenal glands are overstimulated for too long, they begin to lose the ability to produce hormones such as cortisol, DHEA and pregnenolone.
Adrenal Fatigue is described as a 3-stage descent in adrenal hormones, ending in burnout.
The Adrenal Fatigue Model is Not Supported by Science
First of all, Adrenal Fatigue is not a condition recognized by the medical community, or reputable organizations such as Hormone Health Network.
Also, the concept of Adrenal Fatigue is not supported in the scientific literature. A quick search on PubMed shows very few published papers that have "Adrenal Fatigue" in the title or abstract. In fact an article may pop up, titled "Adrenal Fatigue does not Exist: a Systematic Review", which discredits the theory of Adrenal Fatigue.
HPA-Axis Dysfunction, The True Cause
While Adrenal Fatigue is not recognized in the scientific literature, disruption of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA-Axis) is.
The HPA-Axis controls our natural reaction to stressors. It involves the interaction between three endocrine glands; the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. Please watch this video, which explains the basic actions of the HPA-Axis.
Chronic stressors can cause a dysfunction in the natural rhythm of the HPA-Axis. Each and every cell in the body is affected by the HPA-Axis, therefore HPA-Axis Dysfunction can cause a wide variety of symptoms, which includes the symptoms that we have been told are caused by Adrenal Fatigue.
HPA-Axis Dysfunction is associated with an array of chronic conditions such as; infertility, IBS/IBD, psoriasis, eczema, depression, anxiety and nearly all autoimmune conditions. It is almost impossible to successfully treat chronic disease without addressing the HPA-Axis.
In his fabulous book, The Role of Stress and the HPA Axis in Chronic Disease Management, Thomas Guilliams, Ph.D. explains the four types of stressors which lead to HPA-Axis Dysfunction:
As you may have noticed from these very common everyday stressors, we live in a society that nearly guarantees HPA-Axis Dysfunction.
Why we Should Lay the Adrenal Fatigue Model to Rest, and Follow the HPA-Axis Model
What you can do
If you suspect you are suffering from HPA-Axis Dysfunction, you can start by modifying your lifestyle:
If it all seems like too much, or you are too exhausted to figure out where your HPA-Axis Dysfunction is stemming from, I suggest working with a qualified health care practitioner.
I Want to Hear from You!
What are your thoughts? Will you adopt the HPA-Axis Model and drop the Adrenal Fatigue Model? Have you suffered from HPA-Axis Dysfunction?
Lindsay Rusk, R.Ac., fmp
Lindsay Is a Registered Acupuncturist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Health Investigator, Paleo Enthusiast, and Blogger.
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