Diagnosis & Treatment of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue refers to a decrease in cortisol production over time due to chronic stress which leads to profound fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, and depression. This is due to a significant imbalance between neurotransmitters in the parts of the brain called the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. These areas combined are known as the HPA Axis which has an enormous impact on body functions and cortisol production in particular.

Cortisol is the hormone, that in times of acute stress, has developed as a survival mechanism to mobilize energy in order to respond to a threat to life. However, if the stress is chronic and unrelenting, such as marital or job stress, chronic illness or financial hardship, constant HPA Axis stimulation of the adrenal glands initially has a negative impact on the normal cyclic production of cortisol. Constant stress ultimately depletes cortisol production leading to chronic adrenal fatigue.

If you believe you may be experiencing this condition, contact our office today to ensure the proper diagnosis and treament of adrenal fatigue.

Diagnosis

Aside from a person’s medical history, there are numerous ways using laboratory testing to diagnose adrenal fatigue. Saliva testing for cortisol is usually the initial test. Four samples of saliva over the course of the day will identify the timing of cortisol production and will identify variations from normal. In some

In some cases, urine testing is used as well. 24-hour urine collection of cortisol breakdown products gives a more definitive picture, as well as measuring neurotransmitters in the brain. Once the entire picture becomes clear the proper treatment for the adrenal fatigue can be instituted.

Treatment

The very first step is to identify the source or sources of the stress and either reduce or eliminate it if possible. Marital counseling, working with a financial advisor, psychotherapy or dealing with occupational or legal stress is paramount. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, exercise, yoga, spirituality and massage therapy can positively impact chronic stress as well.

Specific supplements, known as adaptogens, along with replacement of amino acid deficiencies seen with neurotransmitters will alleviate many of the symptoms. Under acute conditions, however, hormone replacement with hydrocortisone can be very helpful and the solution to their problem as the patient waits until the previously described treatment plans become effective.

There is a fine balance among all the hormones. Adrenal fatigue and cortisol imbalance can have a major impact on all replacement hormone functions, especially thyroid activity. Previously optimized thyroid replacement can become blocked, and patients initially feeling well could begin to complain of symptoms of thyroid deficiency despite adequate levels of hormone replacement.

Potential Risks

One cannot overdose with the use of amino acid therapy for imbalances in neurotransmitters, nor will the use of adaptogen supplements result in any side effects. However, hydrocortisone replacement, if used to excess, can potentially suppress the adrenal glands. Upon discontinuation the adrenal glands may be shut down, leading to serious complications. Experienced physicians understand this and rarely prescribe dosages beyond the well know safe levels.