Do you feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread?
If you’re struggling with fatigue, it’s likely someone’s thrown the phrase “adrenal fatigue” at you.
You’re probably not alone. Our current lifestyle doesn’t exactly promote balance, recovery or sleep.
But can this chronic stress cause your adrenal glands to fatigue?
Welcome back to the Bite Me Nutrition podcast, where
we make food work for you, not against you.
My name is Jono. I'm a dietitian.
And today I'm going to be talking about adrenal fatigue.
This is a concept I've heard in lots and
lots of different places in current clients, past clients.
I definitely get lots of things sent to
me on social media talking about adrenal fatigue.
And essentially it's a claim that says your
adrenals, which we'll go through in a moment,
can fatigue, particularly after periods of chronic stress,
basically, I guess, being overused.
And your adrenal glands are extremely important.
So if they did fatigue and they were overused, then
this would be very problematic, which is also, I think,
why adrenal fatigue is something that pops up a lot.
So just to orientate you a little bit, your
adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys.
They're these little glands that make
a heap of different hormones.
I guess the main ones we're going to be
interested in, and usually the ones that the claims
are made the most about is your adrenal glands
role in the production of cortisol and adrenaline.
These are two hormones very closely
linked to time of stress.
They're not necessarily like any hormone.
They're not good or bad.
Like every hormone, we want them in
the right amounts at the right time.
We want them to go up when we need
them to go up, and we need them to
come down when we want them to come down.
Now, if we are dealing with chronic stress,
low grade inflammation, a lot of these other
things, we might find that our baseline levels
of cortisol and our baseline levels of adrenaline
are higher chronically than we would like.
That's almost a separate issue.
But basically what the concept has come from is if
your adrenal glands are pumping out these hormones all the
time, then what can happen is they get overused.
They get overworked, and they stop being able
to make these hormones, which would be extremely
problematic, especially for things like energy levels.
Fairly quick podcast for you today.
There is no evidence to suggest
that your adrenals do fatigue.
Unfortunately, all of the claims, or fortunately, depending on
which way you want to look at it, all
of the claims that they make about your adrenal
glands use a broad array of tests.
There's no actual one that uses the gold standard
of tests, which we'll talk about in a second.
It's just a lot of well, I want
to say narrative or misrepresenting certain hormonal tests.
So that gold standard test, which we, like I
said, don't really see all that often in the
literature when people are talking about adrenal fatigue, is
kind of similar to an oral glucose tolerance test.
And that is where you're given something synthetic, something
external, and then we measure your hormonal response to
that external trigger and we basically see does your
response line up with what we'd expect. So for example.
In an oral glucose tolerance test.
You take a very high sugar solution and we
measure your insulin's response and basically the severity.
The shape of that curve.
All of those things tell us a lot
about your insulin sensitivity similar to that in
the world of adrenal gland testing.
One thing you can look at doing is you
get given a synthetic adrenal corticotrophic hormone mouthful.
That's a hormone that your body
does create to trigger cortisol release.
So we kind of give you, not me, someone
who knows more about what they're doing, gives you
a dose of synthetic adrenal corticotrophic hormone and basically
we measure your cortisol response to that and line
it up with is it what we'd expect or
is there some differences going on there?
Now, again, like I said, because unfortunately,
none of the studies that talk about
adrenal fatigue really use this test.
They use a bunch of other tests or
kind of a combination of tests and markers
to paint a bit more of a picture.
Again, there's no evidence at all to
suggest that your adrenals can fatigue.
However, it's very important that we don't use that as
a hand wave away of the very real symptoms.
And this is absolutely why something like adrenal fatigue
as a concept is very, very appealing, because the
symptoms are real, the fatigue is real, the inability
to get going all of the time, all of
that fatigue feels kind of insurmountable.
And of course, if someone comes along
and says, hey, it's your adrenals, they're
fatigued, I've got a supplement for you.
I completely understand why you would jump
at the opportunity to fix that.
My issue is not with the person who
has jumped at the opportunity, it's the person,
it's with the person who is presenting that
unevidenced based opportunity to begin with.
It's hard to then go back and say,
actually your symptoms are definitely because of this.
And again, that's why testing and treatment
of adrenal fatigue is appealing, because people
are offering a very simple solution.
But the reality is, unfortunately for things like
chronic fatigue, and I don't necessarily mean like
chronic fatigue syndrome, I mean just always feeling
flat, always feeling like you have low energy.
It could be a lack of quality sleep, it
could be chronic stress, it could be poor diet,
maybe how much you're eating, either too much or
not enough, or the quality of that diet.
Do you have a nutrient deficiency?
Are you over exercising?
Are you under exercising?
Are there other underlying medical conditions?
There are so many potential reasons
you could be feeling this fatigue.
And so it's frustrating because I wish that,
I do wish adrenal fatigue was real and
that we could treat it with a supplement.
That would be incredible.
It would be so easy instead of having
to unpack all of the lifestyle and dietary
things that could be having an impact.
But unfortunately, we're not here to
take the easy way out, right?
We're here to take the right way.
And it's not via treating something called adrenal
fatigue, which in actual fact does not exist.
If you don't believe me, I've put a
couple of references in the show notes.
I always do.
This isn't just my opinion.
An opinion is cauliflower, is gross evidence.
Fact is, adrenal fatigue is not real.
Finally, it is very important to note adrenal
fatigue is very, very different to adrenal insufficiency.
Adrenal insufficiency is a very real medical condition.
It's very serious.
Trust me, you and all of your medical team that you would
have to be working with would know if you had it.
Often when I talk about adrenaline of
fatigue, someone likes to come along and
go, what about adrenal insufficiency?
You know, that's not real anyway.
Internet's wild place.
But adrenaline insufficiency, very real.
Probably shouldn't be getting information
about that from a podcast.
Should be talking to your specialist.
Adrenal fatigue, definitely get information about that
from a podcast, specifically this podcast.
And that is to say, not a real thing.
Hopefully that has been helpful and
you've either learned something or you've
had your confirmation bias confirmed.
Or maybe I've saved you some money on some supplements.
Either way, if that's happened, you're welcome.
You could show your appreciation by sharing this
up in your Instagram stories, sending it to
a friend, just shoot him a message and
go, hey, I heard you talking about this.
I think this might be interesting.
Rate likes, I don't even know can you like I
don't know if you can like but if you're rated
or subscribed to it, that would be great.
And if you can like it on whatever
podcast platform you're on, please do that.
Otherwise, I'll catch you next time.
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