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Is It Adrenal Fatigue Or Something Else?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

black woman with natural hair style is holding her head due to exhaustion, she might think she has adrenal fatigue

Feeling constantly drained, anxious, or lost in a mental fog? You might have come across 'adrenal fatigue' as the culprit. But is it the real cause? Let's delve deeper into this topic, which I first encountered during a holistic lifestyle coaching course in 2003.

Back then, it seemed a plausible explanation, especially when delivered with recommendations like ample sleep and stress reduction. But it wasn't long before I realized that many diagnosed with "adrenal fatigue" weren't necessarily leading the healthiest lifestyles. They often had seemingly "healthy" but still unbalanced diets, lacked sufficient rest, or overexerted without proper recovery. Alarmingly, the emphasis seemed more on selling supplements than addressing root problems.

So, what exactly is adrenal fatigue, and is it even a real medical condition?

The term "adrenal fatigue" emerged in 1998, introduced by a chiropractor and naturopath in his book "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome." This theory suggests that prolonged stress and other factors can exhaust the adrenal glands, rendering them incapable of producing hormones adequately. Alleged symptoms include:

  • Fatigue

  • Energy crashes

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Lightheadedness

  • Frequent infections

  • Hair loss

  • Reliance on caffeine

  • Joint pain

  • Brain fog

  • Weight fluctuations

  • Cravings for carbs and salt

However, these symptoms, while genuine experiences, are broad and could be linked to various health conditions. Despite its popularity in alternative health circles, scientific evidence questioning the existence of adrenal fatigue has grown.

In actuality, adrenal glands secrete the stress hormone, cortisol. Producing too much cortisol leads to Cushing's syndrome, while secreting too little results in Addison's disease. Both are medically recognized adrenal disorders with distinct symptoms.

Woman is sitting with her eyes closed and face resting on her hands.

Then What's Really Going On?

If you're grappling with symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and anxiety, several reasons could be responsible. These could range from medical conditions like thyroid dysfunction to lifestyle-related factors like an unhealthy diet or insufficient exercise. It's crucial to seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional instead of relying on self-diagnosis or unverified supplements, which could be both misleading and harmful.

The danger of the "adrenal fatigue" label is that it might divert people towards ineffective, sometimes expensive, or even hazardous treatments. My primary concern is that it could overshadow the diagnosis of a genuine, severe medical condition.

Yes, many "adrenal fatigue" recovery plans suggest stress reduction, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet. These are indeed commendable health guidelines, but they have little to do with "adrenal fatigue" and should be universal practices.


While the symptoms associated with "adrenal fatigue" are real and distressing, it's vital to recognize that this label isn't rooted in established medical science. Instead, these symptoms could stem from a wide array of factors. It's essential to pursue evidence-based medical treatments when needed. Embracing healthy lifestyle choices like proper sleep, a balanced diet, and consistent exercise can also help alleviate these symptoms. The key is to address the root of the problem, not just the surface symptoms.

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