Chronic fatigue is often a term given to individuals with a set of symptoms that cannot be labelled as anything else. It is a somewhat tricky label to have, because it carries with it a sense that you are in it for the long term and often individuals hear discouraging statements such as “You never really get over it – you just learn to manage it”.
I am writing a series of articles to try and shed some light on this tricky health problem, not only because there are many suffers out there, but also because I received this chronic fatigue diagnosis myself many years ago and had to successfully negotiate my own way to health.
What is Chronic Fatigue?
Chronic fatigue is, in my opinion, a catch-all label that covers many different conditions. Most chronic fatigue sufferers actually have functional disturbance in many systems in their body. Although this makes it complicated to diagnose and treat, it also is an opportunity for health, because often most of the problems are related to functional pathology rather than tissue pathology. This means that when you find out what is miss-functioning you can work out to put it right and response is often very good.
Follow the 5 Steps
In my experience as a practitioner, a condition such as Chronic fatigue, with its many underlying issues, needs five main steps to enable recovery to be possible:
- Careful, clear diagnostics from a good natural therapist who understands this problem, OR a conventionally qualified medical person who has specialised in this very condition. The reason for this will become clear later on in this article.
- Nutritional supplementation and dietary support.
- Homeopathic constitutional treatment to trigger the body’s healing capacity.
- Mental/emotional support.
- Active rest and exercise programs.
As there are many reasons for chronic fatigue, this article will focus on one of the underlying endocrine issues that often present with it – Adrenal Exhaustion. Subsequent articles will look at self help, nutritional support and detoxification, and active rest and exercise.
Adrenal Fatigue or Exhaustion
Very common in cases of chronic fatigue is Adrenal Exhaustion. Let’s firstly look at what the adrenals are and what they do.
What are the Adrenals Glands?
The Adrenal glands are small glands located on the top of each kidney. They are 3 x 1 inch and have two parts: the outer cortex and the inner medulla. The outercortex produces three types of hormones:
- Mineralcorticoids such as aldosterone which conserves sodium ions in the body and influences water balance
- Glucocortoids – mainly cortisol which influences blood glucose levels amongst other things
- Gonacortoids (sex hormones) – androgens in men and estrogens in women (and to a lesser extend men).
The Inner medulla produces two hormones which are secreted in response to stimulus from the sympathetic nervous system. These are epinephrine and norepinephrine. They are usually secreted in response to stress.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue (which can also be called Non-Addison’s hypoadrenia or sub-clinical hypo adrenia), is when your adrenal glands cannot produce sufficient hormones to meet the body’s demands. You can easily understand how prolonged stress can exhaust the adrenal medulla’s ability to keep up with epinephrine production, but sometimes the causes behind adrenal under function or exhaustion can be very complex and involve other parts of the endocrine system, mineral and nutritional sub clinical deficiencies, as well as other complex factors.
For the purpose of this article, I want you to be able to understand IF adrenal exhaustion is potentially YOUR problem and how you can find out.
So what are the Adrenal fatigue symptoms?
- excessive fatigue and exhaustion
- frequent infections/low immune function
- non-refreshing sleep/sleep issues
- overwhelmed by or unable to cope with any stress
- feeling rundown or overwhelmed
- craving salty and sweet foods
- food/environmental allergies
- you feel most energetic in the evening
- low stamina, slow to recover from exercise
- slow to recover from injury, illness or stress
- difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- poor digestion
- premenstrual syndrome or difficulties that develop during menopause
- consistent low blood pressure
- extreme sensitivity to cold
How can you get a diagnosis?
Endocrinologists are unable to diagnose this problem as the tests they rely on are only able to diagnose adrenal failure such as Addisons disease where the adrenals are close to shut down. Your natural health practitioner such as your Homeopath or Naturopath will be able to send you for a salivary cortisol test
which examines the profile of cortisol in the saliva at 4-6 hourly intervals throughout the day. Often the shape of the profile is a good indicator that the adrenals are struggling, rather than the levels being consistently low. For example, a low reading on waking and a relatively high reading at night is a common profile for adrenal exhaustion. An under active thyroid gland, especially if prolonged can also put a strain on the adrenal glands and so this should ALWAYS be tested in addition; because without sufficient thyroid hormones the adrenals hormones cannot archive their aims.
Self-Help: What you can do
If you have been diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion there are some steps you can take immediately that will help.
- Support your adrenals with a natural adrenal extract. Depending on your country, compounding pharmacies can make an adrenal extract that can temporarily supply your body with some of the hormones it normally produces whilst your adrenals can have a rest. Think of it like plugging in an appliance to the main electricity instead of running down the battery. Sources vary from country to country so try Google first.
- Set yourself a sleep routine: Your body is struggling so you need to provide it with a routine that supports it. The adrenals have a natural low around 2-3pm so if you are not at work, it is essential that you lie down and rest BEFORE this time. 1.30pm is ideal. Meditation is optimal but as long as you lie down and relax it will definitely help. More on rest/exercise routines for health recovery in a subsequent post!
- Eat to support your adrenals: One of the role of the adrenal hormone cortisol is to influence your blood sugar levels. If you eat the wrong foods infrequently, your system will require cortisol to enable it to access glucose. Eating small, frequent protein meals supports the adrenals by lessening the demands made on them.
- Avoid stimulants such as Caffeine in chocolate,coffee, tea, Red Bull etc, gurana, and any other known stimulants must be avoided at all costs. These cause your adrenals to over produce hormones unnecessarily and are a short term fix causing more strain.
In part 2 of this Chronic Fatigue series I will look further at the steps you can take to get well from this condition.
Happy Homeopathic Prescribing!
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© Sam Adkins 2010
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This article was brought to you by Sam Adkins The Homeopathic Coach who teaches families about healthy living and natural remedies using homeopathic medicine. An internationally renowned expert, her helpful articles are regularly syndicated online. She publishes the ezine Homeopathy@Home to provide free Homeopathic tips, tools and resources to educate and inspire you to use Homeopathy at home. www.thehomeopathiccoach.com