In some diet communities the term “adrenal fatigue” has been circulating quite rampantly. Unfortunately, like many things that circulate en-mass, adrenal fatigue may be more complicated (or non-existent) than it seems.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
First, let’s get familiar with what we’re talking about. Your adrenal glands sit atop your kidneys and are responsible for secreting several hormones related to stress (namely: cortisol). The adrenal fatigue theory (yes, let’s go ahead and admit it’s a THEORY), says that some people have a hard time secreting enough of these hormones, and therefore, have a hard time dealing with stress. These individuals exhibit several negative health effect, which can all be summed up as “general lethargy”.
Many “experts” are now claiming that your adrenal glands may be to blame if you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, are tired throughout the day, and have trouble thinking clearly or staying focused and finishing your tasks. While it does make sense that if the adrenal glands are not functioning optimally, and we therefore have decreased hormone secretion, we could have a few of these symptoms, there’s just not enough evidence to convince me.
In contrast, there are very real, diagnosable diseases associated with adrenal gland insufficiency that causes severe health problems. People with true insufficiency, or Addison’s Disease, are medically treated to accommodate the lack of hormone production from their adrenal glands. While this is definitely something that needs medical attention, it is a rare disease affecting roughly 1 out of 100,000 individuals.
Why are We so Dramatic?
Like with many other things, when we have issues, we try to find a silver bullet. We love extremes. Maybe we can find something to blame for the way we feel.
My suggestion? Look at your lifestyle. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, assess your sleep patterns. If you are tired throughout the day, check your water intake, and make sure you are not (gasp!) over-working yourself (yes, it can happen people)? Do you feel lethargic, and have trouble keeping your thoughts clear? Check your food choices. Perhaps you are not getting enough carbs to fuel your brain?
This answer, like many of mine, is far less sexy than adrenal fatigue. If I have adrenal fatigue I can label it. I can tell everyone I have it, and I can remind myself in the mornings when I don’t feel like working out that it’s all my adrenal gland’s fault.
On the other hand if I admit my lifestyle choices are a little off par, I’m now responsible for changing them. There are no excuses. I’m the one who watched the extra three episodes on Netflix. The one who didn’t pack a nutritious lunch. I’m the one who says yes to everything and consistently over-books my schedule.
While I definitely don’t suggest beating yourself up, we do need to face reality. Instead of this reality being hard, though, it should be freeing. To feel better I go to bed earlier? I can do that. It may not be easy to go to bed early every night, but it’s something I can start working on. It’s something I can check off a to-do list. It’s not longer mystical and out of reach.
The moral of this story, then, is to just stop. Stop looking for a silver bullet that will fix all your problems. The answer to all your struggles is already inside. Quit complicating them.