Just a few weeks ago, the Hormone Foundation released a “fact sheet” about adrenal fatigue — that has a lot more myths in it than facts. I wanted to take a few moments today to address some of their “facts.”
Who is the Hormone Foundation? According to their own website,
“The Hormone Foundation, the public education affiliate of The Endocrine Society, is a leading source of hormone-related health information for the public, physicians, allied health professionals and the media. Our mission is to serve as a resource for the public by promoting the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions through outreach and education.”
They released two “fact sheets” on adrenal fatigue. These fact sheets are handed out to patients in doctors’ offices. Their reasoning is that,
“Many people turn to the Internet for health information. But sometimes it’s hard to sort out which information is accurate and which is not. Read more about some common health myths and get the facts from experts in endocrinology, the medical specialty that studies and treats hormone conditions and diseases.”
Therefore, I would expect that this “fact sheet” would be very accurate, wouldn’t you? You’re welcome to download the two-page, easy-to-read fact sheet online at http://www.hormone.org/Public/upload/Adrenal-Fatigue-Web.pdf, so you can see for yourself.
I personally found, however, that there were more myths in this simple “fact sheet” than almost anything I’ve ever read! Let me show you just a few…
“‘Adrenal fatigue’ is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms.
I’m not sure how the Hormone Foundation defines “scientific fact,” but as I’ve understood it, published medical studies are a good place to start. In my own personal library, which contains every published book on adrenal fatigue that I know to exist, contains citations from hundreds — thousands! — of medical studies on the adrenal glands and their function. These studies do indeed show that long-term stress affects the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms.
“Adrenal insufficiency is a real disease diagnosed through blood tests. There is no test that can detect adrenal fatigue.”
Oh? While not commonly used by endocrinologists, saliva testing has been demonstrated to be highly accurate. Read for yourself:
- Why Saliva Testing?
- Comparison of Saliva, Serum (Blood), and Urine Testing
- Scientific Literature on Saliva Testing
“Supplements and vitamins made to ‘treat’ adrenal fatigue may not be safe. Taking these supplements when you don’t need them can cause your adrenal glands to stop working and may put your life in danger.”
This is a classic case of giving you only half the truth. First, supplements (such as animal adrenal extracts) don’t have to be regulated by the FDA. (At least, not yet, but if they have their way…) This doesn’t mean that they haven’t been proven safe by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years of use in many cultures.
Secondly, taking supplements “when you don’t need them” could indeed put your life in danger, but so could leaving adrenal fatigue untreated. You must learn to use them appropriately, which is the exact same thing you must do when taking prescription medications (happily approved by the FDA).
It seems that the medical establishment wants to help you avoid taking any personal responsibility for your own actions. (They’re happy to take that responsibility from you and “help” you with their own life-endangering medications, though.)
“The term “adrenal fatigue” has been used to explain a group of symptoms that are said to occur in people who are under long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress… These symptoms are common and nonspecific, meaning they can be found in many diseases. They also can occur as part of a normal, busy life.”
Yes, these symptoms are “nonspecific” and found in many diseases, but what they aren’t telling you is that all of these diseases share common symptoms because they share damage to the adrenal glands. In other words, damage to the adrenal glands is a root cause of many other diseases.
For instance, you can treat a “disease” like asthma with a band-aid of medication, or you can dig deeper to discover why you got asthma in the first place (adrenal fatigue) and make lifestyle changes that will help your body heal, decreasing your asthma symptoms in the meantime. (For more on this, simply read Hans Selye’s The Stress of Life, Henry Bieler’s Food Is Your Best Medicine, or William Jeffries’ The Safe Uses of Cortisol.)
Of course, it’s more convenient to avoid discovering root causes and to simply take pharmaceutical drugs. It’s financially beneficial to the Hormone Foundations’ members, too.
“Doctors are concerned that if you are told you have this condition, the real cause of your symptoms may not be found and treated correctly.”
Are they able to help you find the real cause of your symptoms? I can’t tell you how many men and women I’ve watched endure months of testing, nerve-wracking doctors’ appointments, and invasive procedures, looking for the “real cause” of their symptoms, only to be told there is nothing wrong with them. Most will then be prescribed anti-depressants and other drugs that simply mask their symptoms.
“Also, treatment for adrenal fatigue may be expensive, since insurance companies are unlikely to cover the costs.”
Well, it depends on who is footing the bill. If you happen to have insurance, then yes, going to an alternative healthcare provider will cost you more money from your pocket. But medical testing, endocrinologists, and prescription drugs are expensive for someone. Someone has to pay the bill! (I suppose the government would be happy to pay it.) Dollar for dollar, I can’t imagine how alternative treatment for adrenal fatigue could possibly be more expensive than medical treatment that can’t find anything wrong with you at all — or allows a minor condition to continue until it becomes major enough to have caused major disease (such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, or cancer).
“If you have these symptoms, you may have adrenal insufficiency, depression, obstructive sleep apnea, or other health problems.”
Did you see that? Yes, you really might have adrenal insufficiency (also known as Addison’s disease). I did! When I first went to a medical doctor for my symptoms, I was told I couldn’t possible have Addison’s (“it’s too rare”). I was prescribed a medication that should never be given to someone with Addison’s, and I almost died.
Depression? Is that actually more of a medical disease than adrenal fatigue? (TV commercials would like you to believe this.) Or is it a symptom? I was told that I had depression, yet if I had taken the prescription written that day (I didn’t!), I probably would have died, because I never would have received the replacement hormones that I desperately needed to stay alive.
Sleep apnea? Yes, these are real problems! So are asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and multitudes of autoimmune disorders that share many of the same symptoms as “adrenal fatigue.” But will your doctors help you find the root causes of these symptomatic diseases, or will you simply be given a prescription so that you’ll go home and mask your symptoms? Can you guess what will happen when you return because the side effects were worse than the original problem? Yup, they’ll write yet another prescription.
This is by no means an exhaustive look at this “fact sheet.” I haven’t even provided much “proof,” although you’re welcome to read the books I recommend elsewhere on this site, as well as the multitudes of articles and links I’ve provided for adrenal fatigue.
So why did I write this post?
- To make you think. Dear reader, don’t check your brain at the door when you visit the doctor — any doctor, medical or otherwise! You’ll notice that these “fact sheets” are often written in very simple language, because they figure you aren’t smart enough to understand anything more than this. It’s up to you to prove them wrong.
- To help you learn to take personal responsibility. Who will live with the consequences of “fact sheets” like these? Only you! So learn to study and research on your own. Your doctor is simply your consumer adviser, nothing more!
- To help you search for root causes. “How do I fix this problem” is not the first question you should be asking. Rather, “what caused this” is much wiser. If you fix the root problem, the symptoms will go away on their own.
Are you struggling with fatigue? I invite you to download our free audio, “Can Fatigue Be Fixed?”, or check out our e-course, “Too Tired: A Woman’s Practical Guide”. Thanks for visiting!
Christina VV says
Thank you for the post. I actually have adrenal fatigue that was diagnoised by my Naturopath Doctor. This is a real disease. It is another attempted by pharmastical companies to get people on their drugs and doctors who are missed informed. I also had read many books and have to do my own research to educate myself to improve my health.
This makes me so angry! I had multiple specialists ordering my blood serum levels to be tested. They were always at their office after 9am. The endocrinologist said you need to be relaxed when you come in. Like that is gonna happen when I have to drag 3 little kiddos away from homeschool to sit in a doctors office while mom gets blood work. So need less to say the labs were fine. Then an “alternative” but very great doctor ordered my saliva test. Well my cortisol is very low in the am, low and then somewhere around afternoon I hit low normal. I am so grateful for your websight. It gave me courage to do this test one more time after 3 different types of specialists said it was fine. I feel for other women who think they are crazy, and they really are sick.
PS isnt there an out of print book you refer to Anne that gives information on this stuff. I thought I remember reading it in an article of yours.
Anne Elliott says
I have several good books on my shelf, but I’m not sure which one you’re referring to. Some of my favorites include Mastering Your Life http://www.guidance.org/store/product108.html or The Safe Uses of Cortisol http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0398075018?ie=UTF8&tag=anneshomeyplace&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0398075018 or Your Guide to Metabolic Health http://www.mcdowellpublishing.com/.
Would it be bad to point you to my eCourse? Not trying to toot my own horn, but it might give you some help. https://anneshealthplace.com/blog/too-tired/
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