Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue
Laboratory test results are usually considered “normal” in people with this condition. Sadly, more than 50% of adult Americans suffer from adrenal fatigue, with many recovering spontaneously and never being diagnosed. A minority, however, do not recover, but instead continue to worsen over time while always being told there is nothing “wrong” with them, according to the tests.
Adrenal fatigue can become so severe that the person is bedridden and completely incapacitated. If you have ever done a search online for your symptoms or read alternative health books, then you have probably seen this condition named before. Unfortunately, though, many modern-day doctors do not recognize this condition and consider adrenal fatigue syndrome to be a “fake” illness.
It takes good, investigative doctoring to find the underlying cause of adrenal fatigue, not the ability to read laboratory tests. It is hard to believe that some of the most trained physicians do not consider such a broad spread dysfunction a real concern. The real experience of sufferers, their incapacitation, along with their inability to hold down a stable job should be reason enough for a physician to dig a little deeper when lab tests show “normal.” Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case.
Just Because You Can not See It, Does not Mean It Is not There: The Continuity of Disease
Normal laboratory and diagnostic studies are typical in seriously ill and symptom free-people. Health is actually comprised of a spectrum of components, a continuum with dire illness on one end and optimum wellness on the other. Each chronic condition, including adrenal fatigue, consist of this kind of continuum.
Traditional medicine will usually only consider someone “sick” if laboratory values jump the “normal” threshold based on population statistics. However, only when one crosses that threshold are they considered “eligible” for treatment. This all-or-nothing approach is not only wrong, but reckless. The body can not be turned on and off like a light switch, going from normal to abnormal on a daily basis. Unfortunately, diseases like adrenal fatigue fall in the middle part of the spectrum, which means they are universally ignored in traditional medicine.
Adrenal fatigue is called a subclinical condition, and preventive medicine as a medical specialty has dedicated itself to arrest this disease category before symptoms become too severe.
Is Mild Adrenal Insufficiency Real?
Natural medicine practitioners have advanced knowledge of adrenal fatigue by recognizing when symptoms are present, even when laboratory tests show normal values. This is considered mild adrenal insufficiency, or non-Addison's adrenal insufficiency.
Modern medicine relishes too much on laboratory tests to tell them what is going on with the patient. Many doctors are too mechanical in their approach of finding the presence of disease. Unfortunately, though, other approaches are considered “unscientific” and therefore ignored. The key foundation to finding the cause of any disease is the ability to take a detailed history from the patient and realizing that each body is different. This process, however, is becoming a lost art and being replaced with an over reliance on laboratory tests.
Labs usually work well when identifying acute illnesses, but that is because the symptoms are dramatic. Chronic conditions, however, can not be so easily identified on labs. Most chronic diseases evolve over time, with symptoms being present but labs being within normal limits in the early stages.
Laboratory studies are designed to help doctors analyze clinical states, not be the primary source of information. Labs were never supposedly to replace good clinical skills and obtaining a detailed history. In today's medical world, “normal” simply means the absence of detectable illness as seen on laboratory and diagnostic studies. The threshold of normal values are developed by man and considered an imperfect science.
As mentioned previously, this is a reckless approach to diagnosing and treating chronic diseases. Patients are constantly being told there is nothing wrong with them, even though they are experiencing debilitating symptoms on a daily basis. They are basically being called “liars” or “crazy,” and that is unacceptable.
The Debate About Adrenal Fatigue
I want to look at the promise determined by forward-thinking natural doctors about their thesis on the realness of adrenal fatigue.
Like all other organs and systems in the body, the adrenal glands are subject to malfunction because of fatigue or trauma at any time in one's life. The glands are responsible for over 50 different hormones and primarily responsible for helping the body cope with stress. For the most part, the majority of these hormones naturally decrease with age, and this gradual decline goes very largely at first. Natural medicine practitioners note that fatigue is typically mild in early stages of adrenal fatigue.
When someone is in a state of continuous high emotional or physical stress, the body does not get the rest and recuperation it needs to restore hormone levels. With the constant stress, adrenal deterioration picks up speed. Advanced signs of aging, irregular menstruation, low sex drive, low blood sugar, insomnia, low blood pressure, and tiredness are all signs that the system is breaking down at a subclinical level. This decline is not just in the adrenals, but in all other glands as well, including the thyroid gland. A malfunction here leads to hypothyroidism and dysfunctional regulation of sugar hormones like insulin. This leads to metabolic and hormonal balance, which can perpetuate a variety of problems like endometriosis, PCOS, and fibrocystic breast disease. Low immunity becomes a problem as well.
The adrenals are one of the main regulation centers in the body, so when they are weakened or overtaxed, there are bound to be consequences. Severe childhood emotional trauma, extreme physical exertion, major surgery, and repeated pregnancy make one particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Of important note is that, sometimes, adrenal fatigue is not the sole problem when symptoms are present. This is why good detective training work is required.