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The Truth on Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue Doctor in Kansas

As a Functional Medicine Doctor in Kansas I have seen multiple patients present with symptoms that they attribute to a condition known as adrenal fatigue. These collective and diffuse set of symptoms often include intractable fatigue, weight gain, excessive sleepiness, and mood imbalances. However, past and current research has not demonstrated any causal relationship between the proposed mechanism of adrenal fatigue and the subset of symptoms listed above.

My goal in writing this blog post is not to dismiss adrenal fatigue as a whole, but to distill the current literature surrounding this topic into something that is practical and useful for those of you that are suffering from symptoms consistent with adrenal fatigue.



What is Adrenal Fatigue? 

Adrenal fatigue is a term used in different holistic and allopathic medical disciplines to describe a subset of symptoms that are said to occur when the adrenal glands hormone output is exhausted.  The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing hormones that regulate a variety of homeostatic bodily functions, including the stress response, blood sugar levels, and inflammation.

According to some doctors and proponents of the adrenal fatigue theory, chronic stress or other factors can cause the adrenal glands to essentially burn out and not be able to meet the body’s demands for hormones. This purportedly leads to a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and mood imbalances.

However, adrenal fatigue is currently not recognized as a medical diagnosis by mainstream medicine, and there is limited scientific evidence to support the concept of adrenal gland burnout.

It should be noted that there are rare cases of medical adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) where the body truly does not make enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. This requires pharmacological management with the daily use of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids.

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Does Adrenal Fatigue Exist? 

At this point, I believe we can definitively separate the term adrenal fatigue from any consistent scientific basis. Outside of it’s use as a marketing term for practitioners that aren’t familiar with the current scientific literature. In fact, a recent systematic review that looked at 58 studies found that there was no substantiating evidence to support the diagnosis as a legitimate medical condition.

The reason why I’m dogmatic on this view isn’t to dismiss other providers, I am just tired of seeing frustrated patients that have went through adrenal fatigue protocols only to spend $5,000 for a recommendation of 20+ supplements that they are told to take indefinitely.

However, there is more recent and compelling evidence supporting a condition called HPA Axis Dysfunction could be the root cause of symptoms consistent with adrenal fatigue.

HPA Axis Dysfunction

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a complex hormonal pathway that plays a critical role in regulating the body’s response to stress. HPA axis dysfunction refers to a disruption in the normal functioning of this pathway.

The HPA axis involves three main components: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. When the body experiences stress, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then triggers the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which is a well known stress hormone.

HPA axis dysfunction can occur when any part of this pathway is disrupted. For example, if the pathway and receptors between the HPA axis are not communicating properly it can lead to a condition called “hypercortisolemia” or high cortisol as the signaling receptors that govern this pathway are disrupted.

HPA axis dysfunction can lead to a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and decreased immunity. It can be caused by a number of factors, including chronic stress, trauma, infections, autoimmune disorders, and medications. Treatment for HPA axis dysfunction typically involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause, as well as lifestyle changes and evidence-based supplementation if necessary.

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High Cortisol Treatment in Kansas

At EvoHealth – Kansas Functional Medicine,  we have the ability to address the root causes of your fatigue, weight gain, and mood imbalance by using an evidence-informed and comprehensive functional medicine approach. We want to help you do more than just live; we want you to live your best life! As a Certified Functional Medicine Doctor I offer evidence-based care for people who want to take a more proactive role in managing their health conditions. Using a telehealth approach, we provide in-depth, effective care to patients throughout Kansas City, Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, Wichita, Topeka and Lawrence—and you don’t even have to leave your home! Our goal is to make functional medicine accessible to all, regardless of where you live or your financial situation.


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