The term adrenal fatigue refers to a condition where there’s a decline in energy-providing hormones, such as cortisol. In general, I find this term extremely misleading because it focuses attention on the symptom rather than the underlying cause. Adrenal fatigue is not a condition itself, rather a symptom of other problems – usually issues of the gut or damage due to chronic stress.
Similarly, adrenal fatigue supplements focus on the symptoms as opposed to the underlying cause. As a result, they often work temporarily but you end up feeling crappy again only after a few months.
If you think or know you have adrenal fatigue, I’m here to tell you two very important things:
- Unresolved gut issues and stress are two of the most common causes of adrenal fatigue.
- There is an important and bi-directional connection between the gut and the adrenals – so effective treatment of adrenal fatigue should focus on both.
Adrenal fatigue doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a system that quite literally becomes fatigued over time. One of the most common causes of adrenal fatigue I see in my office, is chronic stress. Stress can cause gut issues, which can exacerbate dysfunctional immune system responses, which can cause more stress. The process can quickly become a vicious cycle. Here’s how adrenal fatigue often develops:
- First, stress causes less stomach acid to be released.
- This allows more deleterious bacteria to grow in the gut.
- Low acid levels also cause bacteria to travel down the gastrointestinal tract into the small intestine, where it doesn’t belong.
- This impairs motility of the small intestine, which worsens bacteria overgrowth.
- Finally, this cycle leads to SIBO and leaky gut, which can make you very sick.
Small intestine bowel overgrowth (SIBO) is a younger cousin in the world of gut issues – in the sense that we’ve known about SIBO for less time than other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a very prevalent condition, impacting 15 percent of the American population. Though many now believe that IBS is actually caused by SIBO. I suspect SIBO is much more prevalent than we currently realize. These conditions are strongly associated with adrenal fatigue and in many cases originate from chronic stress.
Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?
High amounts of stress over long periods of time can result in adrenal fatigue, where common symptoms include:
- Sugar cravings
- Brain fog
- Severe energy dips throughout the day
- Caffeine dependence
- Low libido
- Dizziness when you stand
- Weakened immune system
Stress can be detrimental to your health. This is probably not the first time you’ve heard how bad stress is for you – and yet, so many of us don’t take heed of this advice. All too often I have patients who come into my office with the telltale signs of adrenal fatigue and it doesn’t take long before I realize their body is being bombarded with stress.
Sources of stress include:
- Too little sleep
- Exercising too much
- Not taking enough time for self-care
- Worrying about the future
- High stress job
- Toxic relationships
- Commuting a long distance to work
Stress isn’t just exhausting, it actually manipulates your gut microbiome and gastrointestinal tract in a very direct way. Stress has the ability to:
- Cause a leaky gut
- Cause gut dysbiosis
- Reduce stomach acid levels
- Suppress your immune system
- Decrease blood flow to the gut
- Delay wound healing
All of these factors can lead to adrenal fatigue. When I have a patient that’s showing signs of adrenal fatigue, we work to correct their environment, gut health, and of course, stress levels. Only when you address the root cause of a condition is it possible to achieve long lasting results – and adrenal fatigue is no exception.
“Your adrenal gland malfunction as a direct result of stress; therefore, the solution to adrenal fatigue is fixing the source of stress.”
– Chapter 13, Healthy Gut, Healthy You.
The future of medicine is personalized healthcare. It’s my belief that every patient needs solutions unique to their body. No more blanket protocols, no more black and white limitations. Instead of being a victim to your health, I aim to give you the tools you need to find what works for you.
Grab a copy of Healthy Gut, Healthy You today and learn about the root causes of your health so you can find true, long lasting relief and ultimately your best life.
**Guest Blog by Dr. Michael Ruscio.