Should You Take Adrenal Supplements For Fatigue?
Do you wish you could hook up an IV bag of coffee into your veins? Is relying on multiple cups of caffeine the only thing that gets you through the day? If so, you may have adrenal fatigue. But does that mean you should take adrenal supplements or is there a dark side to them? And does modern medicine even acknowledge the condition of adrenal fatigue … or is the fatigue all in your head?
You may have heard of adrenal fatigue but if you’re not sure exactly what it is, here’s a crash course. To understand adrenal fatigue, first you have to understand what the adrenals are and do. The adrenals refer to the adrenal glands. These almond-pyramid shaped glands rest on top of the kidneys.
The adrenals secrete adrenaline and cortisol. When stress remains constant, the adrenals have a more difficult time secreting cortisol. Like a cow that’s been milked dry, the adrenals … well … they might not fully run out of cortisol but they may struggle to keep up with the demands of life and fretting about bills and the state of world affairs.
In addition to feeling run down, adrenal fatigue can lead to hormonal imbalance, irregular menstrual cycles and an underperforming thyroid gland. The thyroid gland regulates metabolism. Thus, adrenal fatigue may result in weight gain—even if you’re exercise and eating habits remain unchanged.
Adrenal Fatigue Or Insufficiency?
Adrenal fatigue has been an unofficial diagnosis of natural health practitioners for the better part of a decade. But conventional medicine doesn’t recognize the condition.
In fact, consider this 2016 study published in BMC Endocrine Disorders. (The adrenals are part of the endocrine system.) The researchers examined over 3,000 articles related to cortisol, burnout, adrenal, fatigue and other related terms. The researchers concluded that their analysis proves that “there is no substantiation that ‘adrenal fatigue’ is an actual medical condition. Therefore, adrenal fatigue is still a myth.
Despite there being no official recognition of adrenal fatigue, mainstream medicine does acknowledge the existence of adrenal insufficiency. But if you’re constantly running on fumes, this difference probably seems like splitting hairs; it’s medical semantics.
And if you are frequently tired, will taking supplements that specifically target the adrenals help?
Would you take a supplement that’s made from the adrenal glands of a cow? Consuming animal organs may seem off-putting but if you suffer from indigestion, one of the best supplements you can take is ox bile. As the name implies, the supplement is made from the bile of an ox. Bile is a substance that helps digest dietary fat. But if your own liver struggles to produce bile, you may need a helping hand from an ox. The same applies to the theory of bovine (cow) adrenal extracts.
But before you add a bovine adrenal supplement to your shopping cart, heed this caveat from Dr. Andrew Weil.
Dr. Weil warns that adrenal extracts can disrupt the body’s normal hormonal balance. But what’s wrong with that if you suspect your hormonal balance is already out of whack? Well, Dr. Weil is probably implying that even though you might be tired much of the time, taking a supplement with a cow’s adrenal gland can make matters even worse.
What Supplements Help For Fatigue?
Call it adrenal fatigue, call it adrenal insufficiency, call it what you will. You’re tired. Always tired. So what can you take to make it through the day that won’t tax your nervous system like coffee and energy drinks?
Consider taking adaptogenic herbal supplements. As this blog has covered numerous times (like here, for instance) adaptogens are a special subset of plants. Out of the tens of thousands of plants that are used for therapeutic purposes, only a tiny fraction of them have earned adaptogenic status by botanists and herbalists.
These cream-of-the-crop medicinal plants are so-called adaptogens because they help the body adapt to stress. They work, in part, by regulating the release of cortisol. Adaptogenic herbs will help the adrenals release more cortisol when it’s truly needed and more quickly return stress hormone levels back to normal. Adaptogens can also help the adrenal glands produce less cortisol in the event that the adrenals are over-producing the hormone.
Adaptogens are non-toxic and they work regardless of what type of stress you’re undergoing. Examples of adaptogens that have the backing of research include rhodiola rosea, schisandra and eleuthero root. There’s also ashwagandha, jiaogulan, reishi mushroom and cordyceps, among others.
In addition to adaptogenic herbs, you may also want to consider taking a vitamin B-complex formula and zinc.
Do you or did you have adrenal fatigue? What helps you get out of bed in the morning? Share your thoughts below and please share this article.