Many of my patients have been told that they are gaining weight because their adrenal glands are burned out or they have a condition called adrenal fatigue. You may have heard the terms adrenal fatigue, adrenal burnout, or adrenal exhaustion. Proponents of this condition claim that the condition is caused by the effects of chronic mental, emotional, or physical stress on the adrenal gland.
The Endocrine Society, the professional organization for more than 18,000 physicians and scientists from around the world, states that
“Adrenal fatigue is not a real medical condition.”
Proponents recommend saliva testing for cortisol to diagnose adrenal fatigue; however, the Endocrine Society states,
“There are no tests that can detect adrenal fatigue.”
A 2016 Fox News Report stated,
“There’s still no way to test for the condition. What’s more, researchers have uncovered no concrete evidence that stress actually does drain the adrenal glands.”
Supporters of adrenal fatigue recommend improving lifestyle by quitting smoking and ceasing to drink alcohol, getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and eating healthy foods. These important health behaviors will make you feel better no matter what the diagnosis.
“The symptoms people experience [when they believe they have adrenal fatigue] are very real, and sometimes it’s difficult to have symptoms and not have a diagnosis, so that could be where the persistent myth of ‘adrenal fatigue’ syndrome comes from,” said Dr. Salila Kurra, co-director of the Columbia Adrenal Center and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
“There really is harm in believing that myth and “waiting for the research to catch up,” as some people put it, said Dr. Marilyn Tan, an endocrinologist with Stanford Health Care and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine in California.
Websites about adrenal fatigue have permeated the Internet and promote a variety of unproven herbal supplements, animal glandular extracts, and even cortisol medications to treat the condition. According to the Endocrine Society,
“Supplements and vitamins made to treat adrenal fatigue may not be safe. Taking these supplements when you do not need them can cause your adrenal glands to stop working and may put your life in danger.”
Whatever you want to call it—adrenal fatigue, exhaustion, or burnout—it is not a real hormonal condition. Adrenal fatigue is a fake diagnosis that has no scientific basis. If you have been told you have adrenal fatigue, get a second opinion from a board-certified endocrinologist.
Unlike adrenal fatigue, Addison’s disease is a real medical condition that occurs when the adrenal glands cannot make enough cortisol. People with deficiencies of cortisol lose weight and feel tired all the time. As cortisol levels continue to drop, the body shuts down and goes into shock. The condition is often misdiagnosed as shock from a severe infection. It can sometimes come on very suddenly, especially when a person is exposed to stress. Like President Kennedy did, patients with Addison’s disease must take cortisol medications in order to live. Without treatment the condition is fatal.
For more information, please read my book Hormonal Balance: How to Lose Weight by Understanding Your Hormones and Metabolism or visit my Facebook page.