Oh thyroid and adrenals. Such an incestuous, twisted, and annoying relationship you have. These go hand in hand. One of my main diagnoses was adrenal fatigue and since the stars are aligned with Jupiter, we're gonna tackle that. But before we get into that grab bag of fun, here are the other parts to this series: My Health Journey - Part 1 (Overview) // My Health Journey - Part 2 (GI) // My Health Journey - Part 4 (Thyroid)
Adrenal Fatigue. This is one of those things that you won't hear about very much in the conventional medical world. But you should. The adrenals are tiny little organs that sit atop the kidneys and control JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING along with the thyroid. My holistic Dr. is the one who diagnosed me with this condition. This is another one of those things that doesn't really show up on basic blood work until it's WAY too late and almost all of the function is gone. Then, you get a nice diagnosis of Addison's Disease, which is the autoimmune condition that JFK had. Once you get to that stage there is no reversing the disease, only managing indefinitely through steroids and other drugs. You don't want to end up there. The goal of the holistic world is to start dealing with the symptoms and early signs of this condition to counteract it before it is too late. But if you're the kind of person who just needs to hear it from a "real doctor" then stay tuned because I also have some input from Mayo Clinic on the issue.
What are the symptoms? There are definite markers they can look for in blood work, but also many accompanying symptoms. Extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, sweating, nausea, waking in the middle of the night, dizziness, and changes in mood. I had all of these. My biggest symptom was just feeling "jittery" all the time. I couldn't shut my mind off at night. When I'd get a text, you'd think someone shot off a gun I was so jumpy. And I had been under some level of chronic stress for about a decade, which in and of itself can cause adrenal burnout. Plus, nutritionally I wasn't where I needed to be until I started this whole journey and of course, I had been living on things that my body couldn't process. Adrenal fatigue is classified into four categories of severity and mine was pretty bad.
Can you fix adrenal fatigue? Yes. But it's not easy and I'll write more on that later.
It's time for a funny story about Mayo Clinic. In the midst of all of this, we went up to Mayo to get a bunch of testing done. I am very aware that they are not holistically minded, but nonetheless, I listed out ALL of my diagnosis and issues, including the adrenal fatigue, to run by the Dr. In my initial consultation, she says, "Now, we don't really believe in adrenal fatigue." I said, "Yes, I know, but I feel like I'm going to die an hour after I get up." She then proceeded to tell me we could do a cortisol stimulation test - which basically tests your cortisol (energy) when you wake up and then if its really low, they stimulate your adrenals to see if they respond and the cortisol raises. It's basically seeing if your adrenals still function. But she said she "highly doubted" that there was anything wrong.
Cortisol Stimulation Test. We do the test and my morning cortisol was 5. It's supposed to be 25. So, that explains the wanting to die right after breakfast. They do the stimulation and my adrenals DID respond, which is good because that means they are working. But also bad because - um - they aren't working on their own. When we went over these results she said, "Well, it appears your adrenals are.... a little... sleepy." OH REALLY. So, sleepy, like, fatigued? Like, the adrenal fatigue that you said you didn't believe in that my holistic Dr. diagnosed me with before you even did this stupid test? End funny story.
And what was Mayo's recommendation for my sleepy adrenals? Go to bed by 10. Get up at the same time. Reduce stress. Light walking, but no strenuous exercise. Well, WHAT THE?! Just when you thought you could disregard those hoaky holistic recommendations, Mayo's all, "We second that!"
But, it turns out that wasn't all you can do. I started consulting with Dr. Kalish in California and he has helped me greatly. If you have adrenal fatigue, suspect it or are unsure what to do about it stay tuned for my upcoming posts! If you are living with an invisible condition or disease, such as adrenal fatigue, I have written a helpful article called: Dealing With The Isolation Of Invisible Illness.
Follow up post: How To Diagnose Adrenal Fatigue: 3 Ways
By the way, here are the other parts to this series:
Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.