Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chronic Fatigue and Adrenal Exhaustion

Do you experience symptoms of fatigue, mood changes, weight gain, depression, headaches, insomnia and bloating? Are you struggling to lose weight? These symptoms can all be caused by hormones. Chronic fatigue can be a sign of adrenal exhaustion or adrenal fatigue.

Chronic Fatigue and Adrenal Exhaustion

Adrenal exhaustion is brought about by chronic stress which affects your hormone levels by increasing your levels of cortisol and decreasing your levels of DHEA. Decreased levels of DHEA can have a cascading effect on other hormone levels, such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone as DHEA is a precursor to these hormones.

Chronic Fatigue and Irritable Bowel

Stomach problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, candida overgrowths, digestive dysbiosis or Helicobacter pylori bacteria infection can place further strain on your adrenals. In addition the adrenal and thyroid glands work together, meaning decreased adrenal function can interfere with thyroid function.

Chronic Fatigue and Thyroid Imbalance

With decreased adrenal hormones, the thyroid tries to compensate by producing more thyroid hormones. Eventually the thyroid becomes depleted causing hypothyroidism. In fact, thyroid disease is one of the most common hormonal disorders, after insulin resistance and diabetes. The majority of women with thyroid imbalance have hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid), while a minority have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

The problem is that symptoms of low thyroid function are often mistaken for depression, signs of ageing, or are not identified. What does your thyroid do and how does it cause chronic fatigue? Your thyroid - a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck - controls the functioning of every cell, organ and gland in your body. In addition, your thyroid regulates your libido and fat metabolism.

Four main hormones produced by your thyroid gland directly affect your metabolism and body fat. They are thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine/levo-thyroxin (T4), and calcitonin (used in calcium metabolism). Although your thyroid gland secretes and regulates these hormones, about 80% of the body's T3 is produced outside the thyroid gland, in the liver, by chemical modification of T4. Hypothyroid women gain weight and find it difficult to lose weight because (i) their T4 is not being converted by the liver to the metabolically active form of T3 or (ii) the converted T3 hormones is not getting to the cellular level of the body - meaning that they are producing it, but their body can't use it.

Let's assume you are stressed, overweight and think you have hypothyroidism. You've been to the doctor with complaints of weight gain, slow weight loss, chronic fatigue, cold hands and feet, and ‘brain fog'. The doctor examines you and performs some blood tests, including thyroid tests, but all the tests come back in the normal range. You go home, sentenced to a life of weight gain, chronic fatigue and feeling plain unwell. This scenario is played out again and again until one day you finally fall below the 'reference' ranges for the tests.

Testing for Chronic Fatigue

Most conventional practitioners only test for the inactive T4 hormone level, even though it is active T3 thyroid hormone works inside every cell of the body - not only in the blood. If T3 isn't available at the cellular level, then those cells can't function properly. The T4 blood test does not test for this and it also fails to test for thyroid antibodies that may be present and contributing to fatigue. Sadly, many hypothyroid symptoms are frequently dismissed by physicians as being a normal part of ageing, a psychological problem, overwork, or some other condition. As a result, thyroid tests are often not performed and the patient never receives the proper medical treatment they require. If you are doing everything right but are still felling unwell and suffering from chronic fatigue, there is definitely something going on that needs to be addressed. Getting to the cause is not as easy as just doing routine blood tests. An interconnected approach to the review of your signs and symptoms encourages a multidimensional treatment strategy that will make a difference. So explore your options and strive for a better, healthy life!