Has someone suggested that ‘adrenal fatigue’ is the reason you constantly feel tired? Adrenal fatigue is an interesting idea, but it is not an accepted medical diagnosis.
There can be many reasons why people feel tired all the time and therefore it is often not easy to pinpoint a cause.
What is adrenal fatigue?
The term adrenal fatigue is used by some people to describe a collection of symptoms, such as:
Your adrenal glands sit on top of each kidney. Their role is to produce hormones, including adrenaline and noradrenaline – both of which are used to prepare your body for fight or flight.
Supporters of the unproven theory of ‘adrenal fatigue’ claim it occurs when the adrenal glands are ‘burnt out’ from producing these hormones in response to stress. Certain conditions, such as the rare Addison’s disease, can prevent your adrenal glands from making enough hormones. The symptoms of Addison’s disease include fatigue, body aches, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of body hair and skin discolouration. Addison’s disease is recognised by doctors and can be detected through blood tests that show insufficient hormone levels. On the other hand, these tests are often normal in adrenal fatigue.
Other causes of fatigue
There are many causes of fatigue. It could be due to lifestyle factors such as:
- too much work
- family life
- lack of sleep
- too little or too much physical activity
- alcohol use or abuse
- mental health - such as anxiety and depression
There are many physical illnesses that cause unexplained fatigue. These include thyroid problems, diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, anaemia, kidney or liver disease, infections, heart disease or multiple sclerosis.
What are my options?
Generally, having a healthy lifestyle may help with relieving fatigue. Some self-help tips to try include:
- getting enough sleep every day – most adults need 6-8 hours
- reducing stress through activities you find relaxing
- cutting down on alcohol
- getting enough rest if you have been doing too much physical activity, or getting more active if you have been sedentary.
If you have unexplained fatigue or exhaustion that persists, see your doctor. Your doctor will probably ask you about your symptoms and run some tests to rule out other health problems. Treating an underlying issue, such as a low thyroid level, can help reverse fatigue.
Last reviewed: November 2016