There are three main types of fatigue on top of the “I’m not getting enough sleep” kind.

Each has it’s own underlying causes and therefore each needs to be managed differently – this is the excellence that is natural medicine – receiving individualised care for your specific situation.

Poor thyroid function is also a leading cause of fatigue. Read about the thyroid here and about functional testing for thyroid function using Thyroflex here.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal exhaustion is a real phenomenon. The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and, as their name implies, produce adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) and cortisol.

Adrenaline is produced in acute stress situations – it’s chief functions are to raise the blood pressure, increase the heart and breathing rate and prime the muscles for action – which involves the diversion of blood from the skin and digestive system. It’s a great system – designed for short-term use followed by a period of recovery.

Cortisol is normally produced in a cyclical fashion in the body – typically rising early in the morning to help you get out of bed. An early sign of adrenal fatigue is difficulty getting up even after a good nights sleep. The adrenals also stimulate increases in blood sugar levels and problems with blood sugar control can be linked to adrenal fatigue.

When a person is under continuous or prolonged excessive stress, these effects become standard giving rise to burnout – which may also be associated with cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, poor skin, mood problems and so on. Sometimes the mess that people get into gets referred to as a “nervous breakdown”.

If you suspect you have any degree of adrenal fatigue, an appointment is strongly recommended. Your naturopath will work with you to develop a programme to halt and reverse this condition before it deteriorates further.

Adrenal failure or Addison’s Disease is the most extreme form of adrenal exhaustion. It comes on gradually, usually after a long period of deterioration – from months to years or even decades. It is treated with supplemental cortisone (eg prednisone) which is not without side effects.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue is not well understood by most medical doctors and if you are suffering from it, you may feel unvalidated or you may have even been told “it’s all in your head”.

Chronic fatigue is a classified as severe, incapacitating exhaustion lasting six months or more, that isn’t explained by other conditions (such as anaemia), nor improved by rest. It may also be exacerbated by physical or mental activity. Typically, 10 minutes of moderate exercise would be enough to cause an acute exacerbation of fatigue, compared to a normal and perhaps tired person, who is typically invigorated by moderate exercise.

Chronic fatigue causes a dramatic decline in both activity level and stamina, often causing the sufferer to have to stop work completely.

Symptoms include:

  • cognitive dysfunction, including impaired memory or concentration
  • post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours (exhaustion and increased symptoms) following physical or mental exercise
  • unrefreshing sleep . joint pain (without redness or swelling)
  • persistent muscle pain
  • headaches of a new type or severity
  • tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
  • sore throat

Other Common Symptoms

In addition to the eight primary defining symptoms of CFS, a number of other symptoms have been reported by some CFS patients. The frequency of occurrence of these symptoms varies among patients.

These symptoms include:

  • gastro-intestinal disturbances, such as irritable bowel, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea or bloating
  • chills and night sweats
  • brain fog
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • chronic cough
  • visual disturbances (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain or dry eyes)
  • allergies or sensitivities to foods, alcohol, odours, chemicals, medications or noise
  • difficulty maintaining upright position (dizziness, balance problems or fainting)
  • psychological problems (depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks)
  • weight loss or gain

A number of these conditions can also be attributed to other health issues. During your initial appointment, your practitioner will assess your overall health with a view to ascertain the cause of your problems and implement a strategy to get you on the road to recovery.

Watch an educational video on Adrenal Fatigue here.


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