What's heppening to you is
not real
 
The controversy over adrenal fatigue and the patients caught in the middle.
What’s happening
to you is not real

Adrenal fatigue has gone by many names—hysteria, neurasthenia, and yuppie flu. Researchers at Harvard refer to it as toxic stress. Dr. Andrew Neville, a naturopathic doctor devoted to treating this condition, says adrenal fatigue’s most accurate name is “broken response system dysfunction.”

The theory behind adrenal fatigue is that chronic stress leaves the adrenal glands exhausted from pumping out cortisol, leaving the body depleted of this hormone that normally plays an important role in controlling metabolism, suppressing inflammation, regulating blood pressure and blood sugars, and regulating the stress response.

Patients with adrenal fatigue describe symptoms as debilitating. It’s like they are constantly stuck in fight-or-flight mode. This state can induce panic attacks, cause people to stop eating, keep them in a brain fog, and leave them feeling drained by simple tasks, like folding laundry.

Tom Cammack, a patient of Dr Neville, says with adrenal fatigue, he lost his appetite and had a hard time digesting food. He spoke to his primary care physician about the symptoms but was wary of the traditional pharmaceuticals prescribed to him like antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds because he wanted to address the underlying cause. “It’s bigger than the symptoms,” says Cammack. “There’s a lot of stress in the world. My mind is fighting against being tricked by it.”

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While these symptoms feel real to patients, much
of the medical field believes adrenal fatigue is a
myth. A systematic review of 58 peer reviewed
studies by the National Institutes of Health says
that adrenal fatigue does not exist.
While these symptoms feel
real to patients, much of
the medical field believes
adrenal fatigue is a myth.
A systematic review of 58 peer
reviewed studies by the
National Institutes of Health
says that adrenal fatigue
does not exist.

Tom cammack and his wife, jan

While these symptoms feel real to patients, much of the medical field believes adrenal fatigue is a myth. A systematic review of 58 peer reviewed studies by the National Institutes of Health says that adrenal fatigue does not exist, and the Endocrine Society asserts that adrenal fatigue is not a real disease, claiming there is no hard evidence for its existence.

Neville believes otherwise, and not just because he treats patients with the condition. He came across the term adrenal fatigue when he was looking for answers to his own symptoms. “I had adrenal fatigue way back, and I didn't know what to do about it,” says the Director of the Clymer Healing Center in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. “Conventional medicine didn't have any answers for me.”

The closest Neville could get to studying his own symptoms was specializing in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia at Bastyr University’s School of Naturopathic Medicine. And for the past 20 years, his practice has focused on better understanding adrenal fatigue and treating patients eager for relief.

Neville says the research exists to make adrenal fatigue an official medical diagnosis, but it is not widely distributed. “It’s in the hands of PhDs or journals; it’s in the stress research. But if doctors don’t look for it, they’re not going to find it.”

“It’s one of our biggest challenges,” says Neville. “The medical community is taught that if you don’t have Addison’s Disease—or complete adrenal failure—then you don’t have an adrenal problem.” He argues that this approach is not consistent with other diagnoses. For example, patients don’t need a complete failure of the thyroid to have a thyroid problem. The same goes for ovarian hormones, he says. Unfortunately, once Addison’s Disease is ruled out, traditional practitioners stop considering adrenal glands as part of the problem.

Lisa Lindblom, a retired special education teacher from Westchester County, New York, said her adrenal fatigue symptoms were so intense that she would lay in bed at night exhausted and astonished, thinking to herself, “Wow, I made it through another day alive.”

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“Medical Gaslighting?”
The medical controversy around adrenal fatigue
creates a hardship for patients because they have
a difficult time finding care. And when they do,
they’re typically told by the medical
establishment that what they’re dealing with is
all in their head.
“Medical Gaslighting?”
The medical controversy
around adrenal fatigue
creates a hardship for
patients because they have
a difficult time finding care.
And when they do, they’re
typically told by the medical
establishment that what
they’re dealing with is
all in their head.

She experienced frequent chest pain, and lost 11 pounds in a month. She went to the hospital weekly but was told nothing was wrong with her. Although she had a history of stable mental health, she became suicidal. “I’m not crazy, but everyone was telling me that I was absolutely fine. I was super upset and insulted when that would happen,” Lindblom remembers. “There are probably a lot of people out there with this, to a lesser or greater extent. And it goes undiagnosed.”

Lisa Lindblom

Working with Neville, she calmed her system, and the changes became apparent to her primary care physician. “My doctor now sees that my blood pressure is stable, and he sees how good I look,” she says. Her doctor has expressed interest in speaking to Neville. “He told me that he cannot deny the fact that I am a thousand percent better.”

Neville says more of  the medical field are acknowledging that adrenal fatigue is real, and social media has helped to bring about this awareness. Functional medicine practitioners are now listing adrenal fatigue on their websites, and Neville is adding to the literature by writing his own book on adrenal fatigue and its complexities.

“It’s good that more people are aware,” says Neville, “but when doctors find this adrenal fatigue thing, they just kind of grabbed the hold of the tail of something that's way bigger than they anticipated. We have to make almost heroic efforts to turn on the opposite physiology. But when you can do it, you’ve literally saved somebody’s life. It’s pretty powerful,” he pauses, “I’m blessed to be able to do what I do.”

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{P.S.}

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