20 Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue – Part 1

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH



Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #1: My fatigue is due to low thyroid function and has nothing to do with the adrenals.

The Truth Behind Common Myths About Adrenal FatigueHypothyroidism and Adrenal Fatigue can have very similar symptoms. Body temperature, however, is consistently low with Adrenal Fatigue. Regular thyroid laboratory tests can be normal or low in both cases. If you are on thyroid medications and are still symptomatic, or if you continue to require more and more thyroid medications to sustain the same energy level, you should be on the alert for Adrenal Fatigue as the root cause, not hypothyroidism. Restoring adrenal health often leads to improved thyroid health and reduction in thyroid medications. Increasing thyroid medication will only aid primary thyroid dysfunction. If low thyroid function is secondary or due to Adrenal Fatigue, increasing thyroid medication to enhance energy and reduce fatigue only puts the adrenal glands on overdrive at a time when it needs rest. As you will also see in the other common myths about Adrenal Fatigue, this will often lead to worsened adrenal function and increased adrenal crashes.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #2: I will never recover as I have tried everything and nothing works.

This is not true. Many achieve full recovery. The natural progression of Adrenal Fatigue, if nothing is done, is continual worsening of symptoms over time. The majority of self-navigation programs and many professionally guided programs fail due to the lack of training or experience. Your body possesses self-healing properties if given the correct natural tools. The key is not to give up but to continue your search for a qualified physician specializing in Adrenal Fatigue. That is the single most important key to your recovery.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #3: Adrenal Fatigue is psychological.

Adrenal Fatigue represents a mind-body condition where the stress-controlling center of the body is breaking down due to stress. Stress can be physical, emotional, or mental. Emotional stress and toxic relationships are the leading stressors of Adrenal Fatigue. The resulting dysfunction has both a physical dysfunction and a psychological component, both of which are biochemically mediated thought hormones. Recovery needs to incorporate a total mind-body approach. Both emotional healing and body chemistry rebuilding are required. Adrenal Fatigue affects every area of life. However, friends, family and employers are usually unaware of this, thus making the situation worse by their lack of understanding. Educating those who are not aware is the key.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #4: People in Adrenal Fatigue have no energy and cannot work at all.

Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue and Being Unable to Work

Most in Adrenal Fatigue are holding full time jobs and are very active. While they look good on the outside, they are often stressed on the inside. The majority of those in Adrenal Fatigue are in Stages 1 and 2, where symptoms of low energy are intermittent in nature and can be compensated with a sugar fix, rest, or coffee. Those in advanced Adrenal Fatigue (Stages 3 and 4) are very physically drained of energy, though many are still able to hold down a job. Common symptoms include hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, and insomnia. Only those in late Stages 3 and 4 are generally bedridden.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #5: Steroids are a fast and effective way to overcome Adrenal Fatigue.

While the use of steroids (such as hydrocortisone) can be useful under proper circumstances, widespread use of powerful hormones as a way to help Adrenal Fatigue has many drawbacks, including many well-known side effects. Many people recover from Adrenal Fatigue without steroids. They use proper and gentle nutrients to nurture the body, which allows the body to heal itself. This nurturing process should be considered the first line of defense before embarking on steroids, as it is a far gentler approach Those who are sensitive or have weak constitutions may actually do worse on steroids.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #6: Taking herbs and glandulars for a long period has no side effects on Adrenal Fatigue.

While certain herbs and glandulars can be beneficial to help adrenal function during early stages of Adrenal Fatigue, they can backfire and in fact make the condition worse over time if the dosage is not modulated and adjusted professionally. One of the triggers of adrenal crashes is in fact improper use of such natural compounds.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #7: There is no such thing as a bad nutrient as long as it is natural.

Due to individual variations and degrees of Adrenal Fatigue, nutrients that are fitting for one person can actually be toxic for another. The more advanced the Adrenal Fatigue, the more important it is to understand this as the more frequently this occurs. This is applicable even to some of the most basic nutrients such as vitamin C. Inappropriate administering of nutrients without careful consideration of the intrinsic constitution of the body and the stage of Adrenal Fatigue is a common cause of recovery failure.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #8: My primary care physician is the best person to help me with Adrenal Fatigue.

Unfortunately, most conventionally trained western medical physicians are not trained in Adrenal Fatigue. This lack of training results in wide-spread practice of prescribing anti-depressants as well as thyroid hormones as a way to suppress symptoms of fatigue by stimulating the adrenals and increasing energy without consideration of the root cause. This often is a failed strategy and will eventually lead to adrenal crashes once the maximum stimulatory tolerance is reached. A physician who does not understand this is unlikely to help you.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #9: Adrenal Fatigue can be determined by CT scans or blood tests.

Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue and Testing

A CT scan cannot diagnose Adrenal Fatigue. One of the hallmarks of Adrenal Fatigue is a usually normal routine blood test. There are currently no blood tests sensitive enough to detect Adrenal Fatigue. Even saliva tests can be misleading unless done in a series over time. The best way to know if you have Adrenal Fatigue is to consult a physician trained and experienced in this area.


Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue #10: Vigorous exercise is good for Adrenal Fatigue.

Vigorous exercise can help increase energy and may be beneficial for those with Stages 1 and 2 Adrenal Fatigue when the body’s reserve is still ample. Excessive exercise however is a trigger of adrenal crashes as well, so the intensity of exercise is a double-edged sword in Adrenal Fatigue. Vigorous exercises can drain the body of valuable energy reserves and should be avoided by those in Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue. Exercise can worsen the condition unless under close supervision. Those in adrenal exhaustion need to reduce exercise to a minimum during the initial healing phases. Five to ten minutes of walking every other day may be all that is tolerated for some. Not exercising helps conserve energy and allows the adrenals to rebuild when reserves are low. As the adrenal function improves, gradual scaling of the proper exercise will enhance recovery, including stretching, toning, and strength rebuilding. Due to individual variation, a personalized exercise program specific for adrenal recovery is best. Properly completed adrenal breathing exercises are an exception and beneficial in all stages of Adrenal Fatigue.

Read Part 2 Now!

© Copyright 2013 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

There is no correlation between soy and the adrenals. But eating soy may affect your ovarian hormones and thyroid hormones, this does affect the OAT axis imbalance.

20 Common Myths About Adrenal Fatigue

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33 Comments

  • Kayla says:

    With the mind-body connection would getting rid of the stressors in your life help with recovering from adrenal fatigue or would supplement’s still be needed?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Mind-body is a good adjunct, and for most people, nutritional support is needed if the state is advance to help the body along.

      Dr.Lam

  • Dan says:

    How long is the typical recovery of Adrenal Fatigue?

  • Tali says:

    I’d like some of my friends to read this.

  • Quinton says:

    Thank you for debunking some of the very questions that I had! I really appreciate all the information on this website.

  • Nikola says:

    Hi Dr. Lam, what reference material do you recommend for sharing information about adrenal fatigue with my doctor?

  • Kathrine says:

    Is it possible to only have one symptom of adrenal fatigue?

  • Gina says:

    I heard that Pharmaceutical drugs are better and more effective than supplements at healing Adrenal Fatigue.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Drugs have its place, especially if the body is very weak state. The proper use is critical, as all drugs have side effects.

      Dr Lam

  • Cindy says:

    I have the MTHFR mutation. and I’ve heard that that is the only genetic mutation that can hinder the process of curing AFS. is this true

  • Bert says:

    You must have listened to many people to understand that these questions are real and sometimes can go unanswered by professional clinicians. Thank you.

  • Taylor says:

    Thank you for dispelling many of the myths that I have heard when it comes to my condition!

  • John B says:

    It’s funny, I have asked myself some of these questions in the past. I’m happy to find a small forum where other people are asking the same things. It makes me feel like I am not alone. I’m glad there are places like this website that I can visit when I need answers.

  • Gene says:

    Thank u for taking the time to lay this out for us Dr Lam

  • Jeff says:

    thank you for the article, it is very informative! i believe i am in stage 1 of adrenal fatigue, what exercises do you recommend i do without going overboard?

  • Lila says:

    How can you convince your doctor that it is a real thing? They just want me to take more and more steroids but I feel worse on them!

  • Phil says:

    I feel like i have symptoms of adrenal fatigue,but the article states even a saliva test can be misleading. what is it that you look for to diagnose a person with adrenal fatigue?

  • Nicole says:

    I’ve heard people say that there are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms. What are your thoughts on that?

  • Alexandrea Hubbult says:

    A few years ago, when this type of info was not available, I had what I thought was adrenal fatigue. Restless nights, dizziness during the day, with my energy up and down. I was able to calm down and completely turn around my symptoms with a diet change and an addition of a few supplements. Is it possible that some symptoms can return and others not ?

  • Anthony says:

    Is it possible to fully heal from severe adrenal fatigue while working full time?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      It all depends on the person, the program and a variety of factors. Most people who suffer from AFS continues to work full time. Only those who are in late stages have to be homebound. The body has good ability to heal itself if given the right tools.

  • Yasmine says:

    Is it true that progesterone use can lead to to candida overgrowth, and cause crashes?

  • Christine says:

    A few months back I did the Saliva Cortisol test and had all lows. I started taking ACE and didn’t see any change at all.
    So, I asked my doctor for some HC and he stated that he would like me to do a urinalysis test first. Well, it has come back and it shows that my body is making tons of cortisol but I am using it all up. My HPA Axis is stressed by generating all the cortisol. They see this in patients who are hyperthyroid (or on too high a dose of Thyroid med) or obese – which I am neither.
    I have no idea how to fix this. I have been watching the Analytical Company’s videos which are very informative but they do not explain my specific case.
    I could lower my NDT – I am currently on 120mg along with Cytomel 25mcg. I also take DHEA (which was HIGH on the test) and Testosterone and Progesterone, DIM (for high estrogen).
    I had low iron a few months ago and now it is high…….

    So sorry for the long post and I am sure I forgot some info.
    I am so discouraged.
    I feel NO different than I did last December when I first started NDT for my hypo/hashi’s. And no relief from my fatigue.