Adrenal Fatigue: Real or Not? Major Publication gets it VERY wrong

Posted on June 28, 2011

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I’m publishing here a letter I sent in to the Editor in Chief of Health Magazine in regard to the significant inaccuracies that Health Magazine published in their most recent issue. While not everyone agrees on the types of things that are healthiest, there are irrefutable facts of human science that a medical doctor should NOT overlook. And in this instance, the Medical Editor for Health Magazine not only ignored facts but showed blatant disregard for a very real condition that many people suffer from with nowhere to turn for answers. I emailed & snail-mailed my letter to the Health Mag. offices – we’ll see if they respond.

Here’s how it went down in the magazine & what follows is my response. Feel free to use the links to jump to sections you want to read first, or read it as I wrote it, from start to finish. You’ll see the facts & I believe you’ll see just how off the mark a person with the word “Doctor” in front of her name is in this instance.

Reader writes in to Health: “I keep reading about a problem called “adrenal fatigue.” How can I tell if I have it?

(BOLD & underlines are mine to draw attention to what I took issue with).
Medical Editor, Roshini Rajapaksa writes: “Well, there’s some debate as to whether this even exists. There is  a condition called adrenal insufficiency, or Addisons’ disease, in which your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, and you’re left feeling extremely fatigued – even light-headed & achy. A blood test can diagnose this. Adrenal fatigue, on the other hand, is a catchall term used to describe a milder form of insufficiency. The symptoms linked to it include aches, nervousness, sleep & digestion problems, in addition to fatigue. But it isn’t a recognized medical diagnosis, and for good reason: There’s no scientific proof that slightly low levels of the hormones produced by your adrenal glands, such as cortisol, cause these symptoms. If you feel inexplicably tired, see your doctors to find out if its a sign of a real health issue, such as thyroid problems or depression.

To jump to the section showing scientific proof that adrenal fatigue is real & linked to sleep, weight gain, aches, & other symptoms Click me

To jump to the section on my personal story with adrenal fatigue Click me

To jump to the section showing my actual cortisol-adrenal readings & my correlating symptoms Click me

To jump to the section on what Health Magazine should do about their lack of journalistic integrity Click me

To Ellen Kunes & the Editors of Health Magazine:

I have received your magazine for the last 1.5 years, and had extended it at my renewal period for another 2 years because I felt the majority of what you published was science-based, real health advice. I am a fitness professional with a degree in the field of exercise science & multiple certifications & trainings to support my knowledge of human science, health & nutrition. I say this to make note that I am not your typical reader – who I assume is your average woman, interested in health (but without a deeper background in the field that someone like myself would have), looking for tips to live long & prosper, and look good while doing it. So I can appreciate what you do on some aspects of your magazine – taking science and making it light, fun & accessible to women who didn’t get schooling in health, human science, or nutrition.

However, of late, you’ve published things that go clearly opposite to “the facts” of science & in your July/August issue, you allowed Health’s Medical Editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, to answer a question about ‘adrenal fatigue’ in a way that was grossly negligent to the science of the adrenals, hormones & their effects on energy/stress/sleep/digestive problems. She states that the disorder of ‘adrenal fatigue’ may not even be a real condition, that “there’s no scientific proof that slightly low levels of the hormones produced by your adrenal glands, such as cortisol, caused these symptoms (fatigue, aches, nervousness, sleep & digestion issues).” She finishes the response with, “If you feel inexplicably tired, see your doctor to find out if it is a sign of a real disease, such as a thyroid problem or depression.”


Ms. Rajapaksa must have forgotten her medical training, for had she remembered it, she’d have recognized the following things:

1)      Adrenals & thyroid are linked together in the endocrine system – problems with one almost always assures problems with the other – especially when hormone balance is the ‘goal’ of the endocrine system

2)      Elevated cortisol levels absolutely are connected to sleep issues – an elevated  morning/night free cortisol  value can set off insomnia. Elevated cortisol readings mid-day can set off fatigue in early afternoon & create the “tired & wired” effect of a ‘2nd wind’ after 9pm.

3)      Abnormal adrenal function can alter the ability of cells to produce energy for the activities of daily life. If a cell cannot produce enough energy, the obvious effect is fatigue (both muscular fatigue & circadian rhythm – or general daily energy- fatigue)

There have been several studies done that correlates lack of quality sleep to weight gain – in particular how lack of sleep reduces hormones leptin & grhelin production, which increases hunger & appetite for calorie-dense high-carb foods; note this study is just one of many showing the same results, but they reflected these results in only 2 days of sleep restriction: if a person is living with altered cortisol levels for an extended period of time, weight gain is a given http://www.annals.org/content/141/11/846.short

5) Sleep is also a critical time for the release of growth hormone, cortisol, and melatonin, as well as interleukin-6 (IL-6). When sleep hygiene is poor, none of these hormones will be released to adequate levels in the body. Good sleep hygiene is difficult to achieve when cortisol levels are elevated in the morning or evening, as they create ‘tired upon waking’ feelings & ‘tired & wired’ feelings in the evening. Looking at patients with pituitary damage who have observed decreased growth hormone, they have noted “joint & muscle aches” in their symptoms. While cortisol-imbalanced patients are not as severe as patients with pituitary damage resulting in low GH, it’s clear that a similar effect could be noted by a patient with mildly reduced GH levels that are the result of lack of sleep via imbalanced cortisol levels.

6) In addition, Loss of sleep may serve to decrease nocturnal IL-6 levels, with effects on the integrity of immune system functioning, as noted in this study: http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/85/10/3597.abstract Joint aches noted in decreased GH patients, poor integrity of the immune system due to lack of sleep, & the effect of low GH producing less tissue regeneration throughout the body – all solid reasons to connect cortisol imbalance with a symptom of “aches.”

7) To state a patient should get tested for a “real” problem like a thyroid issue without noting that the thyroid & adrenal are linked, is simply laziness. The level of cortisol at the cell level controls thyroid hormone production. Often, hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and low body temperature are due to an adrenal maladaptation.
The two are linked together & whether you follow Western, Eastern, homeopathic, or other alternative medical/health approaches, you’re turning a blind eye if you do not recognize the facts of adrenal/thyroid/cortisol linking & creating major problems if not balanced. Furthermore, you are doing a significant disservice to your readers by dismissing adrenal fatigue as something that may not even exist. Chronic stress can absolutely trigger an adrenal deficiency – a sort of permanent ‘fight or flight’ response occurring day in and day out – and there is more chronic stress on people today than ever before. The chance that many of your readers are in some amount of adrenal deficiency is significant, & publishing Ms. Rajapaksa’s response that adrenal fatigue may not be ‘real’ is akin to doctors decades ago saying that gluten intolerance/Celiac’ is not a real condition. It is very real, and can be proven as such, just as adrenal fatigue can also be proven.


I take serious issue with Health Magazine allowing such statements to be made by a doctor with total disregard for scientific facts because I have dealt with, and healed from, adrenal fatigue myself & can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that adrenal fatigue sets off all the symptoms Ms. Rajapaksa dismisses, along with dozens more. And I have tested my hormone levels to prove it. Below are my cortisol readings taken from the salivary ASI Test from April 2009, May 2010, & November 2010. You can see clearly that my cortisol readings went from outside the “normal” range & were improving into the “normal” ranges as I repeated the tests. The improvements were achieved through supplementation that supported my adrenals – and thus, my cortisol levels – as guided by my chiropractic neurologist.



 

At the first test in 4/09, I was perpetually “tired” despite being only 28 years old & a regular exerciser – two things that should allow me to have energy. I often found myself sleepy until 830pm at which time I’d become wide awake and would stay awake until 11:30pm/12am.

I had a foggy brain, making thinking unclear & unfocused. I retained fat around my middle despite knowing exactly how to train a human body to lose fat & be lean, it just would not happen on my body. I had aches all over my body, muscle aches, joint issues, & I craved sugar no matter how much ‘healthy nutrition’ I tried to follow. I was hypoglycemic, as noted by dizzy spells upon standing & extreme hunger that came on seemingly out of nowhere (the hypoglycemia was picked up on the first test, as they measure insulin sensitivity in the ASI Test as well – they also test gliadin antibodies for grain intolerance, DHEA levels, 17-OH progesterone levels & total salivary IgA). In summary, I had far too many symptoms of a sick person to be considered normal – and yet – this IS normal for many of your readers.

At the 3/10 test, my symptoms had improved greatly. I was falling asleep by 10:30pm consistently. I was alert & ready to get out of bed when the alarm went off each morning. I noticed my thinking was beginning to sharpen & my memory was improving. The fat around my mid-section was gone. I was still hypoglycemic, but to say I felt better as relating to all other symptoms, is an understatement.

At the 11/10 test, I no longer showed any of the symptoms from 4/09. None. I can hardly explain just how life-altering this has been for me – my quality of life was low prior to beginning the re-balancing process for my endocrine system & today I know that I have done a very important thing for my health by re-balancing my adrenals. My world had changed & the only things I’d done differently were supplementation of my endocrine system, per my chiropractic neurologists’ recommendations, which brought them back to ‘normal’ from level-2 adrenal fatigue (7 levels in total).


Many parts of cellular function are correlated to the hormones of the endocrine system, which both the thyroid AND adrenals are in, I might add, so the response of Ms. Rajapaksa that one should check a ‘real’ condition, like thyroid imbalance without mentioning the connection to the adrenals – is irresponsible. Cellular function is critical to life, hormone balance is critical to cellular function, and the endocrine system is responsible for this. The endocrine system is absolutely affected by external factors like stress, poor diet, excessive or lack of exercise, to name just a few – something I’d be willing to bet many of your readers are affected by, and Ms. Rajapaksa has effectively shut down a potential conversation they could have with their doctor about something that is actually wrong with their health.
I am personally offended by Health Magazine & Ms. Rajapaksa’s choice to ignore science & say that something doesn’t actually exist that I have personally attested to be real with proven human biology, research studies, & anecdotal evidence. It does not matter if you see ‘health’ through a Western medicine approach, naturopathic focus, or Eastern medicine method – the facts are that adrenal fatigue is real, proven, & most likely affecting a number of your readers.

This is not just a small ‘error’ deserving of a “oops, our mistake” blurb in next months’ letters-to-the-editor section. The willingness of Health Magazine to publish Ms. Rajapaksa’s blatant error in her response underscores a major journalistic mistake on the part of Health Magazine – fact-checking your contributors’ work. Journalists have been fired for not fact-checking at other publications. As such, I will be firing Health Magazine from my monthly magazine reading & will request a full refund of my remaining subscription.

I think Health Magazine can also go a long way to ‘righting the ship’ on this one by doing an article on adrenal fatigue, complete with doctors, naturopaths, and chiropractic neurologists’ weighing in on the realities of adrenal fatigue, how to diagnose it, treat it & what the repercussions are of leaving it untreated. I would happily contribute my story & ASI Test data in support of the article & would write a ‘from the patients’ perspective’ component to the article. Failing that excellent approach, Health Magazine should at least print a portion of my letter in the magazine along with a correction about Ms. Rajapaksa’s incorrect statements about adrenal fatigue, with links sending readers to the right places if they think they may be suffering.

I hope to hear back regarding my letter & can be reached by email, phone, or letter.

Thank you,
Kate Galliett
Fitness Pro & Co-Owner
ProKine Performance

After reading my letter, I hope you’ll share it with friends so others can see that Western medicine and mainstream media are off the mark many times, and it’s up to us to be educated about more natural methods of healthcare to ensure we are as strong, vital & healthy as we can be. If I get a response, I’ll definitely post it here!

*As of 8/7, I have received no reply or response from Health Magazine.

 

 

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Posted in: optimal health