Benjamin Franklin once declared that fatigue is the best pillow. But, if your fatigue is persistent, debilitating, and driven by stress, sometimes no amount of rest can help. In this blog post, we discuss the nature of adrenal fatigue, it’s emotional and physical toll, health recommendations, the potential for medical malpractice, and the important role of long-term disability benefits in your path to recovery.
The Nature of Adrenal Fatigue
Your adrenal glands are two organs which sit at the peak of each kidney. Adrenal glands are best known for secreting adrenaline – the hormone that quickly prepares your body to respond to stress. However, even under conditions that are not stressful, adrenal glands are essential for your survival because they release hormones known as “corticosteroids” which control and regulate the following essential bodily functions:
- Hydrocortisone (Cortisol) – regulates blood pressure, cardiovascular function, and the body’s conversion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into energy.
- Corticosterone – regulates the body’s immune response and suppresses inflammatory reactions.
- Aldosterone – maintains the body’s balance of salt and water as well as helping to control blood pressure.
In 1998, prominent naturopathic doctor James Wilson was the first person to use adrenal fatigue as a medical term to describe below-normal functioning of the adrenal glands as a result of intense or prolonged physical, mental, or emotional stress. However, adrenal fatigue can also arise during or after chronic infections; particularly, respiratory infections like pneumonia, influenza, and bronchitis. Adrenal fatigue has also been called:
- Non-Addison’s Hypoadrenia;
- Sub-Clinical Hypoadrenia;
- Adrenal Neurasthenia; and
- Adrenal Apathy.
Unlike a physical injury such as a broken arm, adrenal fatigue is a syndrome that is not readily identifiable. You may not exhibit any obvious signs of physical illness, but rather have an unrelenting sense of sickness, exhaustion, and dulled emotions.
Adrenal fatigue is caused by the inability of your adrenal glands to cope with severe, repeated, or constant physical or emotional/psychological stress. Such chronic or persistent stresses have a cumulative effect called “overstimulation.” The primary causes of adrenal fatigue typically arise from one of the following common sources:
- Physical Stress: injury, surgery, addiction, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation;
- Emotional/Psychological Stress: death of a loved one, tumultuous relationships, work pressures;
- Medical Stress: diseases, recurrent infections, chronic illnesses; and
- Severe Environmental Stress: continual exposure to toxic chemicals, biohazards, and pollutants.
The symptoms of adrenal fatigue are related and, because adrenal fatigue is a syndrome, do not exist in isolation. These symptoms include:
- Fighting baseless exhaustion; particularly in the early morning and mid-afternoon;
- Having the highest levels of alertness and energy after 6:00 p.m.;
- Feeling rundown, overwhelmed, and unable to cope with stress;
- Experiencing prolonged recovery from illnesses; and
- Struggling to get out of bed in the morning despite a full, and arguably restful, sleep.
Other Disorders and Diseases of the Adrenal Glands
There are other disorders and diseases which can affect the adrenal glands. Some are due to a problem with the adrenal glands themselves and others arise as a result of a defect in another gland altogether. Such disorders and diseases include, but are not limited to:
- Addison’s Disease: the adrenal cortex does not produce sufficient Cortisol and Aldosterone;
- Cushing’s Syndrome: the adrenal cortex overproduces Cortisol because of a tumor in the adrenal gland(s) or pituitary gland;
- Adrenal Cancer: a rare, but aggressive form of cancer characterized by malignant tumors in the adrenal gland(s); and
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: a genetic disorder which causes low levels of Cortisol.
If you suspect that you are exhibiting symptoms, you may wish to seek diagnosis from a doctor who is familiar with adrenal fatigue or provide your family doctor with critical information related to adrenal fatigue.
There are also some natural methods to enhance your adrenal function:
- Assess your lifestyle and nutrition (ensure that you maintain the right balance);
- Ensure a regular and adequate sleep pattern;
- Consume healthy amounts of water, minerals, Vitamin C, and electrolytes; and
- Eat nutrient-rich foods.
But, always remember that there is no substitute for appropriate and diligent medical care.
Work and Adrenal Fatigue—The Role of Long-Term Disability Benefits on Your Path To Recovery
Certain professionals who face consistent and intense occupational stress should be aware that adrenal fatigue syndrome may affect their ability to perform their work duties. For example, nurses experiencing adrenal fatigue may be putting themselves (and their patients) at a greater risk of errors if they are not well-rested and able to concentrate on the job. If the requisite standard of care is breached, these professionals risk accusations of medical malpractice and may be held liable for these errors.
If symptoms related to adrenal fatigue are affecting your ability to work, you may need to take a leave of absence to assist in recovery or focus on medical care. However, as this complex syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, insurers may deny your claim for long-term disability benefits. Be sure to consult a personal injury lawyer who is well versed in dealing with the complexities of long-term disability benefits for syndromes such as adrenal fatigue.