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What the Yuck: I'm tired all the time
December 4th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

What the Yuck: I'm tired all the time

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I keep reading about a problem called “adrenal fatigue.” How can I tell if I have it or if it's something else?

Well, there’s some debate as to whether this even exists. There is a condition called adrenal insufficiency, or Addison’s disease, in which your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, and you’re left feeling extremely fatigued - even light-headed and 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 that can’t be detected by blood tests.

The symptoms linked to it include aches, nervousness, and sleep and digestive 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 doctor to find out if it’s a sign of a real health issue, such as a thyroid problem or depression.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. tamara reina

    Yes, don't it make you sick?

    December 5, 2011 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • steve

      worrst article I have ever read!!!! It gives no information,,,,,,,except 'go see your doc',,,,what a waste of time

      December 5, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
    • JohB

      Had this problem and Iron supplements worked great.

      December 5, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
  2. Ginger

    Just because medical science hasn't figured it out yet, or acknowledged it, doesn't mean it isn't real. Doctors are not gods.

    December 5, 2011 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tiredofusernames

      That word choice got me, too. So sick of doctors acting like a problem doesn't exist unless it's backed by research. Anecdotal research is good enough for me. It saved my family after wasting THOUSANDS of dollars on traditional medicine. I'm so grateful we found a doctor that marries traditional and alternative treatments.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  3. AngelFyr

    I firmly believe I have adrenal fatigue. I have suffered for years with this ailment and after doing some research on adrenal fatigue, I found a book by Dr. Elliot D. Abravanel about body types and corresponding diets. Four months ago, I started to follow his guidelines for "adrenal types" I feel markedly better: more energy, more positive outlook on life in general. I'm not saying this will work for everyone but it did for me and I am thankful.

    December 5, 2011 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. CFS Facts

    Check the symptoms of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the US) and see whether those fit what you have. Although there is no approved treatment for it, there are things that can be done to ease the symptoms.

    December 5, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. GRofPA

    You just need to apply a few leaches and you'll be all fixed up.

    December 5, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. jamie

    @GRofPA: very funny.....bawahhhhhhhhhhhhh

    December 5, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Chrissy

    Iron deficiency can make you very tired too, and is much more common. If you take prilosec, omeprezole, nexium, or other such stomach acd reducer frequently, you have an increased likelihood of having low iron. Iron helps your blood transfer more oxygen around the body, and is a vital nutrient that is absorbed through your stomach a lot versus your lower intestines. If you cut down the stomach acid, you also cut down the absorbtion rate for your iron in your foods. Try adding an iron pill daily as part of your routine and see the energy improvement. For me, it worked wonders (I was already low iron before starting on omeprazole), and have to take it at night so the morning omeprazole doesn't affect the absorbtion so much.
    The other thing to help with energy is to get some sun! Getting out into the sunshine does wonders for your mood and energy levels. Could be vitamin D based, but it is proven that wintertime brings the doledrums because of the lack of sunshine and weaker rays. Iron and Sun...add those and you could be much improved.
    (of course check with your Doctor before startng any supplements, as there could be medical conditions you have or medications you take that could be negatively affected by them.)

    December 5, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. B Ann

    If you are tired all the time and sleep does not relieve it, or you don't sleep well, your cholesterol is high, your hair is thinning, and you're sometimes anxious, depressed, or brain-fogged, you might be suffering from low thyroid levels. Read more at tiredthyroid.c o m When thyroid levels are low, cortisol levels go low too, so that's the connection. In fact, when thyroid slows, everything slows–constipation is another symptom!

    December 5, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Natalie

    I was feeling very tired years ago when I had a very boring job, I would sit in front of computer doing the same things over and over for 8-9 hours/day and I was feeling exhausted! Since I changed my job, I take the stairs at lunch time and every 1-2 hours just to get some exercise and energy, it works wonders. Also, I take vitamin B complex, I try to be outdoors as much as I can and it helps a lot. Before you run to the doctor's office which means that you will get some kind of pills to take for sure, try to make some lifestyle changes and you can see the difference. I'm 10 years older now and feel much better than when I was younger.

    December 5, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. WellnessDrive

    I agree with Natalie.
    I prefer to Exercise first thing in the am. I eat small but more frequent meals – healthy of course – such as raw vegis & fruits. I take OPC-3, ORAC, Multivitamin ... all in Isotonix formula (more efficient delivery system). This starts my day. Later I have some Acai to help thru the afternoon. Then before dinner I also take B-Complex.

    This all helps me to keep up with my kids – who have lots of energy. 🙂 Now if I could only find a formula to mimic them. 🙂

    December 5, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bart

    I used to be tired all the time. I fixed that by ditching caffeine – I haven't had coffee, tea or soda in over a year. I feel much better. You could be addicted to caffeine and not be getting enough of it. Caffeine is very addictive – try living without it for a few weeks. Warning: you'll feel horrible for the first week (serious withdrawal symptoms).

    Later I started eating smaller portions of food – this also helped. I'm rarely tired nowadays.

    December 5, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JOHN

    Look at Sleep Apnea -far more common than Addison's. You don't have to be morbidly obese to have sleep apnea.

    December 5, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Eccles

    Saying that Addison's "...in which your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, and you’re left feeling extremely fatigued – even light-headed and achy. A blood test can diagnose this." Is kind of like saying "Being doused with gasoline and being set alight can make you feel a little warm. A simple test can diagnose this". I am appalled to see an MD write this line. Many cases of Addison's are diagnosed during the autopsy, having been missed by the family Doc and dismissed, until Addisonian Crisis, when the ER Docs also miss what is happening.

    December 6, 2011 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wa

      AGREED! Another carefully crafted CNN health story.

      December 7, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  14. CATHY

    Go have a sleep study done. I did, after being horribly tired for almost 2 years, and found out I have sleep apnea. Now that I sleep with a mask, all that awful tiredness is gone.

    December 6, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Wa

    I am so irked by the term "What the Yuck?" Sure, it's a marginally cute pun for embarrassing health issues, but it's just annoying when used for something like fatigue.

    December 7, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply

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