Craving sugar and gaining weight?
Some may diagnose this cluster of symptoms as Adrenal Fatigue … but is it actually a real condition?
This is a sales-free look at the facts.
What is Adrenal Fatigue and the Function of Adrenal Glands?
Adrenal fatigue refers to a cluster of common symptoms one might experience when under long-term mental or emotional stress.
It's also known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, HPA Axis Disregulation or Hypoadrenalism.
The concept was introduced in 1998 by chiropractor and naturopath James Wilson. Since then it has become very popular among alternative health practitioners.
The adrenal glands—small organs above the kidneys that produce certain hormones—help to manage stress. But they are said to grow tired or fatigued when overworked for a long period of time.
As a result they produce inadequate amounts of hormones that influence stress, such as cortisol. At least, that's the theory.
"Adrenal fatigue is not a real medical condition. 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."
So there is clearly a divide in opinion between alternative and conventional medicine.
Summary: Adrenal fatigue is a condition said to be caused by long-term stress. However, it is not recognized in the medical community.
Adrenal Fatigue vs. Adrenal Insufficiency
It's important not to get these confused.
Much like Hashimoto's disease it cannot be treated with diet and lifestyle alone. Without proper hormone replacement medication, adrenal insufficiency is life-threatening.
Adrenal fatigue, if it exists, is not immediately dangerous.
Summary: Adrenal fatigue should not be mixed up with adrenal insufficiency, which is a rare yet serious condition treated with strong hormone medication.
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms Are Subjective
It's human nature to try and make sense of patterns and clusters.
Clusters of symptoms are no exception and we often give them a non-scientific name, like Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Adrenal fatigue is another example. These are several symptoms listed on James Wilson's AdrenalFatigue.org website:
- Always tired
- Feeling stressed
- Struggling to keep up with daily tasks
- Reliance on caffeine through the day
- Strong cravings for sugar or salt
- Low libido
Immediately it's clear how broad and unspecific symptoms are. No doubt they are real, but they easily overlap with other known medical issues.
The real issue is that the symptoms are not objective, nor measurable. That is, there is no validated symptom score to assess how mild or severe a case may be.
Summary: Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are real, but so broad that they overlap with other medical issues.
Adrenal Fatigue Tests Are Not Accurate
Proponents claim existing blood tests are not sensitive enough to detect small declines in adrenal function.
So the only criteria for diagnosing adrenal fatigue are the non-specific symptoms.
Therefore it's not actually possible for health practitioners to determine what classifies as adrenal fatigue and what doesn't, assuming it is a real condition.
But researchers note salivary cortisol is not necessarily representative of blood cortisol. Numerous other factors including adrenal sensitivity, cortisol binding, estrogens and HPAA responsivity influence the saliva reading. This makes it an unreliable stress biomarker on its own (3).
Additionally, treatment endpoints are as non-specific as the diagnosis.
In other words, without measurements there is no way to confirm when a patient's adrenals are corrected or "cured." It's the reason why studies must use adrenal fatigue questionnaires to measure results instead of testing physical or chemical changes (4).
If this were the case for other common medical conditions, like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, the doctor would never know when to increase, decrease or stop medication.
Summary: There is no way to accurately test or measure adrenal fatigue. Therefore practitioners cannot actually prove who has it, nor when it has been corrected.
Adrenal Fatigue Supplements
Few medical conditions are broad and unmeasurable.
Fibromyalgia is one of them, perhaps adrenal fatigue is another.
Despite this, supplements for adrenal fatigue and associated natural remedies are more common than ever. Even the creator of adrenal fatigue, James Wilson, sells his own line of supplements online.
Keep in mind that given the non-specific nature of adrenal fatigue, there is no way to develop a supplement to specifically treat it. Nor a way to test if that supplement is effective.
Nutrition supplements should be used to supplement deficiencies linked with a particular condition. However, only a handful of studies even mention adrenal fatigue let alone have tested for associated nutrient deficiencies.
There are also many hormone supplements available that promise to treat this condition. But these can do more harm than good if they aren't required.
Adrenal Crisis is not uncommon in patients receiving inappropriate adrenal hormone treatment.
Summary: Adrenal fatigue supplements are sold by many alternative health practitioners, including the creator of adrenal fatigue. However, it's not possible to develop or test a supplement's effectiveness without a way to measure the problem condition first.
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment and Diet Changes Do Help
Many claim that adrenal fatigue "treatment" restored their health.
They lost weight, have more energy and feel fantastic. Of course this is great to hear, but actually not surprising.
The typical adrenal fatigue treatment protocol includes eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting out sugar-laden and starchy junk food, exercising more, improving sleep quality and taking measures to reduce stress.
These recommendations address the fundamental aspects of good health, also known as the pillars of health. Anyone who improves one or more of these diet and lifestyle aspects will feel better to some degree.
But whether adrenal gland function actually shifts as a result of these changes is debatable and not possible to prove from observation.
Summary: An adrenal fatigue diet and treatment protocol may help improve an individual's health. But this is because it encourages important diet and lifestyle improvements, rather than a boost to adrenal gland function.
Could Adrenal Fatigue Be Subclinical Adrenal Insufficiency?
Some proponents claim adrenal fatigue is a mild or early form of adrenal insufficiency and should be formally recognized as such.
But in cases of subclinical hypothyroidism, doctors are able to measure a patient's blood TSH levels. This provides an objective measurement used to determine diagnosis and treatment efficacy.
As this isn't possible with adrenal fatigue it's difficult to confirm this theory, though it is interesting.
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?
It's frustrating if you constantly feel unwell to have a doctor that seems unable or unwilling to discover the true problem.
I understand that, because the symptoms are very real. It's the reason adrenal fatigue has become such a popular alternative approach to this type of scenario.
However, there is no scientific evidence to validate the concept. Without any reliable method of measuring adrenal fatigue it's near impossible to make the "diagnosis."
That said, believing one has adrenal fatigue can sometimes be beneficial. It provides a "physical" reason for individuals to take action and improve their diet and reduce stressors. This is why so many experience improvements.
But if the real problem is more sinister than poor diet and high stress, accepting adrenal fatigue as the root cause can be dangerous. It only prolongs the time required to discover what's really causing symptoms.
Add to that the unproven adrenal fatigue supplements pushed on desperate customers and you start to question how helpful or ethical this diagnosis is.
In the end it's clear that taking measures to improve your diet and better manage the stressors in your life is key to getting your health back … Whether adrenal fatigue exists or not.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Diet vs Disease.
By Matthew J. Landry and Heather Eicher-Miller
When university presidents were surveyed in spring of 2020 about what they felt were the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, college students going hungry didn't rank very high.
Why It Matters<p>This is not just a matter of growling stomachs. This is a straight-up education and health issue.</p><p>When students don't really know if they'll be able to get enough to eat, it can lead to a series of problems that make it harder to stay in school. For instance, it can affect <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359105318783028" target="_blank">academic performance</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sleep quality</a>. It can also lead to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318783028" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poor mental and physical health</a> outcomes for college students.</p><p>Food insecurity can also result in disrupted eating patterns if there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627945/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not enough food or the variety</a> or <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quality of what someone eats</a> is low.</p>
Campus Food Pantries<p>Previous strategies by <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696254.pdf" target="_blank">colleges and universities</a> to fight hunger in their student bodies have varied widely. They include campus food pantries, emergency cash assistance and nutrition education through noncredit classes or workshopse.</p><p>These strategies were put to the test during the spring 2020 semester, when nearly <a href="https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hopecenter_RealCollegeDuringthePandemic.pdf" target="_blank">three in five students</a> said they had trouble meeting their own basic needs during the pandemic.</p><p>College food pantries saw <a href="https://www.utrgv.edu/newsroom/2020/05/01-utrgv-student-food-pantry-seeing-recent-increase-in-demand-during-covid-19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big increases</a> in demand. Others said they <a href="https://www.theprospectordaily.com/2020/09/22/uteps-food-pantry-is-running-out-of-food/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were getting less donated food</a>. This made it even harder to meet the rising food needs of students.</p><p>Campus food pantries largely rely on local or regional food banks, which have been dealing with <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/04/indiana-food-banks-call-more-food-stamps-meet-publics-need/3523683001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">greater demand</a> than they are able to meet during the pandemic.</p><p>The many students who are attending college remotely will, of course, have less access to campus resources like food pantries.</p>
Federal Help<p>Other potential ways to get more food are government programs like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility" target="_blank">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, known as SNAP. Yet the majority of able-bodied students are not eligible. Long-standing restrictions, like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students" target="_blank">college SNAP rule</a>, prevent full-time students from receiving these benefits.</p><p>Such regulatory hurdles were created under the assumption that most students can rely on their parents to get enough to eat. However, college students have vastly different levels of financial support. Some students can rely on their parents for everything and others cannot rely on their parents for anything.</p><p>Decreased reliance on parental financial support is <a href="https://ir.library.louisville.edu/jsfa/vol47/iss3/5/" target="_blank">especially common</a> for first-generation students and students of color, who now make up <a href="https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">45% of enrolled college students</a>.</p><p>Under normal circumstances, many college students might rely on part-time jobs to pay for their food.</p>
Short-Term Solutions<p>Universities and colleges can make it a priority to ensure students are aware of all available campus resources and services. They can also potentially help students apply for federal assistance benefits.</p><p>Campus food pantries are not a fully effective and efficacious solution for the scale of college food insecurity, but they can be a good interim solution to increase access to food for students.</p><p>Campuses without food pantries can start one, making use of resources the <a href="https://cufba.org/resources/" target="_blank">College and University Food Bank Alliance</a> provides. Schools with food pantries can try to get them to <a href="https://www.swipehunger.org/5campuspantry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reach more students</a>.</p><p>Universities and colleges can also lean on one another for support. The <a href="http://wp.auburn.edu/endchildhungeral/alabama-campus-coalition-for-basic-needs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs</a> is a great example of this. It brings together 10 universities across the state of Alabama collectively working to address student food insecurity.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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The Truth About CBD Product Potency<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDc2NTg1N30.OAm3iOTO_pKZLXi7KdJ7n0DGOFMdOmIYuG4ArGooFC4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d657c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee016a81b29caa699b9185b64ce345d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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