What is Adrenal Fatigue? – Part 1

Posted on October 24th, 2014


Adrenal Fatigue or hypoadrenia are unproven terms used by alternative medicine, to describe a condition of the adrenal glands, which are unable to produce proper amounts of hormone, mainly glucocorticoid, referred to as cortisol, which is produced in the middle layer adrenal cortex. This layer is referred to as the zona fasiculata.

According to Wikipedia, “The term adrenal fatigue, which was coined by James M. Wilson, may be applied to a collection of mostly non-specific symptoms.

There is no scientific evidence supporting the concept of adrenal fatigue, and it is not recognized as an actual diagnosis by the medical community”.

My clinical studies over the years, have indicated a better term for adrenal fatigue, because it relates specifically to a middle layer, zona fasciculata, a cortisol imbalance, or glucocorticoid imbalance.

Adrenal fatigue in all actuality, should refer only to the middle layer zona fasiculata.

The other adrenal cortex layers, when they are unable to produce proper amounts of their hormone, should not be included in the term adrenal fatigue.

The total significance of proper cortisol production is not well understood.

When a cortisol level is tested, that empirical amount of cortisol is thought to be active and can carry out its physiological and biochemical activities.

In reality, this may not be the case, because there can be proper or even elevated amounts of cortisol that are produced by the zona fasiculata, that are bound or defective.

When the cortisol production is elevated, the veterinarian profession refers to this as Cushing Syndrome. This is not always accurate, because if the cortisol produced is elevated, but defective, without testing for other hormones in the body that normal cortisol regulates, you cannot predict whether the cortisol that is produced is or functional or nonfunctional.

NOTE: 24 hour urine tests and salivary tests are definitely of value, indicating whether a hormone is being produced in a free state and in proper amounts, however what these tests do not indicate, is whether these hormones are functional or nonfunctional, and are available for use in the body.

Edward Cushing in 1932, reported on patients that had tumors (adenomas) of their pituitary glands, which produced excess amounts of its hormone referred to as ACTH, which caused an increased production of active glucocorticoid, called cortisol. Cushing referred to this condition as Cushing Syndrome, hyperadrenalcorticism or hypercorticism.

This condition is found mainly in humans, canines and equines and is only rarely seen in felines.

What today’s medical practitioner usually does not recognize is that elevated amounts of cortisol may be defective and not recognized or can be used by the patient’s body.

This type of elevated, defective cortisol, can be a function of damage to the middle layer adrenal cortex. This kind of damage in animals, can be due to trauma, genetics, toxins, anesthetics, vaccinations, monthly insect repellents and exposure to other chemicals, and radiation, etc.

Stress may cause an overload on the zona fasiculata and cause a reduction in the production of cortisol. This is common in people, and less common in animals.

Stress relates to the transference of different neurohumors including dopamine into adrenaline, which use cortisol as a catalyst, which can lead to Adrenal Fatigue. For more information on this subject please go to Published Papers and look up an article entitled, Theory of Endocrine Immune Surveillance - California Veterinarian - 1979.

Stress is the main difference between people and animals.

The stress people experience may cause a temporarily depletion of the cortisol, zona fasciculate produces, but this is only a temporary condition that the stress causes, and there is no permanent damage to the zona fasciculata and its production of cortisol.

This is why reducing the stress, adding adrenal supports, enhancing nutrition and exercise, while reducing environmental toxins etc., will allow the zona fasiculata and its cortisol production to return to normal.

However, there are certain patients in the human population that are similar to animals, because both may have experienced trauma or inherited genetically damaged middle layer adrenal cortices, which can cause permanent, deficient, or defective, cortisol production.

In the majority of canines, felines and equines, the damage to the zona fasiculata and its production of cortisol is genetic and permanent, and that is why adrenal, nutritional support may not work.

Most people and pet owners are afraid of cortisol replacements, even when they are indicated. They do not realize that both should normally produce 30 to 35 units of daily cortisol, otherwise, allergies, autoimmunity and cancer may occur.

For more information on normal cortisol production and the medical hazards it may create when deficient in humans, please read the book, The Safe Uses of Cortisol by William Mck. Jefferies MD.

It is vital for all patients, whether humans or animal, to determine if the cortisol that is being produced, is active and functional or is inactive and nonfunctional.

This can be easily determined by understanding the relationship between cortisol and other hormones in the body and its effects, by measuring their levels.

Cortisol will normally work in a negative feedback mechanism with the hypothalamus, and pituitary gland. Once the cortisol performs its function in its regulation of the endocrine immune systems, it is broken down by the liver, and excreted by the kidneys.

When this occurs, and the cortisol levels decline, and through the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland releases its hormone, referred to as ACTH, this causes the middle layer zona fasiculata to release more active cortisol. This process is referred to as a negative feedback mechanism.

When there is deficiency or a production of a defective cortisol, the negative feedback mechanism will not be funded correctly.

When this occurs, the ACTH production by the pituitary gland continues, caused by the cortisol imbalance.

The elevated levels of ACTH will stimulate the inner layer adrenal cortex, referred to as the zona reticularis, which will respond to the ACTH as a direct feedback mechanism.

This will cause the zona reticularis to produce and release increased amounts of estrogen and androgen.

NOTE: This article only discusses the effects of elevated adrenal estrogen.  Read Part 2 to find out about Total Estrogen and it's part.


Dr. Plechner