Adrenal fatigue or Ambien-induced subway riding?
I had a pretty great weekend: went to the local high school’s chemistry demonstration, ate chocolate covered figs for the first time, sewed a vintage-esque dress from a pattern I made myself based on a picture (my first time making my own pattern and it turned out so cute!!) and watched Jelly Bean play “where’s your bellybutton” with two other toddlers at the church Christmas party. Oh and did I mention I lactated?! That’s right, the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be – and apparently now she’s mutated into a cow.
So I did what any woman who hasn’t nursed a baby in over a year and yet who has suddenly sprung a leak would do: I texted all my mom Gym Buddies. I got two immediate replies. Gym Buddy Krista told me I’m pregnant and Gym Buddy Megan told me I have a brain tumor. (Okay, three replies. Turbo Jennie texted me back, “I only have 1. What do I know?”) As I Googled my symptoms, I came across pregnancy (I’m not) and pituitary tumors (seriously?) but it was a different answer that really caught my eye: Adrenal fatigue.
Hang around health and fitness circles long enough and you’ll start to hear a few catchphrases over and over and adrenal fatigue is one of those (it comes right after “fat burning zone” and before “abs are made in the kitchen!”). For years I’ve heard fellow gym rats chalk up everything from extra sore muscles to fatigue to “tinny-tasting” protein shakes to this strange malady. A favorite diagnosis of alternative medicine practitioners, it is either ignored or decried by most conventional docs.
Basically your adrenal glands are two little tiny organs near your kidneys that help moderate your fight-or-flight response. For something so little they sure are controversial. While there is an official disease called “adrenal insufficiency/Addison’s disease” where your adrenal glands are woefully – and measurably – under-producing, it’s rare and you don’t get it from being overstressed. Adrenal fatigue on the other hand is, depending on the speaker, a very common by-product of our modern society and quite possibly the root of all evil. (And you thought that was Donald Trump!)
Says WebMD, adrenal fatigue is “a mild form of adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress. The unproven theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal. As a result, they can’t produce quite enough of the hormones you need to feel good. Existing blood tests, according to this theory, aren’t sensitive enough to detect such a small decline in adrenal function — but your body is.”
Eh, naysayers! Plus WebMD doesn’t even list spontaneous lactating as a symptom. The Natural News rebuts, saying, “In mainstream medicine, doctors refuse to recognize there is a problem with the adrenal glands unless you meet the diagnostic criteria for Addison’s disease (extremely little adrenal function) or Cushing’s disease (hyper adrenal). These diseases together affect less than 2% of the population, but some experts believe that upwards of 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal insufficiency.” You hear that Mr. Web-anyone-can-string-MD-after-their-website-name-.com? 80%! It’s an epidemic!
Well, if the existence of Celebrity Intervention tells us anything it’s that we are all chronically overstressed (where Kathy Griffin leads, the country follows!). And heaven knows I’m a cortisol factory – my kids are going through a chanting stage that makes me want to stick forks in my ears – so I’ll give them that. But there are plenty of other symptoms besides chronic fatigue and stress, including everything from dizziness upon standing, headaches, memory problems, salt cravings, hemorrhoids, and a funky-sounding dub in the lub-dub of your heartbeat. Other than the last one (why oh why do I not own a stethoscope?!) I have every one of the 50+ symptoms listed.
And then it hit me: I am a Google-induced hypochondriac who just made her children all listen to her heartbeat to see if it sounded “funny”.
So now what do I do? Call my regular doctor and pray they don’t find a tumor? Find a naturopath and sun-salutation they don’t tell me for the eleventieth time to take up meditation? Sell my milk on the Internet and fund Christmas from my boob juice thereby making the phrase “money makers” both funnier and more horrifying all at the same time? Unfortunately there’s not a lot of definitive research into adrenal fatigue. Since the available tests supposedly aren’t sensitive enough to detect a biological change and pretty much everyone feels tired and worn down (except my 5-year-old who wakes up at 6 a.m. every stinking day) it seems like it comes down to a matter of opinion.
Seriously – what do you guys know about adrenal fatigue? Is it real? Pseudo-science? Any other women out there ever lactated spontaneously?? (And Dad, if you’re still reading, I’m sorry.)