This is the fourth article in an ongoing series. Make sure to check out the other articles when you’re finished with this one:
- What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? (Part I): An Introduction
- What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? (Part II): Blood Sugar
- What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? (Part III): Sleep
- What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? (Part IV): Inflammation
- What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? (Part V): Stress
- What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? (Part IV): Treatment
Some types of inflammation can cause so much stress on our body that they cause adrenal fatigue. (1)
Inflammation is what happens when we get sick, sprain our ankle, or after we receive a nasty spider bite. While the above are what often comes to mind when we think about inflammation, they’re not enough of a stress to cause adrenal fatigue.
The sprained ankle and the sore throat are examples of healthy cortisol excretion. They occur for a relatively short duration to assist the healing of the injured tissue. In chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or asthma, the body is unable to keep up with the high demand for cortisol production. This situation can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Cortisol, the hormone you most likely know for its role in your body’s stress response, is also one of our body’s most potent anti-inflammatory hormones. (2)
Have you ever had (or known someone who has had) a cortisone injection? Cortisone is very similar to cortisol in its anti-inflammatory action. Cortisol decreases the inflammatory pathways within the body’s tissue. For a sprained ankle, the body is excreting cortisol to help control the swelling.
In chronic inflammatory conditions, where cortisol is needed in high amounts for long periods of time, there will eventually be a suppression of the HPA axis. (3) In other words, adrenal fatigue will develop. The resulting effect will be a decrease in cortisol production (at a time when the body needs more of it). This is how adrenal fatigue can prevent your body from healing.
Our body has a mechanism built-in to ensure cortisol production is only altered at the site of inflammation/injury. (4) This system works well for conditions like a sprained ankle, where the inflammation is localized. The same system becomes challenged by other conditions where the inflammation is more wide-spread.
Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia affect multiple areas. High levels of cortisol are required in order to combat the chronic inflammation. These are the conditions that eventually result in the body’s suppression of cortisol. (5)
Injuries and infections are obvious examples of inflammation. There are other sources of inflammation that are less intuitive.
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Intestinal permeability (AKA Leaky gut)
- Dysbiosis – parasites, candida (yeast), or bacterial infections of the digestive tract
- Autoimmune diseases – multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, lupus etc.
- Skin conditions – eczema, psoriasis etc
- Obesity and other metabolic disorders – diabetes, low blood sugar/hypoglycemia, etc.
A hidden source of inflammation could be preventing you from healing from adrenal fatigue. If you’ve been properly diagnosed, but notice that you’re not improving with the treatment protocol you’ve been following, inflammation may be what is stalling your progress.
How to identify potential sources of inflammation
Start with the two most likely culprits:
- Gut Health
Food allergies and/or sensitivities can be a regular source of inflammation – especially if you’re consuming a food you’re allergic/sensitive to on a regular basis.
Try implementing a 30-day paleo reset diet – you can find out how to properly implement this nutrition plan here. Ensure zero cheating occurs throughout the thirty day period. You need to be one hundred percent compliant during this phase. At the end of the reset, reintroduce suspicious foods slowly in order to identify which items are causing a reaction in your body.
Once you identify problematic foods, eliminate them from your diet while you work to heal adrenal fatigue. These can be reintroduced again after you have recovered. Alternatively, food sensitivity and allergy testing can also help determine which foods create a state of inflammation within your body.
If you’ve already removed food allergens from your diet and still notice a lack of improvement in adrenal fatigue symptoms, I’d recommend exploring the health of your gut. Stool testing is a great method to determine whether you have sufficient numbers of beneficial bacteria in your large intestine. Additionally, stool testing alerts you to any potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, or yeast that may be the hidden source of inflammation.
To successfully treat adrenal fatigue, all sources of chronic inflammation need to be removed.
If you do not remove the source of inflammation yet continue to supplement with herbals or medications aimed at calming the nervous system, the treatment will be ineffective.
General anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric may be beneficial in the short term. Though anti-inflammatory supplements will only assist in treating the symptom(s). To achieve complete resolution of adrenal fatigue, the underlying or root cause of the inflammation must be properly identified and removed.
Now, I want to hear from you.
What area of inflammation is obstructing your recovery from adrenal fatigue?