Chronic Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue vs Chronic Fatigue: What is the difference?

Fatigue in print: difference between adrenal and chronic fatigue

The feeling of tiredness is an extremely common occurrence. It’s one of those feelings we have felt throughout our lives whether we were infants, children, teenagers and even adults. It’s likely that we will continue to experience tiredness as we grow into our senior years. Tiredness is usually accompanied by small, minor symptoms such as heavy eyelids, frequent yawning and low energy. This is normally not a cause for concern since these symptoms represent a message from the brain to the body saying, “I need some rest, please get some sleep.”

However, when someone is experiencing continuous feelings of weakness, low energy, body aches, and limited motivation for daily activities or hobbies, this can be a sign of a more critical medical issue. In contrast with tiredness, fatigue is the feeling of extreme exhaustion as a result of too much mental or physical exertion. Fatigue is normally a symptom of an underlying condition or a chronic disease of its own. Normally, one can tell the difference between minor tiredness and fatigue based on how they feel after receiving a full night’s sleep. When they wake up, if they have regained energy and are no longer yawning, it’s likely that they only felt tired. But, if they struggle to wake up, and aren’t relieved from symptoms after a full eight hours of sleep, this is a sign of fatigue. There are two types of fatigue: chronic and adrenal, and while they have extremely similar symptoms, they have a lot of differences. For many individuals, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the two and often, they both require an official diagnosis. So, what separates these two conditions apart from each other?

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is a condition that occurs due to an overexposure to a chaotic workload, chronic stress, or emotional distress. Those who work in hectic work conditions, are a single parent, have grown up in a dysfunctional family, or dealt with other personal struggles such as the death of a loved one, are at risk of developing adrenal fatigue. The condition was discovered in 1998 by a naturopath and doctor of alternative medicine, Dr. James Wilson.

Within the endocrine system lives the adrenal glands, which are walnut-shaped organs located on top of the kidneys. Their purpose are to help people handle stressful or life-threatening situations by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to enhance one’s reaction-time and stamina. When this occurs, our bodies are in a state-of-emergency as we are placed into survival mode of “fight-or-flight”. If one is constantly in a state of stress or panic, this causes the adrenals to continuously release cortisol into the body and eventually wearing them out. As a result, one will develop a hormonal imbalance due to an eventual depletion of cortisol levels, thus causing the onset of:

  • low energy
  • irritability
  • increased food intake
  • reduced capacity to respond to new stressors
  • brain fog

Serious consequences of the illness can lead to diabetes, weight gain, depression, anxiety and cancer.

Chronic Fatigue

Unlike adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue can still occur even if one’s adrenals are functioning properly as it has many other underlying causes that go beyond that of the adrenal glands. In many circumstances, chronic fatigue is an initial warning of something more sinister in the body such as autoimmunity, Lyme disease, or cancer. In other cases, sometimes people with chronic fatigue don’t reveal any underlying medical conditions. When this happens, it’s called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and it’s usually created by infections, inflammation, environmental toxicity, gut issues, or a weakened immune system. Symptoms of the condition include insomnia, memory loss, muscle pains, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and the common cold. Healthline explains that CFS can sometimes affect people in cycles. This means that people may experience brief periods of either feeling better or worse. Sometimes, symptoms of the condition may briefly go into remission before one experiences another sudden onset of fatigue¹.

The Difference

Chronic Fatigue and Adrenal Fatigue are two separate conditions with similar symptoms. It’s easy for many people to confuse the two given that their names overlap each other, however there are many factors that set them apart. First, it’s important to note that only one of these conditions can cause the other. It’s possible for patients to initially suffer from chronic fatigue prior to developing adrenal fatigue, however adrenal fatigue will not lead to chronic fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is usually a symptom of other pre-occurring conditions such as chronic fatigue, trauma and inflammation. Meanwhile, it’s difficult for medical professionals to precisely find out the cause of chronic fatigue since it’s linked to various health conditions.

Another significant difference involves the scientific evidence of the existence between each. If one were to question a conventional doctor about the differences between the two, they would most likely claim that adrenal fatigue does not exist as an official condition. Many within the traditional medical field do not recognize adrenal fatigue as an illness due to its lacking evidence to support whether or not it’s possible to experience fatigue due to chronic stress. Instead, conventional doctors will likely recognize adrenal insufficiency as the cause to low energy levels and diagnose individuals with Addison’s disease. (However, this condition occurs when the immune system attacks the adrenal glands and halts the production of cortisol completely, which is entirely different from adrenal fatigue.) Therefore, many with adrenal fatigue may be unaware that they have it due to a misdiagnosis. However, at LifeWorks Wellness Center, we recognize adrenal fatigue and can properly diagnose it by measuring one’s cortisol levels. On the other hand, chronic fatigue is recognized by both alternative and conventional doctors alike, but is still difficult to understand why it develops in the first place.

Treat Your Fatigue at LifeWorks

Whether one is suffering from adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue, LifeWorks Wellness Center can properly treat both conditions with the use of noninvasive, natural treatment methods. Patients must consult with a practitioner to discuss any symptoms, medications, and medical background in order to accurately determine the type of fatigue that they are experiencing. From there, they will undergo a series of tests to measure cortisol levels, toxicity and inflammation before receiving the right treatment program to help them recover.

If you or someone that you know are suffering from adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue or another chronic illness, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners at 727-466-6789.