Does Adrenal Fatigue Impact on Weight Control?

A fairly controversial medical condition is called “Adrenal Fatigue”. First, let’s discuss the adrenal glands and what they produce. The adrenals sit at the top end of the kidneys and their functions include the production of certain hormones (chemical messengers). These hormones include steroids (cortisol is the major steroid), aldosterone (involved in sodium/potassium regulation) and epinephrine/norepinephrine (responsible for the “fight or flight” response).

Excessive cortisol production can occur in disease states such as Cushing’s Syndrome. Symptoms of this can include weight gain, high blood pressure, ulcers, easy bruising and increased risk of infection. Too much production of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine can lead to dangerously high blood pressure and pulse. When too much aldosterone is produced, serum sodium levels can go dangerously high and serum potassium levels dangerously low.

Conversely, too little production of the adrenal hormones may result in chronic fatigue, slow metabolism, weight gain and the inability to mount an effective response against serious infections or stresses to the body.

Measuring adrenal hormones is fairly simple. We can easily test for cortisol excess/deficiency, aldosterone imbalance and epinephrine/norepinephrine abnormalities. However, this is where the controversy begins: A number of ‘alternative medicine” practitioners and believers feel that despite “normal” results when these adrenal hormones are tested for in the blood, there still may exist some sort of “adrenal fatigue” that accounts for a myriad of symptoms, mostly centered around fatigue, depression and inability to lose weight. Moreover, in the case of “stress”, which is known to produce a cortisol response, because cortisol produces fat deposition, weight gain can also occur from too much stress.

Here is my view on the subject: Concerning weight control, there are many, many factors that play a role in the ability/inability to shed weight. There is not one singular “culprit”, including adrenal gland malfunction that can be blamed for poor weight control. Is there a possibility that the adrenal gland is playing a major role in weight control? Not if the blood testing on cortisol shows normal results. However, there could be a slight affect on weight control induced by stress effects on cortisol. BUT, please beware of any supplements purporting to balance cortisol and help you achieve weight control simply by taking that supplement.

The bottom line: It is highly doubtful in most cases of people experiencing poor weight control and/or fatigue that the adrenal gland/adrenal fatigue is playing a major role.

And uh, oh, I know I just p---ed off a number of adrenal fatigue support groups!

Dr. Robert Posner One of the world’s leading medical weight loss researchers, Robert Posner, MD, operates his state-of-the-art weight loss clinic, Serotonin Plus, in the heart of Burke, Virginia, in the suburban Washington area.

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