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What causes adrenal exhaustion?

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Quick Answer

Adrenal exhaustion, also called adrenal fatigue, is not a proven medical condition. Rather, it is a term used to advance the theory that symptoms such as fatigue are caused by ineffectively functioning adrenal glands in people experiencing stress, according to WebMD.

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Full Answer

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands to help the body cope with stress, explains WebMD. Proponents of the adrenal fatigue theory posit that stress causes the adrenal glands to produce insufficient amounts of cortisol and other hormones. Other doctors disagree, believing that symptoms attributed to adrenal fatigue are caused by other health problems, and that symptoms such as fatigue are widely common in the general population.

Adrenal insufficiency, also called Addison's disease, is a recognized medical condition affecting the adrenal glands such that an inadequate amount of cortisol and other hormones are produced, notes Mayo Clinic.This condition manifests in symptoms including fatigue and body aches and can be diagnosed with a blood test. People advancing the adrenal fatigue theory argue that as a legitimate condition, adrenal fatigue is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency resulting from chronic stress. Underlying this theory is the idea that chronic fight-or-flight reactions by the body demand levels of hormones that the glands are unable to produce.

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