Adrenal fatigue… or lousy diet?

Just found a link from a medical practice at UNC* that had something interesting to say about post-ADX “adrenal fatigue” and figured I should share it here, since it seems to be a concern for some. The main takeaway (emphasis mine):

Regardless of the reason for adrenalectomy there is a very remote possibility that the remaining adrenal gland may not function normally. This is very rare. Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include weakness, profound fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, abdominal pain, confusion and low blood pressure. These symptoms are largely non-specific. Patients may experience one or two symptoms to a mild degree as part of the usual post-op recovery. Multiple symptoms that worsen over time could be adrenal insufficiency and should be reported to the office.

Because “adrenal fatigue” (generally caused by – wait for it! – stress) is a trendy term that gets a lot of press lately (my 89-year-old mother sends me articles from women’s magazines about it, sigh…) and is generally used to sell unregulated supplements and the services of non-medically-trained “coaches” of various ilks, I cannot emphasize enough how skeptical one should be when reading this stuff.

If you look at those symptoms that I bolded above, depending on the degree there can be multiple causes. In general, aside from the low blood pressure, I’d hypothesize that in most cases they are caused by life itself: tie daily stresses of life combined with poor dietary choices, lack of sleep, and not making enough personal down-time for oneself due to work and/or family responsibilities.

There are various post-adrenalectomy anecdotes around the interwebs about feeling fatigued with one adrenal. I’ve experienced none of that. My hypothesisis? These reports are from people who eat the standard American diet of processed foods, salt, sugar, and more sugar – I know this from reading other things these individuals have posted. I don’t touch that stuff, and I feel great; someone who confesses to stopping at the McDonald’s drive-through and/or eating cake and ice cream regularly *doesn’t* feel great – hmmmm. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it.

When I still had an adrenal tumor, I managed my illness fairly well by avoiding excessive dietary sodium (which kept my BP low enough to not take meds with their horrible side effects) and avoiding most non-nutritive carbohydrates (which kept my disordered metabolism from devolving into full-fledged diabetes). Post-adrenalectomy, I see no reason to change those things.

*That same medical practice has an adrenal page with some other useful info, including adrenalectomy videos and a great scar photo that looks really similar to what mine looked like.

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Normal vs. lab normal.

Just got results back from routine bloodwork that I had done, and thought it was worth mentioning that my potassium level remains 4.5 (lab normal is 3.6-5.3 at my lab) which is what it has been at exactly every test I’ve had post-adrenalectomy.

Said it before and thought it was worth saying again – “normal” for me was never anywhere near the low end of “lab normal”!