Adrenal Fatigue: A History of Suspicions

Contrary to widespread belief, Adrenal Fatigue was not invented by some “new age guru” looking for a scapegoat for his chronic pot smoking lifestyle.  Going as far back as the 18th century, doctors were well aware of the signs of a weak adrenal gland. The only difference between now and then is that doctors in the 18th century sometimes gave their diagnosis a different name.

Early Years

In 1998, Dr. James Wilson began to recognize the same symptoms over and over again in patients who complained of lethargy and overall malaise. Dr. Wilson coined the term “Adrenal Fatigue” and it became part of the national lexicon from that point forward. Prior to that it was called a wide variety of names, from adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and even sub-clinical hyponatremia.

The bottom line was that the adrenal glands were not functioning properly and medical science had not yet studied them enough to give the condition a name. Addison’s Disease was given to the final (4th stage) of Adrenal Fatigue, but if you reached this point you were as good as dead.

In the 1800’s doctors and medical science finally began to understand the adrenal glands and the important role they played in helping the human body cope with stress.  Dr. Thomas Addison in 1849 recognized the signs and symptoms and when he presented it to the South London Medical Society, he coined the term “Addison’s Disease”.

In the 19th century, doctors increased their studies on the hormone producing glands and began to use adrenal cells in an attempt to treat Addison’s. Most of these attempts were unsuccessful. As the years progressed, adrenal extracts would gain in popularity and eventually be replaced by synthetic compounds which were a lot less expensive.

The 20th century is when scientific study and knowledge of adrenal glands exploded in a wave of discoveries. In the field of endocrinology, doctors finally had a grasp on exactly how and why the adrenal glands worked, yet they did not come to an agreement on the severity of the condition of Addison’s. To them, it was either all or nothing. Other doctors argued that there had to be a state in between being perfectly healthy and Addison’s. The debate as to whether adrenal fatigue was real (INSERT HYPERLINK) or not had begun.

From 1920 through 1940, tens of thousands of patients were diagnosed and treated for “hypoadrenia”. As time went by the diagnosis became less and less because there was no real medical test that could safely and definitively confirm those people suffered from the condition they were diagnosed with.  It was at this point in time that Endocrinologists decided to focus on conditions and diseases that they could actually diagnose and treat.

In the 1990’s, the work of Dr. Wilson was combined with saliva cortisol testing and that enabled doctors to make a confident diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue.

In today’s medical climate, the debate rages on as to whether Adrenal Fatigue is real or not. Several doctors recognize that there is ample evidence (when combined with cortisol testing) to make a reliable diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue. Yet, even as this article is being written, the debate rages on. On the one hand you have medical professionals who refuse to acknowledge the existence of AF, and on the other hand you have people who claim they did suffer from Adrenal Fatigue and after they made some healthy lifestyle choices, they were cured from their condition.

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