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Doctors and Researchers Connect Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) with Adrenal Insufficiency

  [ 79 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 9, 2003

In the Archives of Internal Medicine, as published in the Journals of the American Medical Association, Riccardo Baschetti, M.D., states “[Chronic Fatigue Syndrome] shares 39 features with primary adrenal insufficiency, including all the physical and neuropsychological symptoms listed in both the original and the revised criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), as well as many other abnormalities.” Dr. Baschetti concludes, “I believe that adrenal insufficiency, rather than alteration in cardiac function, may primarily account for the reduction in exercise capacity in CFS.”(1)

Leading CFS physician David S. Bell, M.D., discusses adrenal insufficiency in his breakthrough book, The Doctor’s Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, “In an important 1991 paper, Demitrack and colleagues reported abnormal results in a study involving adrenal hormones. The results suggested a mild central adrenal insufficiency [in CFS patients], implying that there was inadequate stimulus from the brain to the adrenal glands.”(2)

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., a leading CFS and FM clinician and researcher, also points to adrenal insufficiency among CFS patients, “About two-thirds of people with chronic fatigue problems appear to have an underactive adrenal gland. One cause may be the hypothalamic master gland not making enough of an adrenal stimulating hormone (CRH). I suspect many people also have adrenal ‘burnout.’”(3)

The adrenal glands are small triangle shaped organs located just above the kidneys that support the metabolism, balance electrolyte levels, and regulate the inflammation response by secreting key hormones into the blood stream.

Adrenal fatigue happens when your body is overwhelmed (as in coping with chronic illness) and stress overextends the capacity of the body to compensate and recover. Consequently, the adrenal glands become fatigued and are unable to adequately respond to stress. In particular, the hormones cortisol and DHEA secreted by the adrenal glands, play key roles in maintaining blood sugar and energy in the body. During stress, the adrenals will produce increased amounts of DHEA and cortisol to boost energy and protect the body from the negative effects of stress.

However, during chronic stress, the adrenals may not produce enough of these hormones. As a result, a patient may show symptoms of low energy and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, a weakened immune system, and poor detoxification processes.

Nutritional Support Helps Adrenal Glands Battle Stress

Maintaining proper nutrition and reducing stress are important factors in avoiding adrenal fatigue. Some nutrients that can support your body against stress and help enhance energy levels include: DHEA, vitamin C, vitamin B-5, Siberian Ginseng, and CoQ10.


1. Editor’s Correspondence (Riccardo Baschetti, M.D.) regarding: De Becker P, Roeykens J, Reynders M, Mc Gregor N, De Meirleir K. Exercise capacity in chronic fatigue syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:3270-327

2. Bell, David S., M.D. The Doctor’s Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 1993 Addison Wesley, pp. 115.

3. Teitelbaum, Jacob, M.D., From Fatigued to Fantastic: A Manual for Moving Beyond Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. 1995 Deva Press, pp.36.

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