Supplements promoted to help 'adrenal fatigue' can actually make you feel worse, a doctor says

  • "Adrenal fatigue" is a condition circulating on social media that is supposedly caused by stress.

  • To treat adrenal fatigue, some people have turned to unregulated supplements.

  • But a doctor said the condition isn't real, and taking supplements for it could be dangerous.

On a popular TikTok video that's been viewed over 8 million times, creator Carie Morrison tagged the term #adrenalfatigue.

"POV," the text on the video read, "You learn that the reason you are exhausted all day and wired at night is because of high cortisol levels."

"Adrenal fatigue" refers to a variety of non-specific symptoms that crop up after being under chronic stress, like fatigue even after rest.

In her popular video, Morrison also lists other symptoms like difficulties with weight loss, having a puffy face, low libido, and anxiety.

The condition has grown increasingly popular on social media — and in real life.

Dr. Stephanie Lee, an endocrinologist at Boston Medical Center, said she's worked with many patients who have reported having difficulty sleeping and feeling stressed out, and worry that their hormones are to blame.

"I think that we are in a super stressed out lifestyle," Lee told Insider.

But while your stress and burnout are real, adrenal fatigue is "completely made up," Lee said.

And taking supplements that are marketed for the condition could make you feel even worse, she said.

Adrenal glands are involved in stress, but they're not fatigued

The adrenal glands perch like little cable knit hats atop the kidneys. They produce a hormone called cortisol, which has been dubbed the "stress" hormone because it helps you manage stressful or dangerous situations.

Chronic stress can lead to constantly elevated levels of cortisol, which in turn can lead to weight gain, depression, fatigue, digestive issues, and suppressed immune system functioning.

Supposedly, adrenal fatigue happens when your adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the stress you're experiencing, and aren't able to produce the necessary amount of hormones.

But there's no evidence that shows your adrenal glands get overworked and stop functioning properly, according to the Endocrine Society.

"It is not something that is a medically recognized condition," Lee said.

Supplements for adrenal fatigue can be dangerous

To "treat" adrenal fatigue, some people may be tempted to turn to supplements.

But supplements marketed for adrenal fatigue or adrenal support can be risky, and may make your symptoms worse due to undisclosed ingredients.

A 2018 study found that out of 12 supplements marketed for "adrenal support" that were tested, all of them contained a thyroid hormone, and most of them contained at least one steroid hormone.

Taking these supplements could alter the normal, healthy functioning of your adrenal glands, which could be harmful and even life threatening, according to the Endocrine Society.

"The supplements that you buy off the internet are not regulated, they're not monitored," Lee said.

If you feel extra fatigued, see your doctor

If you're experiencing unusual symptoms like fatigue or long-term stress, you don't have adrenal fatigue — but you probably should still see your doctor.

Symptoms that may seem like "adrenal fatigue" could be caused by something else, Lee said.

"A lot of the people who have chronic fatigue are people who are working two jobs, or they have stressful family lives," she said.

So you could still have an underlying condition that requires treatment.

Read the original article on Insider