Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin and Physician Kwek Le Yin
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real? Know The Signs and Symptoms
Published | 6 min read
You might have heard of adrenal fatigue being discussed by your friends and online sources, but does it really exist? Here’s what medical experts and Traditional Chinese Medicine have to say about it.
Read on to learn more about your adrenal glands, what could be causing your chronic fatigue and some ways to ease the symptoms.
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real In TCM?
TCM physician Kwek Le Yin says chronic fatigue in TCM is similar to adrenal fatigue. Within chronic fatigue, there are many syndromes that include Qi Deficiency,
“Because the adrenal glands are positioned on top of the Kidneys, TCM regards adrenal fatigue as a Deficiency in the Kidneys.
“When the adrenals are overstimulated due to stress, it can affect the Kidneys, the four other major organs and their physiological functions, leading to a lack of qi, an
TCM Physician Kwek Le Yin
Causes and Syndromes of Fatigue in TCM
The four major causes and syndromes of adrenal fatigue are:
Common symptoms include insomnia, heart palpitations, anxiety and depression, heart conditions, emotional instability, and fibromyalgia (severe pain and fatigue in joints and muscles throughout the body).
2. Kidney and Spleen Imbalance
Common symptoms include fatigue, craving for sweets, hypoglycaemia, brain fog, muscle weakness, poor digestion, and food intolerance.
3. Kidney and Liver Imbalance
This can be worsened by late nights, alcohol and stress. Common symptoms include headaches and migraines, irritability, anger and frustration, hormonal symptoms, and acne.
4. Kidney and Lung Imbalance
Common symptoms include allergies, hay-fever, recurring respiratory infection, cold, flu, and asthma.
Clinical Causes and Symptoms of Fatigue
Your adrenal glands produce several hormones including cortisol. When you’re under stress, you produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream.
An article by the Endocrine Society says that these symptoms are common and can be caused by other conditions such as depression and obstructive sleep apnoea. They also can occur if you lead a normal, busy life. If you find that these symptoms are affecting your quality of life, you should obtain a proper diagnosis by a medical professional to get to the root of the issue.
TCM Remedies to Help with Fatigue
Physician Kwek suggests these herbs and treatments to help with symptoms of fatigue.
Decoctions and herbs
Si Shen Tang (四神汤) helps treat anxiety and adrenal fatigue symptoms. It can also lower blood sugar, reduce oedema, restore kidney function, and boost qi and blood
You can try making this Si Shen Tang soup recipe or opt to purchase a soup pack:
- 50g Euryale ferox (芡实)
- 40g Lotus seed (lian zi, 莲子)
- 40g Chinese yam (huai shan, 淮山)
- 40g Poria (fu ling, 茯苓)
- 1l water
1. Soak the herbs for 20 minutes, then wash and drain them.
2. Add all the ingredients to a large pot of boiling water.
3. Boil for 20 mins and reduce heat to simmer for one hour. Serve.
Another herbal decoction that can help is Ba Zhen Tang (八珍汤) with the addition of Rhizoma corydalis (yan hu suo, 延胡索). It nourishes qi and blood and improves blood circulation.
Apart from herbal formulas, some herbs can help combat the cause and symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Physician Kwek recommends Astragalus root (huang qi, 黄芪), codonopsis (dang shen, 党参) and liquorice root (gan cao, 甘草), which strengthen the immune system and replenish vital energy and blood.
To strengthen the Kidneys’ qi and yang, Physician Kwek says cordyceps is effective, while goji berries (gou qi zi, 枸杞子) strengthen Kidney yin.
As always, speak to a TCM physician before self-prescribing any of these herbs and decoctions to ensure they’re suitable for you.
Physician Kwek advises that apart from incorporating Chinese herbs into your diet, consider having numerous small meals spaced out more frequently throughout the day instead of three heavy meals a day.
“Consume food that nourishes the Kidneys such as kidney beans, black sesame seeds (hei zhi ma, 黑芝麻), and walnuts (he tao ren, 核桃仁). You should also lower your intake of sugar, alcohol, and food high in sodium, and stop smoking.”
TCM Physician Kwek Le Yin
Stress and other emotional strains should also be avoided if possible or regulated through exercising or meditation. Suitable exercises include Qigong and yoga breathing exercises, which can
Acupuncture can balance hormones by calming your body and nervous system.
As the underlying cause of the adrenal fatigue symptoms in TCM is Kidney Deficiency, acupoints associated with the Kidneys or on the Kidney meridian may be stimulated to improve adrenal fatigue. A qualified acupuncturist will stimulate acupoints tai xi (KI3, 太溪) and yong quan (KII, 湧泉).
Physician Kwek also suggests acupoints to help calm the mind, which are shen men (HT7, 神门) and bai hui (GV20, 百会). If you’re looking to relieve a headache, he gu (LI4, 合谷) and tai yang (EXHN05, 太阳) will help while shen mai (BL62, 申脉) and zhao hai (KI6, 照海) can improve sleep.
Though adrenal fatigue isn’t officially recognised by Western and TCM practitioners, you might
Do these symptoms of fatigue sound familiar? Share your story with us if you’ve managed to overcome the condition.
- Harvard Health Publishing, 2020, Is adrenal fatigue “real”? [online] [Accessed 10 April 2023]
- Endocrine.org, 2022 Adrenal Fatigue, [online] [Accessed 10 April 2023]
- Health Direct. Adrenal Fatigue, [online] [Accessed 10 April 2023]
- CedarsSinai.org 2018, Debunking Adrenal Fatigue, [online] [Accessed 10 April 2023]
- Cleveland Clinic, 2021, Here’s The Truth About Adrenal Fatigue
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