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Adrenal Dysfunction and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Holtorf Medical Group

What role does adrenal dysfunction play with chronic fatigue syndrome?

If you have been already diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), you already know that this illness is much more than just being tired a lot. People with this disorder are so run down that it interferes with their lives and can make it hard to function at all. Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome say they have trouble staying on top of their responsibilities at home and on the job, while others are severely disabled and even bedridden. Furthermore, they’re not just dealing with extreme fatigue but with a wide range of other symptoms, including flu-like symptoms and chronic pain.

CFS affects more than one million people in the United States. There are tens of millions of people with similar fatiguing illnesses who do not fully meet the strict research definition of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Who is at Risk of Developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

People of every age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group can have chronic fatigue syndrome. This illness affects women at four times the rate of men.

Research indicates that chronic fatigue syndrome is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. Although it is much less common in children than in adults, children can develop the illness, particularly during the teen years.

What are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Symptoms can be very similar to the ones experienced by Fibromyalgia sufferers and up to 70 percent of the patients actually suffer from both conditions. Symptoms include: fatigue that doesn’t go away with sleep, difficulty getting restful sleep, pain, stiffness, tender spots in muscles and/or joints, headaches, sore throat, flu-like feeling, weight gain, digestive problems, mental fog, and poor concentration. Unfortunately, many individuals and physicians continue to deny that this syndrome is a legitimate disease. The medical literature is, however, very clear in proving the opposite; individuals with this disorder have measurable hypothalamic, pituitary, immune, and coagulation dysfunction. These abnormalities then result in a cascade of further abnormalities, in which stress plays a role by suppressing immunity and hypothalamic-pituitary function.

The pituitary and hypothalamic dysfunction result in multiple hormonal deficiencies that are often not detected with standard blood tests. The immune dysfunction, which includes natural killer cell dysfunction, results in opportunistic infections and yeast overgrowth, resulting in worsening of symptoms.

Why Does Holtorf Medical Center Use a Multifaceted Approach to Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The multi-faceted approach followed by medical experts at Holtorf Medical Group includes 5 components that need to be addressed in conditions like CFS: stabilize the patient, mitochondrial enhancement, balance the hormones, treat the infectious component, address unique etiologies and maintenance.

A 500 patient study demonstrated that this multi-system treatment protocol that addresses the known physiologic abnormalities in conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome resulted in:

  • 94% of patients had overall improvement by the 4th visit
  • 75% noted significant overall improvement
  • 62% reported substantial overall improvement
  • The average energy level and since of well-being for patients doubled by the fourth visit.

The effectiveness of this multi-system treatment was further confirmed through the analysis of the cumulative findings of over 40 independent physicians and over 5,000 patients. Prior to the treatment at the Holtorf Medical Group, the patients had seen an average of 7.2 different physicians for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia without significant improvement.

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What is the Connection Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Adrenal Fatigue?

While CFS and adrenal fatigue are not the same, adrenal function may play a role in it. Those with CFS are often found to produce a low amount of the hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Furthermore, CFS is a malfunction of the pituitary, a pea-sized gland at the base of the skull, which regulates all our hormones. The pituitary, hypothalamus, and adrenals all work together as part of the HPA axis to regulate our health and hormones. Analysis of the data in over 50 studies that assessed adrenal function in CFS and fibromyalgia patients demonstrates that the majority of these patients have abnormal adrenal function due to hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction.

Deficiencies in hormones like cortisol, DHEA, aldosterone, pregnenolone, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and growth hormone are often missed or poorly treated because doctors have come to rely on standard blood tests that require an intact pituitary and hypothalamus for diagnosis and dosing of hormone levels. There is, however, severe hypothalamic and pituitary dysfunction with CFS, making the standard blood tests inadequate. Evaluating hormone function, not just hormone levels, can help diagnose CFS and adrenal fatigue; and when properly treated and balanced, tremendous results can be achieved.

Although a concept that is sometimes uncomfortable and foreign to traditional medical styles of thinking, the need for multiple interventions is required for effective treatment of such complex illnesses like CFS and adrenal fatigue. The HPA axis works as the body’s energy and hormone regulator. An imbalance between any part of the axis can affect the entire body system and treatment for such disorders requires a well-rounded approach to restore function. Therefore, adrenal and pituitary dysfunction often require treatment with several hormones. When treatment is received, individuals with devastating syndromes like CFS, adrenal fatigue, and Fibromylagia can “get their lives back” despite the fact that they were previously told, “there is nothing that can be done.”

To learn more, watch this short video with Dr. Kent Holtorf explaining the symptoms, diagnose, and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.

At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat your adrenal dysfunction and CFS, optimize your health, and improve your quality of life. Contact us to see how we can help you!


Holtorf Medical GroupThe Holtorf Medical Group specializes in optimizing quality of life and being medical detectives to uncover the underlying cause of symptoms, rather than just prescribing medications to cover-up the symptoms. We are experts in natural, prescription bioidentical hormone replacement and optimization, complex endocrine dysfunction, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and Lyme disease. We’ve dedicated our practice to providing you the best in evidenced-based, integrative medicine that’s not only safe and effective, but provides measurable results.


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