Adrenal fatigue does not exist and by this I mean board certified endocrinologists say that adrenal glands can’t be exhausted or over worked. Internal organs don’t fatigue, it would be a pretty poor evolutionary design if they did. Early Homo sapiens had just a little more stress than we do in 2017, so if adrenals got pooped out by floods and famines and predators and lack of shelter and mass migrations we would never be here, you know? Viscera do get diseases and those diseases can make us fatigued, but that does not mean the organs themselves are tired or exhausted.

We can thank Gwyneth Paltrow and her mumbo jumbo for bringing the tired organ trope back into vogue. Vague hormone disorders have long been a favorite of those who profit from junk science, the name just gets changed with each new generation. At one point in the not to distant past men traveled to Kansas for goat testicle implants to treat hormone maladies. While I expect this kind of poison from Paltrow and Mercola to see such junk in the Washington Post is jarring. Maybe the whole alternative-fact-busting-democracy dies-in-darkness credo takes Sundays off?

This piece of medically illiterate concierge woo comes to us by way of a registered dietitian, Christy Brissette, who gets to the trash right off the bat, specifically that everyone is tired and only naturopathic and complementary doctors have the ability to make the true diagnosis. I’ve read so much about the fatigue overwhelming everyone that I’m beginning to think that I am the only person in America who isn’t chronically tired.

The first lie appears on line six, “adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenals, glands that sit above the kidneys, don’t produce enough cortisol.” This like saying vaccines cause autism or that the world is flat. However, facts doesn’t stop Brissette or the functional medicine doctors and naturopaths who are only too eager to get free advertising and the legitimacy a national publication affords. Facts also don’t seem to faze the editors at the Washington Post!

Brissette actually acknowledges upfront that the facts say adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist:

The very existence of adrenal fatigue is a contentious issue. It isn’t recognized by any endocrinology societies or endocrinologists, medical doctors who specialize in hormone-related health problems. A recent systematic review of the scientific literature found that there was no evidence for the existence of adrenal fatigue as a medical condition.

So let’s revisit this. The author writes that recognized experts say adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist and then proceeds to write a piece on this non-existent condition and this passes as acceptable for the Washington Post.

The next few paragraphs are the very definition of how expertise dies and alternative facts are born (I am including it as a screen shot because you just have to see it as is):

That’s right. An EXPERT says it doesn’t exist. In fact he is quoted as saying naturopaths “describe adrenal fatigue as a stress-induced condition where your adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol. In fact, when you’re stressed out, your adrenal glands make more cortisol.” However, a NON EXPERT (and by that I mean the very definition of a medical non expert, a naturopath) says it does and so all of a sudden there are two sides so there must be a middle ground.

Here’s a pro tip for Brisette and the Washington Post, if an astrologer says the earth is flat and an astrophysicist says that the earth is round that doesn’t make the earth a semi-circle.

The actual expert, Friedman, mentions adrenal insufficiency (a real diagnosis) and then the two get sort of mixed up in the article as a way to support the original incorrect hypothesis about adrenal fatigue. Insufficiency or fatigue, what’s in a name? It’s flexible right, like facts?

While Brissette does offer fine dietary advice (eat healthy, who knew?) this type of article is dangerous on many levels. First it offers legitimacy to a lie. There is no adrenal fatigue. When people search for that term a Washington Post piece will now come up. Secondly, it could cause people to waste money on snake oil that can never help them, be it testing or advice or supplements. Finally, it might delay a diagnosis. Fatigue can be caused by a myriad of conditions from fibromylagia to hypothyroidism to depression to sleep apnea to poor sleep habits.

Democracy may die in darkness but medicine is dying on the pages of the Washington Post.



Join the Conversation


  1. I read and hear about things like this and wonder if it is because people don’t feel like their doctors are listening to them or they are losing faith in allopathic medicine and i am really interested in why that might be. I am a recently retired Australian paramedic (requires a three university degree + one year on the job training here and we are autonomous in the field) and I observed that to people who arent medically trained believing your doctor, or naturopath, or your mum about what is wrong with you and what to do about it is an act of faith and trust. There is nothing else for them to go on.

  2. Yet another vague “disorder” or “syndrome” made up of myriad nebulous symptoms, none of which can be tested for by anyone but a quack. If I had a quid for everyone​ I’ve encountered online, who had self-diagnosed one of these “conditions”, I’d have my own private island.

    This bullshit spreads like wildfire, cf. “chronic Lyme”, “Morgellons”, EMS, etc. In the US, this is the culmination of anti-science attitudes, a fractured healthcare system, and legitimisation of woo merchants such as chiropractors and naturopaths. WaPo fell for the “alternative facts” and have lost all credibility as a result.

  3. This is what happens when the Lifestyle section tries to do something on health. Health should be in the science section. I’m pretty sure this would not have been published if the science editor had seen it.

  4. This is disturbing for those who live with adrenal insufficiency, which is a life-threatening condition. There is poor knowledge of adrenal insufficiency in the healthcare field and many confuse it with ‘ adrenal fatigue’ with adverse consequences for patients .

  5. Thank you. I’m being tested for cushings and thyroid problems just now, and I am trying to read as much as possible. It is good to know the real story on adrenal fatigue

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: