A great many people today suffer from adrenal fatigue to some degree or another. Often, they have no idea that there is a name for the symptoms they’ve been experiencing. High levels of chronic stress over a long enough time lead to problems in various systems in the body, until things begin to get bad, especially thyroid and gut function, which can cause problems for other parts of the body. However, diet and supplement are an excellent way to begin healing this condition, and medium chain triglycerides can play an important role in this process.
Because this condition can develop gradually and begin causing problems well before it qualifies for an official medical evaluation of an ailment recognized by conventional medicine, it frequently goes unrecognized. Even if people go see a doctor about their complaints and get tested, the tests come back as “normal.” Things have to get extremely bad before adrenal fatigue is recognized by the typical medical doctor.
Unlike in traditional Eastern medicine and in natural medicine, Western medicine fails to recognize that poor health ramps up gradually. Thus, something is going wrong well before it fits the criteria for any recognized Western medical conditions. It happens often that someone is miserable all the time, but medical doctors tell them, “There’s nothing wrong. All tests are within the normal range.” This is a failing of Western medicine.
There is no reason that real problems cannot be recognized and addressed sooner. It is a failing of mental models. There are tests available that can identify subtler problems, and there is adequate information available. Yet, adrenal fatigue simply fails to make the radar for most medical professionals.
Adrenal fatigue is caused by chronic stress. For far too many people, modern life involves a combination of living hard, being exposed to highly toxic substances, not eating right, and not getting enough rest. This inevitably wears on the body and gradually causes harm. Over time, the body’s natural stress response gets overused, and the body stops being able to rise to the occasion.
Part of the reason the body’s natural stress response fails is because we live in a toxic world. The human body did not evolve in such an environment. It is ill equipped to cope.
There are a great many synthetic chemicals invented in the last 100 years or so that simply did not exist before. The wonders of modern science and industry have come at a cost to human health.
Often, we simply do not know exactly what these medium chain triglycerides do to people. There may not be enough of a track record to fully understand them. In other cases, we know they harm human health, and even know some of the specific ways in which they cause harm, but the very real harm they do is downplayed or not taken seriously enough.
These synthetic chemicals are frequently very hard on the liver. While laboratory tests may continue to be normal, liver function deteriorates slowly over time. As the liver deteriorates, everything else also deteriorates, including the adrenals. It becomes a bottleneck in the system. If it cannot be cleared, it starts a downward spiral that nothing seems able to stop.
Another reason that our stress response system becomes overwhelmed by modern life is because, in nature, our stress response is primarily intended for dealing with short term, acute stress, but our modern lifestyles expose us to mostly chronic, recurrent sources of stress. Thus, many people stay on edge all the time. They never catch a break or get to really relax and recover. It takes its toll and people slowly deteriorate.
As adrenal fatigue worsens, it begins negatively impacting other systems. When the adrenals run on high constantly, this eventually stresses other hormone producing organs, including the thyroid.
When the hormonal systems are not functioning properly, it takes its toll on the body generally. As the body generally deteriorates, the gut becomes increasingly compromised as well. No organ system of the body is spared over time. The only question is the degree of impairment that may arise either subclinically or clinically .
The Adrenals and the Gut
The gut constitutes about 70 percent of the human immune system. Thus, once the gut is involved, a person is basically chronically ill, often with no apparent reason distinguishable by conventional medicine.
The adrenals and gut are part of the body’s defense system. They help the body protect itself from what life throws at it. As these two critical systems become dysfunctional, the entire body begins to not function. Sleep becomes elusive. Blood sugar levels become unstable. Nutrient assimilation slows. Bloating, anxiety, fatigue, and brain fog become common. The person is simply exhausted all the time and no amount of rest seems to be enough.
One function of the gut is to eliminate toxic wastes. It works with the kidneys and liver to perform this vital task. As it slowly fails, toxic metabolites begins to back up.
Think of how unhealthy your house would be if you started taking out only half of the trash. If you did that, the mound of garbage would slowly grow. It would get more and more backed up and germs would grow in the mound of garbage.
This is what happens in the human body when the gut begins to fail. The body cannot remove the wastes from the system. Once that process starts, it is a vicious downward cycle. The growing backlog of toxic metabolites makes it harder still to handle the daily burden. Things grow ever more toxic until, over time, the liver and other vital systems are completely overwhelmed.
When adrenal fatigue and general deterioration are in their early stages, it is not uncommon for people to consume caffeine and other stimulants in an effort to pump up the body and help it cope. This is a short term strategy with long term costs. Underlying root causes are masked as a result. It takes its toll on the body and worsens the situation.
This turns into a situation like being on a hamster wheel. People run faster to try to keep up, but never get anywhere. They start becoming depressed after all their medical workups are normal. They may be dealing with feeling cold all the time as thyroid function slows. They may have an irritable bowel and frequently have diarrhea or constipation as the GI tract becomes sensitive. They often crave salt and may find themselves eating salty snacks that are not all that healthy. This can contribute to the tendency to gain weight and be unable to get it off or keep it off that is so common with adrenal fatigue.
Some people think they are merely getting old. In truth, they are experiencing the gradual onset of adrenal fatigue. However, things can be done so that vitality and energy improve. It is not an inevitable downhill slide.
One of the first things that to do is to address dietary insufficiencies, either through a change in diet, a supplement regimen, or both. Ingesting the right kinds of healthy fats plays an important role in this part of the recovery process.
Medium Chain Triglycerides
This is the chemical term for a class of fatty acids. It is often shortened to MCT oil. The individual members of this class of fatty acids were named for the length of their carbon chain. They have between six and twelve carbons. Fatty acids with more than twelve carbons are classified as long chain triglycerides (LCT). Fatty acids with fewer than six carbons are called short chain triglycerides (SCT).
Both coconut oil and palm oil naturally contain a high percentage of medium chain triglycerides. Good quality butter is another decent source, though it is not “high” in such fats. Sometimes people are confused and think that coconut oil is the exact same thing as MCT oil, but this is not the case.
No food is naturally made 100 percent of MCT oils. Some fats or oils naturally contain a high percentage of MCT oils, but refinement is required to create pure MCT oil that contains nothing but medium chain triglycerides, with no long chain triglycerides or short chain triglycerides. The resulting oil is sometimes used as a supplement.
Unlike LCT oils, MCT oils are readily absorbed by the body without the need for digestion. For this reason, they are easier on the gut and have long been recommended as beneficial for people with serious gut problems of any sort, including very serious health problems like cystic fibrosis or stomach cancer.
In fact, because MCT oils can be absorbed without the body going through the process of digesting them, they can be applied topically and absorbed through the skin. For someone whose gut is very compromised and is having trouble eating at all, this detail can make MCT oil a very valuable and convenient part of the recovery process.
MCT Oils and Adrenal Fatigue
As noted above, adrenal fatigue results in both added stress to the thyroid and a deterioration of gut function. Whether taken as a supplement or added to the diet via oils and fats naturally high in medium chain triglycerides, MCT oils can help with both thyroid and gut function, provided that the body is strong enough to take it. They are known to provide thyroid support, and they can help heal the gut and foster a healthy gut microbiome by promoting a diversity of gut flora.
Additionally, medium chain triglycerides oils can help the body properly absorb sea salt. Sea salt is critical to the process of healing the adrenals. This is why people with adrenal fatigue crave salt. However, when it is seriously compromised, the body may not tolerate salt well. Taking MCT oil around the same time as sea salt can help the body absorb it properly and tolerate it better, speeding the improvement process.
However, medium chain triglycerides oils and sea salt can both promote diarrhea. When taken together, they can promote severe diarrhea. This is really just the body finally getting rid of a backlog of accumulated wastes. Nonetheless, it is best to move slowly and only take a little at a time. Thus, if either sea salt or medium chain triglycerides oils are part of a diet or supplement regimen already, and the other is added, it may be necessary to at least temporarily reduce the amount consumed to account for the increased absorption. Otherwise, it may cause significant discomfort and inconvenience.
As the gut and adrenals gradually improve, there will be less intestinal drama generally. Both constipation and diarrhea will become less frequent.
Healing the gut can also help lose weight. When the gut is compromised, malabsorption occurs. In other words, the body is not getting the full value of the nutrients available in the foods it consumes. This can promote constant snacking. It also means that no matter what is eaten, too many calories are being taken in compared to the amount of vital nutrients.
The right oils play a critical role in the health of the body. It isn’t actually good for a person to consume no fat at all. It is more important to make sure the body gets the kinds of fats it needs. For a body in crisis, fats like medium chain triglycerides that can be absorbed directly, without requiring the process of being broken down by digestive enzymes, put a great deal less stress on the system.
Logistically speaking, instead of trying to change the diet to include more MCT oils, it can be helpful to start with an MCT oil supplement or even a coconut oil supplement. Adding a supplement is a more easily controlled variable if you have a very sensitive system. It keeps things relatively simple. In contrast, if coconut oil or similar is substituted for some other source of fat in the diet, there are at least two variables there: 1) The reduction in one type of oil, and 2) the addition of another type of oil.
Given that changing cooking oils can also impact how food is prepared, that is a best case scenario. In reality, it is likely to involve a great many more confounding variables that cannot be readily isolated.
If a supplement with medium chain triglycerides is introduced while the diet remains the same, it makes it easier to determine if it is being tolerated well or if the amount being consumed needs to be adjusted. Over time, the impact on the body will be more readily recognized, and the body will also grow stronger, potentially no longer requiring such a careful approach. Thus, this level of control will not always be necessary. Still, it is prudent to begin the process this way.
Adrenal fatigue is a complex syndrome. There are many pieces to the puzzle and it takes time to resolve. It is best to consult a professional with experience who can guide you in seeking better health. There are too many variables for an untrained, inexperienced person to get right on their own, especially while also suffering significant impairment.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.