Adrenal Fatigue & Arrhythmia: Male Athlete, 41

Patient History: 

Subject was an extremely fit professional hockey player who used metabolic testing to determine appropriate doses of supplemental nutrients required for enhanced performance in pro sport: ie. vitamins, minerals, fatty-acids, amino-acids and other nutrients.  His resting morning heart rate was normally 42- 44 BPM.  

However, at one point in a season he began to develop numerous symptoms: tired upon waking, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, inability to recover form training, irregular heart rate, and an inability to shake a common cold.  

Suspected cause: 

Previous HTMAs on file demonstrated a history of low reference ranges for intracellular potassium, sodium, and phosphorus.  The subject’s interview regarding his recent lifestyle habits further revealed sporadic periods without adequate sleep, chronic over training, and excess consumption of caffeine, all which may have led to diminished adrenal function which can cause the above symptoms.  This was confirmed with measurements of blood pressure and pulse – taken first while lying down and then standing (postural reading) – a simple test of the adrenal gland’s ability to efficiently regulate normal blood pressure changes required for normal movement and changes in body position. 

(In that test the subject lies down flat for 10-15 minutes to allow pulse and blood pressures to drop very close to full resting levels.  This is confirmed by taking multiple readings, i.e.: at 5, 8, 10, and 12 minutes after lying down.  When the readings are no longer dropping and stabilize in a specific range, the desired blood pressure and pulse required to perform the test have been achieved.  Those last 2 or 3 reading are noted.  Then the subject stands, and the postural blood pressure and pulse are recorded immediately.  If adrenal function is normal, postural blood pressure will rise 10-20mmHg, and pulse will only rise 0-10 BPM, as the adrenal glands respond to secret hormone necessary to constrict blood vessels, increase BP, and ensure efficient blood flow to the brain (which is then no longer level with the heart, but instead a foot or so above it when standing). 

Every 10mmHg below the normal increase of 10-20mm that should be seen, indicates an increasingly severe case of hypoadrenia.  This test can be done at home with any electronic machine that records pulse and requires no pumping – as the subject must remain perfectly still and relaxed when doing this test.  An associated dizziness or lightheadedness may also be present when you stand, so do this test with someone besides you, or have something you can grab on to you in case you become dizzy or lightheaded.)   

When lying down, this subject’s resting blood pressure & pulse taken were measured at 110/60 and 60 respectively.  Upon standing, instead of rising 10 points, his postural BP fell to 80/50 and his pulse rose to 85, revealing the inability of the adrenal glands to respond to constrict his blood vessels and thereby efficiently drive blood to the head.  The systolic BP was 40 points below normal, and pulse was 25 BPM above normal, indicating severe adrenal exhaustion.  Despite little exertion upon standing, his heart-rate was forced to quickly increase by 42% to keep him from getting dizzy. 

Intervention: 

Additional 2-3 hours of bed rest; or 10 - 11 hours total sleep per day.  All strenuous exercise, except very light walking and stretching, prohibited for 5 days.  Intake of Vitamin C increased to 1/2 bowel tolerance.  Intake of sodium, potassium, and phosphates all increased.  One cup per day of freshly made vegetable juice: spinach, parsley, celery, carrot, garlic for 10 days.  All alcohol, stimulants, sweets, and refined foods were eliminated while healing.

Results: 

Adrenal function and related blood pressure & pulse indicators returned to within 95% of normal within 4 days.  Normal EKG and heart beat restored.  

Although advised to continue the regimen for another 1-2 days to achieve full recovery, and avoid a relapse, this athlete began light retraining at that point, so it took another 10 days after that for he to achieve a full recovery of his adrenal function.  

Note: The same athlete had a relapse 2 years later, and once again it was due to a combination of lack of sleep, over-training, caffeine use, and occasional binge eating of sweets. 

Recovery from adrenal fatigue in less conditioned patients can take a few weeks, and potentially much longer if disciplined adherence to therapy is not maintained.  

For additional information on the diagnosis and treatment of adrenal fatigue, see Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., Ph.D., Forward by Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.