Book Review: Adrenal Fatigue by James L. Wilson

Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress SyndromeI first heard about adrenal fatigue (or adrenal burnout) when I read The Schwarzbein Principle: The Transition a couple of years ago. (You can read my review of that book here). Some things really clicked with me, and I realized my lifestyle and diet was not supporting my adrenal health. I made some changes and saw some very positive results over time. But for some reason I never picked up Adrenal Fatigue by James Wilson until earlier this month.

Boy, I wish I’d read this book sooner.

Wilson does an amazing job of explaining how adrenal fatigue develops, and how it often slips under the radar. Before I had thought, “I’m too young, my lifestyle has never been too extreme. I feel like I have adrenal fatigue but how is that possible?”

Now I get it. When I looked back on the last several years of my life, I started seeing a pattern of stressful events. Some of them were more severe than others, most were within the range of normal, but in between I wasn’t feeding myself well or sleeping enough. My sleeping and eating habits got worse over time, and suddenly I wasn’t able to handle life’s stresses anymore. Before, I couldn’t really see why this happened, but now it makes a lot of sense. I simply had a series of physical and emotional stressors that were more than my adrenals were capable of handling (mainly because they were not getting the support they needed through rest and a healthy diet).

The book is divided into four parts:

  • Part I is basically an overview on adrenal fatigue. You’ll learn what adrenal fatigue is and what causes it. Here are some interesting quotes from the book to give you an idea:
"The purpose of the adrenal glands is to help your body cope with stresses and survive."

"Adrenal fatigue, in all its mild and severe forms, is usually caused by some form of stress. Stress can be physical, emotional, phsychological, environmental, infectious, or a combination of these. It is important to know that your adrenals respond to every kind of stress the same, whatever the source."

"As their condition worsens, it lays the foundation for other seemingly unrelated conditions such as frequent respiratory infections, allergies, rhinitis, asthma, frequent colds, and a number of other health problems such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypoglycemia, adult onset diabetes, auto-immune disorders and alcoholism."
Wilson is very clear which lifestyle habits can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can include lack of sleep, poor diet, constantly driving yourself, unhappy relationships, a stressful work environment, emotional trauma, undesired unemployment, divorce, lack of downtime, and physical trauma (to name a few). Wilson also explains the signs of adrenal fatigue (such as fatigue, depression, inability to handle normal stresses, salt cravings, poor memory and concentration, and decreased productivity) and how it progresses, and why mainstream medicine is slow to recognize adrenal fatigue as a real condition.

  • Part II will help you determine if you indeed have adrenal fatigue and if you do, how severe your burnout is. There’s a very detailed questionnaire, advice on self-tests you can do by yourself, and a guide to getting lab tests done, too. (The questionnaire blew my mind, and helped me see how much my health has improved over the last 18 months. I also saw that I still have a lot of room for improvement!)

  • Part III tells you how to recover from adrenal fatigue. This part of the book leaves nothing out: it covers everything including lifestyle, diet, stress, supplements, and sleep. Wilson really wants you to examine your life for the real causes behind your health problems so you can make positive changes. He also believes that most cases of adrenal fatigue can be treated at home without the help of modern medicine, although he does provide suggestions for those with very severe adrenal fatigue who may need temporary natural hormone replacement so they function like a normal person and adopt better habits.

  • Part IV is for those who really want to understand how the adrenal glands work. Although it reads slightly like a textbook, it’s extremely informative and a great resource for anyone looking to learn about the science behind adrenal function.

When you finish reading Adrenal Fatigue, you really get the feeling that you understand this condition and how to deal with it. You aren’t left with a lot of unanswered questions or vague suggestions. The book is very easy to read and includes many practical solutions. It’s filled to the brim with useful information, but none of it feels overwhelming or needlessly complex. You leave with the feeling that your health is in your hands, and that is always a good thing.

My biggest qualm with Adrenal Fatigue has to do with the diet section of the book (and perhaps you suspected this). On one hand, Wilson does offer some very valuable advice: eat balanced meals that include fat, protein and carbohydrates; avoid refined sugars and fruit juices; salt is your friend, especially unrefined sea salt (read my post about salt here); and eat high-quality, natural foods.

However, he doesn’t really emphasize animal foods, which I believe are the foundation of a healthy diet (whether it’s eggs, butter, raw milk, grass-fed meat or otherwise). He doesn’t demonize saturated fats, but instead discusses all fats as if they are equal. It’s a step in the right direction, but I think saturated fats are too beneficial to be lumped in with other fats (and here's four reasons why). Wilson also has a thing against drinking milk, and even suggests soy milk as a healthy alternative. With my distaste for soy, this doesn’t go over well with me.

But although I may quibble with a few points about diet, otherwise I think Wilson’s advice for recovering from adrenal fatigue is top-notch. In fact, I honestly think everyone should have a copy of this book--whether they suspect adrenal fatigue or not--if they are interested in learning how to really take care of themselves.

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So whether your goal is to prevent or to cure, this is a book that belongs in your personal library.

Buy Adrenal Fatigue by James L. Wilson today.

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