Evidently, more and more of us are abandoning Dr. Google and seeking medical advice ... from Dr. TikTok. Highly caffeinated drinks will no longer be the go-to lift. That's because we now have adrenal cocktails developed to treat the mythical disease of adrenal fatigue. PT Barnum strikes again.
Given the pandemic, returning to work out of the office, the constant drumbeat of a dysfunctional federal government, and a world that appears increasingly unstable, it is no wonder we all feel a bit fatigued. Rather than attribute this feeling to ennui, a sense of listlessness and dissatisfaction, perhaps it is due to some underlying biological cause. Enter adrenal fatigue, a collection of vague symptoms, fatigue, low energy, and an inability to cope.
I am not sure why they decided to turn on the adrenal gland which sits quietly, for the most part, atop our kidneys (hence ad renal). The adrenal gland is the big player in fight or flight, and there is an actual disease, adrenal insufficiency, where the adrenal gland does not produce adequate amounts of its two hormonal groups, gluco- and mineral-corticoids. The glucocorticoids are the more well-known involved with metabolism and inflammation. The mineral-corticoids are equally important but don’t get the same “press,” as they affect our mineral, salt, and water metabolism.
Adrenal fatigue suggests that the adrenal gland, like ourselves, is just tired and is not putting its best effort into pumping out the hormones we need to feel energized, less irritable, and not craving salty treats. But even ChatGPT knows,
“many of these symptoms are non-specific and can be caused by various factors, including other medical conditions, lifestyle choices, or even mental health issues.”
For many years, before these symptoms had a name, Red Bull, Monster Energy, and 5-hour Energy, all with significant amounts of caffeine, were the go-to solution—no more.
The Anatomy of Adrenal Cocktails
Adrenal cocktails typically consist of a few key ingredients, each with its own proposed benefits:
- Fresh Orange Juice – this is the prime source of Vitamin C, an antioxidant that “reduces” oxidate damage from stress.
- Cream of tartar – a compound well known to cooks where it is used as a leavening agent and emulsifier. In many instances, adrenal cocktails prefer to refer to this ingredient as Cream of Tartar and thereby avoid its chemical name, potassium bitartrate. We wouldn’t want chemicals in our supplements, even when much of Cream of Tartar comes from a natural source, the “waste” of wine fermentation. Potassium is vital to properly functioning muscles and nerves, and Cream of Tartar is a potassium-rich substance.
- Himalayan Pink Salt – a more expensive and less purified form of salt. The impurities are “the feature, not the bug,” providing salt and trace minerals. It is included to help balance electrolytes.
I would note that both the kidneys and adrenals have developed means of keeping us in homeostatic balance over thousands of years. It is a moment of hubris that we believe a supplement manufacturer has found a better way with their typical non-existent R&D.
The Potential Benefits of Adrenal Cocktails
Certainly, if you are malnourished, an adrenal cocktail may provide some potassium, salt, and trace minerals, while the orange juice, which does the heavy lifting, supplies Vitamin C and some fluid. If, on the other hand, you eat anything approaching a normal diet and have access to tap water, all the adrenal cocktail does is enrich your urine with excess salts and fluid.
For those with more specific concerns, the ingredients are non-GMO, vegan, and contain no soy. They also do not contain plutonium.
One can only hope that the Himalayan Pink Salt is harvested equitably. Fun facts: the “Salt Range” actually lies in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northeast Pakistan, so to purists, it is not really the Himalayas. The Khewra Salt Mine harvests about 400,000 tons annually, providing the bulk of Himalayan Pink Salt. It has 25 miles of tunnels across 18 working levels and attracts 300,000 tourists annually. All the salt is mined by hand, no explosives or fossil fuel-gulping machines. The average miner makes what is deemed an average income for Pakistan, and equitable working conditions are “guaranteed by the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation,” a quasi-government agency of Pakistan.
The Potential Risks of Adrenal Cocktails
For a small number of individuals with health problems exacerbated by salt, e.g., high blood pressure, or increased potassium, e.g., individuals with renal insufficiency, adrenal cocktails may be problematic.
Of course, there is a lack of scientific evidence. Still, for many individuals taking supplements, a testimonial from a TikTok influencer is far better than some dry study involving control groups and statistics. Let’s be real: while the average user is on TikTok for 45 minutes a day or more, 50% of users “surveyed by TikTok said that videos longer than a minute long were “stressful.” So you would have to be an excellent “speed reader” to get the same informational “benefit” from a clinical study as you do from a TikTokker.
I would offer some free advice: read the label when buying an adrenal cocktail. Especially this black box phrase
“This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”