Adrenal fatigue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Diet

Adrenal fatigueAdrenal fatigue is a common syndrome in America, but a lot of people may not even realize they are suffering from it, so here we answer the question: What is adrenal fatigue and how can we deal with it?

Adrenal fatigue happens when the adrenal glands function below a certain level. Just what is adrenal fatigue? Your adrenal glands make hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for helping the body deal with stress. The popular theory is that if your life is way too stressful, your adrenal glands may not pump out enough of the hormone, leading to a range of symptoms. People who suffer from adrenal fatigue may not experience a lot of obvious signs of the syndrome, but they all live with a tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell.

What causes adrenal fatigue?


Stress is the number one cause of adrenal fatigue and, as we all know, stress can come from any aspect of our lives. There are other adrenal fatigue causes. The list below describes them in brief.

Diet: Eating too much sugar can lead to the production of extra cortisol and insulin, which can put stress on our adrenals. Excess weight has been linked to adrenal fatigue, too.

Poor sleep: The body needs seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you aren’t getting it, you put yourself at risk of adrenal fatigue.

Chemicals and pollutants: Toxins in our food and pollutants in the air are factors that can contribute to toxic load. Toxins are known to disrupt adrenal function.

Chronic disease: When someone suffers from asthma, arthritis, diabetes, or some other chronic disease, it puts demand on the adrenal glands. In these cases, the adrenal glands become overworked and fatigued. Sometimes, the treatments for these diseases can be stressful on the body as well.

Trauma: Severe physical trauma can also lead to adrenal fatigue. This includes car crashes and other types of accidents, as well as surgeries.

Although adrenal fatigue has existed for hundreds of years, medical experts believe there are more cases today because our lifestyles have changed over time.

Adrenal fatigue symptoms

While feeling tired is the most common complaint among sufferers, there are many other adrenal fatigue symptoms that a person might experience. For example, it may be difficult for a person with adrenal fatigue to get out of bed in the morning, even after they have had a long sleep. Doctors say this is due to the fact that adrenaline and cortisol levels are high in the early stages of the condition. In the later stages, adrenals become depleted and unable to produce enough of the hormones needed, and this means fatigue can become extreme.

Here are some other adrenal fatigue symptoms:

Difficulty coping with stress: We rely on adrenals to help regulate our stress response, allowing us to increase strength and awareness, but when our adrenals are fatigued we struggle to release the required amount of hormones so it is hard to cope.

Salt cravings: Adrenal fatigue sufferers lose the ability to balance minerals so they often get cravings for food such as sodium.

Higher energy in evenings: Healthy individuals experience their highest level of energy in the morning due to rising cortisol levels, which start to decline gradually through the day. However, those with adrenal fatigue tend to experience spikes of cortisol late in the afternoon or evening, which leads to insomnia.

Overuse of stimulants: When people try to feed their fatigue with sugar or caffeine, it can backfire. Stimulants can ultimately lead to more fatigue.

Weak immune system: Cortisol helps regulate our immune system. Maintaining a balanced level (not too low and not too high) is key to good health.

There are some less common adrenal fatigue symptoms, including asthma and allergies, dizziness, frequent urination, joint pain, muscle loss, low blood pressure, poor circulation, and weight gain.

Natural treatment for adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue treatment is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you suffer from this condition, you might have to try a few different approaches before you find relief. Here we take a look at some natural treatment options.

Switch to the adrenal diet: Eliminate foods you are sensitive to as these might cause inflammation. Eating lots of vegetables, as well as wholegrain gluten-free carbs and lean clean protein is also part of the adrenal diet.

Go to bed early: Going to bed before 11 p.m. is important for those who suffer from adrenal fatigue, because a second cortisol surge can come after 11 p.m., thus disrupting sleep.

Take B vitamins: It is believed that B vitamins, especially B5 and B6, are good for adrenals. B12 is also good for energy.

Amp up on important nutrients: Vitamin D, magnesium, selenium, and zinc are important for good adrenal function.

Hydrate: It is important to stay hydrated. Some people take a multi-trace mineral supplement so they can absorb more water into their cells.

Try adaptogenic herbs: Try Rehmannia, which is a Chinese formulation known to help stimulate the adrenals.

Build rest into the day: Adding yoga and/or short 20-minute rests, such as meditation during the day, can be restorative.

Change your perspective: Sometimes a person’s perspective can drive them into adrenal overload. For example, if your definition of success is killing you, it might be time to reevaluate and tell yourself that “it” doesn’t have to be perfect. This can make a huge difference in stress level.

Licorice root: Licorice root is an adaptogen herb, and it can help regulate cortisol levels. Its contents help restore cortisol levels back to normal. Licorice root can also help boost levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which is another stress-fighting hormone. You can steep licorice root in hot water to make a tea, or you can take it in supplement form.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil contains balanced fats to help prevent adrenal fatigue along with boosting energy levels. The fats in coconut oil are well absorbed which can help sustain energy levels. Consume coconut oil in moderation to prevent gaining abdominal fat. Coconut oil can be added to smoothies or baked goods.

Diaphragmatic breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing helps the adrenal glands release fewer stress hormones. This type of breathing can help reduce stress and support healthy energy levels. Lay on your back comfortably and place your hands on your abdomen and breathe in deeply through the nose, hold for two seconds then release slowly for a count of four. Repeat 10 times, a couple of times a day.

Try to consume little amounts or even eliminate caffeine: Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to produce and release stress hormones which temporarily boosts energy levels. Caffeine can also temporarily raise blood pressure which can disrupt sleep.

Adrenal fatigue diet tips

When someone suffers from adrenal fatigue, food choices can be vital. The condition causes the cells to use up much of the body’s stored nutrients so what you have is a nutritional “void”.

If you have adrenal fatigue, it is best to eat breakfast before 10 a.m. because you will need to replenish the decreasing stored blood sugar supply in your system, following the previous night’s energy needs. An early lunch should follow since your body will quickly use up the morning nourishment. An early afternoon snack, followed by dinner around 5 p.m. is a good routine to get into.


Throughout the day, it is important to hydrate, but best to avoid sugary drinks. It is also advisable to go light on the fruit. Fruits contain a lot of fructose and potassium, which can be hard on the adrenals. Unless high blood pressure is an issue, those who suffer from adrenal fatigue can benefit from adding a little salt to their diet. Some symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be connected to a lack of salt.

An adrenal fatigue diet should keep the following in mind:

  • Eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods
  • Combine healthy fat, protein, and carbohydrates with each meal
  • Consume plenty of bright-colored vegetables
  • Combine grains with legumes
  • Avoid fruit in the morning
  • Mix one-two tablespoons of fresh essential oils into grains, veggies, and meats

Suffering from fatigue can be a sign of many different health-related problems, so if you experience tiredness or lack of energy for a prolonged period of time, don’t self-diagnose, but see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. There is no single adrenal fatigue test. If a doctor suspects the syndrome, a number of lab tests can help determine whether you do in fact have it. When a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue is confirmed, at least you will know that it is possible to manage it.


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