Edit: There are now over 50 symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue that you can have for free. There is also a free report for what you can do to help heal the issue. Click on the Adrenal Fatigue book to the left and get your symptoms today.
Do you feel tired all the time? Maybe you get plenty of sleep and just don’t feel rested. Or maybe you have trouble sleeping. Low energy? Difficulty thinking or focusing? These are all symptoms of adrenal fatigue. This article explores the adrenals and the causes of adrenal fatigue. Included is a simplified explanation of how diet affects the adrenals and some suggestions for what you can do to restore them, and you to health.
The 30 symptoms include, but are not limited to:
1. Excessive fatigue and exhaustion, chronic fatigue
2. Non-refreshing sleep
3. Sleep disturbance, insomnia
4. Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
5. Craving salty and/or sweet foods
6. Sensitivity to light
7. Low stamina and slow to recover from exercise
8. Slow to recover from injury or illness
9. Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
10. Poor digestion
11. Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS
12. Low immune function
13. Premenstrual syndrome
14. Menopause symptoms
15. Low blood pressure
16. Sensitivity to cold
19. Frequent influenza
24. Reduced memory
25. Low libido, sexual drive or interest
26. Lack of lust for life and/or food
27. Excess hunger
28. Low appetite
29. Panic/anxiety attacks
30. Irritability, impatience, quick to anger.
If quick to anger, the person will often tend to back down quickly if confronted.
Many of these symptoms have other causes, so just because you have one or more symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that you have adrenal fatigue. On the other hand, adrenal fatigue is so prevalent that if you have even one of these symptoms, it is likely that your are at least a bit run down.
Almost every client I have ever seen has come to me because of one or more of these symptoms. Stress is a major contributor to adrenal fatigue. We live in a busy world that offers little relief from stresses of life. Toxicity contributes to adrenal fatigue as well. But by far, adrenal fatigue is caused by a diet high in sugar and processed foods. And, the same dietary factors that contribute to adrenal fatigue are at the root of most of our major health issues today. Most major diseases start with the same factors as adrenal fatigue, and adrenal fatigue can lead to many serious conditions.
What are the adrenals?
The adrenals are two walnut sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce three different classes of hormones at the rate of about a quart (liter) a day. One class is stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol also called hydrocortisone. Another class of adrenal hormones affect mineral metabolism especially the sodium/potassium balance. And, they produce sex hormones and their precursors. These hormones are some of the ones that make us feel good. They give us energy and a lust for life — and sex.
A simple test for adrenal fatigue
There are many tests for adrenal fatigue. Lab tests are expensive and take time for the results. However, there is a simple self-test that can be done with a flashlight and a mirror. Start in a darkened room so that your pupils dilate but have it light enough so that you can see your eyes in a mirror. Allow enough time in the dim room so that the pupils dilate fully, about ten minutes. Next, shine the flashlight into one of your eyes from the side so that the light causes the pupil to shrink down to a pin point. Do this in such a way that you can still watch the pupil as it reduces in size. If your adrenals are strong, the pupil will most likely shrink down immediately. If there is any hesitation before they react, then your adrenals are probably fatigued. I use the qualifier probably here because there are other reasons eyes may not react like this though they are not common.
Dietary causes of adrenal fatigue
As mentioned earlier, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the main cause of adrenal fatigue. Sugar includes honey, maple syrup, fructose, dried fruit, fruit juice and just about anything that is sweet. Refined carbohydrates are grains that have been ground up or have had the bran removed. This include products like bread even whole wheat bread, noodles, corn chips, white rice and pretty much anything that comes in a package. Refined foods are broken down by grinding and concentration. Refined grains have more surface area exposed to digestion, so they digest more quickly. They release their sugars quickly into the blood stream causing blood sugar to go up too high too fast.
The body responds to high blood sugar by releasing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that causes sugar to move into the liver, muscles and fat tissues. The problem is that the body evolutionarily isn’t designed to deal with the large amounts of sugar in the blood that are caused by sugar and refined foods. Evolution has designed us to eat animal protein, whole grains (not chopped up), vegetables and fruits. So, the body tends to overreact to this fast sugar by releasing too much insulin. This article is about the adrenals, but high blood sugar, high levels of insulin and constant exposure to stress hormones cause their own problems that will be covered in the future.
The release of too much insulin causes the blood sugar to go down too far. Most everyone has experienced getting sleepy after a large meal of pasta, rice or some other carbohydrate. Or, the drop in energy that follows a candy high. That’s what happens after the large release of insulin. The blood sugar goes down too far. The brain eats mostly sugar, so it gets sleepy from lack.
Now we get into the adrenal involvement. One of the stress hormones they release is cortisol. In ancient times stress meant that we had to fight or run away, the fight/flight response. The muscles that move quickly use sugar, and cortisol causes blood sugar to increase. There is also a cortisol release anytime there is low blood sugar. You know how you can be really hungry, then after awhile you aren’t so hungry anymore? That’s cortisol doing it’s job. The same thing happens when low blood sugar happens because of an over-release of insulin.
The adrenals are constantly being assailed by the above reactions. Processed foods and snacks are available all the time, and they are hard to resist. Our ancestors survived because they had a sweet tooth. They craved the sweet fruits that were available at the end of winter. Insulin caused that extra sugar to be stored as fat for the lean times of winter. The ones that didn’t desire sweet fruits didn’t survive, so we inherited that craving for sweets and other foods that turn into sugar. The problem is that we eat as though it is the end of summer all the time!
The adrenals are constantly being called on to produce more and more cortisol in response to the stress caused by sugar and processed food. Eventually they become exhausted. And, so does the indulger.
What you can do
The obvious thing to do is to stop eating sugar and refined foods. A lot of people will do great just by modifying their diet alone. There are lots of products on the market for treating the adrenals, but which ones really work? This is very individual, but I will give you some suggestions in part two.
Be well, and remember: the body wants to heal, all it needs is the opportunity.
I’d like to have a phone consultation I have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and leaky gut I need help in recovery how do I contact you?
I have been struggling with fatigue and insomnia for 8 years now, since I was 22. In an effort to improve my health and reduce my dependance on sleep aids (OTC, like Unisom) I changed my diet to a paleo one 6 months ago. My diet is now centered around grassfed/pastured meats and organic vegetables, with some organic fruits and nuts. I do not eat ANY processed food anymore, and the sugar/starch in my diet is nearly non-existent. My weight has remained the same (140 at 5’9″ tall) but my health overall has gone downhill: I lay awake for many hours most nights, feeling very awake, often hot and with a pounding (but not fast) heart. Then during the day I feel horrible, fatigued and with a sore throat and headache. My blood pressure is 110/70, pulse around 55, and I feel like my day/night hormones are switched. The symptoms of low stamina, brain fog, allergies, cold intolerance and irritability ring true for me as well. My doctor does not “believe in” adrenal fatigue and I am at a loss since I already radically changed my diet and only got worse! I am starting to feel like I’m crazy, but I KNOW I’m sick and it’s not in my head.
@Kim, you may need additional support, possibly potassium. Adrenal supplements and herbs can be found on my book, or in this article on adrenal fatigue which has my best protocol. There’s still a lot more to it though which is all in the book.
@Lucy, you can use the contact button above. Or, respond to the email I’m about to send you!
Kalidasa, thank you for the reply! I bought the book yesterday and I am over halfway through it. I feel like my diet is very much in line with what you describe, although I do occasionally allow myself 1/2-1 piece of fruit. Maybe I ought to cut that out for now, since I do often notice energy crashes shortly after eating a whole piece with breakfast/lunch.
I skimmed ahead to read the treatment section starting on page 69. I admit that I’m a little nervous of starting to take new supplements, especially after being lectured by my doctor last week that the whole reason I’m experiencing insomnia is because I’m taking too many supplements (omega 3, probiotics, Vit D, Vit B complex, multivit). He is unwilling to refer me to an endocrinologist until I give up all supplements for at least one month to prove that they are not the problem. So as of last week I’m off everything except the OTC sleep supplements that are the only thing allowing me to get even the minimal 3-6 hours/night. However so far I have noticed no improvement. I am torn as to whether to try to stick this out long enough to get the referral, or whether to try the treatment protocol in the book. Should I order myself a cortisol saliva test to see if the results are abnormal? If so, should I purposely try to take it on a “bad” day? Most weeks I have 2 good, 2 mediocre, and 3 bad days, I would estimate. I wonder if that means that my test would read closer to normal on good or mediocre days?
@Kim, I get so frustrated with some doctors! I can’t imagine those supplements would have anything to do with sleep, except the B’s since they would support the adrenals and would usually help. There’s two main reasons for lack of sleep, adrenal fatigue and low serotonin which converts to melatonin at night — make sure your room is pitch black at night since any light will break down melatonin.
Unfortunately, an endo isn’t likely to acknowledge adrenal fatigue any more than any other doctor, they only recognize a total shut down. They will only do a blood test, and almost never do a saliva test. I like to see people do a saliva test if they can afford it. That way if AF is ruled out then the real culprit can be sought. But, it’s usually AF.
I have just had an adrenal fatigue test from genova diagnostics it cost around £80 not too bad I thought and it came back abnormal at mid morning range. My problem hasn’t been about diet in fact it was too much exercise and lack of food, I have a stone to lose and just can’t get rid of it been trying for years the amount I was eating (good food)and the amount of exercise I was doing I should have been an ultimate machine instead I just burnt out, being ill with flu or tonsillitis, no energy, memory loss, unfocused in meetings etc, The best thing i did after suffering for a year is go to a detox retreat to begin to restore my body this is where the nutritionist recommended the AF test, I am now waiting for the supplements she recommended and hope to completely mend and lose this last stone!!
@Candice, I hope the supplements they recommended work well for you! Let me know how it goes. There is a reason you can’t lose that last bit of weight. Most likely it is because of something that goes on with the liver — it often doesn’t correctly break down estrogens that are responsible for fat deposition. I am working on a book that explains how to fix that issue.
Thanks for your response look forward to finding out more about the liver function and weight loss connection. I meant to mention wheatgrass shots really help me too!!!
Yes, wheatgrass is great!
I have been loading high potency/quality vitamin C – 2000 MG per day. I have noticed a world of difference…I am sure I have lived with Adreanal fatigue for the majority of my life…I feel like a new man. Better sleeps, more energy and the sex drive of an adolescent tiger.
@Wade, woo hoo! vitamin C, gota get me some! Seriously though, it makes sense. Vitamin C is important for the adrenal glands, and the good stuff usually comes with some copper which is also good for them. What brand are you using? Whole food ones are best, and require a much lower dosage since it’s the nutrients that come with it that makes it so effective. Glad you’re doing so well with such a simple solution.
I had suffering from adrenal fatigue for several years with high levels of pressure，now i’m better than before with my doctor’s advice
@Scott, I’m really glad you found a doctor who could help you so much, sounds like you found a good one.
Can anyone recommend a natural clinic near Rocklin, CA that give A.C.E. (adrenal cortex extract) by I.V.?
25 years ago, a natural clinic gave me A.C.E. by I.V. and I felt like a teen again, I cried I felt so good.
We can’t separate the mind/body/spirit. Good food, good thoughts, less stress is important.
@Lois, I haven’t heard of that therapy before, but I can see how it would work. Unfortunately, this would only be a temporary fix. Something like that is great for getting the adrenals kick started, but long term use is harmful for them. You can do basically the same thing with whole desiccated adrenal, Standard Process has a good one. One per waking hour up to four or five hours before bed should have a similar effect. After three to five days, in most cases, you will want to go on to a different protocol to keep things getting better. More info on my site here and in my adrenal fatigue book.
My brother is suffering from adrenal fatigue and an enlarged prostate, he has asked for my advice, nutritionally… So I came across your information, and I think it might be a good resource for him. Does the book outline what nutrients, herbs, foods or supplements that would benefit his situation? as well, I know the book is in downloadable format, if I purchase can I send the PDF or zip to his email? Thank you.
@Suzanne, Yes, there are a couple of protocols for adrenal fatigue that work really well. Feel free to send him the pdf. Also, palmetto for the prostate. I hope he feels better soon!
I wondered if you ever heard of this symptom caused by AF? I tense all my muscles involuntary. Im always tensed up and clench bad at night. I wear a bite guard but have cracked and chipped teeth because of the clenching. The muscle tensing is all through out the day. Help me!!
Does adrenal fatique cause dizziness or lightheaded. I am always lightheaded.