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Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenal glands are two, triangular-shaped organs that sit on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands work closely with the endocrine system to produce over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function.

The adrenal glands are made up of two distinct parts:

  • The adrenal cortex (the outer part of the gland)
  • The adrenal medulla (the inner part of the gland)
Adrenal gland

Adrenal glands

Adrenal Cortex

The adrenal cortex regulates cortisol levels and helps the body cope with stress. When the brain registers a threat, whether it be emotional, mental or physical, the adrenal medulla releases cortisol to help you react to the threat. The adrenal cortex also produces mineralocorticoid hormones such as aldosterone, which regulate water, electrolytes and blood pressure, and sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.

In addition, the adrenal cortex regulates sleep by increasing cortisol throughout the day to help wake us up, and lowering cortisol levels in the evening to prepare the body for sleep.

Adrenal Medulla Hormones

The adrenal medulla works with the adrenal cortex to help the body deal with physical and emotional stress.

Hormones secreted by the adrenal medulla include:

  • Epinephrine (adrenaline): This hormone rapidly increases your heart rate, rushing blood to the muscles and brain. It also spikes blood sugar levels by converting glycogen to glucose.
Epinephrine (adrenaline)

Epinephrine (adrenaline)

  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): This hormone works with epinephrine (adrenaline) in responding to stress by causing vasoconstriction of blood vessels and increasing blood pressure.
Norepinephrine (noradrenaline)

Norepinephrine (noradrenaline)

What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is the condition where the adrenal glands function below the necessary level because the adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by any amount of sleep. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, energy drinks and other stimulants just to function throughout the day. In more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands can be so diminished that the person suffering may have difficulty just getting out of bed for more than a few hours each day.

Changes also occur in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, the cardiovascular system, and sex drive. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price. One study done on medical students found that students undergoing chronic, long-term stress prepping for medical exams had an impaired cortisol awakening response. This reduction in morning cortisol levels inhibited their ability to fully wake up, no matter how much sleep they got.

Depression is another factor that plays a major role in the development of adrenal fatigue. After a depressive episode, cortisol responses do not easily readjust to normal levels. In addition, poor insulin sensitivity and impaired glucose tolerance is connected to the taxing of the adrenal glands. Research from the University of Delhi found that diabetes patients “display significantly higher levels of chronic stress and diminished stress responses when compared to subjects with normal glucose tolerance.”

Symptoms of Adrenal fatigue

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Multiple food allergies and/or sensitives
  • Lethargy and lack of energy
  • Increased effort to perform daily tasks
  • Decreased ability to handle stress
  • Dry and thin skin
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low body temperature
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Alternating diarrhea or constipation

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

  • Stressful experiences such as the death of a loved one, divorce or surgery
  • Exposure to environmental toxins and pollution
  • Prolonged mental stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or unhealthy work environment
  • Negative thinking and emotional trauma
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet (including crash diets and inconsistent nutrition) and lack of exercise
  • Reliance on stimulants like caffeine or energy drinks

Adrenal fatigue causes

Treatment Strategies

Treating adrenal fatigue involves reducing stress, eliminating toxins, and replenishing your body with healthy foods and supplements. Optimal adrenal health is one of the major keys to the enjoyment of life. If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, take these simple steps to revive your adrenals and begin to enjoy life again!

Diet changes

There are a number of foods that offer adrenal support, but the first step is removing any hard-to-digest foods, toxins and chemicals in your environment. The idea is to remove anything that taxes your adrenals.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Coffee, pre-workouts, energy drinks and stimulants - caffeine interferes with your sleep cycle and puts a lot of stress on the adrenal glands. If you must drink coffee, then have a limited amount in the morning before noon.
  • Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners - avoid sugary foods, cereal, candy, etc. Be aware that sugar is an additive in many breads, condiments and dressings. Stick with the natural calorie free sweetener stevia.
  • Wheat, corn and soy - the inflammation caused by genetically modified foods is problematic for people experiencing adrenal fatigue.
  • Processed and microwaved foods - the microwave has its own dangers but additionally most highly processed microwaveable foods have many preservatives and fillers that are hard to digest and wear out your body’s energy and digestion cycle.
  • Processed and non-organic meats - the added hormones and lacking nutrition in conventional processed meats wreak havoc on your digestive system and GI track. Stick to natural and organically raised animal products such as grass-fed beef and free-range chicken or turkey.
  • Vegetable oils - vegetable oils like soybean, canola and corn oil are highly inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation. Stick to coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil.

Adrenal Fatigue diet

Next, you want to add nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest and have adrenal healing qualities. Some of the best foods for adrenal health include:

  • Coconut
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and brussel sprouts)
  • Wild caught Fatty fish (such as salmon)
  • Free-range chicken and turkey
  • Free-range humane eggs
  • Bone broth
  • Nuts (such as walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds)
  • Seeds (such as chia and flax)
  • Kelp and seaweed
  • Iodized sea salt
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi
  • Wild Chaga and cordyceps

Lifestyle Changes

Before doing anything else you need to identify and remove stressors from your life. Emotional stressors such as relationships or financial problems needs to be dealt with and normalized.  It might require a change in occupation, who you spend time with, or even where you live. Whatever situations you are dealing with, they need to be confronted and dealt with before you can start to restore your health. Life is too short to waste time on people who steal your joy.

The second thing is sleep. Go to sleep by 10pm. Set an alarm and begin getting ready for bed by 9pm. Next, do something you enjoy every single day. It could be a leisurely walk, 30 minutes of reading a great book, weekly massage, whatever. Schedule this into your calendar.

Laughter and exercise is great for the adrenals. Try to incorporate humor into your day and exercise at least 5 days per week, preferably in the morning. Finally, avoid becoming over-tired, by ensuring proper bedtime and avoiding activities that physically and mentally drain you.  Try to avoid computer screens, iPads or stimulating blue light after 7pm.

Supplement Suggestions

  • A melatonin supplement containing 1-2mg at bedtime will help regulate cortisol.
  • Adrenal-supportive vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, a B complex, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamin E.
  • Adapotgenic herbs like ashwaganda, rhodiola, ginseng, and licorice help the body cope with stress.
  • An L-Tyrosine supplement containing 500mg in the morning will increase the production of vital neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine.  Stress causes the depletion of these neurotransmitters.

Printable Checklist

Adrenal Fatigue Do and Don’t Printable Checklist....

Do These Things:

  • Be in bed before [10:00] PM.
  • Sleep in until [9:00] AM whenever possible.
  • Look for things that make you laugh.
  • Eliminate the energy robbers (things in your life that drain your energy).
  • Do something pleasurable every day.
  • Move your body and breathe deeply daily.
  • Learn which foods make you feel bad (keep a list) and avoid them.
  • Add iodized sea salt to every meal
  • Eat an abundance of whole foods – those foods which are eaten like nature
    grows them.
  • Eat lots of colored vegetables.
  • Chew your food well.
  • Laugh several times per day.

Avoid These Things

  • Getting overtired
  • Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and white flour products
  • Coffee, even decaf
  • Staying up past [11:00] PM
  • Energy suckers (people, places and things that make you feel worse or discourage your recovery)
  • Being harsh or negative with yourself
  • Feeling sorry for yourself
  • Foods you suspect an allergy or sensitive to
  • Never skip breakfast.
  • Never eat starchy carbohydrates (breads, pastas) by themselves.


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Written by
Trevor Kouritzin is a Canadian Natural Professional Bodybuilder and International Model. Mr. Kouritzin is also a Chemical Engineer and currently is a Human Nutrition MSc Candidate, he will be working on his PhD this coming year. Currently, he is conducting research on dietary supplements at prestigious universities throughout North America.

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