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What Causes Stress: Chronic Stress and Adrenal Gland Fatigue

Updated on July 29, 2011

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  • feeling tired all the time
  • relying on caffeine to wake you up and get you through the day
  • worries keeping you up at night
  • foggy thinking and difficulty remembering things
  • hypoglycemia
  • craving for sweets
  • depression
  • muscle weakness
  • swollen fingers and toes
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • always feeling chilly
  • low blood pressure
  • joint and muscle pain

You may have adrenal fatigue syndrome. Adrenal fatigue syndrome occurs when the adrenal glands become overburdened by stress and can no longer efficiently produce hormones.

The hormones the adrenal glands produce are adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. They all play their part in helping you to cope with stress.

The way it works is this: The adrenal glands respond to stress by increasing the secretion of cortisol

Cortisol helps the body respond to stress, helps you to recover from infection and maintains blood pressure. However, cortisol can only perform these tasks for a short time. If chronic stress keeps cortisol levels high, the adrenals get tired and stops producing the amount of hormones the body needs. Cortisol levels drop. That is when your body starts to give you signs that you need to slow down and de-stress.

Adrenal fatigue syndrome can be caused by any kind of stress, such as:

  • nutritional deficiencies
  • exposure to environmental toxins, eg. secondhand smoke, pesticides
  • overuse of stimulants, eg. coffee, alcohol, sugar,nicotine
  • overworking, shift work
  • insufficient sleep
  • trauma, injury, surgery
  • chronic illness or chronic pain
  • excessive exercise
  • chronic or severe allergies
  • unresolved emotional stress, eg. worry, anger, guilt, fear or anxiety
  • depression


Your best defense

Eat a nutritious diet. Focus on whole grains and get a little protein at every meal. Avoid sugar and caffeine as much as possible.

Take a good multivitamin and make sure you are getting extra of the following:

  • Vitamin C is essential for blood vessels that support your adrenal glands, aim for 1000-2000mg a day
  • Magnesium is excreted in urine when cortisol levels are high, take 300-400 mg a day.
  • B vitamins are important, especially B5- 500-1000mg a day.
  • Zinc is also useful, get 15-30 mg day.

Make sure to get enough sleep. A nightly dose of melatonin can be helpful. Melatonin helps to balance the DHEA/cortisol ratio, which will reduce the effects of stress and promote deeper sleep.

Practice relaxation techniques. Yoga, a hot bath, a good book, whatever you like to do to unwind and take your mind off of things.

Get your exercise but not too much. You should feel invigorated when you are finished. If you are exhausted you are working too hard.

Meditate. Try this quickie meditation technique from the book Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Christiane Northrup when you are feeling stressed, fearful, anxious or angry:

  1. Stop and observe your emotional state and name what you are feeling.
  2. Focus on your heart area.
  3. Take a few minutes to think about an uplifting or funny or happy person or place in your life.
  4. Bring to mind someone you love unconditionally, perhaps a child or a pet. Hold that feeling of love for 15 seconds or more. Keep your hand on your heart if it helps.
  5. Notice how much calmer you feel.

Practice this a few times a day for a few weeks and you will feel your stress levels come down.


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    • profile image

      patricia a. baird 3 years ago

      very infoormative

    • AVailuu profile image

      A. Cristen Vailuu 4 years ago from Augusta, Ga

      Great hub!

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for commenting, stars439.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Learning more from your great hubs. God Bless you

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 8 years ago from Canada

      I'm glad you found it helpful, Nell Rose.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 8 years ago from England

      Hi, this sounds just like my brother! perhaps after all this time, I may have figured out what is wrong with him. Thank you. I will bookmark this. cheers nell

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 8 years ago from Canada

      You are very welcome!

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 8 years ago from hub

      I have never read up on this, AFS. Informative Hub! Thank you:)