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Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome –an Exhausting Battle

Updated on October 8, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome Real?

Adrenal fatigue syndrome is a condition that has caused a lot of controversy in the medical community. Some feel it is a tremendously under diagnosed disease, and others most believe the symptoms the patient has are for another reason all together, such as prolonged stress is your life. The term "adrenal fatigue" was first used in 1998, by James Wilson, PhD, a naturopath and expert in alternative medicine.

There are other disorders that are attributed to adrenal disorders, such as Cushing's disease or the result of a pituitary gland tumor.

Adrenal fatigue according to Mayo Clinic’s endocrinologist, Dr. Todd Nippoldt, is a term applied to several nonspecific symptoms, which are listed below. Adrenal insufficiency shows up on numerous medical websites and alternative medicine websites.

Adrenal Glands

The walnut size adrenal glands set on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing several hormones that are essential to life. Addison’s disease, which is one form of adrenal insufficiency, refers to inadequate production of some of these hormones.

The hormones are chiefly responsible for regulating the body’s stress response through the synthesis of corticosteroid and catecholamine, including cortisol and adrenalin. These are the chemicals that put your body into that “fight or flight” mode by increasing production of adrenaline and other hormones.

If you are healthy, the adrenal glands can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release your energy stores for immediate use, slow your digestion and other secondary functions, plus it can sharpen your senses.

Adrenal Glands on Kidneys

Photo Courtesy of aurorahealth
Photo Courtesy of aurorahealth

President John F. Kennedy

Addisons VS Adrenal Insufficiency

If you have Addison’s disease these are the signs and symptoms;

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of body hair
  • Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation)

This insufficiency is diagnosed by blood tests and special stimulation tests that reveal inadequate levels of adrenal hormones. As most of you probably know President John F. Kennedy had Addison’s disease, and it was kept quite secret during his presidency.

Those that believe in the adrenal fatigue syndrome think it is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, modern life is so relentlessly stressful that the adrenal glands get overworked and just peter out.

They suggest that your adrenal gland is under performing due to constant emotional stress or illness, and they further suggest lifestyle changes as a cure, meaning dietary changes and reducing the stress in your life.

Diana Schwarzbein, M.D. - Adrenal Gland Burnout

The chronic fatigues symptoms are:

  • Being tired for no reason
  • Getting lightheaded when you stand up quickly
  • Lowered blood pressure and blood glucose
  • Frequently get colds or infections and have a difficult time recovering
  • Feel as if you are constantly walking uphill
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Craving either salty or sugary foods to keep going
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • Unexplained pain in the upper back or neck
  • Increased PMS symptoms for women
  • Tendency to gain weight and be unable to lose it

Prolonged Stress - Not a Cause

Some physicians say there is no evidence that prolonged stress results in the adrenals producing less cortisol. The symptoms may be due to stress, fractured sleep, poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Furthermore, the symptoms mimic some other some other diseases as well, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or possibly Fibromyalgia.

Although there are no specific tests that will provide a true diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, there are tests that may contribute to an assessment. A blood test for cortisol can be done, but cortisol is at its peak at 8 AM.

It fluctuates throughout the day, plus if you are stressed being in the doctor’s office you will get a false positive. It is customary for a physician to get lab work for the adrenals together with the thyroid tests to rule out insufficiency, which sometimes occurs in long-standing hypothyroidism.

Dietary Suggestions to Help Fight This Disease

Even though there has been little medical research into this problem there are many dietary suggestions which seem to help with these symptoms:

  • Add ground flax meal to your diet since it contains healthy dietary fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Magnesium may also help.
  • Add organic extra virgin olive coconut oil to your diet to benefit from the saturated fat that can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Add foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids to your diet in the form of fish oil, wild salmon, minimal amounts of albacore tuna, and sprouted walnuts.
  • Add mineralized salt to your diet, especially upon rising (1/2 to 1 teaspoon mixed in water) and at least a half-hour before your lowest energy point of the day; Himalayan crystal salt is preferred.
  • Eat lightly cooked animal and vegetable proteins (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes).
  • Eat dairy products with live, active cultures (probiotics), such as organic, un-pasteurized yogurt and kefir (unless you are allergic to dairy).
  • Eat plenty of unrefined low-glycemic carbohydrates (brown rice, sprouted grains, and winter squash).
  • Limit intake of fruits that have a high glycemic index such as apricots, raisins, banana, papaya, and mango.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and vegetable juices (kelp, sprouts, green and black olives, peppers, spinach, chard, celery, zucchini).
  • Add nutrient-dense and unprocessed foods such as sprouted nuts and seeds to your diet.
  • Drink purified water throughout the day

Avoiding Harmful Foods

There are foods to avoid:

  • All foods containing refined sugar or artificial sugar substitutes, such as aspartame, or Splenda. Choose a natural sugar like Xylosweet instead
  • All simple or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc.
  • Foods high in potassium since they make adrenal fatigue worse (bananas, all melons, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Moderate amounts of caffeine may be okay but avoid excessive amounts
  • Alcoholic beverages should be drunk sparingly
  • Fermented foods such as cheese and wine
  • Fungi such as mushrooms
  • Pickled foods
  • Fungi such as mushrooms
  • Sodium nitrite found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils/trans fats found in many processed foods, deep-fried food, fast food, and junk food

How to Overcome Adrenal Fatigue

Other Tips to improve your health:

Regular exercise can help relieve anxiety, stress and tension, plus it is good for your body. If you have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, you may struggle with feeling like you don't have the energy to exercise.

Research has shown that even just 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week, can significantly help regain and maintain overall health as well as promote energy production. You should avoid highly competitive exercise programs. Just a brisk walk or bike ride is adequate.

In Summary

This seems to be a difficult disease, as it is not recognized by many medical doctors, and there is essentially no good treatment. Do not take extracts of bovine adrenal cortex as it is absolutely ineffective because the hormones are present. Apparently this is listed on some of the alternative websites.

You can consider supplements from a class called adaptogens, which would include things like licorice root, ginseng. You would want to use them under the guidance of a trained integrative provider. You will have to look on the internet or in the phone book to find someone with schooled in this specialty, such as an endocrinologist.

Try to avoid stressful situations, and don’t expect too much of yourself. If some chore isn’t done, it can wait. Enjoy the company of loved ones, laugh and play every chance you get as that produces good hormones in your brain.

Do everything possible to avoid adrenal fatigue syndrome.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Do you or anyone you know have the symptoms of this disease?

See results

The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Norman Aqil, I think there many unanswered questions about this disease or syndrome also. Thank you for your comments.

  • Noman Aqil profile image

    Noman Aqil 

    5 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

    I agree that it is really difficult to be diagnosed with adrenal fatigue as there are so many symptoms -- Sometimes, I think that it is not even a real disease!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    icmn91, This disorder has so many symptoms and I think it may not always be easily diagnosed. I wrote this some time ago and was recently diagnosed with this disorder also. LOL! I hope your health improves and I certainly appreciate your comments.

  • icmn91 profile image


    6 years ago from Australia

    Seems to be behind a lot of health problems, including my gluten issues. I had trouble sleeping for years and years when I was young. Almost like a chicken-before-the-egg/egg-before-the-chicken effect!!!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I have lupus also. I'm glad the hub was helpful to you and I hope your health is improving. I appreciate your comments.

  • nancynurse profile image

    Nancy McClintock 

    7 years ago from Southeast USA

    I was told by an iridologist that I have this disorder. I suffer from lupus . Thank you for your insightful article

  • infonolan profile image


    7 years ago from Australia

    I just published a hub on this. Always great to know more about others' experiences with adrenal fatigue, and how diet can be of assistance.

  • infonolan profile image


    7 years ago from Australia

    I have lots of family with the syndrome. Unfortunately it recently seems to have gotten a hold of me. I'm currently using binaural therapy which seems to be helping. Haven't tried any dietary changes as I'm already gluten-sensitive and on a gluten free diet, but would love to know more about the impact of some of these foods on the whole pattern. I will be hubbing about how the binaural therapy youtube videos work:

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Suppport Med, Thank you for your comments.

  • Support Med. profile image

    Support Med. 

    8 years ago from Michigan

    An interesting article, well presented. Thanks for sharing this information. Voted/rated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    MartieCoetser, I hope you find a doctor that can solve your problem and I appreciate your comment.

    Spiritual Growth, Thank you so much for your comment.

    Katopsyd, I am glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comment.

  • kaltopsyd profile image


    8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

    I like the way this Hub was presented. Thank you for such an educating article.

  • Spiritual Growth profile image

    Caroline Nettle 

    8 years ago from Bristol, England

    Great hub- very useful. Thank you

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 

    8 years ago from South Africa

    Interesting info! According to the symptoms I don’t suffer this, though my adrenal glands seem to be hyper active. Still have to find out why and what to do. Thanks – this is relative info and bookmarked.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lark, Thank you for your comemtn.

    Mpg, I think that low thyroid symptoms are common to the low adrenal problem as the done doctor did lab work for both problems. With the thyroid problem at lease there is a blood test for a diagnosis. I wonder if you are on the right dosage. We have 3 people in our family with low thyroid and they finally got on the right dosage of medicine and started feeling better. Thanks for your comments as this really is a complex physical problem.

  • MPG Narratives profile image

    Marie Giunta 

    8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Wow, there's a name for being constantly tired! In my case though it is a low thyroid but symptoms are similar.

    Great hub with heaps of good info Pamela, thanks.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Interesting topic

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    SilverGenes, We do live in a fast paced world. I hope they figure out exactly what they are dealing with and find a treatment. Thanks for your comment.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Excellent article on the adrenals and I learned a lot I didn't know about them. It makes sense if we are under stress nonstop, as many are, the adrenals would burn out. Modern life certainly has its health risks.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Miata, I think you're right. I appreciate your comments.

    Audry, You certainly would know about Addison's Disease. I appreciate your comments.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    8 years ago from Washington

    Well done Pamela - I didn't know some of that stuff and my Kodi had Addison's disease so learned a bit about the adrenals, etc. Thanks for the helpful info!

  • prettydarkhorse profile image


    8 years ago from US

    It is sad that it is not accepted diagnosis medically, but I have a hint it is just in the corner to be recognized, nice hub Pam, Maita

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Quill, I think you are right all the way around. We should do the right things at home but then the doctors should be able to figure this out. Thanks for your comment.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Well don Pam... what an interesting read this has been as I think many are feeling listless and we take vits, eat well etc but something Docs should be looking more closely at.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    GPAGE, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate you comments.

    Katem, I'm glad you learn a couple of new things from the hub and I appreciate you comments.

    Minnetonka Twin, These symptoms are tough to figure out as they are similar to a couple of other diseases like I said, but you have to wonder if this is a disease the doctors just don't understand yet. Thanks for your comment.

    Amber, On thing about Addison's disease, you know exactly what disease you have and it sounds like your treatment is working perfectly.

    Billy, That is true. Thanks for your comments.

    JY, I'm glad you liked the hub and thanks for your comments.

    Saddlerider, It might be interested to compare her symptoms and compare them to these, although I think they will be similar. I hope she gets well soon. Thanks for your comments.

    Boomer, It's always a good idea to get a thorough checkup occasionally. Other than that I would say, enjoy the nap. Thanks for your comments.

  • Boomer60 profile image


    8 years ago

    Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is new to me. I have some of these symptoms except the weight loss. I have to agree with the aging process for me however. I take naps now when I never did before in my life. Thanks for the info!

  • saddlerider1 profile image


    8 years ago

    Thank you for this very wonderfully informative hub. I have a friend going through these problems and I will pass this information on to her. She has just been diagnosed with cronic fatigue syndrome.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    8 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Pam, I think I have that...but then again I'm a hypochondriac. LOL Liked the hub, it was very informative.

  • billyaustindillon profile image


    8 years ago

    Excellent hub on Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome - I knew of chronic fatigue syndrome by word only and of one of those things people believe or don't - you put a great summary through of all the aspects and studies.

  • Amber Allen profile image

    Amber Allen 

    8 years ago

    Hi Pamela

    Great hub on Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and very well researched. I've got Addisons and have to take two types of steriod medication every day :( but at least I'm only topping up something my body isn't producing properly so I haven't had any side effects and since I've been taking the medication almost all of the symptoms I had have disappeared. One of the other symptoms of Addisons which I've had and still have to a lesser degree is that the lines on the palms of my hand are much darker than other people.


  • Minnetonka Twin profile image

    Linda Rogers 

    8 years ago from Minnesota

    I have heard of this a lot lately and know many who think they have this. Great information on this topic.

  • katiem2 profile image

    Katie McMurray 

    8 years ago from Westerville

    Amazing stuff on adrenal fatique syndrome. I learned a lot here today. thanks for the facts on this issue.

  • GPAGE profile image


    8 years ago from California

    pamela...I always admire how informative and organized your hubs are. This is very interesting. I have been taking a very good supplement for the adrenals. It seems to help me a bit.....thank you for such a fantastic hub. Best, G

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Prasetio, I am glad you liked this hub. Thank you for your comment.

    bayoulady, I really wanted to see how the poll would come out because I suspected the results would be something in that range. So many diseases aren't diagnosed because there is no specific test and Chronic fatigue syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lupus and many other diseases give you some of those symptoms. Thanks for your comments.

  • bayoulady profile image


    8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

    Interesting,Pam. when I took your poll,67% say they know someone that has the symptoms, but is not being treated. I know several that would fit this profile.

    rate up.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Great information. I am glad to visit your hub. You always make me impress with useful hub like this one. Very well description about adrenal fatigue syndrome. Thank you very much. ~prasetio

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tom, I think that if true! Thanks for your comment.

    Rev Lady, I'm not sure about the anemia. It wasn't listed in the references I looked at. Thanks for your comment.

  • RevLady profile image


    8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

    Another great informative and useful piece Pam. I wonder if it is related to anemia in any way. Thanks for your thorough presentation.

    Forever His,

  • Tom Whitworth profile image

    Tom Whitworth 

    8 years ago from Moundsville, WV


    I thought the fatigue symptoms were the natural process of aging!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Great Hub.


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