We each have two adrenal glands that sit just above our kidneys. They are no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape yet they are responsible for one of the most important functions in our body – managing stress. During adrenal fatigue our adrenal glands still function, but not optimally, as output of more than fifty hormones has been diminished – usually by over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of the adrenals is most often caused by a very intense single stress or by chronic or repeated stressors that have a cumulative effect.


So Stressed Out

When our adrenal glands are overtaxed adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion sets in and can trigger a number of disease processes. One significant sign of adrenal burnout is feeling chronically tired. It has been estimated that up to 80 percent of adults experience adrenal fatigue during their lifetime. The precipitating event for most people is a period of intense emotional stress. Stress, over time, can tax your adrenal glands to the point of causing other health problems such as:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

Signs Of Adrenal Fatigue

Feeling tired for no reason

  • Trouble getting up in the morning, even when going to bed at a reasonable hour
  • Feeling rundown or overwhelmed
  • Having difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness
  • Craving salty and sweet snacks
  • Feeling more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than any other time of day
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Nervousness
  • Very little perspiration
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweet cravings
  • Irritability
  • Allergies
  • Headaches

It’s All About Cortisol

Think about cortisol as units of energy. Normally, in the morning we wake up with around 20 units of energy. When we go to bed it should be down around two. The normal fall of cortisol is what creates the feeling of a day that ends restfully. But many of us wake up feeling exhausted despite having just slept because we have reduced levels of cortisol. And often we go to bed with dramatically elevated cortisol levels making it impossible to shut down our brains and fall asleep. Our natural rhythm is based on exposure to light – when the sun comes up cortisol goes up. When the sun is down, cortisol is low. We need this rhythm in order to be healthy.

How We Got Here

  • When we are under a lot of stress our cortisol levels are very high. But it’s usually an enjoyable type of stress when we feel more charged and alive. We need that excitement. It’s a form of exercise our bodies need. But the key is to have the adaptability and the resiliency to absorb that stress; enjoy it, benefit from it and then dissipate it
  • If we stay in this high cortisol state for long enough our cortisol levels start falling. This is when we begin to gain weight and become unable to sleep. If at this point we fail to change our lifestyle and begin eating right, resting and exercising our adrenals burn out leaving us feeling chronically fatigued and unable to recover our energy despite resting
  • Stress to our bodies can come in the form of physical trauma, chemical toxins, poor diet, excess exercise, lack of sleep, infections, emotional trauma, anxiety, prescription drugs and even pregnancy

Feeling Better Again

Lots of rest, good exercise and nutrition are important for the treatment of adrenal fatigue. And, according to Oriental philosophy, eating small meals instead of large ones is helpful:

  • Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals is a good way to treat the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Foods such as green vegetables, whole grains, and berries are good foods to eat for the vitamins and minerals a person suffering from adrenal fatigue needs
  • Adding calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and magnesium rich foods to our diet helps calm the nerves during stress. Foods rich in these nutrients include: carrots, broccoli, kale, parsley, turnip greens, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, egg yolk, oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cherries, red and green peppers and tomatoes
  • Magnesium rich foods include: Blackstrap molasses, sunflower seeds, whole grains, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, oats, brown rice, millet, white and red beans, wild rice, beet greens, lentils, lima beans and peaches
  • A simple shoulder exercise that releases tension from pressure points on the upper part of the shoulders helps our adrenals enormously: standing tall, exhale and stretch arms out behind you, inhale arching your back and looking toward the ceiling or sky, exhale and bend forward trying to touch your head to your knees keeping your arms stretched out behind. Do as often as feels comfortable

With proper care most people experiencing adrenal fatigue can expect to feel better within a few weeks. 


*For more information read: Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James Wilson or visit his website at