What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Occasionally a patient will come to the office and ask what adrenal fatigue is? 

I keep hearing about it on the web.  I find it interesting that the things most AK doctors and naturally oriented physicians have been talking about for years will suddenly get a new spin and become all the rage of the conventionally minded doctor. Intestinal dysfunction, dysbiosis, and leaky gut have been some of the things that more the more conventional medical establishment are becoming more and more aware. These are ideas that we in chiropractic and AK have been talking about for decades.

Well, some of the latest buzz words in healthcare are revolving around the adrenal gland and how adrenal fatigue (not overt pathology but just hypo-function) is the cause of everything from Fibromyalgia to heart disease.

I think it's great that the medical profession is starting to look at the potential under the function of glands and organs, instead of just waiting for the pathology to finally present itself. 

So, today I thought that I would go slightly into what the symptoms are for hypo adrenal and why getting it fixed may be one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

First, we need to know a little about the adrenal gland.  There are two parts called the cortex and the medulla.  The cortex is the outer bigger part that produces things like cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA, Testosterone, and Estrogen.  These hormones are all cholesterol-based hormones, which means they are made from cholesterol.  More specifically they are made from LDL or “bad” form of cholesterol, which isn’t bad by the way. 

So, not to get to geeky on you all but I hope that most of you have at least passingly heard of cortisol, testosterone, and estrogen.  I won't go into those too much, but DHEA is less know.  But essential hormone, some people call it the young or anti-aging hormone.  Aldosterone affects the mineral and fluid balance of the body which will bring back in here in a minute or two.

The medulla is the center part of the gland, and it makes Epinephrine and Norepinephrine.  These are also known as adrenaline or noradrenalin and are our fight or flight hormones.  Take for instance when you get cut off in traffic, and your heart starts racing, your eyes dilate, and you start sweating.  This is all because of the adrenal medulla hormones.  They are what get us up and ready for a fight to defend ourselves or they get us ready to run away.

Okay, physiology 101 over, what are some of the signs that the adrenal gland might not be functioning properly.

Afternoon fatigue

Weak nails

Autoimmune diseases

Hard to get out of bed in the morning


Allergy and asthma problems

Never feel rested even after enough sleep


Any craving or Addiction

Waking up several times a night

Mental depression

Sexual Dysfunction / hormone imbalance

Low blood pressure

Inability to concentrate, confusion, poor memory

Cannot fall asleep

Crave salt

Digestive problems (ulcers)

Perspire easily

Slow starter in the morning

Tendency to inflammation

Under high amounts of stress

Dizziness when standing up quickly


Weight gain when under stress

Afternoon headaches


Wake up tired even after 6 or more hours of sleep

Headaches with exertion or stress

Poor resistance to infection

Excessive perspiration or perspiration with little or no activity

Crave Sweets


So, the statement I usually get is that Everyone has at least some of these problems!

Well yes, they do but just because everyone has a problem does not make it right or reasonable for humans. So all of this being said I rarely have to treat the adrenal gland dysfunction directly. The biggest and best thing that you can do for your adrenal gland is to balance your blood sugar with protein and vegetables.

This will start to normalize your cortisol levels and take you off of what I call the blood sugar roller coaster. Allowing you to normalize your adrenal function. There are a few times that you may need to supplement a “de-stress” supplement like a natural source Vitamin C or B.

The problem is that you should be evaluated by an AK doctor that may order saliva or blood tests to determine how dysfunctional your adrenal glands truly are or if it is some other problem like your thyroid or pituitary that is just mimicking your adrenal symptoms.

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