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Adrenal Fatigue: Why You Feel So Bad

There are many components of a healthy
“energy” system in our body. When  one or more of these components is out of sync, you will experience  manifestations of low energy. These systems and their malfunctions include:


  • Thyroid gland: Cannot make enough thyroid hormone  (hypothyroidism).
  • Adrenal glands: Becomes too weak to handle stress of the body’s normal energy production system and forces the body to lower production of energy.
  • The enzymes (cellular machinery) which make energy are held back due to toxins or lack of vitamins or minerals.
  • Hormones: Growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone become imbalanced.
While all of these factors do a delicate ballet in your body to maintain energy, this article will focus on healing the adrenal glands. Healing the adrenals will gradually bring the other systems back into balance.
The adrenal glands are small, walnut sized organs perched on top of each kidney. The adrenals are responsible for producing the hormones that allow your body to respond to stress, good or bad. A good example of adrenal response is the “fight or flight” response to a stressor. Adrenal fatigue, from mild to severe, is almost always caused by some form of stress. This stress can be physical, such as an injury, emotional, environmental (exposure to toxins), infectious (viral, bacterial, parasitic, fungal, etc.) or any combination of these.An often overlooked trigger of adrenal fatigue is recurring infection, especially respiratory, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and sinusitis.  Asthma is often a sign of adrenal fatigue. One particularly bad infection or multiple less severe infections can all be triggers. On the flip side, those with adrenal fatigue often experience frequent respiratory infections. No matter what the stressor, your adrenal glands respond the same.

A major stressor such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of a job, or small chronic stressors that never allow you to fully recover all lead to adrenal fatigue.  Adrenal fatigue occurs when the capacity of the body to cope with and recover from stress is exceeded.

Unfortunately, unless your adrenal function is virtually non-existent (Addison’s disease), most medical doctors will not look beyond a “normal” lab value and will refuse to acknowledge there are degrees of hypoadrenalism without being full-fledged Addison’s disease. Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), multiple allergies, arthritic pain, decreased ability to fight infection and PMS or a difficult menopause.Adrenal fatigue also causes mental symptoms such as increased anxiety, unnatural fears and depression. You may experience periods of confusion, difficulty concentrating while learning new things, and poor short term memory.  You may be very irritable and likely suffer from insomnia.  If you go to your doctor with these symptoms, you are very likely to be told “it’s all in your head” and prescribed a myriad of psychotropic medications. Most doctors are trained to treat symptoms and do nothing to help you heal. They don’t recognize a problem if lab work is “within normal limits” regardless of symptoms even though “normal” is designed to encompass at least 95% of all possible results and only find glaringly obvious problems.

1: Laboratory tests:
Your chiropractor or other medical professional can order salivary adrenal testing. Most insurance will not pay for these tests and you will need a knowledgeable practitioner to help interpret the results. Salivary hormone tests are pretty accurate BUT they must be done at exactly the right time. You can do the saliva test yourself at home and mail it to a laboratory.
2: Self testing at home:
a.      Iris Contraction: This simple test was discovered in 1924 by Dr. Arroyo. Sit in a chair in a dark room facing a mirror. Shine a flashlight across one eye from the side of your head. Do not shine the light directly into the eye. Keep the light shining across one eye while watching in the mirror with the other. The pupil should immediately get smaller. With normal adrenal function, the pupil will remain small as long as you shine the light. If you have adrenal fatigue, the pupil will gradually begin to dilate (enlarge) even with the light still shining. After about 45 seconds of rest, the pupil will again contract.
b.     Low Blood Pressure: If your blood pressure drops when you stand up from a lying position, it is almost certain you have some degree of adrenal insufficiency. Lie down quietly for about 10 minutes and take your blood pressure. Then stand up and take it again. The normal response is for your blood pressure to rise slightly, but in adrenal fatigue or dehydration it will fall. If you often feel dizzy or light headed on standing, this may indicate adrenal fatigue even if you don’t measure your blood pressure.
c.      Sergent’s White Line (only present in about 40% of those with adrenal fatigue): Take the dull end of a ballpoint pen and gently run down your abdomen (about 6 inches). Normally, the line will initially be white, but redden within seconds. If you have moderate to severe adrenal fatigue, the line will remain white for about two minutes and will also  widen. Although this sign is not always present, if it is, it is an absolute indicator of adrenal fatigue.
All three tests should be performed to obtain the best indicator of whether you have adrenal fatigue and the degree.
Recovery is possible. Depending on the severity and how long it has gone on, recovery can take anywhere from a few months to 2 years. Do NOT let this discourage you. Even though full recovery may take years, you can see marked improvement in a short time.
  1. Know your stressors and do what you can to eliminate or lessen them. This can include figuring out food sensitivities, being less “busy,” meditation to calm down, intitiating yoga or daily meditation.
  2. Remove toxins from your environment.
  3. Use Proper Supplementation:
    1. Sufficient amounts of B vitamins (especially B5) along with Vitamin C are essential in recovery.  Daily Balance is a potent multivitamin and multimineral formulation which will also satisfy the B vitamin requirement for adrenal repair. However, it would be necessary to consume 2 tablets 3 times daily for approximately six months to reach the necessary dose schedule to repair adrenal function versus the normal maintenance dose of Daily Balance which is 2 tablets a day.It is best to use a natural, buffered L-Ascorbate form of Vitamin C versus synthetic ascorbic acid which is most commonly found in most store-bought formulations. Taking higher levels of non-buffered ascorbic acid for your vitamin C requirement can cause an upset stomach and can damage your body’s delicate pH balance. In order to ensure positive outcomes it is important to consume the correct forms of nutrients in the right dose. Active C is a buffered source of 100% natural L-Ascorbate.

      Magnesium is essential to the proper function of the nervous system. Several of the steps needed to create energy require Magnesium.   Adrenal fatigue often results in varying degrees of constipation and Magnesium can also alleviate this problem. Your chiropractor or holistic medical practitioner can help you determine what and how much to take.

    2. Herbs: Many professionals recommend licorice root to support adrenal function. However, licorice root is a stimulating herb and will function similar to the way caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland. Over stimulation is the problem and shouldn’t be used for the solution. Focusing on adrenal restorative herbs will provide long-term support and healing.Rhodiola rosea is a popular plant in traditional medical systems in Eastern Europe and Asia and works on harmonizing the central nervous system, decreasing depression, enhancing work performance, eliminating fatigue, stabilizing moods, as well as working as a healthy mood regulator. Research also demonstrates its ability to restore healthy sleep rhythms, poor appetite, irritability, idiopathic hypertension, and unexplained headaches. The biologically active substances salidroside, rosin, and rosavin present in the rhizome of the plant increase the ability to concentrate and enhance mental and physical power.

      Two additional herbs (with long crazy names) Magnolia officianalis and Phellodendron amurense have also been shown to have an amazing impact on adrenal repair.  Relora®, is an all-natural, proprietary and patented extract of Magnolia officianalis and a proprietary extract of Phellodendron amurense. Magnolia officianalis is a tree native to the rain forests of the Far East and its bark has long been used in a variety of ways, including to control stress and anxiety.

      Together, these extracts support or restore levels of the cortisol and DHEA hormones in the body. This promotes the management of stress-related issues. Magnolia and phellodendron work together by binding to stress hormone receptors in the nervous system to promote relaxation and feelings of well-being, yet do not attach to the receptors associated with sedation and dependency.

      Others herbs commonly recommended are Korean and Siberian Ginseng root, however we have found most ginseng on the market contains high levels of pesticide residues and therefore we do not recommend them at this time.

    3. Adrenal Cell Extracts: Another method of rebuilding the adrenals is through the use of bovine adrenal cell extracts.
    4. Treatment with prescription hydrocortisone: Hydrocortisone is the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Prednisone, prednisolone and others are synthetic with major adverse effects on the body. Avoid these at all costs. In rare cases, a person may need short-term treatment with hydrocortisone. This is by prescription only and you must have a knowledgeable practitioner working with you. There are drawbacks to this therapy however. Your body becomes “dependent” on the medication and the adrenals produce LESS. Once it is withdrawn, it can take weeks to months for the adrenals to produce enough by themselves. This is a therapy of last resort and should not be undertaken unless all else has failed and adrenal fatigue is severe.
    5. The adrenal-depleted body needs salt. Take ½ teaspoon of a high quality sea salt with a glass of water every morning.
I cannot stress enough that you need a knowledgeable practitioner to assist you in healing your adrenals. Many supplements can cause problems if not taken correctly. For example, licorice root can raise blood pressure and deplete potassium. With commitment to the program your nutritionist, chiropractor or holistic medical physician helps you to develop, you can get your energy and joy of life back.


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