I’m in my early 20’s and have severe adrenal fatigue. It’s so bad that it has caused weight gain in the belly area, fluid retention everywhere, and severe hypoglycemia. I don’t understand how I have adrenal fatigue this bad when I’m so young. I’ve been on a third shift sleep schedule for about 6 years (going to bed anywhere from 3am-6am) but despite doing that, I sleep in late so I still get plenty of sleep. But I know people who have worked third shift for decades. So I’m assuming it couldn’t have caused severe adrenal fatigue after just 6 years, especially considering I’m still getting plenty of sleep? I’m guessing there are other factors at play here?
The most common of these tests include testing bodily fluid for cortisol. Blood tests are almost never helpful in this regard, but a 24-hour salivary panel may help your doctor recognize abnormal cortisol patterns, including a lack or overload of stress response. Many doctors also test thyroid function in conjunction with cortisol levels because of the way these hormonal systems are interconnected.
Rethinking Fatigue: What Your Adrenals Are Really Telling You and What You Can Do about It is a book by Nora Gedgaudas, the author of Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and A Longer Life. With expertise in both nutritional science and neurofeedback therapy, Dr. Gedgaudas brings a fresh voice to the debate concerning fatigue and adrenal function.
Cortisol increases your appetite and energy level while toning down your immune system’s allergic and inflammatory responses. This hormone stimulates the storage and release of energy in the body, helps the body resist the stressful effects of infections, trauma, and temperature extremes, and helps you maintain stable emotions. Synthetic versions of cortisol — prednisone and cortisone, for example — are often prescribed to help people perk up and feel better so they will eat, drink, and move around more and therefore be better able to fight off illness or heal from an injury.
As you can see, there are a number of symptoms that might be related to other underlying disorders. Fortunately, the ways to combat these issues are very similar and will benefit your overall health. If you’ve experienced any of these adrenal fatigue side effects, take heart, for there are now many natural ways to treat and support your adrenal system.
I was diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency by a progressive doctor. She meant well, but she missed the boat completely. For some people, the adrenal-busting cycle is caused by sleep disorders like sleep apnea. A healthy lifestyle alone (or supplements or other treatments that only target adrenals) can’t fix the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysruption caused by sleep apnea, and many of the systems will overlap. Nocturnal breathing pauses cause a stress response, elevating cortisol, increasing exhaustion, sabotaging sleep quality and all of the regenerative work our bodies are meant to do during sleep. For women, sleep apnea is likely to go undiagnosed, because doctors think it is so rare in women that they don’t usually consider it as a differential diagnosis (even in women with PCOS, who are known to have the same rate of sleep apnea as men). For young and slender women, sleep apnea is unlikely to be diagnosed until it has already caused long-standing biological changes, even if a woman has classic symptoms of sleep apnea like loud snoring, observed pauses in sleep breathing, and significant daytime sleepiness. Sleep dysruption is a form of chronic stress, so it can overlap with adrenal insufficiency, and treating sleep problems can be a big help to solving the adrenal problems.
There are many ways to exhaust your adrenal glands and endocrine system, and most are connected to the stresses forced upon us by modern life. The burdens that we place on ourselves today, in terms of our time management and our finances, are totally different from those faced by previous generations. In the 1960s a one-income family could afford a nice house and a very comfortable life. That seems almost inconceivable for most families today, who have to stretch their budgets, work long hours and earn two incomes just to keep their heads above water.
Adrenal fatigue is known as a group of symptoms or syndrome that occur subsequent to the underperformance of the adrenal glands and thus deficient hormone production. Patients with adrenal fatigue may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, but will absolutely experience a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. Of note is a feeling like you cannot cope anymore, even with things which would’ve previously not been perceived as particularly stressful.
In this book, the author does explain adrenal fatigue, but she doesn’t spend an excessive amount of time dwelling on the problem. Her focus is on one thing and one thing only: curing the ailment. To that end, she quickly gets to the meat of the subject by outlining her seven steps to addressing the weakened adrenals that are causing your fatigue. Dietary choices, vitamins, natural supplements, dealing with cravings – all of these topics are covered as she helps you to develop the framework for a viable recovery plan.
A saliva cortisol test is taken at home using a simple kit. Basically, you spit into a vial several times a day, then send the samples in for analysis. The lab will review how your cortisol levels ebb and flow. I’ll explain more in future posts, but for now what you need to know is that an abnormal pattern suggests HPA axis dysfunction, which suggests adrenal dysfunction. (HPA stands for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal.)
The problem is that stimulants tend to lose their effectiveness over time. As chronic stress takes its toll on your endocrine system, each cup of coffee or sugary snack gives you less of an energy boost. Caffeine can prevent you from getting a good sleep too. The more stressed and tired you become, the more stimulants you need. This vicious cycle is how many people unwittingly accelerate their decline into hormonal dysregulation and extreme fatigue.
I’ve just started taking Siberian Ginseng (in drop form) and just after the first dose, it had an immediate effect and I started to lose the water I had been retaining and I’m not feeling so “dead” in the mornings. I understand it’s best to take it for up to 3 weeks and then have a break from it. I’ll try 2 weeks and 2 weeks off maybe and see how that goes. I’m also using Natural Progesterone cream (morning and evening) – Emerita is the make – as well as other things but definitely noticed a huge different with the Ginseng. I shall continue.
If you truly have adrenal fatigue syndrome your most definitely going to suffering from some other obvious condition as well. Failure of the adrenal glands To work properly would cause serious side effects in your body that you would notice far sooner then you would notice this so called syndrome. All the symptoms mentioned above can signify multiple different illnesses that are more likely for you to have then an adrenal problem, such as depression for instance or just being tired. Adrenal fatigue syndrome is a fad illness, if you go to any doctor saying you think you have it they will laugh at you. I’ve seen it happen. Try taking a nap and taking care of yourself.

What are my qualifications to direct any of you to better health? I am a girl who suffers from adrenal insufficiency and I'm healing after a maze of wrong and right turns. I have worked with over 40 physicians since getting ill a couple of years ago with a rare health condition called POTS Syndrome and have learned so much about adrenal fatigue through trial, error, research, and physician consults that I feel it is my duty to share with all of you what I am learning.


Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.
Very few people visit their doctor because they believe they have adrenal fatigue. Some people who experience unexplained tiredness and lethargy believe it is the result of an under-active thyroid, or a hormone imbalance. Many conventional doctors do not recognize adrenal fatigue as a proven medical condition and perform no testing on the glands, so adrenal fatigue is rarely diagnosed.
Stress can have devastating effects on health. Even if you do everything else right health-wise, if you don’t manage your stress, none of it will mean much. During my healing journey I practiced mindfulness meditation and other stress-busting strategies to bring mindfulness into my day, like taking time-outs for slow, deep breathing. This is a simple way to defuse stress levels and calm the brain-adrenal axis. I’m also a big fan of listening to Eckhart Tolle audiobooks when I’m in the car.
Treatments for adrenal fatigue vary from using certain botanical medicines - which certainly will always play a major role, to using intravenous vitamin therapy. Usually this combination very quickly delivers results that both address the symptoms and nourish your adrenals back to optimal function. Additionally, patients usually need some blood sugar support and dietary changes to support stabilizing and decreasing insulin resistance while healing the adrenal glands.
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This comment comes from a place of concern. This blog post scares me because I have adrenal insufficiency, which is a real endocrine condition characterized by dangerously low or non existent cortisol production. What scares me is the thought of people diagnosing themselves with adrenal fatigue, when they are actually experiencing early warning signs of adrenal insufficiency. I have seen naturopaths and holistic doctors make this mistake, and don’t find out until their patient is in a dangerous emergency state called Arenal Crisis, which is where you slip into shock and die from lack of cortisol. It is also why I am sitting in the hospital right now sharing my concerns with you.
Navigating this ocean of uncertainty is not an easy task. Symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue probably have multiple causes. Frequent follow-up visits and a strong patient-clinician partnership are critical elements for success. Alternative and complementary clinicians often have better results, because the appointments tend to last longer and they view patients through a more holistic lens. An important word of caution: some medical professionals prescribe cortisol analogs to treat adrenal fatigue. Cortisol replacement can be dangerous even in small doses. Unintended consequences can include osteoporosis, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.
Here are some typical signs that you have adrenal exhaustion: You awaken feeling groggy and have difficulty dragging yourself out of bed. You can’t get going without that first cup or two of caffeinated coffee or tea. You not only rely on sugary snacks and caffeine to get through the day but find you actually crave sweets, particularly in the late morning or afternoon. (Perhaps you’ve even been diagnosed with hypoglycemia.) Your thinking is foggy and you have memory problems. You suffer from recurrent infections, headaches and depression. At night, though exhausted, you have trouble falling asleep as the worries of the day replay in your head and you suffer from insomnia. Ordinary stresses have an impact that is out of proportion to their importance. You wonder what happened to your interest in sex. If this description fits you, your adrenals may be running on empty, even if all your conventional medical tests are normal.
This same vague collection of symptoms is called something entirely different in the alternative health world. It’s branded “adrenal fatigue,” an invented condition that’s widely embraced as real among alternative health providers. There’s no evidence that adrenal fatigue actually exists. The public education arm of the Endocrine Society, representing 14,000 endocrinologists, recently updated their advice on a common medical question, noting:
Exercise gently at least 5 days per week, preferably morning and not late in the day.  Try swimming, gentle bike rides, walking, yoga, stretching, or any restorative activity that incorporates breathing.  Avoid high adrenaline activities, like kayaking, competitive sports, running, cross fit or high intensity training until you are well on your way to healing.

Just to add to my comment above. After taking Siberian Ginseng for about 8 weeks, I had a break for 2 weeks and started back on it again. Yes, taking it in the afternoon has left me with insomnia for a couple of nights and also an upset/colicky stomach so this is quite powerful stuff. I’m sure it’s brought on my next period a couple of days early too.


To make matters worse, doctors often don't diagnose this problem. Dr. Wilson offers the example of a woman who has been to 37 doctors before finally receiving proper diagnosis and a renewed sense of hope. So, why don't doctors recognize adrenal fatigue? In medical school, they are only taught to look for extreme adrenal malfunction (Addison's Disease, which occurs when the glands produce far too little cortisol, and Cushing's Syndrome, which stems from excessive cortisol production) and dont know how to measure cumulative adrenal fatigue.

Unfortunately, some types of stress are hard to spot. In his book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Dr. James Wilson mentions a study which measured the stress hormones of a group of nurses working in a pediatric unit. They weren’t aware of any particular stress in their lives, but their lab tests told a different story. According to Dr. Wilson, they “were totally unaware of being under stress, but their cortisol levels were elevated by 200-300%.”
As the manufacturer of adrenaline, they are the “glands of stress,” but are also the first glands to fail during prolonged or intense periods of stress. The problem with stressors is that they are “cumulative,” in the sense that their impact tends to add up in the body over time until your adrenal glands just can’t take anymore. Adrenal “fatigue” or dysfunction used to be rare, but is now all too common because of our lack of relaxation and other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits and excessive caffeine intake, as well as exposure to environmental toxins and allergens.

Cortisol increases your appetite and energy level while toning down your immune system’s allergic and inflammatory responses. This hormone stimulates the storage and release of energy in the body, helps the body resist the stressful effects of infections, trauma, and temperature extremes, and helps you maintain stable emotions. Synthetic versions of cortisol — prednisone and cortisone, for example — are often prescribed to help people perk up and feel better so they will eat, drink, and move around more and therefore be better able to fight off illness or heal from an injury.
The book is divided into 4 parts that are arranged sequentially so that each section prepares the reader for the successive readings. Part 1 is an overview, including the causes of adrenal fatigue, while part 2 segues to self-help assessment tools, including a questionnaire designed to help readers determine if they are experiencing adrenal fatigue. Part 3 provides an extensive guide focused on recovery from adrenal fatigue, while part 4 presents a reference section on the role of the adrenal glands.
Anyway, I’ve been eating a vegan diet lately (McDougall/Esselstyn style) as there is heart disease and diabetes in my family, but seem to be be gaining weight on it, even though my calories aren’t that high. I am desperate to lose weight – I gained about 50 pounds with this adrenal thing!! I’ve tried everything and every diet out there. I found low carb dieting very difficult as my energy plummeted. I’m so confused as to what diet to follow. Any diet suggestions would be immensely appreciated!
This book was instrumental in understanding how one's life and specific stressors can indeed result in adrenal fatigue. It's practical in nature and helped to decipher how to heal from adrenal fatigue and make lifestyle changes in all areas in life. My passion is authentic living and purpose and at the core of this book it is about living one's life authentically. When we are out of congruence with our authentic self we experience stress which ultimately will manifest on a physical level. Having ...more
I just took dr Wilson’s test and scored in the “severe” range. Not really news to me… I’ve been depressed and burnt out for a whole now, although I find it interesting that there may be a physical reason why I’m feeling this way. Not sure what to really do about it though, since I’m already doing a lot of the things to “be kind”. What do I do now? Do you have a link to other posts that talk about how you recovered?
The International Pediatric Adrenocortical Tumor Registry is a database for young patients afflicted with these rare tumors. The result has created more personalized and targeted care as well as benefited the patient’s families and their physicians. Last October, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a paper that described the clinical features and outcomes in children with…
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