When you experience some sort of stress (physical, mental or emotional), your hypothalamus lets go of a chemical that sends a signal to your pituitary gland and then your pituitary releases an alert to your adrenals, which then let a whole bunch of stress hormones out into your body. Your body makes adrenaline and noradrenaline, cortisol and dopamine and they’re there to help you when you’re experiencing stress. Stress can be a good thing or a bad thing. And also a very bad thing! Stress can also be emotional, mental and physical. I went under HUGE amounts of emotional stress as a child. I was highly sensitive and remember being yelled at and crying all the time because some of the people around me were very intense and angry and so I took all that on myself and it suppressed my immune system and my adrenals. Now that I look back, it all makes sense. I could feel myself being suppressed. I’m highly sensitive to what’s going on in my body, as well and so when I’m being suppressed, I notice it right away. Anything that your body must do to exert effort on these levels such as an exam, carrying heavy luggage or crying because you got in a fight with your father, is a form of stress. For example, planning a wedding can be stressful but fun. Planning a party can be stressful but fun. So, you see, stress can be fun but also have negative effects. Not all stress is bad stress. But dealing with a mean woman at work, like my days in fashion, can be a huge stress on your body. Getting let go from a job can be a huge amount of stress. Fighting with your in-laws or a customer service person can be forms of stress for your body, as well. So, what does all of this have to do with your health?

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 adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones, among them, cortisol. When under stress, we produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream. The adrenal fatigue theory suggests that prolonged exposure to stress could drain the adrenals leading to a low cortisol state. The adrenal depletion would cause brain fog, low energy, depressive mood, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness, and other vague symptoms.
Fawne Hansen is an author and wellness coach specializing in the treatment of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. This book includes much of the knowledge that Fawne gleaned from research into her own Adrenal Fatigue, in addition to countless discussions with doctors and naturopaths. The eBook also contains many of the strategies that she used to recover her health and vitality, along with the knowledge gained from real-life experiences of other Adrenal Fatigue sufferers that she has helped.

The adrenal glands secrete over 50 hormones including the metabolic intermediates (known since 1965). The adrenal glands are important glands to keep us balanced. Norepinephrine fight or flight hormones are needed the first part of stress response. Most of adrenal glands regulated by blood flow – HPA Axis and hormones. Most of our hormones are secreted by adrenal glands so if are adrenals are tired and overworked then the hormones may become below normal levels. The sex hormones and the stress hormones need to work together. Blood sugar is important to keep normal during stressful situations. If adrenals are not functioning their best, then we can’t perform as well as we need to. If cortisol is too low or too high, then other hormones may be out of balance- the body is very delicate and has innate intelligence to keep functioning with daily demands of life.

Adrenal fatigue is not recognized by the Endocrine Society or any other endocrinology society, but adrenal insufficiency is. One glaring problem for the adrenal fatigue concept is that the reported symptoms don’t match those from adrenal insufficiency, although there is some overlap. The adrenal fatigue symptoms are “mostly nonspecific” including being tired or fatigued to the point of having trouble getting out of bed; experiencing poor sleep; feeling anxious, nervous, or rundown; craving salty and sweet snacks; and having “gut problems,” says Nieman. For the most part, these do not match symptoms of chronic adrenal insufficiency, which is characterized by weight loss, joint pain, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dry skin, low blood pressure, and fatigue.
Fluids are needed to carry nutrients to the cells, aid digestion and help the kidneys to flush toxins from the body. Fluids also aid the formation of ‘digestive juices’ in the stomach, so we can absorb nutrients from food. Water also regulates our body temperature and metabolism. Most nutritionists recommend drinking at least 6 glasses of fresh, filtered water per day.
If you take adrenal hormone supplements when you don’t need them, your adrenal glands may stop working and become unable to make the hormones you need when you are under physical stress. When these supplements are stopped, a person's adrenal glands can remain “asleep” for months. People with this problem may be in danger of developing a life-threatening condition called adrenal crisis.
The adrenals are a pair of glands that sit on the kidneys and produce several hormones, including the stress hormones epinephrine and norepiniephrine that are associated with the “fight or flight” response. Can you tire these glands out? In the absence of any scientific evidence, chiropractor and naturopath James Wilson coined the term “adrenal fatigue” in his 1998 book of the same name. Take a look at Wilson’s own extensive questionnaire, at adrenalfatigue.org. Do you ever experience the following? You may have adrenal fatigue.
Hi Dr. Jill – I have a theory that i would love to get your opinion on? I believe that i have adrenal fatigue and also urinary retention. I have puffy eyes, especially on the bottom. I have Hashimotos any many other issues. I am trying to figure out the cause of the urinary retention and have noticed that when i get hyped up, such as when rushing for an important occasion, such as a wedding , funeral or such that i have a great release of my bladder when i am rushing to get ready for the occasion. I am wondering if it is the adrenal fatigue that is causing the retention and then when i am rushing around and using up my reserve energy , that is when my bladder releases the urine. Any input would be much appreciated, thank you!
Adrenal fatigue is a condition that usually results from a long period of chronic stress. Over time, this stress taxes the adrenal glands and HPA axis, thereby disrupting the production of cortisol and other hormones. The body initially produces large amounts of cortisol to cope with the stressors, but eventually cortisol levels drop. The cortisol cycle can also become dysregulated, with irregular peaks in the evening.
Meditation involves using the diaphragm to draw oxygen into your body, allowing for full oxygen exchange in the lungs. This causes your body to deactivate the ‘fight or flight’ response because it suddenly realizes you’re not facing a threat. Your brain is effectively ‘tricked’ into thinking, “Hey, I can relax.” This allows for a change in the brain’s chemistry. Neurotransmitters and hormones responsible for “rest and digest” mode are activated, and a sense of physical and mental calm is induced. Cortisol production ceases and you will begin to feel more relaxed and at peace.
Many people today have subclinical deficiencies of essential nutrients, like B vitamins, Vitamins A, C and E, Magnesium, Zinc,  and other trace elements.  When under stress, the need for nutrients is even greater. Refined carbohydrates stress the adrenals as well. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies.   The Standard American Diet is both high in processed carbs and sugar and lower in quality fats and protein and many times lacking in micronutrients.
If you have very advanced Adrenal Fatigue, this guy gets it. This is the only doctor (besides my doctor) that understands everything involved when you have very advanced Adrenal Fatigue/ Chronic Fatigue/ Fibromyalgia (They are all the same- they just express different symptoms for each of us). For example, no one else really addresses how the liver is involved, or pancreas, or tinnitus, or hormones or what's going on with the muscles as well as Dr Lam. I hate the Wilson work because it doesn't address those of us that are very advanced and have all these issues and many, many more. Dr Lam offers ideas on healing that are gentle enough for people like me to tolerate. Those of us that are advanced usually have oppositional responses to supplements, medication and food and this guy gets it!
Women with more severe symptoms, or those who have reached complete exhaustion, usually need greater intervention.  We personalize the therapy to each woman’s symptoms and test results. We look into the cumulative stressors and other causes of fatigue (We urge you not to self-prescribe herbal supplementation and over the counter substances, as they can have adverse health effects).
He also delves into treatment issues, offering advice on how to develop a manageable recovery plan. One aspect of this involves an alkaline diet, about which there is a great deal of controversy. Its inclusion may draw the ire of many health professionals and scientists who view the non-acidic diet as just another celebrity weight loss fad, but that doesn’t mean that the foods contained in that diet shouldn’t be eaten. Obviously, more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are essential for better health.

While this may be discouraging to some, one issue I have with this assessment is that the main issue seemed to be study design, rather than hard results. The failure of scientists to conduct adequate tests does not immediately equate to the falsity of adrenal fatigue as a whole. In addition, a diagnosis for this condition is difficult because these cortisol levels fall in what conventional medicine would call “inside the normal range,” although the symptoms are clear to those suffering from the condition. Lastly, treatment for adrenal fatigue consists mainly of diet and lifestyle adjustments, which traditional doctors do not see as legitimate medicine. (That’s okay; we know that food is medicine, no matter how often the medical community fails to recognize this fact.)

For anyone who has ever wondered why his or her doctor seems to know nothing about this syndrome, Dr. Wilson offers an answer. He does this by explaining the reasons why adrenal fatigue is so readily dismissed by most in the medical community. As he points out, there is always money involved in these considerations, and in the case of adrenal fatigue the money trail leads right to the pharmaceutical companies. At one time, adrenal fatigue was a well-known diagnosis, and patients actually received treatment for it. As the pharmaceutical industry grew larger and more politically connected, however, that diagnosis became rarer and rarer. Today, only the most severe forms of adrenal dysregulation – such as Addison’s disease – receive any serious recognition by doctors.

Conventional blood tests, taken at whatever time your doctor has scheduled your appointment, might indicate that your adrenals are normal. However, a better diagnostic approach will test your levels at different times of the day, which is much more likely to reveal an out-of-whack pattern of cortisol or DHEA secretion. Adrenal fatigue is characterized by cortisol levels that are too high at night and not high enough in the morning.
Regardless, this topic remains a heated one in the medical community. The Hormone Health Network released a scathing piece on the issue of adrenal fatigue, essentially warning patients that it is a false diagnosis, peddled by those who profit from the “expensive” treatment methods they suggest when diagnosing the disease, with no thought for the serious dangers they may put someone in by telling them adrenal fatigue is their problem.  They also (incorrectly) remind people that supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. (5)
Thank you for your article! I just received saliva test results showing that I have low cortisol throughout the day. I’m on a supplement plan, but I’m wondering about some of your other recommendations. What is the benefit of going to bed at 10 PM For the adrenals? If I am awake between 7 AM and 9 AM, what do you recommend for being restful for the adrenals? Thank you!!
I too am healing from adrenal fatigue. A good friend of mine referred me to a lady(a good friend of mine now) who practices Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing) and with her help, a well as some changes that I’ve made in my personal life and at home…. I’ve come to have great results! Not 100% but a mark improvement from where I was several months ago.
Conventional medicine is truly wonderful at treating disease-state conditions. Unfortunately its focus on drugs also tends to suppress early-stage symptoms rather than treat their underlying causes. This can have the effect of delaying treatment until a disease state has developed. This is true in the case of adrenal fatigue cortisol testing. In the conventional standard of care, any cortisol level within a very broad range is considered normal, and anything outside that range indicates disease.

There’s no science to back it up. The Endocrine Society, the world's largest organization of endocrinologists (people who research and treat patients with diseases related to glands and hormones), flatly says that adrenal fatigue is not a real disease. And it says the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are so general, they can apply to many diseases or conditions (depression, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia) or stem from everyday life.
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