We are now seeing an epidemic of individuals who are suffering from “adrenal fatigue”, chronic fatigue syndrome and burnout.
But before we get onto the tips to help cure “adrenal fatigue”, we must first address the proper terminology.
The correct terminology for “adrenal fatigue” is actually hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation or dysfunction.
Many individuals will likely have encountered the confused expressions on doctors faces when they have mentioned the term “adrenal fatigue” to them.
However, doctors and psychiatrists should be well aware of the term hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis dysregulation. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis dysfunction is well documented in scientific literature as a pathophysiology in many common health problems such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorders and much more.
Doctors are extremely quick to dismiss the validity of “adrenal fatigue” and most seem to believe the old out-dated notion that the adrenal glands only have two degrees of function, either working or not working at all in the case of Addison’s disease, which is a complete failure of the adrenal glands and an auto-immune disease.
However we know from scientific literature that the adrenal glands can have varying degrees of function and this myth is easily debunked, as hypo-cortisolism and low cortisol states have been well documented as a consequence of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction in individuals with stress-based conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic fatigue syndrome for example, and outwith addison’s disease occuring.
Adrenal fatigue is a popular term typically used by alternative medicine practitioners as an easy way to refer to a state of lowered adrenal gland output, such as low cortisol/hypocortisolism and burnout in general.
Many modern general practitioners often label hpa-axis disorders as “psycho-somatic or mental” conditions, when in fact, these are real physiological disorders of the endocrine and stress-response system.
I don’t believe that anti-depressants, beta blockers and other strong anti-psychotic medications are the correct treatments for these type of disorders either and at best tend to poorly “mask” symptoms, whilst often coming with a host of serious side effects in the process.
As someone who suffered over a decade with severe chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout, low cortisol and adrenal fatigue, here are twenty of my favorite health and lifestyle tips for overcoming this often “difficult to treat” condition.
1. Meditation & Mind-Body Techniques
Nothing to date has improved my health and well-being in the way mind and body techniques such as meditation has done.
Those with “adrenal fatigue” and stress disorders of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis often exhibit autonomic nervous system imbalances, typically excessive sympathetic “fight or flight” activity and a lack of para-sympathetic “rest and digest” system tone/dominance.
Meditation techniques are excellent for balancing the autonomic nervous system and hpa-axis, calming the mind, promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety and aiding overall well-being.
Other mind-body techniques which are very helpful include deep diaphragmatic breathing and meditative-movement exercises such as Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong.
2. Cut Out Stimulants
We all know someone who can’t function in the morning, without first having a cup of coffee to stimulate adrenal gland output.
Getting hooked on stimulants such as caffeine found in coffee and energy drinks, is a fast-track way to developing “adrenal fatigue” and burnout.
So if you are currently in the depths of a heavy coffee habit and suffering from “adrenal fatigue”, the general recommendation is to reduce consumption slowly, which will help to prevent crashing.
Watch out for hidden dietary sources of stimulants also, for example, dark chocolate is a rich source of caffeine and theobromine. Tea(camellia sinensis) is another popular beverage here in the United Kingdom and naturally, contains caffeine.
I’m not suggesting that dark chocolate or tea are bad foods because both are extremely antioxidant-rich and two of my favorite “superfoods” when it comes to supporting cardiovascular health. However both can be problematic food choices for individuals in the early recovery stages of adrenal fatigue, due to the caffeine content and mild stimulant effect.
3. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
When we think of stimulants, we often tend to just think of chemicals and drugs such as caffeine or nicotine as discussed above.
However, emotions can also be highly stimulating to the nervous system and chronic emotional stress can contribute to autonomic nervous system dysfunction. Some examples of stimulating emotions include fear, worry, guilt and anger.
Working on shifting your mental outlook to being more positive, less negative and worrying less can have a huge impact on adrenal health and overall well-being.
Don’t let yourself be dominated by negative emotions such as fear and worry, they are paralyzing and prevent spiritual growth.
4. Cold Showers
Cold showers are an awesome relatively inexpensive “life hack”, which helps to balance the autonomic nervous system and hpa-axis, boost energy/cortisol levels, improve mood, stimulate the immune system, increase antioxidants(glutathione) and overall strengthen the body.
There is actually a study on the potential use of cold shower therapy as a possible treatment for individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome/me. 
Instead of starting the day with a cup of coffee, treat yourself to an ice cold shower first thing in the morning to fire up the adrenal glands, primal style.
5. Eat A Vitamin C Rich Diet
Vitamin C is the single most important nutrient when it comes to adrenal gland function and a healthy stress-response. In fact the adrenal glands hold some of the largest stores of ascorbic acid(vitamin C) in the human body.
Stress depletes Vitamin C stores at a very rapid rate so individuals who are chronically stressed may have significantly increased nutritional demands. Many of the symptoms that often accompany “adrenal fatigue” can actually be traced to low Vitamin C levels.
However I’m not greatly fond of synthetic Vitamin C supplements such as ascorbic acid. Many alternative medicine practitioners often recommend mega-high dosages of synthetic Vitamin C(ascorbic acid) for treating adrenal fatigue, the negative being that ascorbic acid actually breaks down to oxalic acid in the body.
Natural food sources of Vitamin C are often more effective because they contain the supportive bioflavonoids which aid absorption and uptake of Vitamin C. Natural food sources of Vitamin C also tend to be more stable.
Some good examples of Vitamin C rich foods include berries, oranges, kiwi’s, amla(Indian gooseberry), acerola cherry, camu camu and rosehips.
6. Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Glycemic dysregulation is a common consequence of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction.
Cortisol is an extremely important hormone for healthy blood sugar regulation and low levels can cause hypoglycemia and low blood sugar.
Anyone with severe “adrenal fatigue” will likely have experienced the typical low blood sugar/adrenal cascade as they begin to get light headed/dizzy, feel more fatigued, panicky/anxiety and just a general feeling of being unwell. Much of the horrible symptoms of “adrenal fatigue” can be reduced by learning to how to balance blood sugar levels.
Skipping meals such as not eating breakfast is a sure-fire way to cause low blood sugar in those with sub-optimal adrenal gland function.
The problem for many individuals with “adrenal fatigue” is that they often feel nauseous first thing in the morning and cannot stomach the thought of eating a protein rich meal. Taking digestive bitter herbs pre-meal can be very helpful for stimulating appetite and improving sluggish digestive function.
Its impossible to discuss balancing blood sugar without also mentioning excessively high sugar/carbohydrate diets, which are another common contributing factor to causing “adrenal fatigue”. If your diet contains over 60% of total calories from carbohydrates, then you are likely consuming far too much sugar, which will most likely be having an adverse impact on adrenal and metabolic health.
Research has found that diets with very high carbohydrate intake(over 60% of total calories), cause elevated triglycerides(blood fats) levels, which are a proven factor that significantly increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Consuming a small amount of protein-rich foods at each meal is a great way to balance blood sugar levels.
Eat healthy protein and fat-rich snacks such as nuts/seeds, which are good choices for those with “adrenal fatigue” between meals.
Berries such as blueberries are the best choice of fruit for those with “adrenal fatigue”. There are two reasons why berries are the best choice, one is because they are low GI(glycemic index) and the second reason is that studies have shown that berries have a favorable impact on blood sugar levels and help to improve metabolic health.
7. Drink Nettle Leaf Tea Daily
Herbalists consider nettle leaf to be a general tonic herb, traditionally said to support the adrenal and thyroid glands, liver, kidneys, intestinal tract, connective tissue, bone health, has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, removes uric acid and helps to dissolve kidney stones.
Nettle leaf makes an excellent herbal tea, which can be taken up to 3 times daily.
Nettle leaf is also available in powder form, which tends to be even more effective than tea from a medicinal perspective because heating can reduce some of the vitamin content. Plus you get the fiber and full-spectrum of nutrition when consuming the whole leaf, rather than just infusing the leaf as you do with teas.
8. Rest More!
Due to our highly stimulative and stressful 21st century lifestyles, we are ever increasingly learning how to push through exhaustion, rather than taking adequate periods of rest and relaxation.
Many individuals with “adrenal fatigue” are so stuck in a wired, but tired state that they actually often find it difficult to relax. The mind-body techniques described above such as meditation can be helpful in those cases.
Not getting adequate rest daily and pushing beyond our means, as you can guess is one of the worst things we can do for recovering from “adrenal fatigue”. Pacing energy levels is absolutely crucial in the early recovery stages of burnout and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Even taking an extra 5-10 minute nap or rest can have a significant beneficial impact on adrenal gland health, rather than pushing through exhaustion by utilizing the sympathetic “fight or flight” system or having to resort to stimulant use.
9. Adaptogenic Herbs
One class of herbs, in particular, is extremely beneficial for those with “adrenal fatigue”, herbalists refer to these botanicals as “adaptogens”.
Adaptogenic herbs specifically help to increase the body’s resistance to stress and to balance the hpa-axis/endocrine hormones. Simply put adaptogenic herbs help the body to maintain optimal homeostasis in times of stress.
Some examples of adaptogenic herbs include Korean Red Ginseng(Panax), Ashwagandha, Licorice Root, Schizandra Berry, Medicinal Mushrooms such as Reishi and Cordyceps, Maca Root, Jiaogulan, Astragalus and Suma Root.
Always consult a professional before adding any herbs or supplements to your diet. Most of these herbs are well tolerated and considered safe, however, some have certain contraindications. For example, licorice can potentiate corticosteroid medication and in high dosages taken long-term can deplete potassium, elevating blood pressure. So it is always best to be under the guidance of professionals when using medicinal herbs.
10. Vitamin B5 & B-Complex Vitamins
The whole host of B-Complex vitamins are extremely important for energy production, healthy stress-response, adrenal gland and nervous system function.
Bee Pollen is one of my favorite “superfoods” and is the richest plant-food source of Vitamin B5 and B-Complex Vitamin’s.
Bee Pollen is an excellent food choice for helping to increase energy naturally through its rich b-complex vitamin content and for nourishing the endocrine system, in particular, the adrenal glands.
Deficiencies in Vitamin B6(Pyridoxine) and Vitamin B12(Cobalamin) have been proven to cause chronic fatigue. It’s worth noting that whilst bee pollen is an extremely rich source of B-Complex Vitamin’s, it doesn’t naturally contain Vitamin B12.
11. Acupuncture For Treating Adrenal Fatigue, Autonomic Dysfunction & HPA-Axis Disorders
Acupuncture is an ancient healing art derived from traditional Chinese medicine, which holds great potential in its ability to treat stress-induced autonomic nervous system dysfunction and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis disorders.
Scientists have recently discovered that the key to many of acupuncture’s health benefits, lie’s in its ability to balance the autonomic nervous system and hpa-axis.
Which makes acupuncture the perfect alternative treatment for those with “adrenal fatigue”, chronic fatigue syndrome and stress based-disorders.
The only downside to acupuncture is that it can get quite expensive if you are doing it regularly.
12. Balance Zinc & Copper Levels
Copper and zinc metabolism imbalances have been implicated in the etiology of many common health conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders, PMS(Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) and even certain cancers.
Many individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, dysautonomia, hpa-axis dysfunction and adrenal fatigue often exhibit copper and zinc imbalances, typically these individuals are very deficient in zinc, whilst having an excessive toxic level of the mineral copper.
Copper and zinc metabolism imbalances can wreck havoc with an individuals health causing a wide variety of symptoms such as “adrenal fatigue”, anxiety/panic disorder, depression, emotional instability, mood swings, weak immune system, hormonal imbalances, connective tissue issues such as stretch marks, low libido/erectile dysfunction and much more.
Often alternative experts recommend vegetarian and strict vegan diets for those with “adrenal fatigue”, but both are actually some of the worst diets for those with adrenal problems and copper/zinc imbalances. Strict plant-based vegan diets are often typically low in zinc, whilst being excessively rich in copper, which can further lower zinc levels.
For more information on copper toxicity, visit nutritional balancing expert Dr Lawrence Wilson’s website at: Copper Toxicity Syndrome by Dr Lawrence Wilson
13. Increased Sodium Needs
Sub-optimal adrenal gland function can hinder the body’s ability to retain sodium, due to lowered levels of an adrenal steroid hormone called aldosterone, which in part regulates blood pressure, electrolyte/salt and fluid balance in the body.
Individuals with “adrenal fatigue” tend to have many issues affecting blood pressure and typically tend to suffer from low blood pressure and orthostatic hypotension(dizziness upon standing).
Whilst the general recommendation is to limit sodium/salt intake, those with adrenal insufficiency may actually have an increased need for sodium.
I’m not a fan of salt water mixtures as some experts recommend, I find that they disturb electrolyte balance and often dehydrate the body.
However, salting food with trace element rich salts as mentioned above can really help reduce many of the low blood pressure and adrenal fatigue symptoms.
14. Eat Healthy Fats
Low fat and cholesterol free diets are actually a recipe for disaster when it comes to optimal hormonal and endocrine health.
Low-fat diets have the potential to be deficient in many essential fatty acids such as the pre-formed long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for example.
The foods listed above such as nuts and oily fish are also scientifically proven to support health in many other ways, such as reducing risk of developing cardiovascular and other degenerative diseases such as diabetes and auto-immune diseases, which have a heavy root pathology based on systemic inflammation.
15. Take Kelp Seaweed
Seaweeds are one of nature’s richest sources of trace and ultra-trace elements, many of which are often deficient due to our modern diet and depleted soil’s.
Sea vegetables are also extremely rich in the mineral Iodine, which is essential for healthy function of the thyroid gland and is required for thyroid hormone synthesis.
Iodine deficiency and sub-optimal Iodine status are still very common according to scientific research in many parts of the world.
Seaweeds are overall very nutritive and are rich in Vitamins A, B-Complex, C, E and K, minerals, trace-elements, phytonutrients, alginate fibers(to detox heavy metals such as mercury) and even a small amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.
The brand of high-quality Kelp Seaweed that Dr. Lawrence Wilson recommends is: Nature’s Way Kelp Seaweed Capsules
16. Got Mitochondrial Dysfunction?
What if the unrelenting, chronic fatigue, exercise intolerance, and myriad of other autonomic/cardiovascular issues that people with CFS typically suffer from, was actually caused by a real organic dysfunction in energy production in the body.
The mitochondria are known as the “powerhouses” of the cells, who’s main job is to produce energy(ATP – Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) from various food elements we supply such as fatty acids and nutrients such as Magnesium andCo-Enzyme Q10.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is the true organic cause of chronic fatigue syndrome/me and there are now many tests which can be done to measure mitochondrial function.
Many nutrients are required for mitochondrial function and ATP production including magnesium, zinc, co-enzyme q10, alpha lipoic acid, l-carnitine and many others. Deficiencies in any of these co-factor nutrients can cause mitochondrial dysfunction and chronic fatigue.
Scientific research has found that Co-Enzyme Q10 deficiency, for example, to be extremely common in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and that low levels of Co-Q10 relate to the fatigue, autonomic dysfunction and neuro-cognitive symptoms. Co-Enzyme Q10 deficiency was also found to be a risk factor for the early mortality in individuals with CFS by cardiovascular disorder, so it’s not a micro-nutrient deficiency to take lightly.
For more information on mitochondrial dysfunction, check out the work of Dr. Sarah Myhill, who is an expert at treating chronic fatigue syndrome/me. Her information and study papers on mitochondrial failure can be found at: CFS – The Central Cause: Mitochondrial Failure
17. Forget Vegetarian & Strict Vegan Diets For Adrenal Fatigue
However, this couldn’t actually be further from the truth. Latest scientific research has found that vegan diets actually increase heart disease risk due to severe Vitamin B12 deficiency, which causes a condition known as hyperhomocysteinemia, a proven factor that significantly increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Strict vegetarian and vegan diets have also been found to be typically deficient in a whole host of basic essential nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, pre-formed long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids(DHA), iodine(if no sea vegetables are consumed), low in zinc/high in copper, deficient in conditionally essential amino acids such as taurine and carnitine(very important for energy) and many more nutrients.
Most of these nutrients are absolutely vital not only for health but energy production, adrenal gland, and healthy nervous system function.
Vegan diets also contain no dietary cholesterol source, which is another recipe for disaster for those with “adrenal fatigue”. Cholesterol is the vital pre-cursor to adrenal steroid hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, and epinephrine(adrenaline).
Put it simply, without cholesterol we would be dead. The liver can produce its own supply of cholesterol, however in those who are suffering from “adrenal fatigue”, inflammatory disorders and chronic stress, may not be producing enough cholesterol to keep up with the increased demand for adrenal stress hormones. This is where dietary cholesterol may become an essential nutrient.
18. Adrenal Gland Health Tests
The burden of effort will most likely be on the patients shoulders to prove that you have hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis dysfunction.
There are many tests that one can do to assess adrenal gland function that can be helpful.
One of the most simple ways of testing adrenal gland function and daily circadian rhythm is by doing a saliva adrenal stress profile test, which is available from Genova diagnostics.
“This saliva test can detect imbalances in the daily circadian secretions of the stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. Imbalances in these hormones can indicate an inappropriate response that can negatively impact energy levels, emotions, and many other health complaints. These include anxiety, chronic inflammatory conditions, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, depression, migraines, headaches, recurrent infections, menstrual difficulties and infertility.” – Genova Diagnostics(Adrenal Stress Profile)
Other tests that may be helpful for assessing adrenal gland function include DHEA-Sulphate and cortisol blood tests, urine 24-hour cortisol and ACTH stimulation test.
There are some crude methods that one can do to check adrenal gland function, one is known as the “Ragland test”.
The “Ragland Test” is a simple test using a blood pressure monitor, where a patients blood pressure is measured whilst lying down, then upon immediately standing. In a normal individual, the systolic blood pressure should rise 10mm upon standing, however in those with sub-optimal adrenal gland function it often actually drops.
Like I say the “Ragland Test” is a very crude method, but it is better than nothing.
19. Tackle Inflammation In The Body
“Adrenal Fatigue” and inflammation often go hand, in hand.
The adrenal glands produce the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory steroid hormones such as cortisol for example. When we have chronic systemic and unresolved inflammation in the body, the hpa-axis views this as a negative feedback loop and levels of adrenal hormones such as cortisol begin to lower from excessive stimulation over long-periods.
I believe the hpa-axis dysregulating and lowering cortisol levels is actually a self-protective mechanism that the body uses in response to chronic stress/hpa-axis disorders, to prevent the adverse effects that high cortisol can have on the body, such as immune system suppression and bone thinning for example.
One of the most common sites of inflammation in the body is the gastrointestinal tract.
Intestinal inflammation is the true cause of leaky gut syndrome(increased intestinal permeability).
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a very stubborn and difficult to treat condition that not only is a common driving factor for exhausting the adrenal glands but has been implicated in the development of many serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease and auto-immune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Following a healthy diet based around anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish(omega-3’s), spices such as turmeric, green/white tea, fresh fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs, nuts(walnuts are a great source of omega-3’s in ALA form), seeds(flax, chia are omega-3 rich) can be very helpful for controlling systemic inflammation.
20. Earthing/Grounding For Treating Adrenal Fatigue
However, during my research, i came across a small handful of studies on the health benefits of Earthing/Grounding and was completely blown away.
Grounding, or earthing, refers to connecting electrically with the Earth.
There is now a growing body of scientific evidence which has found earthing/grounding has many health benefits including better sleep, reduced pain, balanced autonomic nervous system, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, lower cortisol levels, an increase in energy, mood and general well-being. 
Earthing Sheets are a popular way to ground and can be used in place of a normal bed sheet.
Although if you can’t afford an earthing sheet don’t worry, there are other free methods that one can do to “ground” themselves. Walking barefoot in nature is probably one of the most popular “grounding” methods.
For more detailed information on the health benefits of Earthing, you can purchase Clint Ober’s book from Amazon at: Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever! by Clint Ober
1. Possible use of repeated cold stress for reducing fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome: a hypothesis
2. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons
The information in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any disease, implied or otherwise.
PHOTO CREDIT: www.nutsforlife.com.au