Adrenal Fatigue: Remedies, Supplements and Recovery

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Adrenal fatigue remedies and recovery
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Adrenal Fatigue: Remedies, Supplements and Recovery

Adrenal fatigue is often diagnosed in the natural health community based on a specific pattern of symptoms, but often ignored by many doctors and the mainstream medical community. Like thyroid disease, the symptoms are very real to those who have it, but difficult for others to see, so many of those suffering from adrenal fatigue are told that they are just depressed, tired, or making it up.

The adrenal glands are walnut-sized organs that sit on top of the kidneys. Though small, the adrenals are responsible for many important functions in the body. They are vital to cortisol regulation, metabolism, keeping inflammation at bay, and energy levels.

The adrenals secrete stress hormones in fight-or-flight situations when the body needs these increased hormones to survive, but our modern lifestyle can cause the adrenals to over-secrete these hormones and eventually become “fatigued” or “exhausted” from this constant over-firing.

In short, adrenal fatigue is a state where the adrenal glands do not make the correct amount or type of adrenal hormones at the correct time of day. Some sources estimate that over 80% of adults struggle with adrenal fatigue in some form.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

My doctor explains that there are several stages of adrenal fatigue:

  1. Stage 1- Wired and Tired: Cortisol levels should be naturally elevated in the morning. The first stage of adrenal fatigue is often characterized by elevated cortisol at night (when it should be low), leading to a “wired” feeling at night and difficulty sleeping. People in this stage may also regularly feel “on edge”.
  2. Stage 2- Stressed and Tired: The second stage shows more severe cortisol disruption. People in this stage may have higher cortisol in the morning but it tends to fall quickly after lunch, leading to afternoon fog and tiredness. They may get a second wind at night, but most often wake in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep.
  3. Stage 3- Full Burnout: This stage resembles how a person feels in early pregnancy or with a new baby at home- exhausted all the time no matter how much he/she has slept and completely burned out. Cortisol patterns in stage 3 are completely disrupted or even completely flat and this is especially risky because this stage is associated with higher risk of thyroid disease and autoimmune disease, as well as gut problems.

Adrenal fatigue vs. Addison’s Disease

Though adrenal fatigue is not officially recognized by the mainstream medical community, there is a severe condition called Addison’s disease that is a conventional diagnosis.

Adrenal insufficiency can be primary or secondary. Addison’s disease, the common term for primary adrenal insufficiency, occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and cannot produce enough of the adrenal hormone cortisol. The adrenal hormone aldosterone may also be lacking. Addison’s disease affects 110 to 144 of every 1 million people in developed countries.1

Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland—a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain—fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol. If ACTH output is too low, cortisol production drops. Eventually, the adrenal glands can shrink due to lack of ACTH stimulation. Secondary adrenal insufficiency is much more common than Addison’s disease. (source)

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is often diagnosed based on symptoms. It can also be diagnosed using a salivary cortisol test that measures cortisol at different times of the day to see if the correct cortisol pattern is happening.

Symptoms commonly associated with the various stages of adrenal fatigue are:

  • The need for stimulants like caffeine to get going in the morning
  • Tiredness when you wake up, no matter how much sleep you got
  • Difficulty falling asleep or waking up
  • Reduced ability to handle stress or feeling stressed more often
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Blood sugar or digestive problems
  • Reduced memory or ability to concentrate
  • Dizziness when standing up too quickly
  • Thyroid problems or low thyroid hormone production
  • Food cravings- especially salt and sugar
  • Decreased immune function- getting sick more often
  • High stress levels or always feeling like there is too much to do (this is also associated with an incurable condition called motherhood 🙂
  • Body aches
  • Depression
  • Irritability

What Leads to Adrenal Fatigue?

In short… a modern lifestyle.

Long answer- there are a lot of things that can lead to adrenal fatigue and our modern lifestyle just happens to include many of them. Emotional stress and trauma can lead to adrenal fatigue, especially if this stress continues over long periods of time.

Other less well-known factors include:

  • Artificial light exposure at night (why I use orange glasses at night)
  • Overuse of caffeine and stimulants
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • A nutrient depleted diet that contains a lot of processed food
  • Environmental pollution exposure (in air, water, home environment, etc)
  • Extended low-level stress from work or family problems

It’s Not a Quick Fix

Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is not a condition you can take a pill and reverse over night. In fact, because it is typically caused by years of adrenal-depleting factors, it often takes at least six months (and often years) to reverse, and it must be done by nurturing the body rather than fighting it.

The good news is that even if you aren’t sure that you have adrenal fatigue, the things that help the body recover are generally just good common sense and great for your body anyway, so they are worth a try. Even if you don’t have a medical professional who understands adrenal health near you, you can try the diet and lifestyle factors and see if you notice any improvement.

Since estimates are that 80+% of American adults struggle with adrenal fatigue in some form, it wouldn’t hurt to try:

Adrenal Support Diet

A diet rich in processed grains, sugars and vegetable oils can stress the adrenals, but a careful nutrient-rich diet can go a long way toward supporting adrenal health.

In particular, these foods are considered especially supportive to the adrenals:

  • Healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter, olives, fatty fish and grass fed meats
  • Natural Salt (and lots of it)- those with adrenal fatigue need the extra salt to help the adrenals recover and natural salts also contain beneficial trace minerals. Since adrenal fatigue reduces the hormone aldosterone, which is responsible for salt regulation in the body, many people feel better when consuming adequate levels of real salt.
  • Protein in the morning– Dr. Kalish recommends 40 grams of protein in the morning to support the adrenals throughout the day
  • Green and Brightly Colored Veggies– Eating lots of green and brightly colored vegetables will provide an array of necessary nutrients and help nourish the adrenals (and the rest of the body)
  • Eating Regular Meals– Those with adrenal fatigue should eat small meals throughout the day and not fast, as this can further stress the adrenals
  • Vitamin C Rich Foods– Vitamin C is vital for adrenal health and many of us do not get enough.

Lifestyle for Adrenal Health

In cases of adrenal problems, lifestyle can be just as important as diet. In fact, it can sometimes be more important!

These steps are typically recommended:

  1. Getting enough sleep each night and being in bed by 10pm each night– Staying up past 10:30 PM will typically cause the adrenals to give you a “second wind” and make it more difficult to sleep. Those struggling with adrenal fatigue need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night and should also nap when tired if possible.
  2. Address Stress and find a way to reduce the factors that are leading to emotional or mental stress.
  3. Counseling– If stress is caused by emotional trauma in the past, counseling can be helpful.
  4. Hydrate Carefully– Those with adrenal struggles may have depleted minerals and may be mildly dehydrated. To help replenish the body, it can be helpful to add a pinch of salt to water before drinking it.
  5. Don’t Exercise– Sounds counter-intuitive, but those with adrenal struggles can actually do more harm than good by exercising. Of course, mild things like walking or leisure swimming are fine, but most experts recommend avoiding high intensity exercise during the first month or two of recovery. If you’ve ever had trouble losing weight, even when exercising regularly, this might be a problem for you, so you should consider resting for a month or two to see if it helps.

Adrenal Supplements

I took certain supplements under the care of a doctor when I was struggling with adrenal fatigue. Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before taking any supplements, especially if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Vitamin C– I already mentioned the importance of Vitamin C, and I needed supplemental Vitamin C to get enough to help my adrenals. I was taking up to 5,000 mg of natural vitamin c each day during my recovery.

B- Vitamins – B-vitamins are also important for adrenal health, especially B5 and B6 as well as B12 and folate.

Vitamin D– Also important for adrenal health. This post has some good information about Vitamin D.

Zinc– The adrenals depend on adequate levels of zinc in the body and many of us are deficient. I focused on eating zinc containing foods like oysters and also took a natural zinc supplement.

Ashwagandha– An adaptogenic herb that is known to help balance the adrenals. I took this during my recovery, but it isn’t recommended during pregnancy or nursing, so check with a doctor first.

Magnesium– Experts estimate that 95% or more of us are magnesium deficient due to depleted soil levels and increased stress. The body uses extra magnesium during times of stress and especially needs added magnesium during times of adrenal fatigue. Since adrenal problems often go hand-in-hand with digestive troubles, I found that topical magnesium spray was much more effective for me than internal magnesium supplements.

Probiotics– Because of the gut and digestive connection, I also benefitted from taking Probiotics (and still take this daily)

If you think you might be suffering from a fatigued adrenal system, give these suggestions a try.

Do you suffer from adrenal fatigue? Have any additional suggestions or recommendations that have helped you?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


116 responses to “Adrenal Fatigue: Remedies, Supplements and Recovery”

  1. Debbie Avatar

    I have been stressed over a move across country i have to do soon and i think i wiped my adrenals out. Will someone PLEASE help me?
    I’ve also been suffering with brain fog and ringing in the ears. Debbie

  2. Cindy Morrow Avatar
    Cindy Morrow

    Yes! I think it was on Aviva’s podcast, she interviewed someone who recommended 2 twenty-minute sessions a day where you are lying down. This tells your flight’or’fight…”It’s okay…you are safe….” and essentially ‘reboots’ the system. I use this for my clients who screen compromised.

  3. Kevin Avatar

    Thanks so much for sharing this info! I definitely have adrenal fatigue – most likely Stage 3 because I now have no good days any more – always exhausted as a baseline. Re 40 g protein (and also healthy fats): Would almond butter be a good source of both the protein and the healthy fat? Thanks! (Also, I’m so glad to find a community who is knowledgeable and talks freely about natural/holistic health remedies.)

  4. Jessi Avatar

    Hello.. my hormone doctor just prescribed ashwagandha and I’m hesitant to take it as I got off short term use of benzo 8 months ago and don’t want to mess with my gaba receptors. Is ashwagandha going to cause any dependence or tolerance issues? Thanks!

  5. Ella Avatar

    I have used chromium yeast to combat my afternoon “hangovers” at work and it has really helped balance my blood sugar. I take CoQ10 (ubiquinone) in the morning and at lunch and that has really given med a solid energy foundation. I have been fighting Chronic Fatigue (and possibly adrenal burnout) for the past couple of years and the myoqinon CoQ10 really did bring back my energy and allowed me to contribute more at work – my boss has actually noticed. I look forward to adding some of your suggested supplements, especially magnesium and vitamin C+B.

  6. Tin Avatar

    Instead of gaining weight Im loosing weight. Is this also a sign of adrenal fatigue?

  7. Laurel Avatar

    Can adrenal problems contribute to weight loss? I’m down to 105lbs and am 28yrs old. I used to be 125lbs 7-10 years ago. My blood tests always show that my health is fine, but I never have energy – just drag through the day usually. I did hormone saliva tests, which showed my hormones are generally too low. Cortisol is whacky. My cycles are so regular that I can hardly believe I have hormone problems… I guess I’m just confused what causes what and if the adrenals can cause all this other stuff – low other hormones, weight loss, weakness. People always talk about needing to lose weight. I eat and eat and can’t gain. It’s frustrating because I just got married this year, and we want a baby but it’s kinda depressing to think of that process when I can hardly carry myself around. I’ve spent so much $ on medical and natural stuff and haven’t found much -if any- relief. Any thoughts?

  8. Gordon Avatar

    I was just diagnosed with adrenal situation – I would peter out substantially after noon. Got some adrenal supplements recommended to me and I feel better after 3 weeks, but not quite 100%. Thanks.

  9. Shasha Avatar

    Ashwagandha lowers cortisol and I need to raise cortisol with licorice etc. The rest of the supplement looks good. This is for stage 1 not stage 3 adrenal fatigue due to the Ashwagandha. You can try separate ingredients in this and see if that help. Eating organic oranges helps me compared to Vit C in a supplement. This is the one I prefer:

      1. Shasha Avatar

        HI, This supplement with the Ashwagandha would lower the cortisol more. I stopped all adrenal supplements thinking the adrenal extracts and Ashwangandha etc are hurting me. Rhodiola is good and organic oranges/coenzymated B vitamins. Licorice root helps cortisol last longer, but maybe only 75mg dose. Just try one ingredient at a time to see how it helps maybe. LDN and gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO free/grain free etc. help my adrenals also and eating no food with a label. Eating pure organic food helps me and sunlight/Vit D3 5000IU. Vit B12 methylcobalamin with intrinsic factor helps my stress. No/low sugar/progesterone helps my adrenals. Protein powder gives me energy…Nature’s plus kind. I have Lyme..ozone helps and herbs. Most adrenal supplements are for stage one and try to lower cortisol so I may need to avoid all adrenal supplements except a few ingredient now. Best wishes.

  10. Kelly Avatar

    I have glanced through and read what I could. Trouble concentrating and focusing. Is there a go-to supplement for adrenal support? I have been taking a a good one from amazon, (Mega Food, Adrenal Strength) I’m just wondering if there is an equal to or better that is not so expensive. TIA

  11. Deborah Avatar

    Something to consider that has overlapping symptoms to adrenal fatigue. Hemachromatosis; high iron levels, a genetic condition. I had severe adrenal fatigue, then menopause which aggravated the adrenal fatigue. I also have restless leg syndrome. Had some blood work done which revealed high ferritin levels (not a standard iron level test). hemachromatosis in the US is 1 out of 200. In Ireland and Scotland, 1 in 4 people. Since I stopped periods I have been slowly being poisoned by high iron levels. symptoms are low energy, fatigue, depression, anger/frustration, low stamina, muscle weakness; but really these can be different with each individual. Not many physicians check for Hemachromatosis but should. The body begins to store iron in all the organs which begins slow breakdown. Google for more info.

    1. Shasha Avatar

      Alternative doctors check ferritin levels…first time I had it checked. I am low in iron due to Lyme/coinfections. My nails are pale. I had to take a multiple vitamin with iron and extra iron also, but it is not helping. i can’t eat meat due to the fat clogging my blood vessels. Some people use an iron pan. I eat mostly raw food. Celiac is high in low sunlight/far from the equator countries. Celiac has gluten hurting intestines so less minerals/nutrients/good oils absorb. Restless leg can be due to low Mg and low thyroid due to gluten making antibodies to the thyroid. Gluten may hurt the adrenals and all glands. Hair tests are awesome to show minerals levels and heavy metals. Heavy metals may build up in Celiac people since their liver is not working well. Heavy metals may block zinc and other minerals from working right. Yes…at menopause some people maybe higher in iron and some men maybe high in iron if they eat a lot of red meat. . Some people donate blood or throw it away after an EDTA IV chelation IV to lower their iron levels. Iron may cause free radicals. Tests may not work to diagnose Celiac.

  12. Kellie Avatar

    Anyone have the opposite effect when taking Magnesium? Oil, pills or even espsom salt baths make me jittery, anxious and unable to sleep that night. Do you know why that may happen either?

    1. Shasha Avatar

      Hair tests show good mineral levels like Mg and heavy metals. You can check your Mg level. Heavy metals may block chemical reactions. Detoxing heavy metals with a far Infrared Sauna helps me. Mg citrate may help constipation. Mg chloride may not absorb well. Epsom salt has Mg sulfate which may help in other ways. You can look up the different kinds of Mg to see what they help the most. B vitamins may keep a person awake at night. B vitamins are needed to make Mg work which makes potassium work. Low oxygen in the brain may cause depression/anxiety/no sleep/obsessing/panic/suicidal thoughts. Amour thyroid and EDTA IV chelations etc. help raise oxygen in me so I can sleep. Best wishes.

  13. Greta Harding Avatar
    Greta Harding

    Just want to share my adrenal fatigue was caused by infectious disease. I have Bartonella which is a common co-infection of Lyme. The bacteria infect the adrenals, HPA and Limbic of the brain, lymph nodes, facia and joint tissue, and sometimes the heart. It’s taken months, but I am recovering. I ended up needing a very low dose of hydrocortisone to get my cortisol levels up.

    1. Shasha Avatar

      Hi, I have Lyme/coinfections. I use herbs since antibiotics hurt me. I use Far Infrared Sauna which helps kill bacteria and now ozone treatments at my acupunturist which raises oxygen which kills infections. AL complex/cryptolepis/Zyto scan/electrodermal testing/LDN/Celiac gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…taking vitamins/good oils/minerals/strong probiotic…detoxing helps my immune system. Fixing the Celiac helps the immune system and then the infections can go away. Tests may not work to diagnose Celiac. Cyrex labs may help recently. I take Progesterone that makes cortisol when needed since taking cortisol 3X helped/hurt me. I take estriol/progesterone/testosterone. Progesterone lowers swelling/helps bones/ the immune system/sleep/thyroid/energy and much more. Best wishes.

      1. Marjorie Avatar

        Sasha- I have something that can help you with your Lyme issues, and has helped many others. Are u on fb?

        1. Shasha Avatar

          Facebook? I am on Facebook, but don’t use it to say much/talk usually. I am trying ozone treatments right now and raising progesterone which helps the immune system instead of trying to take cortisol. Progesterone can make cortisol if needed. Thanks for any suggestions on this site. Happiness…

          1. Marjorie Avatar

            Add me as ur friend and then we can exchange info in personal messaging ?

            Dan N Marjorie Houghton!

            All your treatments are great but it’s much easier and very effective what I will share with u! ? Holistic too love it!

  14. Lydia C Avatar

    This may sound odd so please forgive me….I have just discovered the blog in the past month or so and have MANY changes to make.

    Has anyone ever used a reflexologist/massage to help with this issue? I live in Amish Country and about a year ago I was seeing an Amish woman for “treatment” as they call it. Basically a combination of massage/aromatherapy/pressure points. She often told me my adrenal function was out of sync when I saw her.

    In addition to dietary changes, magnesium has anyone ever used this type (or similar) treatment? I may have to call and make another appoinment 🙂

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