Adrenal Fatigue – 21st Century Stress Syndrome

Key Summary - Adrenal Fatigue


Adrenal Fatigue is the 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Adrenal fatigue comprises of a collection of nonspecific symptoms such as: low energy, foggy head, difficulty falling asleep. insomnia, difficulty in dealing with stress, etc.


Adrenal Fatigue sufferers (in the early stages of their condition) tend to be under significant stress, and therefore their adrenaline and cortisol levels are high. This interrupts the natural 24-hour cycle of cortisol level, leading to a state of alertness in the evening that prevents restful sleep.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of nonspecific symptoms 

  • Energy levels is low & Feeling tired
    • Don’t really seem to “wake up” until late in the morning, after about 10 a.m
    • Feeling better at night, rather than in the morning 
    • Slump of energy in the afternoon at around 230-4pm 
    • Burst of energy at 6 p.m. — You finally feel better from your afternoon.   
  • Brain fog/ Foggy head 
  • Chronic Fatigue: extreme fatigue, tiredness, sleep that does not feel refreshing  
  • Can’t wait for that cup of coffee to kick start your day
  • Taking hours to fall asleep/ insomnia 
  • Difficulty in dealing with stress 
  • Chronic pain, body aches & muscle weakness: your body often feels heavy, can’t seem to tolerate cardio or exercise
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Symptoms of low blood sugar/ lightheadedness: trembling, but you will feel better after having a quick sugary fix such as ice cream
  • Anxiety, Irritability & depression
  • Leaky gut symptoms 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Low libido / reduced sex drive
  • Frequent urination
  • Numbness in your fingers / poor circulation
  • Food cravings (often of sugary, salty or oily fried comfort foods) that’s taking over 

Adrenal Fatigue is not a Medically-Accepted Condition 

  • Conventional medical doctors often discount the existence of this condition, and attribute this as “derivative” symptoms of other medically-accepted conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Sleep Apnea.
  • Adrenal fatigue is to be distinguished from a medical condition “adrenal insufficiency”, which is Addison’s disease.

Adrenal Insufficiency (or Addison’s disease) vs Adrenal Fatigue 

Our adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones that are essential to life during stressful situations

  • Adrenal Fatigue/ Exhaustion is a milder condition when the adrenal glands functions below the necessary levels, but still be within the normal clinical range. The condition is hence considered as “sub-clinical” / an “in-between” state of health. People with adrenal fatigue may have  an overabundance of cortisol, but this hormone is often at the “wrong” times.
  • Contrast this with adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease, which the blood test detects the cortisol Level as being too low. Adrenal glands are damaged by some type of trauma and can’t produce enough cortisol or aldosterone. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal. Adrenal insufficiency is a consistent inability to produce cortisol.

Sleep Problems amongst those with Adrenal Fatigue? 

The adrenal glands are the main stress control system of the body. The theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal due to a continuous exposure to chronic stress. 

Adrenal Fatigue sufferers (in the early stages of their condition) tend to be under significant stress, and therefore their adrenaline and cortisol levels are high. This interrupts the natural 24-hour cycle of cortisol level, leading to a state of alertness in the evening that prevents restful sleep.   

This hyperactivity of the stress response fragments sleep patterns and decreases slow-wave sleep. 

Prevent Adrenal Fatigue from Wreaking Havoc with Your Body’s Immune System 

When the body’s stress response is activated for too long, this is what happens:

  • Pathways are activated upon the presence of a stressor, which is detected by the cortical centers of the brain. 
  • Through utilizing the limbic system, these pathways stimulate the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axis, as well as the renin-angiotensin system.
  • The HPA axis (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) is also activated later on.
  • The activation of these systems causes a response in which neuropeptides and hormones are produced. These substances cause alterations in metabolic functions and cardiovascular functions. The patient breathes more rapidly, their heart rate increase and they experience a release of glucose. 
  • When the stressors remain present, the HPA axis continues to activate and causes further activation of peripheral systems. Glucocorticoids (GC) are produced, which interacts with immune cells, brain cells, sympathetic nerves and other tissues in the body.
  • When stress is chronic, GC receptors in the body becomes resistant to this hormone. This can, in the long run, leads to tissue damage, a suppressed immune system, and harm to several organs in the body. 

While in the presence of stress, your body’s normal & natural stress response is to produce cortisol to keep your immune system under control,  too much cortisol weakens the immune system. This sets a motion for worse health fears to come from: increased susceptibility to infections and cancer to overactive immune system / autoimmune disease.

Testing for Adrenal Fatigue 
  • Thyroid function test in conjunction with 24-hour cortisol saliva test
    • This may help your healthcare practitioner to 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.   
  • Postural Low Blood Pressure test. In healthy individuals, blood pressure rises when rising from a laying position. Using a blood pressure monitor, you can test your pressure when laying down and then after standing. If you see no rise or a drop in blood pressure, it’s possible your adrenals have been weakened.

You need to lower your level of stress urgently 

  • Stimulants damage the adrenal glands by pushing the production of extra stress hormones that you’ve already got overabundance of. Overtime, this depletes essential neurotransmitters. Try giving up caffeine, sugar and alcohol for a good period of time
  • Negative emotions such as anger, rage, arguments, hatred, unforgiveness, sadness, tragic news and movies with excessive violence/ suspense can cause further stress to your body
  • Overtly vigorous exercise or high risk sports (like surfing, diving, or extreme climbing) can further deplete the adrenals.  These activities tend to provide a temporary “high” – aka secretion of high amounts of adrenal hormones which can eventually lead to adrenal depletion and insufficiency.  

Find Out the Real Cause Your Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms 

  • It’s frustrating to have persistent symptoms your doctor can’t readily explain. Don’t be too readily accept this diagnose as it remains not widely accepted amongst medical practise. 
  • Enquire if the real cause is depression or anxiety or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia instead.  Take this 2-mins quiz to find out!
  • Toxic overload can overwhelm your body’s immune system and the symptoms are consistent with Adrenal Fatigue. Toxic source can come from heavy metals (mercury), toxic chemicals, or pollution. After all, toxins are virtually in every household product in 21st Century. Toxins may also be generated within the body due to impaired digestion. When food is not properly digested, it either ferments or rots in the intestines, producing many harmful substances that are absorbed into the body. Also watch out for OTC pills and prescribed antibiotics – many drugs can accumulate toxins which will overburden the liver and other organs

Natural Treatments for Adrenal Fatigue

Heal your adrenal glands naturally by following these steps:

  • Be aware that food sensitivities and intolerances can contribute to your fatigue
  • Consume low GI diet to keep the blood sugar levels steady means eating small, regular meals with a low glycemic index – this has an important role in maintaining your energy levels.
  • Limit intake of coffee (to 1 cup a day before noon / 12 pm – coffee has a half life of 9 hours)
  • Break up your meals into small meals or eat healthy snacks (such as nuts & seeds)  in the mid-late afternoon to prevent that energy dip
  • Fats are the body’s main source of stored energy and act as precursors for other substances made by the body. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) include linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids are not produced by the body so must be obtained from food. The best sources of healthy fats include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.   
  • Drink at least 6 glasses of fresh, filtered water per day. 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.
  • Activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system: rest & digest function). Trying to allocate some time to do an activity you enjoy everyday & laugh!.
  • Get a better night sleep.