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Adrenal Fatigue: What can I do about it?

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Doesn’t she look like she is bursting with energy?  Typically if you have adrenal fatigue jumping up for no good reason is not on your list of thing that you do.   Treating your adrenal fatigue however can have you jumping for joy once again.

Hopefully you have read my other two blog posts.

Adrenal Fatigue: The silent epidemic

Adrenal Fatigue: How can I know for sure

Now while you wait for your test results there are things that you can do to begin healing your adrenals. The absolutely most important thing that you can do to help your adrenals to heal is sleep more. The second most important thing that you can do is to reduce stress in your life.  Learn to say no and reduce your obligations as much as possible.  The applies equally to positive stress (having fun with friends, exercising) and negative stress (arguing with your spouse). Stress is stress. In addition increasing the saturated fats in your diet will help to nourish your hormonal system as a whole. The adrenal glands also use a lot of sodium, vitamin c, b-vitamins and magnesium. Increasing those in your diet and taking supplements may be very helpful no matter what kind of adrenal fatigue you have. Generously salt your food and try drinking a glass of water with 1/2 a tsp of celtic sea salt stirred into when you are feeling tired or weak. (I have my husband trained to offer me a glass of salt water or mthfrade when I am too weak to get off the couch.  I often can’t think clearly enough do do it for myself at those times.) I am always amazed at the benefit I feel from that simple step.  Liver is a good dietary source of b-vitamins and a very good food to consume if you have adrenal fatigue.  Plus it has that anti-fatigue factor in it that may really benefit someone with adrenal fatigue.

Once your test comes back (you should get results 1-2 weeks from when you send it off) you will then be able to determine what kind of adrenal fatigue you are experiencing and better treat it.  In general there are two main kinds of results.  Those who have overall high cortisol results and those who have overall low cortisol results.  There is a third category of people who have some high and some low. Symptoms can be very similar no matter what is going on so it requires the test results to know for sure.

If your results overall are high there are supplements that will lower your cortisol levels.  Holy basil, melatonin, and phosphatidylserine are 3 common supplements that will lower cortisol levels.  There are many others.  If you find out that your levels are high over all lowering them through supplementation may make you feel much better.  While all of these supplements lower cortisol they don’t have identical actions in the body and so finding the right one may take some trial and error.  Working with a practitioner who understands the role of supplementation in lowering cortisol levels can be very helpful.

If your results are overall low there are two approaches. One is to extend the cortisol that you already have.  I know of two herbs that do this.  They keep your body from breaking down it’s cortisol quickly and they will work to prevent levels from dropping too low in some mild cases.   Licorice and  Rhodiola Rosea both have this effect.  If the level is so low that extending it won’t work supplemental cortisol is needed.  Isocort is an over the counter product that contains a small amount of cortisol.  We used this product to heal my older daughters adrenals quite successfully.  If Isocort isn’t enough then hydrocortisone (bioidentical cortisol) is needed.  Hydrocortisone is available in an over the counter cream (I used Exederm Hydrocortisone Cream since it is paraben free) or in pill form with a prescription.  Some do better with one form and some do better with the other.  I took prescription hydrocortisone pills and also got huge benefit from them.  The important thing with hydrocortisone is that you are taking it in physiological doses. This small dose is not associated with the immune system problems that are associated with higher doses of hydrocortisone.  It is a physiological replacement for what your body is failing to make.  Having low cortisol status can make it difficult to fight off infection and can cause you to gain weight, two problems that hydocortisone in medicinal doses is associated with.

My experience with these supplements is that they were a temporary support while we healed our adrenals and we were able to wean off of them once healing had happened.  They are not a replacement for the other work (more sleep, less stress, nutritional supports) but simply a way to give the adrenals a break and allow them to recover.  Shortly after I weaned myself and my older daughter off of our adrenal supports we both got sick and needed to take some again to help us deal with that stress.  We are recovered enough to not need supplemental cortisol on a regular basis but that doesn’t mean we can beat up our adrenals and expect them to take it. I have no idea at this point if we will always be this sensitive or if we will be able to get to the point where occasional acute stress on our adrenals can be taken in stride.  This is a work in process for my family and your mileage may vary.

If your results are mixed.  Some high and some low a combination approach will be needed with the right thing taken at the right time of day.  So a person like that may need to take Isocort upon waking and Melatonin at bedtime.  Or some other combination depending on what their pattern is.  My younger daughter had a strange pattern with her highest time of day in mid afternoon.  Her morning level was low but not out of range so for her a cortisol extender in the morning seemed to be all that she needed (she also has healed her adrenals and no longer needs this).

You may have noticed a conspicuous lack of dosage and time of day recommendations for these supplements. That is because these are so individual. For more information please go to www.adrenalsweb.org .  There is more information on there.  Also on the left hand side there is a link to the yahoo group where I got most of my information.  Please join that group to get advice and more information on how to heal your adrenals.  I am not an adrenals expert and I can only share what I have learned and what has helped us. Your own experiences may vary.

In addition many people with adrenal fatigue also have other imbalances.  Thyroid, sex hormones, sodium, potassium, and/or iron are often also out of balance in someone with adrenal fatigue.  The website I linked above and the yahoo group you will find there can help you to determine if more testing is needed and explain how to request it from your Doctor or order it yourself if necessary.

It is very tempting to go to the health food store and take an “adrenal support” pill that you may find there from a “trusted brand”.  If you spend some time looking up the ingredients however you will often find that they contain herbs that both extend and lower cortisol levels.  Some also may go to a health practitioner who swears by a particular supplement for helping her patients with adrenal fatigue, but unless they have tested your adrenal status and understand that all adrenal patients are not created equal, you may not be one of those patients helped.  This is why you must educate yourself on this subject.

A word about taking glandulars.  Many have found that taking whole adrenal glands cause problems because they include adrenalin.  There are a few glandulars that don’t.  Until about a year ago Isocort was made from animal adrenal glands with the adrenalin removed. They decided to move to making it in a laboratory and while there was a lot of fear that it wouldn’t work as well as the origional formula our findings was that it worked equally well. There are also liquids that is made from the adrenal cortex (no adrenalin) one is Sub-Adrene .  It is not standardized like Isocortbut it is a natural product.  I love Dr Ron’s products as a general rule but his adrenal glandular is the whole gland and not just the cortex and so is probably not a great choice if you are facing significant adrenal fatigue.

I hope that this blog post will help you know how to proceed in pursuing healing in this area of your life.  Do you have more questions about healing your adrenals?  Have you been able to find a health care practitioner who can help you with testing and treating your adrenals or are you needing to “go it alone”?  Leave your answers in the comments and any other questions you may have.


21 Comments

  1. Patty, Thank you for clearing up so much of my confusion on this topic. Since my body is so hypersensitive to supplements, I am truly afraid of taking any kind of supplements at all – so the idea that adrenal supplements are temporary supports while healing is occurirng, it brings me to a question – while it would be difficult and take longer, do you think Adrenal healing would be possible without the adrenal supplements? What I hear you saying is that the supplements would give a boost to the healing but they are not “essential” to healing if other things are set in place?

    • I do not think the are essential. BUT you need to not fool yourself about how much sleep and lack of stress that you need to heal. Even good stress like having friends over for dinner can put your healing back. Finding that balance between healing and enjoying life is difficult. I have had to say no to some things that I love because I needed to heal and not add that stress to my adrenals. No exercise for me. No singing or participating in public worship at church. I do as little as possible because I know that what seems like a little thing to others is spending that adrenal energy that I just don’t have to spend. You need to hoard your energy and your emotions. Keep them stable as possible and sleep, sleep, sleep. You also do need to nourish your adrenals so salt, and raw liver should be on your menu often. Also things like nettle tea, will also be nourishing. Herbs are tricky because they can be nourishing (nettle is very nourishing) but also have other actions in the body. Keep listening to your body. As you heal you will tolerate more and more.

  2. Well, I have severe adrenal fatigue. But, I also have depression, among many other things. My husband wants me to work out, Zumba, to help with anxiety. Will that just make thing worse, working out???

    • Have you been tested? If your cortisol is high exercise can be ok. If it is low then exercise can make you worse. Something gentle like walking is ok no matter what, as long as it isn’t stressful for you to do it. Depression is part of the adrenal fatigue. Anxiety was a huge issue for my daughter. Treating both her adrenals and her thyroid at the same time made a huge difference for her. She needed both until she didn’t need the adrenal support any longer. She still needs the thyroid support. Zumba was actually what I was doing when my health crashed and I finally realized it was making me worse. I miss getting to do that sort of thing but if you feel like you have to recover (energy wise) from working out then it isn’t doing you any favors. I would do Zumba and spend the next couple of days trying to recover from it. It wasn’t sore muscles, it was exhaustion.

  3. Hello,

    This info was so helpful. How would you rate Dr. Wilson’s adrenal rebuilder?

    Thanks——Laurie

    • I’m not familiar with that product. It looks fine but I don’t like all the processing aids it contains. I’m also not familiar with that type of calcium. It looks like it is complexed with phosphorus. I like the idea of nourishing with the glandulars. It may be a good support and would work for either kind of adrenal fatigue (since it isn’t designed to raise or lower cortisol)

    • @Laurie – Just wanted to put my 2 cents in about the Adrenal Rebuilder. I’ve taken a variety of things for adrenal fatigue, including Isocort, which ended up being too stimulating for me. A pharmacist pointed me toward the Adrenal Rebuilder, which seems to be doing the trick. I take a few other of Dr. Wilson’s supplements and I’m very pleased so far. I know everyone is different but if you feel like I’ve felt the past 7 years it’s worth the shot!

  4. I’ve been taking maca for the last several weeks, and it seems to be really helping to much greater extent than other things I’ve tried. Maca works as an adaptogen, normalizing the entire endocrine system. I prefer to use adaptogens (like the Rhodiola Rosea you mentioned in the article) because they adapt to what your body needs, either raising or lowering the levels or functions of the part of the body they effect.

    For anyone who knows a little about maca but not a lot, it should never be eaten raw because it can lower thyroid function. I didn’t know this and bought my first batch of it raw, and then ended up having to roast it by hand. The gelatinized is not only no longer raw, but it’s more potent because the inert fibers and sugars have been removed.

    I gave some of that first bag to a good friend, who had a positive test for adrenal fatigue and could barely function. Her husband was really worried about her. By the end of the third day, she felt much better: more energy during the day and sleeping better as well. She’s a long way from healed (and so am I) but we’re both doing much better.

    • I’ll have to look into that further. As far as I know all adaptogens either raise cortisol or lower it. None do both. Some are more mild than others. I will look into Maca though and see which one it does.
      Edited: Maca raises or extends cortisol levels and so is just appropriate for those with low cortisol like I have. I’ll look into trying it out. If someone has high cortisol however it will likely make their symptoms worse and should not be used. This points out how crucial it is to get your adrenals tested before treating them.

      • Can you recommend a Maca brand that is not raw (as mentioned above)? I have Maca, but transferred it to a glass jar and failed to keep the label, so I have no clue what it is, but it is powder. Any ideas?
        Thanks so much for this information!

  5. Patty,
    I’ve been taking Dr. Ron’s Adrenal glandular and just saw here what you say about it. I’m wondering if it is best for me. I have taken Standard Process Drenatrophin PMG before, and that is what I healed the AF with after baby #1. Possibly I should go back to the SP product?

    Is the problem with Dr. Ron’s that the adrenaline in it revs the gland more, therefore not letting it rest from making cortisol? Where as Isocort doesn’t have the adrenaline in it?
    Thanks!

    • Yes that is the problem with Dr Ron’s. It is probably ok for someone with mild AF but not if it is more severe. There was a time when I took it and felt better but since nothing else in my life changed (still loads of adrenal stressing circumstances) it stopped working as my adrenals got more and more worn down. At the time I didn’t understand why it stopped working for me but now I think I understand why. It was like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound and then going for a run.

  6. I believe this is a possible cause of fibromyalgia!

    • I’m with Brenda… I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (hypothyroid for the last few years), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome- positive for the Epstein Barr virus, Atrial Fib, and lastly Fibromyalgia. I have been battling doctors for the last 10+ years and now on my own “heal thyself” mission for the last three. I question everything and the biggest question for me the last 3 years is Why/what caused my body to rebel and almost shut down? I’ve tracked it back to my adrenals. If the adrenal fatigue isn’t the answer then my pituitary gland was damaged in one of the several auto accidents Ive been in….But, yeah it’s definitely systemic.

      • Maggie, I’m sorry to read your story. Have you looked into Lyme disease or other tick borne infections? Many with your symptoms can trace the cause to Lyme or similar diseases. My first Lyme test was negative so I thought I didn’t have it. Turns out I do as do my children. I’m not saying at all that you do but just that it is something that many Dr’s don’t even know how to properly test for nor do they know the symptoms so it could have been overlooked for you.

  7. Hi This information was helpful. I am extremely chemically sensitive and have fatigue. I am unable to take supplements, or most teas. I will plan to use sea salt and try liver. Can you tell me how often you ate it and more details how it helped you? Thanks, Heidi

    • Hi Heidi,
      Sorry this took a few days to reply. Liver can be eaten quite often by most people. I find it easiest to eat raw. I simply take frozen liver and cut it into pill sized bits and swallow them like a pill. I aim for a couple of oz a day when I do that. I just don’t care for it no matter how it is prepared and that is the least work. Getting plenty of sleep and relaxation is also key to recovering from adrenal fatigue. Stress, even good stress like parties is hard on your adrenals. But then so is the stress of being alone and never having fun. Finding that balance can be tricky. I hope you can begin feeling better soon.

  8. The products Isocort and Sub-Adrene don’t seem to be available via the links provided. Any advice for similar products? Thanks

  9. hi, been in w/chair 10 yrs with severe af…been taking b vits, .5% hc cream, adaptogens etc need info on dosing hc cream…thx

    • You really need to find an expert to guide you. I am not a Dr.

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