Adrenal Fatigue and How to Beat It

Think of how these symptoms may impact new mothers: Irritability, Fear / Worry /Anxiety, Depression, Guilt, Overwork/ physical or mental strain, Sleep deprivation, Light-cycle disruption, Going to sleep late, Surgery, Trauma/injury, Chronic inflammation, Chronic pain, Nutritional deficiencies…

Many women can be set up for adrenal fatigue just by virtue of being a new mom. Unfortunatley, many items on the list above can characterize our transition to motherhood. As perinatal support workers, we should be aware of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and know of resources for testing and treatment.

Thanks to Valerie Balandra over at Integrative Psychiatry for writing this insightful article. Valerie is highly recommended for testing and treatment of many psychiatric disorders, including symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue and How to Beat It
By: Valerie Balandra ARNP, BC

Your adrenal glands are two tiny pyramid-shaped pieces of tissue situated right above each kidney. Their job is to produce and release, when appropriate, certain regulatory hormones and chemical messengers.

Adrenaline is manufactured in the interior of the adrenal gland, called the adrenal medulla. Cortisol, the other chemical from the adrenal gland, is made in the exterior portion of the gland, called the adrenal cortex. The cortex also secretes androgens, estrogens, and progestins. Cortisol, commonly called hydrocortisone, is the most abundant — and one of the most important — of many adrenal cortex hormones. Cortisol helps you handle longer-term stress situations.

In addition to helping you handle stress, these two primary adrenal hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, along with others similarly produced, help control body fluid balance, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other central metabolic functions.
In the heightened nervous state of adrenal burnout, the body overproduces adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones. Constant stress and poor nutrition can weaken the adrenal glands. Eventually, this causes the adrenal glands, the front line in the stress reaction, to show wear and tear and become depleted. This frequently leads to impairment in the thyroid gland, which can cause a further decline in energy level and mood and is one of the reasons why many people have thyroid glands that don’t work well.

When stress continues over prolonged periods of time, the adrenal glands can deplete the body’s hormonal and energy reserves, and the glands may either shrink in size or hypertrophy (enlarge). The overproduction of adrenal hormones caused by prolonged stress can weaken the immune system and inhibit the production of white blood cells that protect the body against foreign invaders (in particular lymphocytes and lymph node function). Adrenal dysfunction can disrupt the body’s blood sugar metabolism, causing weakness, fatigue, and a feeling of being run down. It can also interfere with normal sleep rhythms and produce a wakeful, unrelaxing sleep state, making a person feel worn out even after a full night’s sleep.
Common Causes of Adrenal Stress

Fear / Worry /Anxiety
Overwork/ physical or mental strain
Excessive exercise
Sleep deprivation
Light-cycle disruption
Going to sleep late
Chronic inflammation
Chronic infection
Chronic pain
Temperature extremes
Toxic exposure
Chronic illness
Chronic-severe allergies
Nutritional deficiencies

Testing for Adrenal Health

In order to determine the health of your adrenal glands you need to have a simple blood, urine, or saliva test such as the Adrenal Stress Index performed by your practitioner. Cortisol levels can be checked throughout the day by saliva or in the am by blood. DHEA, and Epinephrine, are some other indicators of adrenal function. The information provided by testing can help to determine the most appropriate type of treatment.

Associated Symptoms and Consequences of Impaired Adrenal Functioning:

Low body temperature
Unexplained hair loss
Nervousness/Panic Attacks
Difficulty building muscle
Mental depression
Difficulty gaining weight
Inability to concentrate
Excessive hunger
Tendency towards inflammation
Moments of confusion
Poor memory
Feelings of frustration
Alternating diarrhea and constipation
Auto-immune diseases/hepatitis
Palpitations [heart fluttering]
Dizziness that occurs upon standing
Poor resistance to infections
Low blood pressure
Food and/or inhalant allergies
Craving for sweets
Dry and thin skin
Scanty perspiration
Alcohol intolerance


Lifestyle changes such as:

Eating steadily, all day long. Skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do for your body. When you’re hungry, your blood sugar drops, stressing your adrenal glands and triggering your sympathetic nervous system. That causes light-headedness, cravings, anxiety and fatigue. Another drawback to skipping meals: The resulting low blood sugar can affect your ability to think clearly and shorten your attention span.

Skipping breakfast is particularly bad, as it is a sure fire way to gain, not lose, weight. If you start each morning with a good breakfast and “graze” healthfully every two to four hours, your blood sugar will remain steady throughout the day. You’ll feel more rested and energetic. Eat protein with every meal. Eat Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice. Avoid sugar, junk food, white pasta, white rice, white bread.

Absolutely NO Caffeine. Coffee/Sodas over stimulates your adrenals and they deplete important B vitamins.
Coffee does not give you energy; coffee gives you the illusion of energy. Coffee actually drains the body of energy and makes you more tired, because of vitamin and adrenal depletion.

Exercise to relax. Walking, Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or stretching. No vigorous or aerobic exercise, which depletes the adrenals.

Avoid alcohol, processed foods, and tobacco. Nicotine in tobacco initially raises cortisol levels, but chronic use results in low DHEA, testosterone, and progesterone levels.

Reduce stress; learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation.

Helpful Supplements

The use of small amounts of natural adrenal hormone such as Isocort to bring slightly low adrenal function up to its proper normal daily range is often helpful. Adrenal Support supplements can nourish and strengthen your adrenals.

Take a daily multivitamin to provide nutritional support to the adrenal gland.
Vitamin C 1,000-3,000 mg a day
L-Theanine 100-400 mg a day
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) 300 mg a day
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), no more than 1000 mg of glycyrrhizin

Find out more about the Adrenal Stress Index Test for Adrenal Fatigue from Valerie Balandra at Integrative Psychiatry.

3 Responses to “Adrenal Fatigue and How to Beat It”
  1. Jacqueline says:

    Thanks for all the tips. I am dealing with AF and always so happy to learn something new! I am looking into L-theanine as something to add to my daily regimen, though I have only found it in 500 mg pill form so far, but will keep looking for the lower dosages. Also, as far as eating goes, I am trying to schedule all my meals for blood sugar balance and to help stop a surge of cortisol at the end of the day… Here is an article that describing meal spacing and AF… Eating to support your adrenal glands — small choices can make a difference

  2. anisa says:

    I have adrenal fatigue because of a miscarriage. It not just something that effects new mothers.

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