Adrenal Fatigue Overview

Adrenal Fatigue Overview

Adrenal Fatigue Overview

Adrenal fatigue is a condition that weakens the adrenal glands due to stresses on the body.  It’s important to understand, people can have adrenal fatigue separate from Hypothyroidism. However it is quite common for patients to have both Adrenal Fatigue and Hypothyroidism.

According to Natural Thyroid Treatment, of the millions of people who are diagnosed with thyroid conditions, many of these people also develop adrenal fatigue. If a healthcare professional aims their treatment directly at the thyroid gland and ignores the adrenals, there is absolutely no chance of restoring the patient’s health back to normal.

Basics Causes of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress.* The adrenal glands mobilize the body’s responses to every kind of stress (physical, emotional, and psychological) through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone, and other processes that enable you to cope with the stress.

Whether you have an emotional crisis such as the death of a loved one, a physical crisis such as major surgery, or any type of severe repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals have to respond to the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their response is inadequate, you are likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.*

During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal homeostasis because their output of regulatory hormones has been diminished – usually by over-stimulation.* Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.*

  • Stressful relationships, stressful work, financial stress, or traumatic events
  • Major surgery
  • Long-term malnutrition or poor eating
  • Drug addition
  • Long exposure to toxic chemicals or pollutants
  • Recurring disease, infection or illness

Basic Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Natural Thyroid Treatment explains there are many different symptoms people can experience with adrenal fatigue, but here are the more common symptoms:

  • Extremely tired, especially in the morning
  • Find it difficult to obtain quality sleep
  • Crave sweet and salty foods
  • Feel stressed out most of the time
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Low blood pressure (light headedness)
  • Loss of body hair
  • Needing stimulants or high doses of caffeine

How Stress Affects Adrenals

The adrenals are what handle the Fight or Flight” response in the body. Meaning, we experience stress, adrenaline kicks in and gives our body an energy boost.  As cave women, it was great for fighting the occasional tiger (or running from said tiger) which we only had to do on occasion. But in the modern world we can experience stress every day from work, family stress, financial stress, poor diets, sickness, chronic illness or disease which means continually draining the adrenal system. When we are sick with a condition like Hypothyroidism, our bodies are continually draining the adrenals. Many people who have hypothyroidism also find they have adrenal fatigue.

We risk burning out the adrenals, resulting in a “crash”.  You know that feeling, for example, after a big family holiday ends you just want to lie on the couch for days?  Or you’ve finished a big work deadline and either you get sick, or simply can’t do anything for a few days? That’s the adrenal crash from stress.  When you say “you burned yourself out” that’s totally true! You did. You fought that tiger, and you won, sister! But now you’re paying.

Adrenal Fatigue Can Be Missed

Although adrenal fatigue affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, conventional medicine does not yet recognize it as a distinct syndrome. According to, Adrenal Fatigue has been known by many other names, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, and adrenal apathy. 

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with a person’s life. In more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that people may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day.

As the adrenals become more tired, every organ and system in the body is increasingly affected. Changes occur in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. The body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Learn more at According to, or read Dr. Wilson’s book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.

Can people experiencing adrenal fatigue heal and feel good?

According to, YES. In my own experience, and reports from other patients, YES. It is possible to heal weak adrenals and feel healthy again.

How to Get Started

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Adrenal Fatigue Testing

Adrenal Fatigue Testing

Adrenal Fatigue Testing

There are several options for Adrenal Fatigue Testing, including the free at-home Pupil Test, Blood Pressure test; and the 24 Hour Saliva Test. These testing options may give you some information in order to have more insight when you talk with a good doctor.

Symptoms Checklist

If you answered yes to at least half the Adrenal Fatigue symptoms, in particular the symptoms related to low energy and poor sleep that’s a good first indicator of Adrenal Problems.

The Pupil Test

Adapted from Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. James L. Wilson, you can do this test at home yourself for free and will give you quick insight about whether there might be an adrenal fatigue. You need a chair, a small flashlight, a mirror, a watch or timer, and a dark room.

  • Darken the room and sit in a chair in front of a mirror
  • Angle a flashlight from the side (not directly into it), and shine the light toward your pupil
  • With the other eye observe, holding for two or three minutes
  • Normally a pupil will stay contracted in the bright light
  • With adrenal fatigue or hypoadrenia, the pupil will not hold its contraction. Within two minutes the pupil will start to dilate and this will last 30-40 seconds before it recovers and contracts again.
  • Make note when the dilation started, how long the dilation lasted, and the date.
  • Let the eye rest
  • Re-take the test monthly
  • If needed, ask a friend to help you with the test

Blood Pressure Test

Also according to Dr. James L. Wilson 1, blood press is an important indicator of adrenal function. Wilson says if your blood pressure drops when you stand up from a lying position this almost always indicates low adrenals. For me personally, when I stood up too fast I would nearly black out!

This test can be done at home. All you need is a blood pressure gauge which does not require a stethoscope. After you know how to use the blood pressure gauge here are the steps:

  • Lie down quietly for 10 minutes
  • Then while laying down take your blood pressure
  • Next stand up and immediately measure your blood pressure
  • Normal blood pressure will rise about 10-20 mmHg
  • If it drops when you stand up this likely means you have some form or hypoadrenia, adrenal fatigue, or you may be dehydrated
  • The more severe the drop the more severe the hypoadrenia
  • Dizziness or light-headedness might accrue when standing, so it is wise to do this test with someone beside you, or next to something you can grab like a chair

For more about the Blood Pressure test see Dr. Wilson’s book., Adrenal Fatigue.

24 Hour Saliva Test

The Saliva Hormone test is the single best lab test available for testing adrenal fatigue 2,. This test is done at home, but  typically it is not covered by insurance. The cost runs about $120-150, but it is more accurate than blood or urine tests which are covered by insurance.   The test measures cortisol levels at four different times of the day to show how your cortisol varies during the day:

  • Between 6-8 AM (within one hour after waking and cortisol is at its highest)
  • Between 11AM-12 PM
  • Between 4-6 PM
  • And between 10PM-midnight

Dr. Wilson also notes that, when doing the saliva test he usually measures DHEA-S (but not necessarily DHEA) because the adrenals are a primary source of DHEA-S.

The 24 hour Saliva test can be ordered by a doctor or by patients directly through these labs:



  1. Adrenal Fatigue, .79
  2. Adrenal Fatigue, Dr. James L. Wilson, p. 83
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The Importance of Sleep for Adrenal Health

The Importance of Sleep for Adrenal Health

If you have adrenal fatigue like me, or know someone who does, getting up before 9 a.m. can often be painful. As far back as high school I joked about not being “a morning person”. Staying up late at night was easy for me, but mornings were so bad that in college I scheduled all classes after 2 p.m. Seriously, I did.  I would be a zombie until around noon. People thought I was lazy, I thought I was lazy. But my brain just didn’t function in the morning, so I did what my body was telling. And you know, my body was pretty darn smart, thank you.

Even as a adult it was painful to wake up before 9 AM. I admired early-risers and longed to be one, having a strange idea that morning people are good people. Only the lure of coffee would pull me from the comatose state of sleep.  The idea of waking up at 6 a.m. actually made me panic. If I woke up before 9 a.m., I could easily drink two cups of coffee and go right back to sleep for hours.  Curiously though, if I slept until about 9 a.m. I could pop right out of bed awake and alert.  This always seemed odd, but apparently, there are lots of people out there like me!

Anyone who has chronic illness will understand you lead a secret life, arranging your business hours around rest opportunities and finding excuses for missing social events – Lynne Farrow, author The Iodine Crisis

Then I started learning about Adrenal Fatigue and how cortisol runs our body clock. So my sleep pattern wasn’t a matter of choice after all. What a revelation! According to James L. Wilson, Ph.D, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, though most people’s schedules do not allow it, it helps to sleep until 8:30 or 9 in the morning.

Wilson also writes, for people with normal functioning adrenals, cortisol rises rapidly between 6-8 am, which helps them to pop out of bed.  (And explains why some people can’t sleep past a certain time.)  Further, there is something magical about the restorative power of sleep between 7-9 a.m. for people with Adrenal Fatigue. Partly, he says, because cortisol levels rise slower in people with adrenal fatigue, and when cortisol levels are lower it takes longer to feel fully awake. Wilson also explains that with adrenal fatigue, when you sleep may be more important than how much you sleep.

Finally something that made sense after all these years!  After getting treatment for Adrenal Fatigue, my Cortisol levels have become more normal, so waking up is much easier. In fact, I can get up at 7:45 a.m and actually function these days. But given the chance, I sleep late without guilt, knowing it will help me tackle the day with energy. Brilliant.


Miss LizzyThe Importance of Sleep for Adrenal Health