Is Exhaustion Your Constant Companion? It Could Be Your Adrenals

Michelle Heltay

Posted on November 01 2019

Is Exhaustion Your Constant Companion? It Could Be Your Adrenals

Do you ever feel dead dog tired when you wake up and wonder why, after a good night’s rest, you feel so sleepy and groggy? After all, you got the recommended 8 hours sleep didn’t you?

Do you get to lunch time, moan with sagging shoulders, at the thought of the rest of the afternoon looming before you?

Do you look at people with a skeptical face, when they say they wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy for the day?

You’re not alone! The exhaustion, lethargy and bone dead tiredness you feel could be adrenal fatigue.

Your adrenal glands are no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape, yet are responsible for one of the most important functions in your body; managing stress!

“Adrenal fatigue is a growing trend’, writes James L. Wilson, ND, DC, PhD, author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. “The adrenal glands are known as ‘the glands of stress’. It is their job to enable your body to deal with stress from every possible source, ranging from injury and disease to work and relationship problems. Your resiliency, energy, endurance and your every life depend on their proper functioning” [1]

When your adrenal glands are fatigued, a condition known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion, occurs and your entire body feels it. You end up suffering from extreme exhaustion. It occurs when the glands release high quantities of cortisol which eventually depletes the adrenals so that they can’t produce enough hormones.

Eating for adrenal health is one of the most long lasting and rewarding health routes you can take. Most health experts recommend heart healthy fats, 6-8 serves of vegetables per day, sea salt or pink Himalayan salt and good quality proteins, preferably plant based proteins as these are the easiest for the body to absorb and assimilate. Animal proteins cause more damage to the body, are harder to digest and breakdown for the body. Animal products are also acidic and cause more harm to the whole body. I recommend consuming no less than 8 serves of vegetables a day, of which 5 serves should be green leafy vegetables. A serve equates to 1 cup.

That equals 1 large salad, a green smoothie and some steamed vegies for dinner. That’s quite an easy amount to fit in daily.

Most of my colleagues agree with me that vegetarians and vegans suffering from adrenal fatigue benefit from increasing their B COMPLEX supplementation and essential amino acid intake (better quality protein intake). Adding in Co Enzyme Q10 supplements also benefit vegans and vegetarians immensely.

I find that when vegetarian or vegan clients comes in with adrenal fatigue, most often they have a poor quality protein intake. Not having enough protein affects the glucose-insulin balance, making the adrenals work harder. They forget to have a varied plant diet and instead, try to substitute the meat and dairy they used to consume with calorie rich and nutrient poor substitutes such as potatoes, rice, breads and pastas. This further stresses the body and causes a cascade effect leading to adrenal burnout, not just fatigue.

The first step in healing the adrenals is to balance the HPA axis: the Hypothalamus-Pituitary Adrenal Gland axis. Herbs are the most nourishing and effective way to heal the HPA axis. Your Medical Herbalist will create a mix specifically for you. It may include herbs such as Withania, Maca, Rhodiola, Rehmannia, Licorice, Medicinal Mushrooms, Ginseng. Most of these are also adaptogens, helping the body to adapt to stress. Herbs are my first point of call, after I’ve established, through testing, exactly where the hormones are at. I want to find out what the cortisol levels are, full thyroid profile and various nutrition levels of minerals such as zinc, Q10, B vitamins and Vitamin D. 

What are some of the signs of adrenal fatigue?

  • Fatigue and weakness, especially in the morning and afternoon
  • A suppressed immune system
  • Increased allergies
  • Muscle and bone loss and muscular weakness
  • Depression symptoms
  • Cravings for foods high in salt, sugar and fat
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Skin problems
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
  • Low sex drive
  • Lightheaded when getting up from sitting or lying down
  • Decreased ability to handle stress
  • Trouble waking up in the morning, despite a full nights sleep
  • Poor memory



Emotions of Adrenal Fatigue:

  1. Feels defeated
  2. Feels like the victim
  3. No belief in self
  4. Has to some degree, a “Don’t care about what happens to me” attitude
  5. Lack of courage
  6. Feelings of anxiety
  7. Subconscious belief that life must have burdens
  8. Unresolved jealousies or fears
  9. Feels that one must struggle for success, power or position
  10. Feels boxed in
  11. Feels helpless to affect a change
  12. Not enjoying your place in life
  13. Experiencing ‘burn out’ in one’s job or relationship

17 Foods That Harm the Adrenals:

  1. Coffee & black tea
  2. Bottled Juices
  3. Sugar
  4. Alcoholic beverages
  5. Deep fried foods
  6. Rancid oils, seeds and nuts
  7. Soda/soft drink especially diet soda/soft drink
  8. Processed meats and cheeses
  9. Textured vegetable protein
  10. Chocolate
  11. White flour in breads, pies, cakes, cookies and pasta
  12. Cows milk
  13. Artificial sweeteners and ingredients
  14. Fast food: junk food and foods which you are allergic to, have an intolerance to, are sensitive to or addicted to
  15. White rice
  16. Rice Malt Syrup and Brown Rice Syrup
  17. Processed, packaged foods, especially those with MSG and MSG derivatives

16 Foods That Heal the Adrenals:

  1. Licorice tea or licorice herbal tincture
  2. Naturally fermented miso without MSG
  3. Sprouts
  4. Namu Shoyu sauce without MSG
  5. Siberian Ginseng/Korean Ginseng*
  6. Fresh Ginger
  7. Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  8. Beans combined with whole grains
  9. Raw Cacao (beans, nibs and or powder)
  10. Mineral rich Vegetable broths
  11. Red, orange, purple and blue vegetables and fruit
  12. Rhodiola herbal tincture
  13. Organic Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut oil
  14. Leafy green vegetables – the darker green, the better
  15. Seaweeds – wakame, dulse, nori and kombu
  16. Ashwagana (Withania)


Some of the supplements that may assist with helping to heal adrenal fatigue include;

Gentle exercise is very beneficial in healing the adrenals. Walking, yoga, Pilates, swimming, tai chi and Qi Gong are all wonderful ways to nourish the body and emotions.

*caution is advised about concomitant use with some pharmaceuticals, such as warfarin, oral hypoglycemic agents, insulin, and phenelzine.

[1] Wilson, James. “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.” Smart Publications, p.3, 2002


Content originally published on my previous website: Article shared on Information updated and revised 2016

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