Adrenal Exhaustion The Curse Of The 21st Century? Part 2

Group of friends eating watermelon in the garden

In our last article we discussed the nature of adrenal exhaustion and the different stages leading up to it.  Fortunately this state can be reversed once adrenal health is regulated and normalised.  It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of people in the world suffer from adrenal fatigue.  What we want to be careful about is failing to recognise the symptoms in the early stages.  Body aches, trouble concentrating, racing thoughts, irritability and moodiness, tired all the time, overwhelmed, hormonal imbalance and cravings for stimulants to help increase our energy levels are all symptoms of adrenal exhaustion and fatigue.

Or the other side of the coin, is self-diagnosing adrenal fatigue and administering a rigorous detoxification program in a misguided effort to manage flagging adrenals. Often this ends up with the individual feeling worse when they retoxify, going back to a normal diet.

Cortisol, DHEA, testosterone and oestrogen are all produced in the adrenals. Reduction in in these hormones are linked to depression, increased fears, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and brain fog.

One of your biggest tip offs is tiredness. Inability to sleep and not feeling refreshed after sleeping, are typical symptom of adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. Not sleeping puts a lot of strain on the body. We covered how important sleep is in our article here. Not sleeping compromises our ability to concentrate and affects our memory making our thinking unclear. It also makes us irritable and easily frustrated. Essentially sleeping is our brains main detoxification process.

The good news is brain fog usually disappears as the body’s detoxification system improves. This usually happens as your adrenal function strengths. To some degree your recovery from adrenal exhaustion will depend on your constitution. Weak constitutions will require more time and a gradual approach to strengthen the adrenals whereas a strong constitution will steadily improve and be a lot less traumatic than a weaker one. Basically strong constitutions have the wherewithal to better absorb the stress and setbacks.

Ok so what can you do to address this issue?  If heading to a tropical island and putting your feet up for a year isn’t an option, these ideas will help.

Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion is, as it sounds, tiring. And when you’re tired, you need to rest, relax and recover. And as simple as that sounds, that’s exactly what your adrenals need.

Starting off, you’ve got to eliminate toxins, and that’s toxic thinking as well, stress makes us think negatively and that taxes our adrenals more than you might think. You need to top up your system with good, healing food. And you’ve got to ditch the stimulants you’ve been reaching for to compensate for your exhaustion.  Pretty easy really!

This is huge. Really. If food is medicine there was never a better place to start implementing it, in order to heal your adrenals.  It’s two fold. You need to get rid of the foods tapping out your adrenals. And you need to start adding the foods that support it.

Whilst you wail in protest, the facts are caffeine is rubbish for helping your adrenals to recover. Every time you have a coffee you are stimulating your already exhausted adrenal glands, putting your body back into that fight or flight territory.

Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion plays havoc with your blood sugar levels. This is because of the relationship the adrenal hormones, adrenaline and cortisol play in blood sugar regulation. Stress raises blood sugar in order to generate the energy required to respond our flight or fight responses. This can also induce blood sugar swings, which affect the blood sugar balance, aggravating hypoglycaemic symptoms (low blood sugar). Combined with low hormonal levels produced by the adrenal exhaustion, it’s even harder to maintain an even blood sugar balance. Irritably, moodiness, exhaustion are all symptoms of hypoglycaemia.

Consuming sugary foods immediately remedies this low blood sugar level, giving the person a huge hit and relieving their symptoms from 45 to 90 minutes. However, the downside is the inevitable crash once the sugar wears off – creating even lower blood sugar levels. Hypoglycaemia is a significant stress on the entire body, especially on the adrenals where with each sugar crash, their adrenal fatigue increases and their hypoglycaemia potentially worsening. This sugar ride is an everyday occurrence for many people, who are not aware that the hit they are reaching for is making the very issue they wish to solve, far worse.

Processed Food
You want to make food as easy to digest and full of nutrients as possible. Processed foods, are full of preservatives and fillers, it’s what enables them to have such a long shelf life. But the downside is they are hard to digest and have very few nutrients in them. Go for fresh food wherever possible. A good idea is to see fresh food as anything without a bar code!

Hydrogenated oils
We’ve all heard about good fats versus bad fats.  Go for coconut oil, olive oil, organic butter or ghee. And stay away from canola and corn oil, which are highly inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation.

Foods for Adrenal health
What we’re looking for here is foods that are nutrient dense and low in sugar but have healthy fats and fibre.

  • Coconut
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower
  • Fatty fish (wild caught salmon), turkey and chicken.
  • Walnuts and almonds
  • Kelp and seaweed.

Ashwagandha2,3 (Withania Somnifera)– this is a beauty for healing the thyroid and adrenals. It’s what we call an adaptongenic herb, or healing herb. It’s had incredible success in lowering cortisol and balancing thyroid hormones. Traditionally in India it’s used for strengthening the immune system after an illness. It helps with depression and anxiety, stabilises blood sugar levels. It’s been used to balance both hypothyroid issues and hyperthyroid issues. It also supports adrenal function by improving cortisol levels and insulin sensitivity. It’s also been found to be pretty good for your brain.

A study published in Phytotherapy Research stated:

“Several studies have revealed that natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene, may help in scavenging free radicals generated during the initiation and progression of this [Alzheimer’s] disease.  But we found Ashwagandha afforded lipid peroxidation inhibitory effects more potent than commercial antioxidants.”2

Holy Basil
This is also an adaptogenic herb4. Taken as tea it’s been used to treat anxiety, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, blood sugar levels and acne. The reason it’s so powerful is to do with this hypoglycaemic effects on the body by its ability to regulate serum cortisol levels.4

Magnesium5, B5, B126, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 and Zinc
Each of these are essential vitamins and minerals in repair of the adrenals.

Stress reduction
Ok well let’s look at this.  If it’s stress that’s got your adrenal system all bent out of shape to start with, then it behoves us to address what the stress is. You can take every supplement under the sun but if the stress is still there, the root cause of the issue, then all you’re really doing is just patching up a leaky boat.

You’ve got to get onto managing your stress.
For starters, Sleep.
When you’re well rested everything is easier to manage. And well rested means 8-10 hours a night. You’ve got to start saying to yourself, 10pm is my bedtime.

Have fun
If you’ve forgotten what that feels like then you need to take this on as a major number one task. Discover what makes you happy again. Go for long walks. Swim in the sea. Put your phone on silent and engage in the world around you.

Goes without saying, try and minimise your work stress
How does that look for you? Getting more organised? Learning how to delegate? Not taking as much on? Declaring you’re human and cant do it all? Sit down with a list and brainstorm how you can reduce your work stress. Getting thoughts down on paper and workshopping solutions is a great way to start to feel more in control of your stress.

Eat Regularly
Dips in blood sugar occur because of too long between foods and not eating enough protein to sustain you. Eat regularly. Eat protein. Eat green food. It’s not a diehard solution to sugar cravings but not getting yourself in the situation of a low blood sugar crash is at least a start to help avoid grabbing a chocolate bar or a sweet treat to compensate for the low sugar levels.

Keep good company
Hang with happy, life affirming people. Enough said.

The wrap up

Our bodies are self-healing.  We need to nourish them from the inside out. That means good food, good thoughts and good people around us.  And often when you feel tired, in fact, always when you feel tired, it’s because you need to rest.  So practice where you can, selecting the option of rest, over stimulants.  See what it feels like to practice listening to your body instead of over riding it.  Since subluxation adds to the stress level in the body, make sure you have your spine checked regularly, your friendly Chiropractor can do this for you.


[1] Studies on the functional relationship between thyroid, adrenal and gonadal hormones. Tohei A J Reprod Dev. 2004 Feb;50(1):9-20.

[2] Neuroprotective Effects of Withania somnifera Dunn. in Hippocampal Sub-regions of Female Albino Rat. Sushma Jain, Sunil Dutt Shukla, Kanika Sharma and Maheep Bhatnagar1 PHYTOTHERAPY RESEARCH Phytother. Res. 15, 544–548 (2001) DOI: 10.1002/ptr.802

[3] An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.Narendra Singh, Mohit Bhalla, Prashanti de Jager, and Marilena Gilca Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011; 8(5 Suppl): 208–213.

[4] Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Marc Maurice Cohen J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014 Oct-Dec; 5(4): 251–259.

[5] Magnesium in the CNS: recent advances and developments. Vink R1.Magnes Res. 2016 Mar 1;29(3):95-101.

[6] Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: a randomized clinical trial: study protocol. Con Stough, Tamara Simpson, Justine Lomas, Grace McPhee, Clare Billings, Stephen Myers, Chris Oliver and Luke A Downey Nutrition Journal 201413:122

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