The Modern Lifestyle: A Recipe for Adrenal Fatigue?

The Modern Lifestyle: A Recipe for Adrenal Fatigue?

by Chris Kresser

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adrenal fatigue
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Is daily stress in your life leading to or causing adrenal fatigue? Find out what the symptoms are and how you can keep yourself healthy in the modern world.

This is a guest post written by staff nutritionist Kelsey Marksteiner, RD. Click here to read her blog or join her newsletter!

Modern life is full of stress. From financial problems to traffic to waking up before we’re fully rested, we are surrounded by stressors all day long.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

When the body is exposed to stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (or HPA axis for short) is activated, and a cascade of hormonal changes occur to eventually cause the release of cortisol (our stress hormone) from the adrenal gland. Normally, when a stressor goes away, negative feedback cycles serve to turn off the HPA axis and reduce the release of cortisol. In the modern world, however, many of us are constantly activating our HPA axis.

When we’re exposed to chronic stressors over a long period of time, our adrenals pump out more and more cortisol as we become more and more resistant to its effects. The negative feedback cycles that normally keep things in check get turned off, and our health suffers as a result. Eventually, the HPA axis can’t keep up with the demand for cortisol, and cortisol levels become low. (1) This dysregulation of the HPA axis is what we refer to as “adrenal fatigue syndrome”. “Adrenal Fatigue” is a syndrome, not a disease, which means it is a collection of symptoms. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome are numerous and include:

  • Waking up unrested
  • Decrease ability to handle stress
  • Brain fog or decreased cognitive ability
  • Dizziness when standing from sitting or lying down
  • Low sex drive
  • Increased severity of allergic responses
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Weakness, and more…

With stress all around us, are we doomed to develop adrenal fatigue syndrome?

A Day in the Life

Let’s break down the most common stressors leading to adrenal fatigue by jumping into the shoes of a modern worker:

You startle in bed when you hear the distinct buzz of the alarm clock blaring in your ears. You’re startled, already activating the HPA axis and increasing your cortisol. You haven’t slept until you’re ready to wake up, and it’s not as if you were a few minutes off from the eight hour mark. Sadly, you fall into the third of Americans who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. (2) This lack of sleep has serious consequences for you, including mood and cognitive issues as well as an increased risk of metabolic problems. (3, 4) Sleep deprivation activates the stress response and causes an increase in cortisol levels (5), priming you for adrenal fatigue.

You rush through getting ready for work, stuffing breakfast in your mouth as you gather up everything you need to go. Sit down for breakfast? Who’s got time for that? Perhaps you’ve chosen a standard American high carbohydrate, high glycemic load breakfast like cereal with skim milk, which shoots your blood sugar up high, only to drop it low in the coming hours. Seriously low blood sugar can be life-threatening, so it’s no wonder your body views it as a stressor. When blood sugar drops, the adrenals release cortisol and epinephrine, sending a signal to the body that it needs to get glucose into the bloodstream as soon as possible. When this happens, the body responds by breaking down glycogen (the stored form of glucose) as well as working to create new glucose from protein and fat through a process called gluconeogenesis. In short, every time blood sugar drops, it’s an emergency signal to the body and the HPA axis is activated.

But let’s say you’re health-conscious – perhaps you’re into the Paleo diet and have chosen to eat low-carb. You rush through breakfast to make it to the gym before work so you can fit in a high intensity exercise routine. This might sound like a healthy lifestyle, but don’t think you’re off the hook quite yet. A consistent low carbohydrate diet coupled with intense, anaerobic exercise forces the body to rely on the same stress-fueled process of creating glucose that occurs with the low blood sugar scenario I discussed above. Whether you’re eating a processed, high-carb diet or a low-carb diet in combination with intense exercise, your adrenals are taking a hit.

You get in your car, only to get stuck in traffic. Getting cut off left and right, you curse the other drivers you share the road with, activating the HPA axis with each encounter. Finally, you arrive at work. Your boss passive aggressively signals that he’s unhappy with your tardiness, putting you in a sour mood, and you finally sit at your desk. Work is stressful – everyone seems to have a problem and you’re supposed to have the solution. It makes you wonder if you’re paid enough to do your job, which gets you thinking about how life would be so much easier if you just made more. You’re certainly not alone here: money and work are the two most common things causing significant emotional stress for Americans. (6) This is the kind of stress that truly separates us from our ancestors. Whereas their stressors were acute (i.e. being chased by an animal), ours are chronic emotional issues that never truly leave us. It’s hard to imagine our ancestors worrying about the economy, isn’t it? It’s these stressors that take the biggest toll on our adrenal health by consistently activating the HPA axis.

By the time you get home from a long day at work, all you want to do is relax. You make dinner and sit down to eat while you watch some TV. For the rest of the night, you’re glued to the TV, your phone, or the computer until it’s time to sleep. Even if you’re in bed on time, you’re likely in bed surfing the internet on your phone or watching more TV – with so many options of things to do, it’s hard to convince yourself to actually sleep. The blue lights emanating from your screens reduce the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). (7) This can lead to insomnia or disrupted sleep, causing you to get less sleep than you need. Perhaps you find yourself turning off all the devices and trying to fall asleep, only to find yourself worrying about upcoming deadlines. All of these issues lead you to get less sleep than you need and you wake up unrested the next morning to start the cycle all over again.

Preventing and Healing from Adrenal Fatigue in the Modern World

The modern lifestyle stacks the odds against us and can lead to adrenal fatigue, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed. In fact, there’s a lot we can do to keep ourselves healthy. Here are my top tips for keeping your adrenals in good shape, even in the modern world.

  • Leave yourself time to sleep for 8 hours per night – that means you’re in bed, ready to go to sleep by 10 if you need to be awake at 6. If possible, use an alarm clock that wakes you up gently by monitoring your sleep cycles (I like activity bracelets that wakes you up by vibrating on your wrist like the Jawbone Up24 or the app Sleep Cycle for this purpose).
  • Limit your exposure to blue light by using orange glasses or installing apps like F.lux on your computer. Chris has an excellent article about this topic if you want to learn more about blue light.
  • Eat on a regular basis and don’t go too long without meals – if you’re worried about your stress level or think you might already have adrenal fatigue, I’d highly caution you against skipping breakfast (or any meal, for that matter) regularly. Getting a high protein breakfast in the morning stabilizes your blood sugar throughout the day, which in turn helps to keep your HPA axis functioning appropriately.
  • Don’t skimp on healthy carbohydrates like fruit and starchy tubers if you’re worried about your adrenal health, especially if you’re also engaging in high intensity exercise. A moderate carbohydrate diet is best for those with high stress levels or recovering from adrenal fatigue.
  • When you do eat carbohydrates, combine them with protein and fat to slow absorption and stabilize your blood sugar.
  • Start a mind-body activity practice like meditation or yoga to reduce mental and emotional stress. The benefits of implementing a stress management practice grow over time, so the sooner you start, the better!

If you’re worried you might already have adrenal fatigue and want to learn more about how to recover, Laura Schoenfeld and I are launching our new program Paleo Rehab: Adrenal Fatigue in late April. In it, we cover the diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes you need to make in order to heal. Get on the mailing list and receive our free 28-page eBook Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue.

Now I want to hear from you: what are you doing to prevent or heal from adrenal fatigue?

Kelsey MarksteinerThis is a guest post written by Kelsey Marksteiner, RD. Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelors degree in Nutrition from NYU and a Master’s in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. She works in private practice and recommends individualized dietary therapy focusing on biologically appropriate diet principles to aid her clients in losing weight, gaining energy, and pursuing continued health. She is a firm believer that everyone is different, and she tailors her plan for each and every individual. Through her work, she aims to meld the dietary wisdom of traditional cultures with the latest science in integrative and functional medicine to create plans for her clients that work in the modern world. You can learn more about Kelsey on her staff bio page, or by visiting her private practice website. Join her newsletter here!


Join the conversation

  1. I have been under stress for 9 months. I am dizzy, memory recall probs, way tired in the AM, eyes blurry, loosing weight, mild headaches, feeling general malaise. I haven’t sought help. I have the classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Im looking for some guidance. Help please.
    I have read quite a bit and understand the physiology which is rather complicated, but I’m looking to return to happy and some normalcy. Thanks

  2. I do not see anything related to high dhea/low cortisol. Do you know anything about this? I got my saliva test results back and they were:

    DHEA: 13.4 (Ref Range 0.7 – 9.4)
    Cortisol (Morning): 3 (Ref Range <15)
    Cortisol (Midday): 4 (RR<8)
    Cortisol (Evening): 5 (RR<5)
    Cortisol (Midnight): <3 (RR<3)

    In addition to that for the first time ever, I have raised fasting glucose, still within range but barely. I have gained weight too.

    Do you know if I have adrenal fatigue based on the above values? If so, what stage am I in?

    I just dont get it because everyone talks about DHEA supplementation, but my DHEA is high.

    Ill be consulting my doctor soon just wanted your opinion. thankss!!

    • Hi Ken, I’m not a doctor of medicine, but I had a terrible adrenal crash last year at the end of April 2014, due to Lyme.

      I can tell you that adrenal insufficiency is basically a flat cortisol level that is low throughout the day. This is a more Se ere form of adrenal fatigue. My blood cortisol levels morning , afternoon were just 1. They should be 20 in the morning and around 10 to 11 in afternoon. Blood cortisol measures both free and bound cortisol, and providing globulin levels are normal, and mine were, it is a very accurate assessment of one’s cortisol. Saliva is accurate but measures free cortisol, which is fine. Adrenal fatigue is any derangement in the normal cortisol rhythm:high in morning and then sloping down throughout the day. The ranges are broad, as you can see. Your morning cortisol looks to be low relative to the ranges. You don’t have adrenal insufficiency, but your morning cortisol looks to low. Dhea has an opposing action with cortisol, so you might be in stage 2 of fatigue where the adrenals are still able to generate sufficient hormones, but are slowly declining. Your cortisol rhythm during the day is deranged. If you could find a functional dr, he should be able to help you. Conventional medicine still adheres to the very broad ranges indicated in lab reports, as the norm. Cortisol of 3 in the morning is nor sufficient. You should be generating more cortisol than that during the night. If you are not sleeping that well this can contribute greatly to a low morning cortisol, with high adrenaline and noradrenaline levels.

    • I think Chris mentioned in an article or podcast that DHEA lowers cortisol, and pregnenolone raises it. Don’t take my word for it, but you might want to do a search. Or it might have been Robb Wolf. In any case, DHEA is NOT for every adrenal patient.

      • By the way, my DHEA is low, and my cortisol is wonky but overall high. I supplement DHEA, which seems to help. I had an adrenal crisis recently soon after cutting my DHEA dose in half.

  3. Did you ever launch this as stated it would be in the article above?

    ….”receive our free 28-page eBook Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue”.

    supposedly coming in spring 2015

  4. It has been suggested that a mildly ketotic state is natural by virtue of the fact our ancestors would not have had a steady supply of carbohydrates. Therefore how exactly does a low carb diet ‘stress’ the adrenals assuming excessive exercise is not pursued? Carbohydrates create instability in the bloodstream through their effect on blood glucose levels, in turn requiring the release of insulin which will then cause an overcorrection (since negative feedback is never perfect) and a state of hypoglycaemia at which point the adrenals must re-correct. A system running on ketones provides a constant supply of energy, without swinging blood glucose levels.

    • Yes Tom I agree – nutritional ketosis is the most healthy state not likely to cause adrenal fatigue – eating starchy root veggies is likely to cause far more issues! Manage stress through mindfulness, exercise and most importantly by seeding and nurturing your gut biome.

      • Karen,
        Are you convinced that introducing a probiotic into your diet is justified by the evidence? Swallowing a probiotic capsule seems ostensibly unlikely to do much when you consider the trillions of bacteria in your gut. Like putting some bubble bath in a lake?!

    • Our ancestors probably did not get adrenal fatigue, because the nature of stress is very different today than it was a thousands of years ago. Also our guts were way healthier. (This is why Dr. Wilson’s book is called Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome). Chris recommends a moderate carb diet to people with adrenal fatigue but warns not to over-consume carbohydrates (for the very reasons you mention).

  5. Can adrenal fatigue cause one to lose one’s taste buds? I haven’t been able to taste anything but salt for about 15 days now. 🙁 I don’t crave salt or any foods….just can’t taste them. Rather disheartening….

  6. The modern lifestyle really often leads to stress and even depression..
    I had been suffering because of depression for a long time after divorce and because of my fast pace of life, and one day I realized how close to suicide I was…
    But then I reversed my behaviour with an anti-depression system (I wrote my full story on this site (righnt column) , hope this help), and now I am a happy woman always in a good mood =)

  7. simply fyi (see below)

    … just wanted to note… that Grehlin… seems to bypass

    the HPA axis (adrenals etc…….)
    (for full article…please click below site)…

    …brief overview


    The researchers found that when rats were given either a drug to stimulate the ghrelin receptor or gene therapy to overexpress growth hormone over a prolonged period, they became much more susceptible to fear than normal rats. Fear was measured by training all of the rats to fear an innocuous, novel tone. While all rats learned to fear the tone, the rats with prolonged increased activity of the ghrelin receptor or overexpression of growth hormone were the most fearful, assessed by how long they froze after hearing the tone. Blocking the cell receptors that interact with ghrelin or growth hormone reduced fear to normal levels in chronically stressed rats.

    When rats were exposed to chronic stress over a prolonged period, their circulating ghrelin and amygdalar growth hormone levels also went up, and fearful memories were encoded more strongly. This is similar to what the researchers believe happens in people who suffer from PTSD.


    After discovering ghrelin’s role in stress, the MIT researchers suspected that ghrelin was also linked to the HPA axis. However, they were surprised to find that when the rats’ adrenal glands — the source of corticosterone, adrenaline, and noradrenaline — were removed, the animals still became overly fearful when chronically stressed. The authors also showed that repeated ghrelin-receptor stimulation did not trigger release of HPA hormones, and that blockade of the ghrelin receptor did not blunt release of HPA stress hormones. Therefore, the ghrelin-initiated stress pathway appears to act independently of the HPA axis. “That’s important because it gives us a whole new target for stress therapies,” Goosens says.


  8. these are all great information but some of these things that I see and a few that I saw they have tried and still have not worked and are totally stumped as what to do remind me where I was for years. Since I was a very young age I have been racked with unknown medical problems,psoriasis, sickness,aches, pains, bone spurs, injuries,depression, ect. ect. ect.. My father worked hard had two jobs and good insurance and my mother ran me to the doctor every time I had a problem. So you can imagine the meds,surgeries,ex-rays. I was told it was in my head and suck it up and get tough. Things hurt but you just had to work through it, pain don’t kill you. It was no non sense you went to doc and but your faith in them. I was a ff/emt for 17 yrs until injured on the job. 9 surgeries on left leg to get back on job failed. Had already blew out left knew 10 before, had 2 acl/mcl replacements.Was told I had birth defect knee didn’t seat well in joint. Would probably blow out other knee before long. suffered from fallen arches xs 20 yrs.. Planter fascilists 10yrs.. on and on. After last string of surgeries doc finally said you ever been tested for arthritis? Sent to Rheumy…RA and Psoriatic Arthritis then 5 yrs later tgA nepthropathy end stage kidney failure. I finally had enough and took control of my treatment. I do believe in conventional medicine to a point. For years I took care of everyone else but didn’t stand up for myself. I just got frustrated and allowed myself to give in to despair and get shuffled from doctor to doctor But, I feel it’s all about balance. Learn all about your diseases/issues up and down. That’s what 99% of you are doing and that’s great. What I did when I started crashing after doing great at dialysis was I started from beginning. I went to john hopkins site and studied just about everything on my illness. Found so many things out and lots of contradictory. things due to multi problems. Found so many things genetic I never knew before. A few simple blood test would have answered these questions yrs and yrs ago. saved me no telling pain,med,sanity,supplements, choices I would have made about having kids. My mother told me a week ago that yrs ago one doc did mention juv. arthritis but my reg doc blew that off and just called it growing pains. every time they run a basic cbc my white cell blood count high but I was always sick, hurt, ect. So any new start with basic and work with doc ask for copies of test and read them and understand disease. modify food intake. Other then two pills I take for kidneys one a vitamin other one to block certain things body doesn’t break down due to kidney problem. I follow heart diet and kidney diet dietitian gave. Labs ran monthly. I write down everything and eat. Only fresh and good meats. Take care of mind body and soul. I guess I was lucky all other problems with ibs, reflux, pain, high bp, brain fog, weakness,no energy, craving sweets, soft drinks, carbs,ect Starting with basics and corrected it and then working from there and not taking no for an answer I got the results I needed to get some relief and hopefully a good quality and independent life. I’m just 46 yrs old. I may have not told anything knew or helped anyone and am not belitting anyone’s problems by no means. I short handed this believe it or not I had enough problems and took enough supplements to dill a large box. Hope you all find solutions to your problems…you don’t have to tough it out. research find the best options use what you need and get healthy. Thank you for bearing with me to read this

  9. Is there a recommended schedule for healing the adrenals, i.e. no t.v./computer 1-2 hours before bedtime, no reading 1 hour before bedtime, when should naps if able be taken, best time for exercise, meals at a certain time, etc. Also, I’m taking the recommended supplements, but is there a suggested way/when to take these supplements and doses? Chris has supplements for the adrenals in his shop….would these be good for someone recuperating from severe adrenal fatigue?

    Thank you!

    • Love the free e-book! Thank you! Looking forward to the program soon! I have been tested…well, I’ve had a saliva test for my hormones (I’m premenopausal) and it showed my cortisol levels to be elevated (8.1) and my DHEA to be low and my estrogen and progesterone normal low. The only supplement recommended was Vit C 3,000 and an adrenal rebuilder. I’m working on my stress with acupuncture which has helped quite a bit and now looking into Trager massages. I have been following a paleo/primal diet for several years now and I’ve adapted to a more rehabilitative type of exercise (yoga, pilates, walking). Would really love to know what supplement might help me bring my cortisol levels down.
      Thanks again for this informative article and for bringing this issue to light! I’ve been battling adrenal fatigue for some time now….with very little help from my doctors.

    • Well written article. When we talk about high intensity training I’d like to distinguish between lactacid routines like crossfit and any other intense routine that lasts more than 20 seconds per set. When you involve the lactacid metabolism, you use glicogen that has to be restored and the more your routine is long the more you need to restore the glicogen eating carbs. But in a mere anaerobic set that lasts less than 20 seconds like a 100 mt sprint or a brief heavy set of squat, you don’t need any additional carb

  10. I had a very stressful job and my response to the craziness was to work out intensely 5 days a week. I thought I was doing the right thing by exercising because I often felt better after a good run. I started gaining weight and would wake up still very tired, had brain fog (could not remember anything or think things over to make a decision) and had little motivation, despite a healthy diet and all the running. My doctor does not believe there is such a thing as adrenal fatigue. I was told to continue to make healthy choices and I would get better. When that didn’t happen, I started researching supplements and essential oils. I found nutmeg essential oil rubbed on my skin over my adrenals to help. Also, I started taking Ashweganda and Relora supplements. I was already taking B vitamins, antioxidants and fish oils but I increased the dosage of all of them. I stopped taking my birth control pills. I quit running and now I walk. I also am no longer at the stressful job and am working in a flexible, less stressful environment. I already feel better but I know I have more time needed for healing. I have heard it can take months to years to treat and heal from AF. It has been 2 months since I made these changes and my energy is back (yay!) but I cannot lose the weight I gained (boo!). I am frustrated about the weight but sincerely happy that I can get out of bed and participate mentally and physically in daily activities once again.

  11. I recently had the testing done through Precision Analytical Hormones. My free cortisol levels were in the normal and high ranges, but my metabolized cortisol was low. I’ve learned this is due to low clearance of the free cortisol into metabolized cortisol, common in hypothyroidism, which I have. My big question- how do you increase the cortisol clearance?

  12. I never get dizzy when standing up from sitting etc but do get dizzy momentarily sometimes when I start to eat (usually at lunch time). Is this connected to adrenal fatigue?

  13. Once I decreased the amount of carbs, increased animal products (I am not strictly paleo), got at least 6-8 hours of sleep, did more mind body things like EFT or meditation, I started feeling better.

    The other thing that helped quite a bit was eating seaweed on a somewhat regular basis. When I did that, my brain started working better. Now I feel better than I did 10 years ago when I exercised regularly.

  14. Hi

    Are the stressors that different from what our ansistors experienced? We have more security now in terms of very core requiremets like food water shelter and life in general.

    Would our ancestors get uninterrupted sleep while being stalked in the wild? Perhaps not having eaten anything for days and fearing survival the next moment.

    Are we really as vulnerable as made to be or pretty much the same as our fore fathers?

    • Dabu –
      Yes. I’m sure a proper expert can tell you more, but please let me take a small stab at at and begin with this.

      Family dynamics are different today. Sure a child may have been abandoned of necessity in the ancient past, but not that often, as parents in paleolithic days would die for their offspring before something would happen to them. We have busy parents sticking their kids in too many activities and not actually parenting their kids or spending time teaching them any survival skills. How many children in the foster care system being abused, and unloved and grow up with a feeling of insecurity all their lives. This is emotional insecurity and is a huge stressor, much greater than having a solid roof over their heads.

      There are many children who would rather be in a women’s shelter with their mom than in a big warm house with drunk molesting dad. There are too many people homeless, addicted, mentally ill, on the street who don’t have a cave to claim and are legally not allowed to make a fire for warmth, or are imprisoned for stealing to survive the next withdrawal, while the drop in shelters are full.

      There is an epidemic of alcoholism and substance abuse. Many a child constantly has the horror flashing in their mind 24/7 with images of someone they were supposed to have trusted, abusing them. Images of a drunk father, or high mother and feelings of insecurity that they did not protect them. Something they must live with all their lives, affecting their feeling of failure forever, regardless if they have a roof over their head or a meal to eat that day.

      Our ancestors did not have alcoholism, gambling or drugs. Our ancestors did not have to think about whether or not they should go through the trouble of filing a police report against a neighbour who abused their child, our ancestors would just kill the offender! How many children would have had better self esteem had they been defended and protected when they were abused? Family dynamics are confused by the messages of what family is really supposed to be, looking at what TV tells our children.

      How about the images we see that affects our self esteem? The magazines? The real housewives? Hollywood? Our ancestors did not have such issues.
      How about all the environmental toxins? Our ancestors had clean food, pure water, fresh clean air… There was no power lines everywhere, radiation everywhere from cell phone towers, off gassing of chemicals of every single painted surface, artificial flooring and finishings, varnishes on furniture, synthetics for clothing, 10 000 chemicals in our food (and yes this number is accurate). We did not have cancer epidemics, MS epidemics, heart attacks on the rise, ADD and autism, side effects of prescriptions, all kinds of special needs that a family must actually deal with nowadays.

      We did not have a government we’re weary of trusting, we did not have the feeling of doom wondering, what kind of world will our children inherit with the water supply dwindling? Species going extinct? Heavy metals toxicity? What about politically? Who is going to lead the country? Will there be continuing terrorism? What are our tax dollars funding? Our ancestors did not have to think about these things for our children. Our ancestors were able to teach their children tactics that worked, because we are human and we were on the winning side of the animal world. Further along in evolution, sure tribes fought each other, but there was pride in it, honour, privilege, rites of passage that members were proud to take part in, and a consistent belief that explained the world. Now we are spiritually confused, we cannot trust our priests who molest our children, and we don’t know which Guru will deliver us from the insanity.

      We have bosses and corporate programs designed to brainwash you into thinking you’re not enough of a team player or your performance is not up to par, or your boss wants results and not excuses. You have to do a self review of your performance and write essays each year to prove you are worth your paycheque. You are not earning your keep if don’t sit for more than the standard 8 hours and put in more overtime, again sitting, staring at a computer, not being with your spouse and kids. You’re looking at your cell phone checking the work emails because you are trying to stay caught up and not be at worker longer than necessary.

      Our ancestors did not do that. You sit in traffic worrying about the economy and that you have to put up with the politics at work because you have to pay down that debt, but your family SO needs a vacation because your daughter is getting more attention from the bad boy at school and those skirts are getting shorter, your son is getting lost in those violent video games but you have no time or energy, maybe you’re divorced and you have no help from the ex spouse, either financially or by coming to an agreement with parenting. You’re listening to the news of yet another senseless murder, drug gangs, arson to a mom and pop shop, a child killed by a drunk driver. You are worried about your elderly parents who are dying of horrible painful illnesses or tormented minds, illnesses our ancestor never had and suffering so slowly, and you re wondering how not to yell them for asking you the same question 20 times in an hour because it’s illegal to help them crossover peacefully, so instead you must help pay for this, and feel horrible watching their suffering, guilty that you want them to pass, and your children have to see it too, Instead of having healthy vibrant wise elders telling your kids stories, grandma is coughing up a lung in a convalescent home. Meanwhile the car is breaking down and you are stuck thinking should you keep sinking hundreds every few months to keep fixing it or should you just go for the expense and add to your debt? And speaking of the car, crap, I have to renew my license soon.

      If you don’t have half of these stressors, or you have such a great outlook on life, why don’t you instead go into the business of sharing your secrets, you could be the next Osho, the next Eckhart! Let’s learn from you instead of you asking if we really have any stress to worry about. Come on, share your secrets to why you have no stress in your life. Or are you just one of the very very lucky ones who doesn’t deal with these things?

      Dabu, people don’t have a single moment of peace in their lives. People today are running ragged trying to keep all the balls in the air. Do you know why we go camping? Because we try to remember what it was like to have the fresh air. Are we scared of bears or wolves, of course, but the peacefulness, the scenery, the quiet, the crickets, cooking your meat over a fire, spending time cuddling with your spouse, listening to the kids while they enjoy making a hot chocolate the old fashioned way or listening to those sausages pop over the crackling fire. THAT’S why the Paleo lifestyle has so much appeal. We are trying to recapture an innate desire, to incorporate some of the ancient ways into our modern world, to have some peace and happiness, to simplify.

      Unforunately, there is so much people have to deal with, that if this article went into such detail as I did people would get depressed and stop reading it, or they would wonder why it’s the length of a book introduction and not an article! It’s assumed that the reader would understand everything that I have just pointed out, and of course, I didn’t give you everything, it’s just what I came up with off the top of my head.

      So, are you the next Osho, DABU?

  15. Thank you SO much for this article. I’ve been searching the internet for something that would communicate the total picture to my husband. Walah!!! The article and ebook are printed and ready for him to read. Bless you!

  16. The timing of this article for me couldn’t be better. My workplace has put in new LED lights (think blue lights) and they are triggering headaches for me. My understanding is that there is a wave across the country of putting LED lights in as streetlights. Here’s a link to an article in The New York Times about it. My question is in regards to the effects of this dramatic increase to being exposed to this lighting all day long. Does that too have a negative impact?

  17. At 40 while pregnant, things started to REALLY go awry. LUCKILY, I had a healthy though colicky baby. Later I learned, I was terribly low in the adrenal fatigue cycle (Dr Lam back half of Stage 3) and I have Hasimotos, vitiligo, psoriasis, +ANA (polyglandular autoimmune). I had been gluten, dairy and tapioca free for several years following birth. It was mostly paleo diet with low iodine along Dr K diet route. I was losing weight, had no energy and a general mess sliding backwards. I finally increased my cortisol and thyroid meds. This got me off the couch (stress dosing per STTM)!! Later I started several other rebuilding hormones which I see as just braces to help get me healed, like a cast. Then I started focusing on digestive enzymes and HCl and taking amino acids. Today I am still sporting more figurative braces than desired, but WAY WAY WAY better than I was. I am happy to report gaining a happy 20lbs and able to keep up most days with my 6yr old. I continue to fine tune my diet, lifestyle, mood, supplements and hormones to promote healing and energy in my life. In looking back, it turns out I was living in an over stressed state for years, but didn’t know it, for it was my norm since childhood. My best to all of you.

    • I know this is old, but how did you gain the weight? I’m just coming off a post heavy duty stressful time of about 3 years. I can’t keep weight on where I was previously healthy with a BMI of 19.5. I’ve been seen by a gastro, my GP, etc. and nothing is wrong. Full thyroid panel. I’m pretty sure it’s adrenally related because the only thing that comes up on test results is low blood sugar (low 60s and 58 once) and low diastolic blood pressure.

  18. What are some good carb sources for those in stage two/three AF? I am struggling with blood sugar with carbs even with fat and protein with them…I bloat and fatigue soon after sweet pots etc. I have tried low fodmop and am contemplating just meat and fat for a while as fiber and carbs are a challenge…I tested negative for sibo and gastroparesis.

    • I adhere strictly to a low FODMAP diet and find it tremendously helpful. But after 2 years on it, I still had issues such as you describe. By implementing food combining principles, it took care of most of my residual symptoms of poor digestion. I dislike having to eat this way, but it is absolutely worth it to me.

  19. I would like to express my opinion very politely. I think this post is a bit lacking on the substance and gives a slightly exaggerating view on adrenal fatigue. I don’t think living a normal acrive life with it’s stressor like job and traffic gives one adrenal fatigue.

    I’ve personally experienced it a couple of times and healed (but it takes months). But the circumstances leading to it have involved severe job related, personal life and emotional stressors coupled with too much exercise, lack of sleep and poor nutrition. So not normal modern life.

    That’s why this article seems a bit commercial and is likely to draw the attention of the skeptics and opposers of paleo or anything the like.

    • I would like to politely respond to your comments since I have a slightly different perspective then many on the issue.

      While I agree that this article seems to dramatize the issue of adrenal fatigue, it isn’t lacking in substance. Being in school for a PhD in medical microbiology I always like to see articles written showing the statistics and referencing other articles. This article however, has simply been written in layman’s terms so that everyone can easily understand and relate to the topic without needing a heavy science background.

      My current research is actually looking at these types of chronic daily environmental stressors, and how they leading to immune system dysregulation at the biological level. In what I have learned from previous studies, and what I have found so far, these are enough to cause the eventual fatigue and depression of the adrenals and as a result, the immune system. So while I do agree that the idea can sound somewhat exaggerated, it is a big issue to our bodies health and over-all well being.

      Also, the circumstances you have described are “normal life” for many individuals in the world. The majority of people have to face far more stressful conditions than those even you described. Therefore it is all dependent on factors such as education level and socioeconomic status for how many stressors one normally faces and how severe they are. As such, it is slightly insulting to me at least, that you say these conditions are not the “normal modern life”.

      That is simply my perspective though, I hope it helps give you something to think on in the future.

      • Grace, what a well written response, does credit to your name. I think many others would have been quite a bit more hostile. I would even say Iceman lives up to his name too and is able to be solid and stoic against the stressors of life!

        Iceman, we are all individuals and some stressors may hit us harder than others. You’re right as well but it only serves to hit the point harder that this article is trying to show. Some of us had a string of bad luck, perhaps childhood abuse, perhaps losing loved ones under tragic circumstances, financial troubles, bad breakups, self image expectations, some of those experiences are so deeply personal, that by the time the reality of “it’s one thing after another” becomes the norm, we are exhausted. Another issue is that because of other circumstances like allergies, or antibiotics, genetics, we can be weak and have a predisposition to these things.

        Maybe you are emotionally stronger or physically stronger for whatever reason that you believe this is exaggerated. I can tell you first hand that with my life experience, I have become sick and now unable to deal with today’s tiny stressors of deadlines and crazy family members. I may be one anecdote but it’s true.

      • Hi Grace,
        What is the exact topic of your dissertation? Any interesting preliminary results you could share? I ask because I just finished my PhD in a similar field (microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics) this past November and I am considering shifting fields into endocrinology/immunoendocrinology (is that a word? haha) for my future postdoctoral work. I would love to read some of what your group has published, or some papers you suggest as good reading on the topic. Thanks and best wishes for your PhD!

      • Well said Grace! I only wish your recommendations worked for me. So far I have followed similar ones for two years, and am not seeing much improvement in my fatigue … but I know I am not “normal,” even if the work/life stresses that preceded this most recent episode possibly could have been. Cheers!

      • Adding my $0.02, I think it’s reasonable to assume that a normal distribution applies. Some people are more vulnerable to stress, others less so, with some average for a given society. My personal observation is that sometimes people pooh-pooh those of us with conditions to which they can’t relate. It took me years to convince my wonderful wife that I was having real issues, and even more to convince her that stress reduction + Paleo, for me, wasn’t a choice, it was necessity. My physiology is almost always on yellow or red alert.

    • From a European’s perspective, it’s obvious that the American lifestyle is deeply dangerous for one’s health. As a result, only the constitutionally strong/genetically blessed will maintain optimum health. For a start, your office hours aren’t 9-5 like most Western countries. Instead, many offices now start their business hours at 7 or 8. Many workplaces also tack on an extra hour at the end of the day. This adds up to a 50-60 hour week rather than the traditional 40 hour week. This is important because studies show that humans perform at their peak around a 30 hour work week. So even a 40 hour work week is not ideal.

      The long working hours also results in sustained sleep deprivation for those whose body clock does not let them sleep at 9pm. Even if they can sleep well, this leaves very little time for relaxation and socialisation. Pile a family life, over/under exercise, social inequality, the SAD diet (which many ppl adopt because they are too poor to buy good food or lack the time due to the above work conditions) and financial stress on top of this and you have a recipe for disaster.

      • yes sir you are correct. I worked in Emergency services as a firefighter and as a emergency medical tech. for 17 yrs on average I worked 72 to 96 hrs a week. My body stayed in constant high alert. It paid the price for it, too.

        • The American way seems to be all about working until one drops dead. 🙁 It’s very, very sad.

          This is why it bugs me when people lay the blame of the obesity epidemic at things like the SAD diet. Yes, the SAD diet is terrible, but a) it’s all many can afford due social inequalities and b) people working 60 hours weeks/2 jobs/school and work combined do not have time to prepare a healthy diet. They also have a life filled with stress and do not have enough time for sleep or social interaction.

  20. Concerning things to take to address adrenal fatigue- one thing stands above all in my book (and I have tried them all). Gynostemma Tea. This Adaptogen ranks #1 on the list of most powerful adaptogens. One sip when I am stressed at work and I can feel the flood of relief wash over me- without any negative effects of prescription stress relievers. This stuff is amazing.

    • Seattle Paul-I am interested in the tea. What brand to you use? I have been using Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health supplement, which have given me a similar feeling; like relief washing over me. But I sure wouldn’t mind another one in my back pocket.

  21. I suffered from burn out, adrenal exhaustion, low thyroid symptoms, chronic fatigue and depression after going through a stressful graduate program. The school’s workload barely gave me enough time to take care of my health, so sleep definitely didn’t happen much back then!

    After I graduated, it took me at least 2 years to recover, to let my body rest and heal from ~7 years of high stress, sleep deprivation and chronically high cortisol levels. Since then, I’ve had to re-think the type of lifestyle I want to lead from now on. It’s true that many high-paying jobs also come with a high price for our adrenals, so it’s become a choice between my health or a high-paying job, and I’ve chosen my health. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do for a career now, but at least I know not to sacrifice my health for anything else.

    Now I meditate daily, use herbal tinctures to nourish my adrenals (Rehmannia), eat healthily (low glycemic, gluten & dairy free), do Qigong for gentle exercise, and I’m still working on my estrogen dominance, but overall I’m in a much happier place than I was before! Best of luck to everyone on their journey to adrenal health and recovery! It will take a while, but be patient and understanding with yourself. It definitely teaches you how to take the time to care for yourself and prioritize your health.

  22. I did 2 cortisol saliva tests and found out I am very high all day except the mornings.
    feel awful. I can’t get my bp down, having increased blood sugars, feel so anxious, nervous and coming out of my skin. I don’t know what to do. tried adaptogens like Seriphos, holy basil, zinc and melatonin because I can’t sleep. heart pounds all night and morning.
    I am 59 yrs old and have been in excruciating pain stemming from a slippage of the L4 and need surgery. it is the constant pain and the stress that it has created that I find myself in this mess.
    I am at the end of my rope. a hormonal doctor had me on Hydrocortisone 25mg thinking I had low cortisol. he still believes I do but I know he is wrong. now he wants me to take a small dose of DHEA to inhibit cortisol but it comes with too many side effects and I am not willing to take the risk.

    is there anything I can do to lower cortisol and heal? nothing I have done thus far has worked. I am trapped in my house and bed in so much pain and the pain has caused so much stress even my muscles are tight and rigid (have a whiplash too)
    my doctor will not clear me for surgery as long as my bp is not controlled.
    I am so scared. could use some help.
    living like this is not a life but torture. I wish I could find a doctor who understands adrenals and cortisol around my area, but no success. the one I am under the care of is in PA and honestly he has done nothing for me and only has steered me in the wrong direction. Please help. Thanks so much.

    • Check out Gynostemma Tea. It has been the most effective adaptogen I have ever come across. Look for organic. It is a staple I use for my highly stressful sales job. I fear leaving home without it.

      • Thanks Lisa B

        unfortunately they are not covered by my insurance. I cannot afford to pay out of pocket. I appreciate your help.

        • I feel for you so much. I really do.
          The only thing I can think of:
          There are functional practitioners in training who are looking for people to “practice” on. One idea is to reach out to a group of them and offer yourself as a case study for them to give you the functional testing and they would give you the report, meanwhile they have the experience of interpreting the result. The FDN practitioners (Reed Davis for example) all need to find someone in their circle to do the testing on. Of course continuous reading of these free resources online are another cost effective tool
          Calling the Kresser community: Is there anyone in this community here who could help.

          I wish I could help you more. In any case, I sympathize, I send you all my compassion, and wish you best of luck.

    • Aloha Nancie D…
      I am so sorry to hear about all your pain! First thing is you need to take Magnesium 500mg before bed. It will lower your BP and it is a natural muscle relaxer, so it should help you sleep. I would also recommend 100mg of 5HTP in the evenings as it should help you relax and helps w pain. LTheanine, the chewable from Natural Factors works very quickly for anxiety.. You can take up to 5 if need be. Gaba is another amino acid that is calming. Fish oil should assist in lowering your BP… However do not take 3 weeks prior to surgery as it thins your blood. I do not recommend DHEA at this time… If you do take a very small dose10-20 mg in the AM. Sending hugs your way

      • Can you please recommend a specific magnesium supplement? I have been considering taking magnesium but I don’t know which one to buy? Thank you!

    • Have you ever been properly assessed for Cushing’s? If adoptogens aren’t working then perhaps you could have this.

  23. Chris, Kelsey or Laura,

    Firstly thank you for your wonderful helpful information. Would you kindly point me in the right direction?

    I have very low cortisol all day long according to the 24 hour salivary test I just had done. I wake up with 0.7 and by the time I go to bed it’s 0.07 (to clarify this is not a typo, that’s less than 1 to start and less then .1 by night).
    In addition to low cortisol, I have:
    low progesterone
    low DHEA
    food allergies to egg, all grains, beans and nuts except pecan, dairy, banana, cran, pineapple, broccoli and sugar.

    I can only eat a strict paleo diet and have been for a year: grass fed meat, seafood, certain vegetables and berries.

    I have been warned against excercising too much so I only go for walks. Just going up the stairs my heart is beating out of my chest and I’m sweating.

    I’m STILL 30 pounds too heavy. I am seeing yet another integrative doctor getting supplements, bio identical progesterone, homeopathy, I have gone on medical leave to reduce my stress and get plenty of sleep, and will only go back part time in May. What more can I do to get the weight off and get healthy? I see the weight and energy level as an indicator that I am still unhealthy.

    Namely – can you recommend additional tests I should be getting to see what else is blocking my progress?

    Epstein Barr? MTHFR? Lyme? Heavy metals?

    Thank you so much.

    • Also:
      I was also told not to eat too many starchy roots because it could feed the candida. Yet I crave chips, fries, and sweets like crazy.

      My solution is to make paleo-ized desserts so I don’t feel so deprived (and hence stressed) using legal sweeteners like a bit of honey, stevia, xylitol, erythritol.

      I also started a meditation program (Holosync) to reduce stress, and my husband makes my laugh everyday.

      Thank you.

      • Lisa, have you checked out Histamine Intolerance (‘HIT’)? Yasmina Ykelenstam’s Heal Histamine website is a very helpful place to start, and she links to others who are knowledgable and helpful in the field, so you can look further as energy and courage permit.
        There are other things connected to HIT, but start there.

        All the very best, and feeling for you: chronic illness is miserable… but it is also God’s way of taking you on an adventure and making you part of a community of people determined to help each other where the ‘health care system’, for the most part, has no answers.

    • Lisa I feel your pain. I am in a similar boat. I also have MTHFR and mercury levels too high. I find it so hard to eat minimal.variety yet be up over 20 pounds from where I should.

      Sorry your going thru it too

      • Thanks for reaching out Jen, I appreciate your compassion, it’s indeed frustrating and quite lonely, I don’t think our circle of friends understands why I’m off work and how sick I really am. How did you test for mthfr? Through 23andme? I am considering getting the test or asking a new doctor for it. I also have just submitted my hair sample for heavy metals so I’m waiting until my appointment on the 30th.

        • Hi. I had my Dr run the metal tests and MTHFR. I’m high in mercury urine and blood and two forms of MTHFR.

          Now I have yet to find a solid solution as some of her protocols make my jittery and even more ill.


    • Lisa: My heart goes out to you! I have been going through something similar for about 5 years. It manifested initially as an achilles injury from running, then severe plantar fasciitis and finally, ulcerative colitis. I started SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), and slowly moved to paleo, and my gut healed, or so I thought. The plantar F. healed, but then I kept injuring different tendons until last year I was so debilitated I could only walk 50 feet without a wheelchair. It turned out I had 3 gut infections, which we thought treating them would solve the problem. When it didn’t, I switched drs and we tested for Lyme, MTHFR and heavy metals. We considered testing for mold exposure, too, but there was no obvious source and it ended up anyway that the genetic issue (similar to MTHFR) and heavy metals were ultimately the problem. Toxins can be stored in fat cells, which could account for your inability to lose weight. I personally was too underweight and could not gain, no matter what I did, so the metals were stored in my brain, spinal/vertebrae joints, and SI joints. No wonder I couldn’t walk. I was so thin people thought I had an eating disorder, and hence it was all in my head. I feel your pain so much-I never felt like anyone understood how very sick I was. So thankful I persevered!

      I did the 23andme testing, which does require a naturopath or someone trained to read. The metals were through Doctors Data and included hair and urine testing (one urine test for metals and one for porphryns-I hope I’m spelling that right). If your hair comes up equivocal, then please do the urine testing. My hair test was not obvious for metals. The Lyme was negative and we didn’t take that at face value until we treated that very specifically with absolutely no reaction (we used frequency treatment-very very specific so there is no mistaking a reaction/herxheimer, or lack thereof). I’ve been taking very specific adrenal supplements, SAMe (my issue that 23andme uncovered), lots of B vitamins including methylcobalmin and 5-MTHF (folate), and a broad spectrum B. Lots of real Vitamin C (not ascorbic acid but C in its whole form), and I’ve been doing something called a Biomat, which is similar to infrared sauna, twice a week. I am still treating the gut infections; parasites are attracted to metals and while you detox, the infared draws the metals out of the cells, where they are freed up to be processed by the liver, colon, and finally out of the body. So having metals in my GI tract during this process has continued to cause the parasites to be a problem, and whenever there are parasites there is candida. I am also taking multiple supplements for my liver, like milk thistle, chlorella and dandelion.

      I am happy to say that although I have a ways to go, I already feel like a whole new person, and I have only been seriously detoxing since January. I know my list of testing might sound daunting, but it was so well worth it. I can walk up to a mile now, and have gained more than 5 lbs. Please stick to it, life is not supposed to be like this! Best of luck to you.

      • Dearest Jenny!

        Your response brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for your kind words and compassionate heart. I have taken notes on everything you wrote – I knew I missed a few on my list… and will get the remaining tests I need to give me peace of mind. I’m so happy for you that you have improved and that you have not lost hope. This gives me hope as well.

        Better now that pay later to guess at it. My husband and I have not had our children yet, as I am obviously infertile, and i’m going to be 37 this June. I have to get healthy not just to get pregnant but so I can run after them! And if we don’t spend the money now for the testing, then we could end up paying for adoptions or IVF which may be more expensive, and plus NO amount of money will turn back the clock. We may have to borrow against the house but its what we will do to survive together as a family. My husband and I don’t want to lose each other over a health condition – we must stick together and prioritize so we can look back and say it was worth it when we look at our beautiful healthy little ones, (knock on wood and God willing and universe bless us etc!)

        I am tired, so very tired of everything, and my current doctor has me on too slow a schedule with “let’s wait and see what this one test shows” and when I mentioned mthfr he said, um no, like he’d never heard of it and didn’t mention anything further. There’s more but I won’t get into it. He’s so far the best doctor I’ve had, he at least knows about the HPA axis issue, practices homeopathy, gave me the IGG and Candida test but isn’t fully open to shotgun testing everything, which is what I want. Meanwhile my biological clock keeps ticking, and I’ve been doing one test after another for the last year, finding out there’s always more to test, more conditions popping up that are taking priority over the last condition, so I keep having a new treatment plan. That’s great that we are responding but why not test everything at once to get a full picture?

        We have no time to waste and need to just get the tests done. I”m so grateful someone, you, responded to share what more tests I need to ask for. Seems that getting a good doctor when you’re really sick is a matter of luck and money. Speaking of luck (or divine intervention) I crossed paths with someone who is willing to sell me their like-new infrared sauna for half the price.

        I will hope the next doctor I try can help me, fully.

        Thank you so much Jenny – keep us all posted on your progress and once again, THANK YOU.


        • Lisa, oh goodness, it is such a hard position to be in. I understand. I thank God every day that I had my kids before getting sick, even if my second pregnancy was part of what did me in (clearly I had issues going in to the pregnancy, and I think the pregnancy just threw my hormones off balance, then when my husband got sick I could not recover. I certainly don’t blame the pregnancy for all my problems… a healthy body can support a health pregnancy!). I did feel that I was so blessed… I had everything I had ever asked for; a great husband and two beautiful children… but no ability to enjoy them as I was so disabled and so sick all the time. We have to be well for our children! I get it, how you feel at the mercy of your doctors. I do think that if your doctor isn’t willing to do the testing you want, you should keep looking for another doctor. You’re right, the good ones are hard to come by. If you happen to live in Oregon, I can share mine with you…

          A couple additional thoughts: I said wherever there are parasites there is Candida. Candida is never there on its own, it’s associated with mold and metals, in addition to parasites. If you ever go down the mold route, my understanding is that the best testing out there is through Fry Labs. I would just call them directly if you wanted to do it; they can send you the test kit and explain the options. I think they have a good test for Lyme as well… Igenix is the standard for Lyme testing these days, but Fry was also a great option. I did neither, I just did a standard Lyme test and then treated it to see what the reaction would be.

          That is so awesome about the sauna!!!! My dr has given me this protocol to follow with the sauna: stay there until you start sweating, then stay another 30-45 min, wiping the sweat away wherever it is with a new washcloth every time you wipe. This opens up your pores so that you continue to sweat, and what you have already sweat out doesn’t get absorbed back in. When finished, you can either go straight to the shower or do a hot Zeolite bath (2 tbsp in the bath) for 20 min first, then do the shower. The Zeolite can help draw anything additional out of the body that you didn’t sweat out. Make sure to drink lots of water this whole time. My experience was that I would do my Biomat, and I would feel great right after, but then I wouldn’t sleep all that night, because I wasn’t getting rid of what had been released out of my cells. My dr advised doing a coffee enema after the Biomat session, and this one procedure solved my sleeping problems. You may not have that experience, depending on where you are holding toxins (if you are). But just in case, it was such a huge help. The enema is no fun, but not sleeping is much worse. I hope that all helps-I am sure there are other ways to do it, but I started it with no guidance and once my dr helped me out, the process got much better.

          I am not sure where you stand with God, but I also wanted to mention… I spent years; 4 1/2 to be exact, trying to figure all of this out on my own. It wasn’t until this last September, when all seemed to be lost and hopeless, that I learned how to just give it over. It had to do with accepting what was happening to me, and realizing that I couldn’t control it, but that there was a bigger plan. It was after that, that the answers started coming. I truly feel that I would not have gotten answers until that point.

          Best of luck to you Lisa, please keep us updated as well!

          • Check out “Melika bee’s” comment below, too! The hormone thing is so important. If the adrenals are out of whack, all hormones will be out of whack. I had a full thyroid panel done, too. Make sure they do everything on the panel, not just TSH.

          • I’m literally going to print out what you wrote about the sauna instructions! That is amazing. Thank you so much. I do also take a B complex from the naturopath, minerals complex, and lots of liver support like Fermented Milk Thistle and actually drinking my Dandelion tea as I write! I am worried about my Non-Alcoholic Liver Disease being able to handle the detoxing, so I pray the new IFM doctor can help me better than this one can. I have also written down the specific lab names that do the testing, as you suggested. I am going to call the IFM doctor in my area today (I live in Canada but thanks for your offer!)

            Yes I do hear you on the spiritual side of things. I think if it wasn’t for getting sick now, we would have forced children with fertility treatments out of my sick body – that’s not good. Then I would have continued being a stress case and ended up with an Addisonian crisis (I am on my way to Addison’s disease with my cortisol levels). So me pushing to get the testing and reveal how sick I really am has given me the permission to take a medical leave. However, I do have to give it up to God and the universe when the time is right, but only after I get my second opinion! I truly believe that it’s the spiritual thing inside me driving me to get all the tests to be sure, and as you said, parasites always come with Candida and my last naturopath plus this current homeopathic doctor were both unwilling to send me for parasite testing.

            I’m sorry to hear your husband got sick as well. I will pray for you and your family to get healthy and be able to enjoy your blessed gifts.

            Thank you again for your help and support!

            I will update when I have something new – you as well!

            Melika, and every one else, do update us too and thanks for your response!

            • I am so glad if anything I mentioned can be of help to you. Interesting the dr didn’t test you for parasites! It definitely can help everything if you start treating them (if you have them). But getting the metals out has made the biggest difference for me. Best of luck to you in finding a good dr and some answers! Take care and keepe posted.

              • Hi Jenny

                I have high levels of mercury in my body along with low of just about all the hormones. How did you eliminate the metals from your body? Thanks.

                • Hi Jen,

                  See the above comment I wrote to Lisa B, regarding instructions on infrared sauna (although I use an infared mat called the Biomat). This is the main method I have used to eliminate the metals. My symptoms have improved by leaps and bounds because of it. I am doing lots of adrenal support, and combined with the heavy metal detox, I have noticed some real improvements. It is still a delicate balancing act; I have methylation issues and am on SAMe, all the various high quality B vitamins, glutathione, etc. However, I am constantly having to tweak the amounts and combos, either because they cause too much detox at once, or because I am overmethylating… I am not sure which, but either way it causes insomnia. Anyway, bottom line is to figure out a detox method that works for you-I love the infrared mat (or sauna) because you can do it in such a controlled way… if it’s kicking your butt too much one week you can slow down, if you feel good another you can do it more. Plus you can do the additional efforts to flush the metals out of your body after doing the infared therapy (also see above instructions).

                  The other key is to figure out if you have methylation or any other detox problems in your body (think 23andme testing). Good luck to you!

    • Ok.. I had the same issues… What turned around my weight issue was armour thyroid. Get tested by a ND not a doc. I recommend oregano oil for candida. Ashwaganda is fabulous for replenishing adrenals. LGlutamine for leaky gut as it rebuilds the cell walls. I also love Sam-e…. My happy pill that also supports joint health and liver health. These supplements willl change your health issues, along with a positive attitude, and taking good care of your needs!

      • Thanks Melika bee! Absolutely one of my earlier thoughts was thyroid. Years ago, with my allopathic md I asked to be tested and he wouldn’t. I started with a naturopath. Would you believe – he wouldn’t either, he didn’t think it was necessary because he didn’t think the symptoms fit. (he ends up being right about that but read on). I believed that he knew what he was doing. I didn’t improve. I then insisted he test my hormones. He says no, he didn’t think it was necessary, because the symptoms don’t fit, he doesn’t want me to spend all that money. This time he was wrong. It came back with the severe results so I ended up going with a new doctor, a homeopath, who DID test the thyroid, and I DO NOT have a thyroid issue. Yet he, the homeopath, is also NOT wanting to test for additional things that I’m asking him to test, like parasites, mould, and mthfr, so I”m gone again.
        Thank you for your support – you’re right – a good positive attitude is something I am working hard to improve, with my meditation program. Thanks for the tips!

    • hi LisaB, i know that the comment was directed to the drs, but just wanted to post some of my experiences. I had a similar adrenal profile (blood cortisol levels of 1 the entire day). Conventional drs would not assist, even though the levels were in addison ranges. I do not have addisons. Long story short, after 17 months of onset of symptoms , and about 7 months after the adrenal crash above, i was diagnosed w/ Lyme and some other tick borne infectious diseases. you had mentioned lyme above, so i would consider this in your work up. However, the blood testing with Lyme is very tricky. I was fortunate to have come out CDC positive on my tests, but many lyme patients have immune systems that are so impaired that they don’t generate much immune response (IgG or IgM) on the test. Use igenex for all your tick borne disease testing. Also you might consider Shoemaker’s work on mold. Mold toxicity can impair thyroid and adrenal functional, as can lyme.

      • D,

        Thank you for your reply. It’s helpful to get confirmation from other people these low cortisol levels indicate that we are in “Addison’s” ranges. Perhaps I don’t have Addison’s either but because I have been ignoring symptoms for so long (thanks to conventional medicine telling me to just take an antidepressant), I have been on the path towards this disease.

        It’s sometimes helpful to know that, yes, this is serious and something serious needs to be done. I have made an appointment with a functional medicine doctor, of course not covered by insurance, and right on his website he talks about lyme disease, and did in fact mention igenex testing.

        Looks like Functional medicine is the way to go for everything. Unfortunately Naturopaths and homeopaths didn’t help me (they did not have the IFM certification) and secondly, did NOT listen to my concerns as a patient, and here I am, 37, infertile, can’t even work anymore, having to shell out tens of thousands and I still don’t know if it’s reversible.

        Thanks D for sharing your situation, that was helpful for me.

        Folks, my message to you:
        if you have a stressful life, either from today’s circumstances or had a painful childhood and you are more sensitive than other people, you could very well have adrenal fatigue, or even burnout and need to get your saliva tested from an IFM practitioner and change your life to finally achieve peace and balance – no dress rehearsals in this life – only one shot! So let’s not waste this short precious gift of life on caring what others think, or trying to keep up with the Jones’s. Get back to family and nature with paleo and a simpler life.

        God bless everyone.

      • Also, this new doctor I’m going to see next week, DOES have the shoemaker protocol on his website under the mould section. Seems that everyone’s best advices are the same tactics used by this functional medicine doctor.

        I will report back if the functional medicine doctor has truly helped me.

  24. My husband is a Type A–naturally high cortisol, so I do all the things you mention, plus supplement him with L-theanine. I can’t clear the roads of idiot drivers for him, and can’t magically make his boss grow a brain (or a pair), so he has a bottle of L-theanine in his desk for when these (and other) things cause him stress.

    He has a congenital heart issue, so he can’t take the other “calming” supplements like Relora, ginseng, or rhodiola.

  25. I was diagnosed with the beginning of total adrenal failure about a year ago. I found it inadvertently while pursuing alternative treatment to spinal fusion surgery for degenerative disc disease (DDD). I went to a functional nutritionist to see if she could help me find out why my discs were deteriorating when I had taken care to eat whole, organic foods and exercised five days a week to stay fit for the last thirty years. I chose her because she was also a chiropractor and who better to know the back? I filled out an extensive form of my health history and any issues I presently have. My only other health issue was Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroid). The first thing she did was to check my adrenals because she said my symptoms and thyroid issue were red flags to adrenal issues. Sure enough I was in the beginning of complete failure. She drew blood to test for any foods that were causing an immune response to avoid (to help keep the adrenals calm) and then prescribed some adrenal support tinctures and vitamins. I followed the very narrow diet faithfully for a year. While I had already chose to quit gluten it showed up as an adrenal stimulator as did some very surprising foods. She stated that many of the foods I ate a lot like bananas, lettuces, olives, etc . . . would most likely show up and once my adrenal was up to par I could add them each back into my diet one by one to watch to see if they still bothered me in any way. I have since added all back in except the gluten foods and sugar because after being off of them I did feel better. I will be tested for gluten issues just to make sure it is necessary. I am using pure stevia, LO Han, maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar and honey when I make recipes that call for sugar and only then and sparingly. We just checked my adrenal levels and they have come up a little so it is working and I will continue this protocol. It made sense that the adrenal failure could have caused the disc degeneration because cortisol, an adrenal hormone has a lot to do with cartilage formation which the spinal discs are made of. I have always had stress in my life so it could have been going on for quite a while. I have always been told I was great under pressure, but even though I showed no signs outwardly, my body paid for my ability to internalize the stress. So just because you do not feel stressed, you could be laughing for it physically when you know you are under it. I learned the hard way. I am hoping that if I can get my adrenals up to par that just maybe my body can once again build the cartilage in my body and strengthen the spinal discs walls to where the degeneration is resolved or at least stopped in its tracks. Conventional docs say there is no cure and it will not happen, but has anyone one of them tried this? No. I will not go down without fighting this DDD malfunction even if it is looked at as incurable according to conventional medicine. Let’s face it, all they have offered me was addictive narcotics for the pain and surgery. From my research, more often than not, both offer more complications than cures and neither are are guaranteed to help with the nerve pain. I took the pain pills for three months and I that short time they tore my stomach up with three gaping holes and an inflammed lining so I totally quit them a year ago. Conventional medicine only treats the symptoms (inadequately) instead of finding and resolving the cause. I have chose to suffer a little longer from the pain (has caused shingles as of late, ugh), give this protocol a try and avoid addiction and a possible botched up surgery. I have minimalized the pain with Rick Simpson’s oil when I over indulge in physical activity (anything except lying in bed propped up in a zero gravity position) that intensifies the pain and hope. My advice from my experience is to not ignore any amount of stress, even if you seem to handle it well. Actively deal with unavoidable stress immediately and do what you can to minimalized stress in your life.

    • Sorry, auto correct changed the phrase “you should be looking” to “you could be laughing” making that sentence kind of out there.

    • I truly appreciate you sharing your life experience and about adrenal fatigue. It opened my eyes up, and I will heed your advice. I hope very much this resolves for you.

    • Carol, your story resonates with my own so I’m desperate to find guided help. Please tell us the name of the blood test you had done to determine which foods your body doesn’t like. Lettuce? It seems so innocent, who knew? (I understand that’s not applicable to everybody, but to you specifically).

      I’ve had several food sensitivity tests done only to contradict one another. In the end, it’s really just leaky gut from what I understand. To heal myself feels daunting – its already been such a long journey yet never improving. However, your story gives me a little more hope. Thank you.

  26. I’m interested in alarm clocks that wake you calmly. But I’m alarmed at the suggestion of sleeping with your smartphone due to all of the negative health impacts of EMFs. (The entire latest issue of Wise Traditions outlined how harmful they are) Is there another kind of alarm clock that doesn’t rely on wireless technology?

    • You can also put your phone on airplane mode when you go to bed, the alarm will still go off but no wifi – significantly reducing the EMF exposure.

      Further, there are EMF protection devices you can buy, inexpensively, to re-harmonize the effects of the EMF.

      Keep reading WT, great info there.

    • I agree with Lee about the EMF concerns of smart phones AND Bluetooth devices like the Jawbone. I personally found that moving my phone into another room when i sleep dramatically improved my sleep. However, I’m always still posed with a problem when I need to wake up by a certain time. Any suggestions to devices with low EMF?

      • Try the EMF protection devices. They are not so cost prohibitive and will re-harmonize the EMF.
        I am not selling or making commission from them but there are different brands out there, just do your research. I have not tried any yet but know people who have and like them, for example the safe space ones.

  27. I love the 6 simple points you recommend for adrenal balance. I tried a lot carb diet for so long, thinking I should not “feed the bugs” or spike my sugar. Adding carbs back into my life has raised my body temperature, fixed my hypothyroid and estrogen dominance, and helped me FIGHT Lyme Disease. Last year I would be too afraid to up my carbs even though my low carb diet did nothing for my POTS, sepsis, fevers, brain fog and the above conditions. This year I am doing pull-ups and rock climbing with no adrenal repercussions. I’m giddy and grateful for my new-found giddyness.

    Question: If you are doing high intensity exercise every few days, are sugar spikes still something to be concerned about? I eat a lot of protein, and a healthy dose of yolks and coconut oil, but I also eat heaping teaspoons of manuka honey in between meals. I am curious to see my BG is when I do this, but I feel like insulin resistance is not something to worry about while I’m going this hard with exercise every 2-3 days.

    • You likely don’t need to worry about the BG spikes with lots of exercise, though if you’re worried or have a history of BG issues, you can use a home glucose monitor to make sure you’re doing ok in that regard.

      Good for you for upping your carbs!

  28. This article was frustrating. Suppose you are already doing all the recommended things and still struggling with AF? The information was so basic, nothing new. Was the article an infomercial for your upcoming program? You did talk about some lifestyle changes, but nothing about tests, supplements, traatments, etc.

  29. The ‘normal’ routine described makes me stop and ponder… “What kind of an existence have we created — and how did it happen?”

  30. I have none of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue as listed but a saliva test came back showing cortisol/DHEA substantially lower than the normal range on waking but catching up steadily by 10pm. My life is delightfully low stress – a healthy 67 year old whose only problem appears to be mildly high cholesterol. I eat a moderate carb diet, no sugar, no processed food. Should I be worried? Should I take any action.

  31. I have Insomnia,Overactiv Immune system which created arthritis
    and memory loss and constipation.
    I would like to know what cause an overactive immune system?
    Autoimmune disease which is the cause of its own destruction
    as the body start producing antibodies to its own tissues. that caused an arthritis and memory disturbance.

    • Magnesium is excellent for constipation! Take 300-500mg at bedtime as it a natural muscle relaxer. Eliminate dairy and gluten for arthritis. Take Curcumin for inflamation, and fish oil. Fresh ginger tea every morning for pain.

    • Also trifala is excellent for constipation. Flaxseed stirred into juice and coconut oil keeps your colon active

  32. Loved the article. Whats your take on eating more fish, krill oil or algae dha/epa oil supplements when one have adrenal fatigue?

    Minimize PUFA or eat more? Can they help quicker restore balance, as complementary to the great method you posted of stabilizing bloodsugar? Kind regards from Sweden


  33. It’s actually rather exciting to see a good article recommending that normal people should use orange glasses (or preferably goggles!) for avoiding evening blue light. This so-called dark therapy, in addition to bright light exposure at the time of one’s natural awakening, can be helpful routines for many of us with chronic circadian rhythm disorders (CRDs). As the public becomes more educated about normal sleep, I think it will be easier to explain and gain understanding for our CRDs. Thank you!

  34. Although my cortisol levels are low, I was puzzled that I didn’t fit the usual profile for adrenal fatigue, i.e. high blood pressure instead of low. It was only when I read about “sympathetic dominance” that I recognised my set of symptoms. Does anyone relate to this?

  35. Getting divorced, not by choice though – narcissistic husband chose to leave his wife and 3 young boys for some young chick at the office. The right thing would have been him going in therapy, but that is not how life works with narcissistic people. However wrong divorce is, in the light of what kind of person he is, I am better off without him. Lots of emotional stress going on for too many years. Boys are hurting and struggling.
    Pace myself. Working towards paleo with a healthy amount of carbs, didn’t eat bread for years already, also got iron deficiency without anemia, am going to have Dr’s find out why my iron vanishes. Need daily naps which is discouraging.
    I crochet, works as therapy (as do quilting and cross stitching). In work outs focused more on building muscle than high intensity.

  36. I can’t understand this part. It seems like dropping you blood sugar makes that your body burns fat, why is bad?

    When blood sugar drops, the adrenals release cortisol and epinephrine, sending a signal to the body that it needs to get glucose into the bloodstream as soon as possible. When this happens, the body responds by breaking down glycogen (the stored form of glucose) as well as working to create new glucose from protein and fat through a process called gluconeogenesis. In short, every time blood sugar drops, it’s an emergency signal to the body and the HPA axis is activated.

  37. I was stage 2. I got good nutritional advice had my Metabolic Typing done for optimum food choices and the correct supplements from a recommended registered site rather than over the counter. Take time to look after you, everyone and everything else will wait and you will be able to give a quality you. ( this I found hard to do but now I’m glad I did )

  38. I hit the wall with adrenal burnout and 10 years later, despite quitting work, moving to the country, doing all the right things nutritionally, I just didn’t get better. Then I found out I had pyroluria – a severe deficiency of zinc & B6 – and according to all I’ve read it’s surprisingly common. Worth checking out as the solution is vitamin and mineral supplements.

    • Hi Lyndall,
      I have pyroluria also, and just done testing for andrenal fatigue and have low levels of cortisol in the morning, and higher than normal levels at night time. I’ve been on B vitamins and zinc supplements for about 2 years now and overall feel better, but still really low energy and weight issues from the adrenal fatigue. Did your adrenal issues get better after the supplements for pyroluria? thanks

  39. Hi Kelsey, I am a HHP MT, and work to much.
    I believe in acupuncture. So every couple of months i get a treatment to regain my balance and strengthen my adrenals.

  40. “Eat on a regular basis and don’t go too long without meals – if you’re worried about your stress level or think you might already have adrenal fatigue, I’d highly caution you against skipping breakfast (or any meal, for that matter) regularly.”

    What about the positive effects of intermittent fasting on cognitive function?

    • David has the right idea here – for those with adrenal fatigue, intermittent fasting is not a good idea. Sometimes people choose to go back to it after healing, but I usually recommend staying away from it as someone with adrenal fatigue may be more likely to get it again in the future if they go back to the habits that got them there.

  41. Hello.

    I have stage III adrenal fatigue and have been on Hydrocortisone for more than a year. I’ve started to wonder if I would ever get well and get off those drugs…

    • Hi Quinny,

      Though I think supplements and sometimes pharmaceuticals like hydrocortisone can really help, they’re not the only answer to healing. In fact, if you’re not following a adrenal-healing diet and lifestyle even with hydrocortisone it’s not likely you’ll fully recover. Did you check out the free ebook I linked to? It will give you an in-depth overview of what to do to heal. Hope it helps!

  42. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue 4 months ago and I’m still on my healing journey. I have incorporated most of what you suggest, regular meals which always incorporate protein, yoga (I reluctantly quit my intense gym workouts, knowing they were not helping me recover), a few temporary nutritional supports like vitamin c, magnesium and b vitamins but the thing that has helped the most is finally addressing the emotional factors that so often underpin adrenal fatigue. Unhealthy beliefs, living life not true to your values because you are stuck in a rut, perpetual negative thinking patterns. I personally believe this is key, and if you can address this then stress should no longer be an enemy in the future.

  43. If a person has adrenal fatigue, I assume it is best to avoid foods with caffeine such as coffee. But how about decaf coffee?

    • I recommend staying away from caffeine as you recover, as well as alcohol (at least for the most part – a drink here or there is probably okay).

      Decaf coffee still contains some caffeine, so to be safe I just say stay away from it all. It’s good to give yourself a caffeine detox once in a while anyway!

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