Burning the Candle – Are You Adrenally Exhausted?

Hands up who feels tired?

This seemingly harmless symptom can signal a deeper health concern.

In fact, if you are also stressed, a constant worrier and always on the go, you may be experiencing Adrenal Fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue is fast becoming a disease of the 21st Century.

In fact, it is rapidly on its way to rival other chronic health concerns such as cardiovascular risk, diabetes and obesity in its severity.

The symptoms can include the following:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • A generalised ache in the body
  • Irritability when hungry
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness when standing
  • A constant thirst
  • Craving salt or salty foods
  • Recurrent infections or difficulties recovering from colds and flu
  • Not coping with demands
  • Physically “crashing” when stressed

While not a new health phenomenon, the concept of adrenal exhaustion or fatigue is NOT a medically recognised condition. This is especially troubling as it leads to only the symptoms being treated rather than the underlying deficiency.

Prescriptions for antidepressants, anti anxiolytics and sleep medications are therefore frequently administered.

A band aid solution at best.

The Lesson from Stressed Rats

The effects of stress were first identified in 1935 by Hans Selye and his laboratory rats. His observations concluded that the body will respond in a systematic way to a range of differing physical stressors.

In short, the body moves from a state of alarm (the fight or flight response) to resistance (getting used to the stressor) to final exhaustion. His findings also indicated that severe stress over a prolonged period can significantly weaken the body and it loses its ability to cope.

Protracted and uncontrolled stress can even lead to death.

Fortunately most of us are not so stressed that death is imminent, however, most of us are in this exhaustion phase for far too long.

Adrenal exhaustion can be due to our response to an external stress as well as a result of other health complaints such as hypothyroidism, an ongoing chronic health complaint, the overuse of caffeine and even low sodium levels.

stressIt is the activity of the adrenal gland that will determine your stress response. The adrenal glands are triangular glands sitting on top of the kidneys. The centre of the gland produces adrenaline (controlled by the autonomic nervous system).

The outer part of the gland – the cortex – produces cortisol, DHEA, aldosterone, oestrogen and testosterone.

When under stress, the adrenal glands will increase their production of cortisol. This causes a rise in blood sugar levels and blood pressure while also depressing your immune system response.

After continually responding to stress, our adrenal glands lose their ability to adequately produce the required amount of cortisol.

Consequently, we are then prone to low adrenal function and its associated health issues – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Depression, and even Hypothyroidism.

Other Health Implications

To add insult to injury, an excess of circulating cortisol can increase weight gain especially around the mid-section (the spare tyre). It is also a key factor in the onset of metabolic syndrome.

Adrenal exhaustion can also account for distressing peri-menopausal complaints.

As the ovaries begin their decline of oestrogen production, other organs of the body are able to step in and provide a supply of oestrogen.

As mentioned, oestrogen is one hormone released by the adrenal cortex and adipose tissue (fat) will also provide oestrogenic effects.

For those lean and stressed women, their oestrogen reserves are further diminished and they can often experience acute and upsetting peri-menopausal symptoms.

Can Adrenal Exhaustion be identified in any tests?

Yes! Testing for adrenal exhaustion mainly involves determining the levels of cortisol. Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and lowest in the evenings.

Serum, saliva and urine tests can be performed at intervals throughout the day to identify a cortisol deficiency or excess.

Emed Adrenal Hormone Profile is a saliva test which is collected over the course of a day. This gives us cortisol readings for 8am, 12pm, 6pm and 10pm.

This can be purchased through Emed simply by adding it to your shopping cart. The kit is sent straight to you, which means you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home.

You will receive a comprehensive report outlining your results and tailored treatment plan for you.

For more information, contact your Emed Practitioner via the LiveChat window or give us a call on 1300 00 EMED (1300 00 3633).


Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.55.25 PMEmed Comment

Without stressing you even further, there is much that can be done to improve adrenal gland health.


Caffeine has to go! It provides a temporary “pick-me-up” and a very real flogging to the adrenal glands. Opt for decaffeinated coffee and tea, herbal teas and filtered water.

As sugar cravings often occur when stressed, aim to eat small, frequent meals and include protein regularly. This will prevent blood sugar imbalances and stabilise mood.

Avoid the “white” foods – white breads, pasta, potato and flour products as these act as a surge of sugar in the body. Limit fruit to two pieces per day.


How do you view stress or the possibility of it?

If you are prone to “catastrophising” – contemplate this research finding. It has been widely acknowledged that there is a link between chronic stress and premature death.

So the saying “All work and no play” can have a more sinister implication that just being dull.

Honestly assess your current lifestyle and make time for activities you enjoy, for relaxation, sleep, socialising and exercise. These are not luxuries but actual strategies to improve adrenal gland health.


Vitamin C is the fuel that keeps your adrenal gland functioning. In fact, your body stores most if its Vitamin C in the adrenal glands. When under stress, there is greater potential to lose Vitamin C via your urine.

To restore levels, aim for 2,500mg per day and then take at least 1,000mg daily to optimise adrenal and immune function.

The B vitamins are all essential and a Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) deficiency causes your adrenal glands to shrink. Aim for 100-150mg per day of B vitamins. You can take higher doses depending on your requirements.

Energy levels are also dependant upon adequate supplies of Magnesium and Coenzyme Q10. Magnesium is best absorbed in citrate form.

The antioxidant CoQ10 is often low when cortisol is low. Aim for 150-300mg per day.

The production of the adrenal hormones requires the amino acids Phenlyalanine and tyrosine. Quality protein supplements and dietary protein can assist here.


The most influential herb on cortisol levels is Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). It can increase the amount of circulating cortisol by its effects on certain enzymes. Consequently, it is indicated for those states of adrenal exhaustion rather than during the alarm phase.

Licorice will also promote sodium and fluid retention as well as a loss of potassium so can therefore initiate hypertension. It is also NOT recommended in liver and kidney disease.

The Adaptogens are a group of herbs that increase our mental and physical stamina. They improve our resistance to all stressors and act as tonics to restore the body.

Look out for Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera), Golden Root (Rhodiola rosea) and Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa).


Further Reading: