Adrenal Fatigue: What is it?


Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Mysterious weight gain? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a becoming a popular theory to explain these symptoms in holistic and alternative medicine.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

What happens when the Adrenal Glands become “overworked?”

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you're totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body's "fight or flight" response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body's normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve quickly to prevent a crash.

After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? All day, every day.  Like “chronic” stress?

It doesn't feel like that awesome (once-in-a-while) "rush" anymore.

And what do you think happens to your adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

A common theory is they’d get fatigued.

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your body is chronically stressed and managing stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

There aren't medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it's not diagnosed by most medical professionals until the point when the adrenal glands almost stop working. In this case, the official diagnoses of "Adrenal Insufficiency" or "Addison's Disease" may apply.  Proponents of the adrenal fatigue diagnosis claim this is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress.

If you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may be open to discussing adrenal fatigue and wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favorites are meditation, walking in nature, exercise, sleep, or taking a bath.

Of course, I always recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body.


  • Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.
  • Adrenal fatigue is a controversial condition that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.
  • The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

Stress-reducing bath salt: Lavender Bath Salts

Per bath:

  • 2 cups epsom salts
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

As you're running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved

Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!

Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.