Is a burn-out due to too much stress in fact an Adrenal Fatigue?

The Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms that can be attributed to a lack of adrenal function and cortisol production. The cause of adrenal exhaustion in most cases is chronic stress. Whether as a result of job stress, mental stress or in the form of a long-lasting chronic disease such as Candida, untreated food intolerances, HPU / KPU etc.

Whenever too few breaks are part of our everyday lives, there is a risk of overstraining the Adrenals, that can lead then to a malfunction with drastic consequences. First and foremost, the main symptom of adrenal fatigue is severe exhaustion, weakness and sleepiness, followed by allergies, insomnia, lack of concentration, fears, panic, constant infections, etc.

What in our region is often described as burn-out, basically is nothing else than a total adrenal exhaustion. However, in such cases the adrenal glands are not considered, although nowadays  it is possible to diagnose the adrenal insufficiency very well and quite cheap.

An adrenal fatigue can affect a person very strong and literally destroy the life, the more the adrenal gland reduces its cortisol production, the more nearly all organs are affected, which of course causes a very significant symptomatology.

Permanent changes occur at the biochemical and as well at the cellular level, leading to deficits in the cardiovascular system, lipid metabolism, fluid balance and sexual life. This can lead to the extent that the concerned person is hardly able to leave the bed at all, or to live a normal life either.

What exactly are the adrenal glands and their function?

The human adrenal glands are endocrine glands and sit on the upper poles of the kidneys. They produce sexual hormones, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, which humans need to survive. One of the most important glucocorticoids, the cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal cortex, must be mentioned first and foremost. This hormone regulates our blood sugar, it works anti-inflammatory and coordinates stress management.

To the mineralocorticoids belongs the hormone aldosterone, which is responsible for water balance, is also produced in the adrenal cortex. It regulates blood pressure by holding back sodium. In addition, some other hormones are produced in the adrenal medulla, including adrenaline and noradrenaline.

In addition, the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland interact very strongly and influence each other. The adrenals must be able to absorb and deliver the energy provided by the thyroid gland. If this is not the case, problems with the thyroid gland are also inevitable. If both organs no longer work properly, the thyroid must be treated, too. The adrenal treatment optionally should be preferred, otherwise a satisfactory thyroid setting is hardly possible.

Who is particularly susceptible to adrenal fatigue?

Basically anyone can get adrenal fatigue. Among the most common triggers include the classic stress at work, in combination with too few breaks, a bad, one-sided nutrition which in turn can lead to intestinal complaints and thus stress for the organism.

But also drug abuse, surgeries, too less sleep, mental crisis, job loss and the loss of a loved one, strain the adrenal glands very much. Also chronic inflammations inside the body, a defective intestinal flora, long-lasting fungal strains in the intestine with Candida albicans, heavy metal pollution and especially the HPU / KPU, a metabolic disease in which increasingly are excreted the vitamin B6, zinc and manganese, resulting in a significantly lowered detoxification of the body, permanently burden the adrenals. Basically it can be said that everything that causes stress, whether mentally or physically, is very harmful in the long run and can cause adrenal fatigue.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

  • Paleness on the face with dark eye circles
  • Obtrusive Collapsing conditions with low blood pressure and low pulse
  • Getting up in the morning becomes aggravating
  • Dizziness / numbness in the head
  • Tiredness and weakness are very significant
  • Absolute lack of energy
  • The memory ability diminishes
  • Bad wound healing
  • Constantly ill and prone to any kind of infection
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low body temperature
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscular tension in the upper back and neck
  • No stress tolerance / shaking in case of stress
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Loss of libido
  • Low memory performance
  • Weight gain / fat accumulation around the waist, which can hardly be trained off
  • Improvement of complaints after a meal
  • Salt Hunger
  • Improvement of complaints on vacation

This is just a small selection of symptoms that can occur. As a result of the fact that the cortisol deficiency affects many organs, other organ-specific symptoms can be added.

If you find that some of the symptoms above apply to you and already have ruled out the common organic causes medically, you should consider an adrenal fatigue. Especially if you can confirm, that you live under permanent pressure and stress, the chance of an adrenal fatigue is quite high.

How is an adrenal fatigue tested?

There are various ways to look for adrenal fatigue. Most doctors still think it would be sufficient to have the cortisol levels in the blood tested. In my opinion this is an absolute nonsense, since cortisol is very much dependent on the current stress level during blood draw and also obtained by only one measurement, it is only a snapshot of the cortisol level. So this is not a meaningful option.

A far better variant is the measurement of cortisol content in 24-hour urine. Here, the excretion is collected over 24 hours and measured then. The informative value is definitely higher than in the blood test, however, in this test you get only a total amount of cortisol. Since most people with adrenal fatigue have a disturbed daily rhythm, this measurement does not bring much and would only reveal if too little cortisol is released throughout the day.

If you want to get a very accurate visualization of the cortisol level and its course during the day, basically only the cortisol saliva test remains. Here, over a period of 12 hours, a saliva sample is taken five to seven times. In this way, a visual curve with relation to the actual course of the cortisol can be displayed and unmask an adrenal insufficiency. Because cortisol usually has its absolute high in the morning at 6:00 am and falls off towards the evening continuously. As an example my last cortisol day profile:

Cortisol Day-Profile
Cortisol Day-Profile

As you can easily see in my cortisol test, the morning peak is missing completely and the other values ​​are spread over the day too low. I think the cortisol course during the day can not be displayed any better.

How is an adrenal fatigue treated?

The good news is: Adrenal insufficiency can be completely repaired! Provided that you find your personal cause for the physical or mental stress and are ready to eliminate it over a long distance. Unfortunately  there is no other option.

Basically all stressors have to be eliminated first. By that I mean job stress, as well as relationship stress, financial worries, and so on. But also physical stress. Inflammation, infected teeth, food intolerances, fast foods, excessive exercise, heavy metal loads such as amalgam fillings in your teeth, etc.

Periods of rest and sleep are very important if you suffer from adrenal fatigue. However, this is easier said than done, because if the cortisol production is disturbed, the quality of sleep suffers and under circumstances you can not sleep well and long, even if you would like to. In such cases, you particularly must pay attention to good sleep hygiene.

It is important that you really at latest at 22h lie in bed.  You may read anything, but no longer work on the computer or still watch TV, as this enormously reduces the quality of sleep. If you try to stay up even longer, the adrenal glands are challenged and need to mobilize the last cortisol reserves. In this way, it is hardly possible to relieve the adrenal glands. If you have trouble falling asleep, try to take some magnesium in the evening. If this does not help, melatonin in small doses could be helpful.

Alcohol, energy drinks, coffee, sweets and fast carbohydrates should be completely removed from your meal and drink plan. These foods over-acidify the intestines and stress the adrenal glands by shooting up the blood sugar and the subsequent blood sugar crash. The adrenals then have to compensate this, which also counteracts the relief of the adrenals.

Moderate sports and a bit of exercise in the fresh air are very conducive to adrenal fatigue and reduce all sorts of stress. The body is supplied with oxygen, the blood circulation is boosted. In addition, moderate movement helps to normalize the insulin and blood sugar levels. As well as thyroid hormone and cortisol levels.

Important is the support with the necessary micronutrients, minerals and vitamins. Vitamin B5, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin D3 are essential. But in higher doses. Vitamin B5 can safely be taken up to 1500mg. Vitamin C even up to 3000mg per day.

Also, hormonal support in the form of DHEA, progesterone and pregnenolone are often very helpful. But here the status, in the urine or in the saliva, should be clarified first before an intake is planned.

I personally benefit from Cytozyme AD, a hormone-free adrenal extract, and Phytocortal N, a homeopathic remedy for adrenal stimulation, and liquorice root tea.

Unfortunately, too often and prematurely, cortisone is prescribed. Mostly in the form of hydrocortisone or prednisolone. Cortisone is said to relieve the adrenals, but often has the effect that the adrenal glands shut down their function that far, that the function of the adrenal gland is not resumed after the cessation of cortisone and then you have to rely on artificial cortisone for a lifetime.

In my case any form of cortisone did not help. Neither hydrocortisone nor prednisone or prednisolone. Rather all my complaints only got worse. Also, all the other sufferers I know, with cortisone rather had more problems than a benefit. A cortisone discontinuation was only possible with a little trick. I replaced phytocortal N with cortisone in this delicate phase. In this way the adrenal glands could have been stimulated and luckily they resumed their function.

In case of an adrenal fatigue you need to understand that usually less is more and that it makes no sense to take all the micronutrients and hormones in harsh amounts, hoping that the adrenal fatigue will disappear quickly. Again, the magic word is “patience”! Only with a constant treatment and adherence to a harmless way of life, you can reach the goal.

Update on my own story: April 2015

Cortisol Day-Profile 2015
Cortisol Day-Profile 2015

Something has changed. After almost 2 1/2 months of strict diet and the change to natural thyroid hormones (Acella NP Thyroid), the last saliva test really blew my socks off!

For the first time in eight years of all futile attempts, the cortisol level finally rises and the adrenal glands finally start their work or recover. And that, of course, right at the moment when I was able to persuade my doctor to prescribe me hydrocortisone again.

Since the profile is much better now, but still not really good yet, I will try the hydrocortisone again for support and then report again.

Update on my own story: November 2015

Cortisol Day-Profile 2015-2

My current cortisol saliva profile has just arrived. Taking hydrocortisone for 7 months has brought about a small improvement in the values, but only in the minimum range. The cortisol level increased slightly during the second and last measurements, but unfortunately hydrocortisone was not able to do much more.

My maximum hydrocortisone dose was temporarily 35mg / day. The last 3 1/2 months I have experimented with dosages between 7.5 and 15mg. In the end,  like always, it went more and more worse and I did not tolerate the HC properly.  Thus I phased it out subsequently. Fortunately, this also has worked with the help of Phytocortal N, Cytozyme AD, Adrenal Caps and lots of Liquorice Root Tea.

But I’m really pleased that the straight line on zero from the cortisol profile of October 2014 has liftet up a bit. However, the morning cortisol peak is definitely missing, what means that I can not easily tolerate porcine hormones for the thyroid gland. Thus, it goes on with alternative remedies and especially the diet (abandonment of sugar, any cereals, potatoes and rice) …. in three months we will see.

Image source:

  • adrenal-fatigue-zf-cortisol-1: © Ghazi-Michael Ayed
  • adrenal-fatigue-zf-cortisol-2: © Ghazi-Michael Ayed
  • adrenal-fatigue-zf-cortisol-3: © Ghazi-Michael Ayed
  • adrenal-fatigue-overview: © Gernot Krautberger – Fotolia.com