Eating Healthy, Doing Everything "Right", But Still Exhausted? Could be your Adrenals....

By Christine Doherty ND

Still feeling sick and tired?

So you have been faithful in your gluten-free diet, but you are still tired, having trouble losing weight, not sleeping, you immune system is still weak, you don't seem to bounce back? It could be many things, ongoing nutritional deficiencies, other food allergies or intolerances, a chronic infection like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), hypothyroidism and the list of possible causes is long. A common culprit that often goes un-diagnosed is adrenal fatigue.  Recognizing it, diagnosing it and treating it can be the cornerstone to restoring your vitality and quality of life. 

What are the adrenals?

Many people have never heard of their adrenal glands, let alone adrenal fatigue. They are small, pyramid shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They secrete many hormones, which play roles in everything from blood sugar control, to sex hormone production, to controlling your sleep cycle and energy. They secrete the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin. Cortisol specifically gets a bad rap for contributing to weight gain and rapid aging. However, not enough cortisol leads to out of control inflammation, chronic fatigue, insomnia, worsening allergies and chronic infections.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

  • fatigue (surprise!)
  • insomnia
  • anxiety/depression
  • low blood pressure (standing up quickly and feeling like you might pass out)
  • muscle weakness, lack of stamina
  • low tolerance to psychological or physical stress
  • frequent infection
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions
  • worsening allergies
  • irritability
  • hypoglycemia/low blood sugar
  • allergies
  • feeling burnt out


There are many good labs that offer saliva testing, which is the best choice for testing adrenal fatigue or even burnout.  These at home tests require 4 timed samples of saliva, and measure cortisol and DHEA. The advantage of the saliva test is that it measures the daily rhythm of the hormones cycles. Cortisol controls our circadian rhythms, so timing in key to how the adrenals are functioning.  There are two main diseases which affect the adrenals, Cushings and Addisons. Both of these are rare, but can be associated with celiac disease. It was thought that JFK not only had celiac disease, but Addisons too. These are diagnosed by blood tests usually run by an endocrinologist. In mainstream medicine they see these frank diseases as the only thing that can go wrong with the adrenals. 

Recovering once and for all

It amazes me that once the adrenals are really weakened, they usually don't bounce back on their own, they need some level of specific support. For people who are really anxious, a formula like Cortisol Manager both strengthens adrenal reserve, but is calming as opposed to stimulating.  For people who are at a more advanced stage, with many if not all of the symptoms I listed above,  I use ADR-7 in the morning and again at noon. Even taking the supplements it can take anywhere from two months to a year or more for the adrenals to function well without supplements again, the more stress you are under, the longer this will take.  The good news is that it usually only takes anywhere from two days to two weeks for people to start feeling the improvements in their energy and well-being. 

Take home message

If you have adrenal fatigue, there is hope. The hardest part is often finding someone who will listen to you and who knows how to help you heal. The adrenals are what handle stress in our bodies, so yes, stress could be part of the problem, and your body's lack of reserves to deal with it. Many people are told that stress is the cause of their suffering, but then are just put on anti-depressants as a band-aid approach. These can make the symptoms of depression more manageable in the short term, but they won't heal the underlying adrenal weakness that causes many more symptoms than just depression.  If you have a lot of the symptoms listed above and have never worked with someone who knows about the adrenals, then adrenal fatigue might be holding you back from living your best life.