What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal dysregulation, especially adrenal fatigue (hypoadrenia), is not commonly recognized by the medical community, although it is beginning to be more so (see Sources & References below).
In our experience, it is one of the root causes of chronic health conditions, as a body that cannot respond to stress well is often a body that has poor immunity. It is often seen, although woefully underdiagnosed, in conditions ranging from ADD/ADHD to anxiety, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Fatigue is obviously a symptom of adrenal fatigue, but there are other common symptoms such as:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep
- Craving for salty or sweet foods
- Lack of energy
- Increased effort to do everyday tasks
- Decreased ability to handle stress. This may be seen as meltdowns and tantrums in children.
- Increased time to recover from injury, stress or trauma
- Lightheadedness when standing up quickly
- Mild depression
- Less enjoyment or happiness with life
- Worse symptoms if meals are skipped or insufficient; becoming “hangry”
- Unfocused thoughts, inability to pay attention, brain fog
- Less-accurate memory
- Feeling less tired after evening meal
- Low blood sugar
- Low blood pressure
- Low stamina
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is brought about not only by emotional stress but also stress from a variety of factors (known as the Total Load Theory) such as:
- The Standard American Diet, which is full of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, refined carbohydrates, inflammatory vegetable oils (such as corn, soy oil), chemically processed foods, GMOs, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives and chemical additives such as MSG.
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Sensitivities to foods
- Retained primitive reflexes
- Visual processing issues
- Auditory processing issues
- Sleep deprivation
- Pathogenic infections, especially hidden ones like Lyme disease
- Mold exposure
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- EMFs (ElectroMagnetic Frequencies)
Testing for Adrenal Fatigue
Dr. Wilson’s book provides a thorough questionnaire that is often used in clinical settings to determine the degree of adrenal fatigue. He also points out how blood tests aren’t terribly helpful in diagnosing adrenal fatigue. Instead, he recommends doing a salivary cortisol test, which takes a sample of the amount of cortisol found in spit at four different times of day.
The iris contraction test is an easy test you can do at home to check for potential adrenal fatigue: Sit in a dark room for a few minutes to allow the pupils to dilate. Keeping the room dark, look at the eyes closely in a mirror while shining a flashlight into the eyes. If the pupils constrict quickly, that is a sign of normal adrenal function. Pupils that remain dilated can be indicative of adrenal fatigue.
The postural blood pressure test is another home test: After taking a blood pressure reading while lying down for three to five minutes, check the level again after standing up. In those with adrenal fatigue, the level often drops instead of rising or staying the same.
Addressing Adrenal Fatigue
This book offers a host of helpful suggestions for improving chronic fatigue such as:
- Lifestyle recommendations
- Diet basics such as eliminating sugar, additives, vegetable oils and processed foods
- Addressing food sensitivities and intolerances, beginning with an elimination diet
- Nutritional supplementation
We highly recommend reading this book thoroughly and following its recommendations because improving the ability to handle stress well is a huge key in symptom improvement for any chronic or acute condition.
Sources & References
Al-Zaid, F.S., et al. A potential role for the adrenal gland in autism. Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 7;11(1):17743.
Bitsika, V., et al. Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis daily fluctuation, anxiety and age interact to predict cortisol concentrations in boys with an autism spectrum disorder. Physiol Behav. 2015;138:200-7.
Chang, J.P., et al. Cortisol, inflammatory biomarkers and neurotrophins in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Taiwan. Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Aug;88:105-113.
Fairchild, G., et al. Conduct disorder. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019 Jun 27;5(1):43.
Fiksdal, A., et al. Associations between symptoms of depression and anxiety and cortisol responses to and recovery from acute stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 Apr;102:44-52.
Krahel, A., et al. Stress/Immune Biomarkers in Saliva among Children with ADHD Status. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 18;18(2):769.
Lautarescu, A., et al. Prenatal stress: Effects on fetal and child brain development. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2020;150:17-40.
Ma, L., et al. The function of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in children with ADHD. Brain Res. 2011 Jan 12;1368:159-62.
Ostiguy, C.S., et al. Sensitivity to stress among the offspring of parents with bipolar disorder: a study of daytime cortisol levels. Psychol Med. 2011;41(11):2447-57.
Peng, P., et al. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Its Pharmacotherapy, and Adrenal Gland Dysfunction: A Nationwide Population-Based Study in Taiwan. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 May 25;17(10):3709.
Petra, A.I., et al. Gut-Microbiota-Brain Axis and Its Effect on Neuropsychiatric Disorders With Suspected Immune Dysregulation. Clin Ther. 2015 May 1;37(5):984-95.
Pinto, R., et al. The aetiological association between the dynamics of cortisol productivity and ADHD. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2016 Aug;123(8):991-1000.
Spratt, E.G., et al. Enhanced cortisol response to stress in children in autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2012 Jan;42(1):75-81.
Taylor, J.L., et al. A review of rhythm and responsiveness of cortisol in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Nov;49:207-28.
Theoharides, T.C., et al. Novel therapeutic targets for autism. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2008 Aug;29(8):375-82.