Holistic Approach to Wellness

Adrenal Fatigue

Anatomy of the Adrenal Glands

Adrenal GlandsThe adrenal glands are two, triangular-shaped organs that measure about 1.5 inches in height and 3 inches in length. They are located on top of each kidney.

Each adrenal gland is comprised of two distinct structures-the outer part of the adrenal glands is called the adrenal cortex. The inner region is known as the adrenal medulla.

The right and left adrenal glands receive their blood supply from multiple blood vessels coming from the aorta, the diaphragm, and the kidney vessels.

The medulla is located in the center of the gland and makes adrenaline and noradrenaline also known as the “fight or flight response” i.e. put your body on “high alert.” These hormones increase the heart rate, increase blood pressure, increase the amount of oxygen you breathe in, and temporarily improve the eyesight. Adrenaline also causes the liver to release extra glucose, or sugar, into the bloodstream to provide instant energy. Things that cause the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline and noradrenaline include anxiety, pain, upright posture, exercise, and cold. Once released, these hormones are broken down into normetanephrine and metanephrines, which are metabolites or waste products.

The cortex is located on the outer layer of the adrenal gland and makes a number of different hormones that help control the heart, kidneys, GI tract, bones, genitalia, and immune system. These hormones control carbohydrate metabolism, muscular integrity, hemodynamic changes, and sexual maturity.

The cortex makes 3 main types of hormones:

Cortisol controls glucose production in the liver and protein breakdown in muscle. These hormones also decrease the immune response by suppressing inflammation and other parts of the immune system. Cortisol is the most powerful hormone because the body needs it to function normally as well as to protect the body during stress.

Aldosterone – control blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid that the body holds onto. Aldosterone is the most powerful mineralocorticoid and causes the kidneys to hold onto more sodium, which leads to increased total body fluid. The more fluid the body holds onto, the higher the blood pressure may become. Aldosterone also directly affects the heart and blood vessels.

Androgens and estrogen – Androgens and estrogens are sex-hormones. These hormones control the growth of the reproductive organs (testicles and ovaries), development of male or female characteristics, and some parts of behavior. Androgens control the male reproductive system while estrogens control the female reproductive system.

Adrenal Fatigue

Signs and symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of body hair
  • Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation)

The theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal. As a result, they can’t produce quite enough of the hormones you need to feel good. Chronic stress is the best way to describe it and that’s something we all relate with.

Existing blood tests, according to this theory, aren’t sensitive enough to detect such a small decline in adrenal function – but your body is.

There are good saliva tests available we’ll talk about in a minute.

It’s very important to look at other things going on in the body during your assessment and rule those out. We look for signs of depression or fibromyalgia for example, because these can mimic adrenal fatigue. Best to work with a practitioner or your doctor on this one.

Karmic Health’s protocol for adrenal fatigue included a close look at the diet along with a comprehensive assessment, food intolerance and lab testing. We carry homeopathic remedies for adrenal support and recommend supplements where needed.

Saliva Testing for Adrenal Hormones

What is Saliva Testing?

Your adrenal glands are responsible for all of your responses to stress. Levels of the main adrenal hormone, cortisol, rise and fall in a daily pattern that underlies the more erratic fluctuations caused by the stress response. Cortisol output by your adrenal glands is one of the most reliable indicators of your adrenal function and how well your body is dealing with stress. The Cortisol/DHEAS Saliva Test measures the levels of the stress hormones DHEAS and cortisol in your saliva, and provides an evaluation of how cortisol levels differ throughout the day.

Most saliva hormone tests can uncover biochemical imbalances that can be underlying causes of such conditions as chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, anxiety, chronic fatigue, obesity, diabetes, depression, insomnia, and many other chronic conditions.

What does this test involve?

The test involves simply spitting into a test tube. Cortisol is measured four times – in the morning (8 AM), noon, evening (4 PM) and night (best between 11 PM and midnight). Other steroid hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, DHEAS and testosterone can be measured along with cortisol in the 8 AM saliva sample, if desired. You carry the test tubes with you during the day (they easily fit into a pocket or purse) so they are handy when it’s time to give a saliva sample. Immediate refrigeration is not necessary. Once the sample set is complete, you mail the tubes back to the lab for analysis in the mailing envelop that is included with the test kit. Both you and your doctor or practitioner will receive copies of the results, usually within 2 weeks.

Is saliva testing for hormones reliable?

Yes, saliva tests are reliable indicators of the levels of all steroid hormones (cortisol, DHEAS and all sex steroids) in your body. However just as with blood tests, some labs are more reliable than others – especially for sex steroids, like estrogens.

Life Extensions is a great Lab we use and recommend the hormone panel.  Feel free to check them out www.lifeextensions.com


Summary of What to Eat


10 Easy Rules to Follow:

Eat Protein within an hour of waking up (break the fast)

Eat a wide variety of organic whole foods

Combine healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates with meals

Eat lots of fresh vegetables, especially bright colored ones and don’t forget the greens

Salt your food (use sea salt) to a pleasant taste*

Use sea vegetables and seaweed in cooking for the iodine

Eat mainly whole non gluten grains (quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, etc., )

Combine grains with beans or legumes with seeds or nuts to form a complete protein. This is important for vegetarians

Avoid eating fruit by itself – especially in the morning

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of healthy oils (cold pressed olive, coconut, flax, hemp, avocado, walnut, etc.,) on salads or use in dressings along with lemon, apple cider vinegar and fresh crushed garlic

Drink half your body weight in ounces per day of good quality water


By following these simple guidelines, your food intake can help support your adrenals and prevent low blood sugar.


People with adrenal fatigue and blood sugar problems should go lightly on fruits, especially in the morning. Fruits contain a significant amount of fructose and potassium, which is a problem for those with exhausted adrenals. However, it is preferable that any fruit that you do eat is organically grown. Below is a short list of fruits people with adrenal fatigue tend to do well with, and ones they should avoid. See more on sugar.


Preferred Fruits Fruits to Avoid
papaya bananas
mango raisins
plums dates
pears figs
kiwi oranges
apples grapefruit
grapes (only a few)



Eat 6-8 servings daily of a wide variety of vegetables, especially those that are naturally highly colored (bright green, red, orange, yellow or purple). Vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a high amount of fiber. Mix up how you prepare vegetables as well, because different nutrients are made available through different cooking methods. Shoot for two servings with lunch and dinner.


Good quality protein from organic meat, wild caught fish (salmon and white fish), fowl, eggs and various plant sources (legumes, nuts and seeds) is an essential part of any adrenal fatigue diet. Try to avoid processed proteins such as packaged lunch meats, soy (with the exception of Non GMO fermented soy if not intolerant to soy) and processed cheeses. Proteins generally have more nutritional value and are easier to digest when eaten lightly cooked or raw. In other words you don’t want to burn the meat!

What about Salt?

In most cases of adrenal fatigue, salt (in moderation) benefits those who add it to their diet. * Unless you are one of the rare people with adrenal fatigue and high blood pressure, add some salt to your food. A sea salt or Celtic salt is preferred, as these are the kinds containing the valuable nutrients. Some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are actually caused by your body’s needs for salt. Shoot for 1,500 – 2,000 grams per day.


Don’t forget the water!!! 


Source: endocrinediseases.org