Previously in this series:

Once I started digging into the root cause of adrenal fatigue I couldn’t help but be reminded that our body works as a whole and as such can not simply be “spot healed”. When we are talking about the adrenals we are talking about hormones. While we have different hormones that have different functions in the body, they are all weaved together and therefore must be looked at as interdependent.

All of my research has really given me a “lightbulb moment”. What first made me question my adrenals was having a low thyroid. What made me test my thyroid was a low milk supply. When my thyroid was medicated and I still wasn’t making enough milk I knew that something else had to be going on. So when I ran into my lactation consultant at the health food store and she mentioned getting my progesterone levels tested if I have another baby it started to click.

Perhaps all of my hormones (and the glands that secrete them) need balancing, not just my thyroid. Which brings me back to the adrenal glands and what has caused them to be fatigued in the first place.


Too much stress. {rant warning}…This seems to be one of the primary factors in adrenal fatigue. One of the problems is the hectic modern lifestyle. The lust for more (stuff, promotions, entertainment). The desire to “succeed”. I’ve been indoctrinated with this “american dream” my whole life. You work as hard as you can to go to college, then to succeed in college, then to find the highest paying jobs so that you can live in the suburbs in a house big enough for four families. You “need” two cars and pay someone else to raise and educate your children so you very rarely see them. All so that they can go to college and start this whole hamster wheel all over again. We are always going, but never asking “what manner of persons ought ye to be?”

Not enough sleep. This is more a product of the lifestyle I just mentioned than anything. Amanda also made a good point in the comments about the high rate of adrenal fatigue among new moms and midwives. One thing that neither of them get is consistent, adequate sleep.

Environmental Toxins. There are many new man made foods, drugs and chemicals that can throw our hormones out of whack. Soy is one that we have been told is really good for us, even though it can cause estrogen dominance and is not very well suited for human consumption. Birth control pills and patches are another unnatural hormone we put into our bodies. Their is chlorine and fluoride in our water – both of which are toxic, and yet we are told that they are necessary. There are hormones added to conventionally raised meat and yes studies have shown that these hormones are then transferred to humans. All this to say their are many environmental reasons that our adrenals and overall hormonal balance have been thrown out of whack.

{photo credit}


Excessive carbohydrate intake. I seem to be on a ranting roll today so let’s just talk about the food pyramid. Thankfully it has been toned down a bit, but at one point they were recommending 6-11 servings of grains per day! Did you know that the pyramid was created by a mega-PR firm, Porter Novelli International. Their past clients include McDonald’s and the Snack Food Association. Hmmm… something tells me they aren’t really looking out for our health. Back to the adrenals…Carbohydrates produce excessive amounts of insulin, which the body reads as stress. This then forces the adrenal glands to release cortisol, even though there is no environmental stress to be seen. When this happens over and over again through out the days and weeks our adrenal glands become exhausted. (30 symptoms of adrenal fatigue)

Not enough cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet. Everyone says that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us, but did you know that dietary cholesterol is absolutely necessary for the production of hormones? And did you also know that studies have shown that infertility has been “cured” when women switch to full fat dairy instead of fat-free? Amazing, but common sense.

Caffeine. Too much caffeine can overstimulate us to the point where we are calling on our adrenals to deal with the stress of a caffeine buzz. I had a brief addiction to coffee last year and have since given it up, but it wasn’t until I quit drinking coffee and then have the occasional cup that I realized how poorly my body responds to it.

Zinc deficiency. Apparently the adrenal gland functioning is dependent on the levels of zinc in our body. There is something called a copper-zinc imbalance which you can read more about here. Zinc deficiency can be caused by many things, but it appears that improperly prepared grains and vegetarianism can be a problem. Consider using sprouted or soaked grains and eating clean, pastured meats.

Lack of Good Salt. Sodium levels are crucial to the functioning of the adrenal glands. But not all salts are created equal. After I had my last baby part of my recovery recommended by my osteopath was to drink salt water made from good sea salt. There are many other things, which I will probably cover next in my recovery plan. For now I will leave you with some really great articles that were part of the basis of my research.

Recommended Reading

Using the above information we can formulate a healing plan for our adrenals. Of course we should always seek out the advice of a health care professional and please do not construe my thoughts as medical advice.

Do you need to heal your adrenal glands?

{top photo credit}


25 Responses to Adrenal Fatigue: Causes and Cures

  1. [...] at Nourishing Days, the blog writer is discussing adrenal fatigue in a series of posts. While the author isn’t a [...]

  2. Amy says:

    Adrenal fatigue is something I’ve wondered if I might be suffering. My life has certainly been anything but stress free the past few years and I haven’t slept like a normal person in, hmmmm, maybe four years. Oh and the deployment vice of caffeine addiction to boot. I promised myself I’d give up caffeine when Sean came home. *hysterical laughter* Yep, only two shots of espresso today. ;o) Must…give up…caffeine.


  3. Jessie says:

    For those interested in knowing more about this condition, I would recommend the book Chronic Fatigue Unmaksed by Gerald Poesnecker. He started Clymer Healing Research Center in PA. For many decades the clinic has been working with chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue patients. These are related conditions. They do phone consults with people all over the world as well as see people locally. Their website is


  4. Kelly says:

    Great article about adrenal fatigue. I am just curious about where you live and who your osteopath is? I too am an osteopath, and am always trying to connect with others who treat patients the way I do. Thanks for the great article!


  5. Cathy says:

    Funny you should bring this up. My naturopath believed I had this, and had me on pantothenic acid supplements early in the morning, a glandular product mid-morning, and 1000 IU vitamin D3. About two weeks ago my “traditional” rheumatologist tested vitamin D levels after I came up osteopenic on my bone scan (done because of meds used for Hughes’ during my pregnancies and meds sometimes used to treat my lupus flares), and I found I am extremely vitamin D deficient. She prescribed 50,000 IU capsules to be taken once a week, but after researching and finding they are D2, I’m switching to Carlson’s 4000 IU caps and will take one or two per day for the 8 weeks instead.

    I didn’t think I was someone at risk, because I eat fairly well (grass-fed meat and raw dairy), took a good quality cod liver oil, and get some sun each day in caring for my chickens and garden.


  6. Alicia says:

    Adrenal fatigue has been a part of my life for a few years. I have done so much research and reading. I found the information on this website very helpful.


  7. Millie says:

    Excellent information. I’ve been curious about adrenal fatigue. Thank you for this.


  8. Elizabeth says:

    Adreanal fatigue can effect anyone, I found it can even lower your lobido decreasing your sex drive, your body might even be so tired that you can’t sleep and you fight to saty awake during the day. I found this site where it takes about all the hormones having to do with the low lobido including the adrenals.


  9. [...] Stalks and Branches snack/Diet Dessert and Dogs18. Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS (Creamy Salad Dressing)19. Shannon (what causes adrenal fatigue?)20. Dr Ayala (Watermelons-tips and a cold soup recipe)21. OurNaturalLife22. About Sustainable Farmer [...]

  10. Alicia says:

    Elizabeth —- great link thank you! Have you taken a look at this one? I am going to see one of the physician on the list once my testing gets back.


  11. Katie says:

    Thanks for the post! I’m really interested in reading more about the copper-zinc imbalance but the link isn’t working. Could you please post it again?



    Shannon Reply:

    Katie – Thanks for the heads up. The WAP website was redone last year and sometimes the links are not the same. I hunted down the new link:


  12. Luz Ortiz says:

    Great article Shannon! When I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue years ago, I started researching how salt is made and why table salt is so bad for you. I discovered Himalyan Crystal Salt. I’ve been using this salt for a couple of years now and was able to heal my adrenals and get my thyroid back in sync with the assistance of this salt and changes to my lifestyle (diet, stress reduction, etc). A good resource I found is the book “Water & Salt : The Essence of Life by Dr. Med. Barbara Hendel and Peter Ferreira. You can read more about it here:
    The salt is not cheap but it is so good for you that it is worth the expense.


    Shannon Reply:

    Luz – That is great! I use celtic or himalayan salt and love it. I can tell that I need it because I am always over-salting things. I eat it freely, though, knowing that it is a good for you salt.


  13. Amanda says:

    I am so thrilled you reposted these three in this format! I’ve just had the chance to visit here again and was so pleased to see this. It was lovely hanging out with you and our kiddos. I hope your family has a wonderful Christmas! Many blessings and xoxo!


    Shannon Reply:

    Amanda – So good to see you too and your little lady is so precious. Take care!


  14. Katie says:

    I am very interested in the topic of adrenal fatigue, as I suffered (and am currently suffering) the heartbreak of chronic low milk supply with both of my daughters (3 1/2 and 3 months). I am desperately seeking answers and reasons for my inability to produce much breastmilk, and adrenal fatigue is something I’ve been exploring as well. It makes sense based on the fact that stress is a major cause of this (adrenal exhaustion), and I’ve had an anxiety disorder for most of my life.
    It’s very difficult for me to talk about my breastfeeding difficulties with my friends and family, all of whom breastfeed with ease and are unable to understand my grief. This has interfered with my ability to enjoy the sweet infancy period of my children’s life, and I have a lot of sadness and anger in me about this. My heart goes out to you for your struggles as well. In briefly reading through your blog, I can tell that we share a lot of views on nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Please let me know if you have found out anything more about adrenal fatigue and its relationship to low milk supply or anything else. Good luck to you. – Katie


    Shannon Reply:

    Katie – I am not entirely clear on the relationship between adrenal fatigue and milk supply, but I can tell you what I know of my own situation. After we found out I was pregnant this time I got my hormone levels tested and found that I had lowish progesterone, but more importantly, high androgens (testosterone, DHEAs, etc.). Androgens prevent the proper development of mammary tissue during pregnancy and adolescence. This, in turn, prevents the body from making or distributing enough milk for baby, no matter how much nursing one does.

    I am currently working with Lisa Marasco, a lactation consultant who wrote the book Making More Milk. I highly recommend it as she is a well-known expert in the field of hormones relating to breastmilk issues. Please get and read the book to see if something more may be causing your milk supply issues like mine. I totally relate to your comments and I hope the book and ideas are helpful.


  15. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for your reply and suggestions. I do have the Making More Milk book and find it very helpful and interesting. I pretty much devour anything I can find related to this topic because answers are scarce and I feel that so much more can be done to help women in our situation. You are so lucky to be working with Lisa Marasco! Can I ask if you are doing anything in particular to balance your hormones during pregnancy? Do you have other identifiable symptoms of high androgens? I definitely feel that my low milk supply stems from a hormonal imbalance of some sort as well. I’m pretty sure I have low progesterone and perhaps low cortisol (which is related to adrenal fatigue). I’ve read that cortisol is a hormone necessary to promote development of alveoli cells during pregnancy as well as help with the lactogenesis II process after birth, so if it is low, this could be a problem.
    My personal belief about women in our situation is that most of us do have the capacity to achieve full lactation, however certain hormones are not working correctly during pregnancy to enable the breasts to achieve their full lactation capabilities. I feel that this is so because many women with chronic low supply have gone on to fully nurse their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th children. Somehow the “perfect storm” of hormones was achieved and lactation worked in these cases. If only we could figure out EXACTLY what is going wrong, and fix it!
    I recently read this blog post and thought you might find it interesting. It struck a chord with me because I feel there is so much more that can be done. I personally feel as though the medical community has failed us in this regard and this was a refreshing call to action:

    Sorry for my long post! I could go on forever about this!
    I will be praying and sending positive vibes your way for an abundant milk supply for your newest baby. I hope things go well for you with your labor and delivery as well.


  16. Susan says:

    I found a lot of great information about adrenal fatigue on the Women to Women clinic’s web site – The co-founder, Marcelle Pick, also has two books out about it that are great! “Are You Tired and Wired?” and “The Core Balance Diet”. I highly recommend both.


  17. Chris says:

    Great article and some tips that you don’t come across often such as the saturated fats and cholesterol.

    Here is an article i done on adrenal fatigue called herbs & nutrition for adrenal fatigue –

    I suffered adrenal fatigue for over a decade it was truly a very testing time in my life that i hope i never need to go through again.


  18. Paula Iversen says:

    This is an excellent, easy to read article. Funny how that everything that most people believe to be true about health and nutrition is the opposite. Yet how many people feel great, have energy and live balanced lives?
    Holistic Lifestyle Coach: Paula Iversen


  19. [...] is adrenal fatigue becoming so prevalent? I liked many of the explanations in this post of the reasons why adrenal fatigue develops. To this list I would also add uncontrollable stressful situations (illness, loss, etc.), and [...]

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