One of the reasons I wanted to write this series was simply for my own knowledge. Another reason was because you don’t hear a lot about this problem in the mainstream medical discussion. So when many of you said that you had been diagnosed or suspected that you had it I was quite surprised.

I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about this condition, except my personal experience and my own research. All of the findings in this series are simply my compilation of the research of many, much more qualified individuals.

Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue can manifest itself in many different ways. I have read lists of up to 30 different symptoms, all of which could be seemingly caused by anything. When I found several lists of symptoms I noticed that, while I didn’t have them all, I did have some. Looking at them collectively I knew that it was time to look a bit more into adrenal fatigue.

Possible List of Symptoms:

  • Excessive fatigue or exhaustion
  • Not feeling rested after plenty of sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Difficult to bounce back from injury, illness, stress or exercise
  • Cravings for salty and/or sweet things
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low libido
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Needing caffeine to get going in the morning
  • Excess hunger or, on the other extreme, lack of appetite
  • Irritability


It appears as though the most reliable test is a saliva test. This test takes saliva samples at different times of the day in order to measure your stress hormone levels. It appears as though you can either have a doctor prescribe this test or order one online. (see recommended reading).

Recommended Reading

The following are articles and sites that I used extensively in researching the symptoms and diagnosis of adrenal fatigue:


You can visit my resources page for adrenal-healing foods & supplements such as grass-fed meats & butter, sprouted flours, cod liver oil, and probiotics.

In the next part of the series we’ll address the cause of adrenal fatigue.

Do you see some of your "mysterious" symptoms in the list above? How are you recovering your adrenal health?

{photo credit}


27 Responses to Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms and Diagnosis

  1. tarena says:

    I have just started reading “The Mood Cure” and find a lot of the same symptoms listed here. I never would have thought of myself as a “moody” person, but I see how my emotions can be all over.
    I am just so thankful that I am looking into all of this to try and heal my body and to help my family have healthy lives too!


  2. Betsy says:

    That’s kind of the problem with the symptoms list. Yes, those are symptoms of adrenal issues. Some of them are also symptoms of thyroid issues, and even menopause if you fall into that age group – which I do.

    The doctor who put me on hydrocortisone did not do saliva tests. He used the 8 am cortisol serum test and symptoms. I’d had the test done before I saw him and it was just over the top of the range. The next time it was at the bottom of the range. Looks like malfunctioning adrenals to me, but I’m not a doctor, lol.

    The biggest relief I got from the hormone was sleep. I’d been suffering from insomnia, waking every couple of hours. With the HC, that stopped for the most part. Other than that, meh.

    Most mainstream doctors don’t “believe in” adrenal fatigue. Either you have Cushings or Addisons (the two extremes of adrenal malfunction) or you’re fine. So while you’re looking for the other kind of doctor, your best bet is to eat well, reduce stress, skip the coffee and such. There are herbal remedies and glandulars, but I don’t know much about them. Perhaps others do.


    Katrina Brooks Reply:

    You can heal your adrenal’s without taking cortisol. The problem with only taking cortisol as the solution is that you leave out adrenaline. And, you’re adrenals aren’t healed. A naturopath can help you actually be free of this problem forever. It’s nice.


  3. Denise says:

    yeah, I had all those symptoms and then some! As you know, leaving my JOB was one of the best things I could have done. Had I stayed, I could have found myself very sick at one point. I still could use a little more sleep but I agree that the sleep issue is huge. My sleep was being interrupted by having to get up at 3:30am!

    Slowing down is good too. Staying home more. Learning how to relax again. Lastly, doing the things that you love.


  4. Barbara says:

    Interesting…I came across your blog clicking a link to crock-pot yogurt (which I shall be making!) and I had to check out your most recent post.

    I have suspected for a while now I may have an underfunctioning thyroid but I’m not really sure and am not keen on going to the doctor for a possible diagnosis (I’ve done a bit of reading about it) and possible medication.

    However, after reading your post about adrenal fatigue and the symptoms I’m thinking it could be that so I shall be waiting with interest for your next post and following your recommended reading list!



  5. Lisa Sargese says:

    omg I have moderate to severe adrenal fatigue and I’m suffering badly over here. My nutritionist weaned me off caffeine completely. I’m on suplements including minerals, digestive enzymes, probiotics, adrenal support and a nourishing traditional diet. Next step is the hormone test to see which bioidentical hormones he puts me on. The withdrawal off of caffeine, sugar and the yeast die off in my gut is like living thru that scene in Transpotting when he sees the baby on the ceiling! Ok, time for some bone broth :-)


  6. Amy says:

    Great series. I self-diagnosed adrenal fatigue at around 4 months postpartum and went through a 10-day experiment to see if I could lessen its effects through behavior modifications (here if anyone’s interested: ).

    But eventually I couldn’t get a grasp and went to a dr. who does saliva testing. After finding out I flatlined in cortisol the entire day, I started a diet and herbal protocol and within a week’s time was feeling 75% better.

    For me the saliva testing “legitimized” all the symptoms I’d been feeling. It wasn’t all in my head and was quantifiable.


  7. Amy says:

    One more thing – Dr. Lang: is who my holistic dr. was trained by. Her “public lecture” CDs are very interesting and easy to understand.


    Katrina Brooks Reply:

    Wow, Dr. Lang was your dr. That’s amazing! I’ve heard her CD’s. Amazing.


  8. Kristen S says:

    I have been trying to self diagnose my symptoms for a long time now. Ever since giving birth to my second child, who is now 13 mos old, I have not felt right. At times, I feel like adrenaline is actually pumping around my skull. I tell my husband that, and he just makes a hmpf noise. But after reading what you just wrote, and taking a look at the links, I think I am definitely going to do the saliva test to confirm my suspicions that I do have adrenal fatigue. I still do unrestricted nursing, so I am up often at nights anyway, but most recently, I cannot get back to sleep after she does. Hopefully I can start to mend why I feel this way. Thanks for the post!!


  9. I am currently seeing a traditional chinese medicine practitioner and a naturopathic doctor for adrenal fatigue. The cortisol saliva testing is important because taking a steroid (hydrocortisone) has long term effects and you want to make sure you need it. The adrenals play a large role in regulating progesterone and thyroid, so it is common for someone with exhausted adrenals to also have other hormonal issues.

    I’ve also learned that it is common for new moms to get adrenal fatigue if they lived very fast-paced or stressed lives before pregnancy, especially if they ate the standard American diet. Often their babies (like mine) have colic, food sensitivities and high needs because their adrenals get taxed in the womb.

    I am figuring out now how to heal my adrenals and the many hormonal and health effects that come with adrenal fatigue. Part of it involves herbs, glandulars and the GAPS diet. More is yet to come as my practitioners and I decide what is causing the adrenal fatigue. (parasites, pyroluria, malabsorption, etc.)

    Thanks for posting on this important problem.


  10. Ricki says:

    Great post. It’s amazing how many women suffer from this! Two other tests we learned about in school were blood pressure–if your pressure drops when you go from lying down to standing up (you may feel faint if that’s the case), that could be a sign; as well, falling asleep without too many problems but then waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall BACK asleep is often a sign. De-stressing is great, but if the adrenals are really too fatigued, you’ll need supplements or other medications to help.


  11. Amanda says:

    I wrote an article about sleep deprivation and adrenal fatigue in the 09 Winter issue of The Birth Project. New parents and birth workers seem especially prone! ;) It’s been amazing how I’ve been able to dissolve some of these symptoms by really checking in and nurturing myself. Nice post!


  12. Alyss says:

    Great post! I recently started seeing a naturopath after an extreme reaction to a bee sting landed me in the emergency room (no anaphylaxis, but systematic swelling and general “whoa, I am very, very ill” situation).

    I had read about adrenal fatigue before and though none of the symptoms jump out and make me say “yeah, that’s me”, it seems like mildly underactive adrenal could be part of my problem.

    After our long talk and interview and such my naturopath, without me saying anything about it, suggested adrenal fatigue as a possible part of the problem. Apparently, one of the things the cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenals, does is suppress immune function in a natural daily cycle. As cortisol is secreted in the morning the immune function decreases so your body has the energy to do it’s daily work, and then as cortisol levels fall in the evening immune function picks up to do the clean up after a day’s metabolic work. If the immune system doesn’t get that daily rest it goes into hyper mode and can cause allergic reactions.

    I’m seeing an MD tomorrow to get a blood panel done and then back to the ND to talk about a course of action to calm the immune system. This may very well include adrenal boosting actions. I’ll try to remember to let you know what we end up trying!

    Thanks for the great post, I look forward to hearing more about your journey and your findings!


  13. Alicia says:

    My oh my…… the sweet cravings!

    What a great post, with so much information. Adrenal fatigue is something that I am very familiar with. It is so very important to not only do a saliva test, but one that measures your cotisol levels at different times over the course of a day. Here is some great information that I have found.


  14. Jacqueline says:

    I came here for the yogurt recipe, but I just had to comment on this post. Excellent information! I read your disclaimer at the beginning, but hey! you are a momma who really gets this issue and that’s wonderful! I am in the beginning of getting my adrenals back into balance. One resource I’ve found that I have enjoyed reading are the AF articles at Women to Women dot com … especially -
    Eating to support your adrenal glands — small choices can make a difference — Really good section on how to time meals and snacks to coincide with circadian rhythm and cortisol production (and also to keep blood suagr levels balanced — out of whack blood sugar really stresses the adrenals).

    Good luck and thanks for all the info.


  15. sandra742 says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.


  16. Cori says:

    I am a mom of two young kids suffering from adreanal fatigue. I just got blood work done and my cortisol levels were at 12 (when a normal persons are at 24). And this is after 2-months of trying a cleansing diet (no caffine, dairy, gluten, sugar, etc) and some lifestyle changes. So after all these changes, I’m still REALLY low. My doctor wants me to take coritsol pills, he doesn’t think it’s okay for me to be suffering when I’ve got two kids to chase around and a business to run. Thanks for your article, always good to read as much about adrenal fatigue as possible.


  17. Great post! I loved all the comments and found it esp interesting that most are young moms. That’s good news, because you have more years than I did to correct and heal your adrenals before your babes are older; allowing you more time to play with them.

    As one who has been dealing with a chronic infectious disease, my adrenals were burned out. But as I learned to eat nutrient dense foods and ferments I healed. Betsy is right, rest is vital. The adrenals are like a bank acct…money in, money out…money out and no money in…over drawn! You must replenish yourself with rest and that is hard with little ones. As I began to heal from my infections my adrenals also have healed. I however do know my limits. As an “older” woman I cannot work like I use to. My max is 4 hours of hard labor and I’ve got to rest usually with a day off doing light “work”…like knitting!!!! :D Once you learn to listen and understand your body you will be wiser for it.

    I wish all of you wellness and health using nutrient dense foods! (and yes, cut out the caffeine! and sugar) I also took glandulars from Dr Ron’s and Lugol’s Iodine. I tried Macca but didn’t notice much change. And remember Vit D is a hormone so take your High Vitamin Cod Liver Oil and raw butter daily! You can heal!!! It just takes time.


  18. holtorfmed says:

    Very Informative!Anyadrenal fatigue symptom is a clear indication of chronic stress.The adrenal glands are the control centers of our body.So hormone balance is essential.A great website offers treatment for hormone imbalance.


  19. Jennifer says:

    Upon reading “30 signs of Adrenal Fatigue” I counted that I suffer from 16 of the symptoms! I also have a burning sensation that I dont think is related to my Dx of GERD. Has anyone reading these posts have this symptom? Jennifer


  20. Rachelle Eaton says:

    I just wanted to add another amazing website related to thyroid and adrenal malfunction. It’s a doctor’s website, and he gives extensive information and charts on diagnosing and treating this issue, including a temperature-taking protocol that you can easily do on your own that will show how your thyroid and adrenals are functioning.


  21. Gigi says:

    I’ve been researching and eating intently because of my and my baby’s adrenal fatigue. I just sat down and decided instead of researching more, I’d go through my blog roll for fun instead… and here we are. Awesome post and links.
    I had been halfheartedly trying to build up my adrenal for over a year now. I (all self-diagnosed) have had fertility and monthly cycles affected, energy, and of course here and there on the symptoms lists including earlier post partum…
    It goes to show how deficient we are since this was still while I was having the occasional partial dose of cod liver oil! What a difference when I upped the dose!!! But oh wait, there is more……

    I’m commenting because since having my baby – my first to be colicky or that didn’t poop 4+ times a day – I’ve had to become very serious about strengthening my adrenal. I didn’t realize the effects it could have on a baby; I passed my weakness onto my baby and it closed his ileocecal valve – he was hardly ever pooping. (A really neat kind of doctor diagnosed this) and now I am doing a physical adjustment on him and via nursing, we’re ‘both’ taking a supplement by Standard Process in addition to increasing all the whole nutritious foods that we all love… mmm raw milk, lots of veggies and butter, and liver pate (to name just a few). The nutrient I remembered the other day was Vit C (think WAPF article mentioning natives eating adrenal raw for Vit C).

    Funny how the very things we don’t need (sugar, chocolate) are the things we often turn to if we allow ourselves to lose focus.
    Healing the body through natural foods takes a lot of patience and faith and self-awareness, but I am seeing improvement in both of us, sometimes not each day, but definitely over time. Yeah!
    this too shall “pass”, we just have to work it all the way through. ;)


  22. Heather says:

    My naturalistic doc diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue (my MD wouldn’t even acknowledge AF or that anything was wrong at all). The first time it hit it was pretty severe and I couldn’t do anything but lay in bed for weeks on end. I was so exhausted even getting up to use the bathroom or make a meal was an effort. I also was getting dizzy spells where it felt like my equilibrium was completely off and if I didn’t sit down I would fall over. I had headaches everyday. And I developed insomnia a few nights a week even though I was so tired it hurt. My natural doctor gave me a mix of herbs, minerals, random things and I tell you..I felt better in days! I was even able to go back to work. A few months later the dizziness and fatigue started again, though not as bad. I went back to him and he gave me a higher dose of everything and told me my body would go through detox. I’d feel really bad for a few days and then better. Lo and behold .. I feel much better. The only thing that is persisting now is the insomnia. Insomnia seems to go with adrenal fatigue. I believe it is a combo of stress/cortisol being pumped at night from the adrenals.

    The most important thing is too rest!! Even if you can’t sleep, rest your body. This time around I could exercise still and I walked alot out in the country. It relaxes my mind and makes me happy. You have to do things you love and that make you happy. You have to make lifestyle changes which I know is easier said then done. But health is so much more important. Without it nothing else matters. Also eat lots of healthy food .. fruit and veggies, healthy fats, lots of water to flush your system. ‘Let thy food be thy medicine’, Hippocrates. The adrenals can recover if you do things to allow them to.


  23. Tori says:

    @ Amy, can you share what herbs and things your ND put you on? I have a 7mo old that refuses to sleep. My sleep is interrupted frequently durring the night. I had adrenal problems before but healed them with a traditional diet, following WAP. Then I got pregnant and continued following Weston A Price diet for pregnant women and had a healthy baby and easy pregnancy. But since I delivered my health is going down hill fast. I’m still eating traditional foods and taking plenty of fermented cod liver oil, but my cortisol is really low (confirmed by blood test). I’ve also gained 20lbs and counting since my delivery. In the first few weeks I lost all my baby weight and was back in my jeans and then once the sleep continued to get worse and worse the weight started packing on. I’ve been to acupuncturist and tried some Chinese herbs, ashawaganda, and maca, but nothing is helping. I’m really feeling out of answers now. Any feedback would be helpful.


  24. […] all five can happen long before a period has been unfairly vilified. Soon Jones put him in touch with the amount of […]

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