Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

Recovering from Adrenal Fatigue

February 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Not all professionals agree on the issue of adrenal fatigue. While some believe that adrenal glands can be overstressed, others don’t buy this idea. Stress is managed by the HPA axis, and chronic exposure to stress can cause inflammation and illness, resulting in the dysfunction of the HPA axis.

Conventional medicine does not believe that adrenal fatigue exists, while alternative practitioners tend to disagree, sticking to the hypothesis that adrenal glands can be overworked and lose their ability to create cortisol.

Typically, the portion of the brain that signals a person’s HPA axis begins to function incorrectly, meaning the main problem is with only the hypothalamus and the pituitary, not the adrenal gland.

Exercise is very important to optimal health, however, if you are constantly in a state of fatigue, it can be hard to get up and exercise. Also, because exercise stresses the body in a physical way, it can exacerbate HPA axis dysfunction.

Healthy Adrenal Function

While adrenal fatigue may be caused by a brain’s dysfunctional stress response, rather than things like fatigue or overstressed adrenal glands, the health of adrenal glands is very important.

There are two adrenal glands in the human body, each is just above a kidney. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system, which secretes over 50 hormones, such as:

  • Glucocorticoids
  • Mineralocorticoids
  • Adrenaline

These hormones work together to control important functions of the body, such as:

  • Manage blood sugar
  • Regulate inflammation
  • Maintain metabolic processes
  • Regulate the balance of salt and water
  • Control response to stress
  • Maintain a healthy pregnancy
  • Produce estrogen and testosterone

Signs of HPA Dysfunction

When the adrenal glands are damaged, it hinders their ability to create cortisol. Symptoms of severe adrenal conditions include weight loss, muscle weakness, low blood pressure and low glucose levels. About 80% of people who suffer from a severe adrenal dysfunction also suffer from an autoimmune disorder.

Alternative doctors often believe that there is a spectrum of severity on which a patient can fall when it comes to adrenal health. However, it has not been confirmed what the main cause is to the lowered adrenal gland activity. This may be due to brain signaling but has not been proven.

HPA axis dysfunction does affect a lot of people. While not everyone suffers from the most severe case, they still experience symptoms. In serious cases, people experience fatigue to the point that they spend most of their day in bed. Signs and symptoms that are associated with general adrenal fatigue are:

  • Suppressed immune function
  • Skin issues
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Low sex drive
  • Poor memory
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Muscle and bone loss
  • Cravings for foods high in salt, sugar or fat
  • Hormonal imbalance

Getting Your Metabolic Reserve Back

While exercise is vital to proper health, it is not a good idea to push exercise when suffering from adrenal fatigue. If you are suffering from HPA axis dysfunction, you want to focus on rebuilding your metabolic reserve.

To do this, it is important to reduce and address any stressors in your life. Studying mindfulness and meditation is a great way to naturally combat stress. Also, make sure to spend time having fun with people you love, as well as any hobbies that interest you.

It is important to get an appropriate amount of exercise, but do not push yourself too hard. In addition to exercising to benefit your health, make sure to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates. Focus instead on lean proteins and fresh vegetables.

Reduce the inflammation in your body by avoiding antibiotics as much as possible and avoiding processed foods. It is best to eat real food and include a high-quality probiotic supplement in your daily routine.

Focus on your quality of sleep by making sure you get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep. Improve your circadian rhythm by getting natural sun exposure during the day, and avoiding blue lights from electronics at night. Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

Exercising While Recovering From Adrenal Fatigue

Because exercise is a stressor, it can put pressure on your adrenal glands. Rather than doing a rigorous exercise regimen, focus on more gentle exercises, such as yoga, walking, gentle cycling, or swimming. Once you feel better and have more stamina, slowly start to add in more exercise.

It can be very harmful if you overdo exercise while dealing with adrenal fatigue, so make sure to listen to your body if it is telling you to slow down or stop. Your metabolic reserve will eventually rebuild itself, which will let you resume whatever exercise program you enjoyed prior to suffering from adrenal fatigue. It is possible to relapse with adrenal fatigue, so pay attention to your energy reserves, and slow down if you feel it is necessary.

Many people are unaware that they have adrenal fatigue because blood tests only indicate severe cases. This means that you could have symptoms of adrenal fatigue without being able to get a diagnosis. Another issue with diagnosing adrenal fatigue is that hormones tend to fluctuate throughout the day, so one test may show different results than another just a few hours later.

Factors That Lower HPA Axis Function

Some common medications can suppress the HPA’s output of cortisol. Steroids, such as prednisone and some allergy medications, can shut down the pathway for cortisol. When taking drugs like this, doctors suggest their patients taper off of them in order to avoid a crash from a lack of production of cortisol.

Another medication that affects the hypothalamus and pituitary is isotretinoin, which is often used to treat acne. Studies have shown that this drug causes a decrease in several hormones after three months of use, including luteinizing hormone, ACTH, testosterone, cortisol, and free T3.

The best way to find out if your hormones are not performing correctly is to get a full test. Additionally, studies have also found that a serious head injury that affects the hypothalamus or pituitary gland can directly impact your adrenal gland?s ability to create cortisol.


There are natural treatments for adrenal fatigue that are effective, so recovery is possible. It is important to remember, however, that proper treatment requires an approach that addresses many different parts of one’s health, including excess stress and unhealthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. Sleep is also a crucial factor in recovering from adrenal fatigue.

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Frank Salvatore