Feeling Like You've Been Knocked on Your Butt? It Could Be Stress-Induced Adrenal Fatigue

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Are you feeling pooched?  Are you feeling so wiped out that the second something the least bit stressful occurs you’re on the verge of tears?  I know the feeling as I struggled with adrenal fatigue during my cancer journey.  When life is kicking you in the teeth, it’s hard for it to not have an impact on your adrenals.

Even if you aren’t dealing with a diagnosis yourself, life is incredibly stressful for many people who as a result may be battling adrenal fatigue.

So tell me, are you stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these symptoms can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives, whether it be unruly teenagers, a crappy job, a cancer diagnosis or other health issues. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation”) is a popular theme lately.

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Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that sit on top of each of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

But what happens when they become “overworked?” 

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right? 

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you're totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body's "fight or flight" response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling. 

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body's normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.   After a short time, the fight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?  What if your response switch was constantly stuck on??  Even when there was no immediate danger?

It wouldn't feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) "rush" anymore, would it?

And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

They become fatigued, right?

Okay, then let’s dive into this very quick overview of adrenal fatigue. 

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

Let’s start with what adrenal fatigue is exactly.

 “[A]drenal fatigue is the persistent suboptimal functioning of the adrenal glands, especially under stress.”[1]

The key is that the stress is “chronic, prolonged or severe”. [2]  When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and day out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar or salt cravings, reliance on caffeine to get through the day, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there are not any medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it's often not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued that an official diagnoses of "Adrenal Insufficiency" or "Addison's Disease" may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms, such as anemia, sleep apnea, autoimmune diseases, among others. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels, including stress management, lifestyle and diet modification, and nutritional supplementation.  (If you’re interested in knowing a little more about supplementation for stress, see my Adrenal Adaptogens Quick Guide here.)

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a soothing bath.  If your adrenals are being overworked, it is important to treat yourself with lots of TLC. 

That leads us to how you feed your body.  In the modern diet, the nutrients required in increased quantities during times of stress are not easily replenished.  So in addition to reducing sugar and processed food intake, I recommend eating more fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. Better nutrition can only help your body so go ahead and do it.


Adrenal fatigue is thought to be one of the (many) health issues that can be attributed to our high-stress lifestyles, but because there is no widely accepted definitive test for adrenal fatigue, it's still quite controversial.

Fatigue, cravings, inability to sleep, and mood swings are all real.   And all too common.

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, such as having a crazy-busy job, or in my case, cancer treatment, they may get tired.   

The most important thing you can do is to get tested by your medical practitioner to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a nice relaxing bath (see the recipe below). 

Give your body the TLC it’s craving.  Implement stress management techniques and make the necessary lifestyle and diet modifications so you can win the battle against adrenal fatigue.  Life is tough, but don’t let it wear you down.

 And remember, today’s choices create tomorrow’s results!



[1]  J.L. Wilson/Advances in Integrative Medicine 1 (2014) 93-96.

 [2]  J.L. Wilson/Advances in Integrative Medicine 1 (2014) 93-96.

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt):
Lavender Bath Salts

Per bath:

  •  2 cups Epsom salts

  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

As you're running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved.

Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!

 Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.