If you constantly feel tired with sleep disturbances, digestive problems, body aches, and nervousness, you could be suffering adrenal fatigue.

But don’t confuse it with adrenal insufficiency, a medical condition referring to inadequate production of one or more hormones from the adrenal gland. This can be a result of medical or surgical problems.

Adrenal fatigue is considered a milder form of adrenal insufficiency but without the underlying conditions. Adrenal fatigue has often been linked to chronic stress and burnout.

Learn more about adrenal fatigue and how to reverse it for health and wellbeing.

What Exactly is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a disturbance in the ability of the adrenal gland to produce the right amount of cortisol at the right time.

It’s a common yet controversial health concern with unspecified symptoms. It often refers to when the adrenal glands have been overworked, leading to a depletion of the cortisol hormone. Cortisol hormone is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands to protect you against stress.

Cortisol is also essential for controlling blood glucose, reducing blood pressure, formulating memory, and regulating metabolism.

In the presence of stress, the adrenals release higher levels of cortisol. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenals overproduce the cortisol to the point of being worn out that they can no longer produce the required amount for normal body processes.

adrenal fatigue charts on white background

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Common adrenal fatigue symptoms include:

  • Craving sweets and salty foods
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Having trouble coping with stress
  • Being overly emotional
  • Brain fog or cognitive problems
  • Poor mood regulation
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Morning fatigue with intermittent crashes throughout the day.
  • Overconsumption of caffeine-containing beverages
  • Weak immune system susceptible to infections
  • Feeling tired after exercise

Severe adrenal fatigue may result in

  • Depression
  • Reduced muscle tone
  • Frequent urination
  • Insomnia

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

Any form of excessive stress will increase your cortisol production and cause adrenal fatigue.

Potential stressors include

  • Long-term stress from, for example, the death of a loved one, divorce, or terminal illness, or an accident that left you disabled.
  • Exposure to environmental pollution and toxins
  • Prolonged stress due to bad work environment, losing a job, financial hardships, bad relationships, etc
  • Negative thinking
  • Lack of sleep
  • Surgery
  • An unhealthy diet including sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and fast foods.
  • Inflammation

Here are the steps to help reverse your adrenal fatigue

1.   Follow an adrenal diet

Diet is essential when it comes to restoring or maintaining adrenal health. This includes eliminating those foods that exhaust your adrenals while adding those that replenish them.

Foods you should include:

  • Healthy oils like olive and avocado oils
  • Nuts, including almonds and walnuts
  • Seeds such as chia, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Colorful vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Coconut
  • Whole grain gluten-free carbs

Foods you should eliminate


Each time you drink coffee, your adrenal glands produce cortisol. Constant or regular intake of caffeine can cause your adrenals to overproduce cortisol, leading to adrenal fatigue.

Caffeine also affects your sleep pattern by keeping you awake and alert, especially if taken in the evening. This prevents you from having good quality sleep that might help your adrenals rest and heal.

Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates such as white flour cause inflammation. The body perceives inflammation as stress, and this will trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol. And since refined carbohydrate is something people tend to consume a lot, it often results in chronic inflammation, which constantly puts a demand on the adrenal to release more cortisol, making the adrenal fatigue worse.


Cortisol plays an important role in blood glucose regulation. When your glucose levels are low, cortisol stimulates the release of glycogen or stored sugar from the liver when your sugar levels are high; cortisol regulates it for utilization within the cell and its conversion into energy.

Consuming sugar will put more demand on the adrenals to release more cortisol, thus exhausting them and worsening the adrenal fatigue situation. How To Stop Sugar Cravings?

Processed foods

Most processed foods are high in preservatives and chemicals that cause inflammation and are hard for the body to digest.

Vegetable oils

Hydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, soybean oil, and corn oil are highly inflammatory and may worsen adrenal fatigue. Substitutes For Vegetable Oil.

2.   Reduce stress

Stress is the main driving force behind adrenal fatigue; hence it has to be dealt with.

The best way to manage stress is by moving; Whether it’s walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, gardening, swimming, cycling, or even weightlifting. Any form of movement or exercise will help relax your mind, improve your focus and relieve adrenal fatigue.

Here are other things you can do to relieve stress

  • Have a rest when you feel tired
  • Maintain a regular sleep cycle and sleep at least 8 hours a night.
  • Eliminate caffeine and sugar from your diet
  • Avoid staying up late, ideally before 10 pm
  • Maintain a regular food cycle
  • Talk to someone
  • Do something fun that you enjoy
  • Avoid negative people
  • Cultivate positive self-talk

3.   Consume adaptogenic herbs     

These are herbs that help the body cope with stress by balancing your hormones and tempering off the exhaustion involved.

They include

  • Holy basil
  • Ashwagandha
  • Maca root 
  • Siberian ginseng
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Schisandra

Final Thoughts

Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome characterized by various symptoms. It occurs as a result of high levels of stress that cause the adrenal glands to overproduce stress hormones to the point of being worn out. This leads to underperformance of the adrenal glands resulting in health issues.

Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include weight gain, tiredness, brain fog, insulin resistance, anxiety, and trouble falling asleep.

To reverse your adrenal fatigue naturally, consume adaptogenic herbs, including whole foods, healthy fats, and colorful plant foods in your diet, and remove anti-inflammatory foods such as sugar and refined carbohydrates. Also, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and managing your stress appropriately.

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