2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Healing Adrenal Fatigue

In last week’s Health Tip I described the exhausted state of Patricia, dragging herself through the day and crashing completely in the afternoon. At first, Patricia was oddly supercharged in the evening, unable to relax or sleep. Later, this energy burst vanished and she simply couldn’t sleep.

She was tired all the time.

Before her visit with us at WholeHealth Chicago, Patricia had had quite a few diagnostic tests, all of which came back normal. Since her doctors didn’t believe in the existence of adrenal fatigue, no one bothered to measure her cortisol levels, which were, to put it mildly, pathetic (scroll down to view the graph).

Now it was time to start treatment, and in this Health Tip I’ll share our approach.

Supplements
You’ll see a lot of supplements on health food store shelves with variations of “adrenal support” on the label. As happens with many people standing before rows and rows of supplements, you may find yourself a bit dazed, a deer in the headlights, asking “Which one? Which one do I get?!” Usually people buy far more than they actually need.

Adrenal glandular  These products all contain dried adrenal gland, similar to the dried thyroid gland of Armour thyroid and Nature-Thyroid. Using animal glands to jump-start human glandular deficiencies has been a conventional treatment for decades, and one that fell into disuse when the pharmaceutical industry created synthetic versions. If you’re interested in reading more about glandular therapies, a couple of years ago I wrote two Health Tips on the subject (here and here). I always liked the idea that the original textbook on glandulars was a joint project of the University of Chicago and the AMA.

In my practice, I recommend the product by Integrative Therapeutics, two capsules every morning for three to six months depending on your clinical response.

Adrenal support  These products contain one or more herbs, the most important being Siberian ginseng, classified as an adaptogen because it’s one of several herbs that help the body adapt to stress. Siberian ginseng has actually undergone extensive clinical testing that shows it improves your ability to respond to stressful situations. Other adrenal support herbs include American ginseng (also called Panax), licorice, wild yam, and the Chinese herb bupleurum.

I’ve been recommending ITI’s ADREN-PLUS for more than two decades and am impressed by its reliability. Take two capsules every morning for 3 to 6 months depending on your clinical response.

Combo product  Your best bet is to start your adrenal rebuilding using a combination of adaptogen herbs and adrenal glandulars. These have all been clinically tested and shown to improve adrenal function. I’ve been using AdrenPlus  in my practice for years (two caps every morning) taken with Adrenal Cortex Fractions (two every morning). As your energy improves, you can stop the Adrenal Cortex Fractions, but if you’re facing lots of stressors keep taking the AdrenPlus.

Nutrition
This is not at all difficult. You want to eat to avoid stressing your already pooped adrenals. The main villain is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which actually triggers a fight-or-flight response. Therefore:
–Don’t skip meals
–Make sure every meal contains some protein, complex carbs (ideally from vegetables), and healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, grass-fed butter). Strike from your menu sugar and sugary foods, simple carbs (refined flour foods), and processed foods. If you’re not sure what that means, read on.
–Reject the classic bad breakfast: coffee and anything sweet (doughnuts, pastries, French toast, pancakes).
–Start a program of high-nutrient eating. For breakfast, hardboiled or soft-cooked eggs, fresh fruit, half a sweet potato, and spinach sautéed in olive oil. For other meals, include salads packed with veggies and high-quality meats. Make your own dressings for salads and vegetables. Steam cauliflower or broccoli and toss with dressing or make Asian-spiced stir-fried cabbage. You get the picture.
–Your adrenals regulate sodium (salt) metabolism. Unless you’re on a specifically salt-restricted diet, you can be on the generous side with salt. I recommend an iodized salt over the popular sea salt products as these frequently contain no iodine. Your thyroid needs iodine to manufacture its hormone and you don’t want to become low-thyroid because you’ve made yourself iodine deficient.

Stress reduction
To me, swallowing a few supplements and eating healthfully are pretty straightforward. However, your issues with adrenal fatigue were most likely triggered by a lengthy period of unchecked stress. Learning to de-stress? Now that can be difficult.

As a start, you’ll need to press the Pause Button in your life and spend some serious time on personal reflection. Your adrenal fatigue is simply a message from your body asking you to reconsider the paths you’re following and the choices you’ve made. To ignore the meaning of the physical messages from your body is like turning off your phone when someone’s frantically texting you that your house is on fire.

Sometimes working with a therapist to talk about what got you where you are and explore the first steps to get you emotionally stronger again can be extremely helpful.  At WholeHealth Chicago, therapists Christine Savas and Jennifer Davis can help launch you in a new direction.

Prescription drugs
Sometimes a patient with severe adrenal fatigue simply doesn’t respond to the supplement program as well as hoped. Usually, these are people with long-term stress issues and long-term exhaustion whose cortisol curve is virtually flat-lined at the bottom of the graph.

Cortef (hydrocortisone) is the medicinal version of the hormone cortisol. At some time in your life you probably rubbed hydrocortisone cream on your skin for an inflammation since it’s sold over-the-counter and is a go-to favorite among dermatologists. Cortef is simply the tablet version. Your dose of Cortef parallels the way your adrenal glands release it, higher (usually 10 mg) in the morning, smaller (5 mg) in the afternoon. You’d use Cortef for 4 to 6 months before tapering off.

Florinef (fludrocortisone) is a special form of the same adrenal hormone, but tweaked slightly so that it allows your body to retain more salt. Florinef is prescribed when an adrenal fatigue patient has issues with excessively low blood pressure or gets lightheaded when moving from a seated to a standing position (called orthostatic hypotension). The dose is quite small (0.1 mg) and is generally used for a few weeks or months.

Alternative therapies
In traditional Chinese medicine, what Western medicine would call adrenal fatigue is referred to as kidney deficiency, usually kidney yin, but sometimes kidney yang or a combination of both. Treatments include acupuncture and herbal formulas (called tonics) to tone the kidneys. Our WholeHealth Chicago practitioners Cindy KudelkaMari Stecker, and Suzi Katlin have all done extensive work with these deficiency syndromes.

Classical homeopathy prescribing has addressed adrenal fatigue symptoms for more than 200 years using a different word—neurasthenia–an old term for chronic exhaustion. Homeopathic prescribing is done on an individualized basis. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Over her decades of clinical experience, our homeopath Sujatha Mannal has done extensive work with the neurasthenic syndromes.

Yoga is also useful to help patients manage stress and cultivate energy.  WholeHealth Chicago’s yoga therapist Renee Zambo offers patients useful tools such as gentle movement practices, meditation, yoga nidra, and mindfulness techniques to reduce the stress burden so that adrenal fatigue symptoms can heal.

Our patient Patricia herself has been doing quite well, though restoring her energy to normal levels took a little longer than I had hoped. She was anticipating that the supplements would make everything all right in a couple of weeks. I had to tell her that with the tsunami of stresses she’d experienced, her case was a bit more complicated.

Ultimately, she needed a few weeks of the prescription adrenal meds (Cortef and Florinef) and some short-term counseling to help cope with the trauma of her loss. At least now Patricia can refer to her adrenal fatigue in the past tense. “Remember when I was exhausted all the time? At least that’s over!”

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

Leave a Comment


  1. Howard Bunch says:

    Does this apply to men also?

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Pain Relief with Myofascial Balls
Tuesday, October 29, 6-8pm
With Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $65.00
(includes WholeHealth Chicago Myofascial Release Kit, $40 value)

Does that same spot in your neck, shoulders, back or hips seem to bother you every day? Do you have joint aches and pains in the hands and feet? Would you like to learn ways to alleviate that pain and tension?

Join WholeHealth Chicago’s Yoga and Movement Therapist Renee Zambo for an evening of muscle tension release with myofascial therapy balls.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Please register online.
Call the Center for additional information at (773) 296-6700
More>>

Recent Health Tips

  • Dandruff, Fungi, and Cancer of the Pancreas

    It’s an eye-catching title, I’ll admit. But the links are quite real and further research may guide medicine in new directions of cancer prevention and treatment. It all starts in your gut microbiome, the totality of microorganisms–bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi–present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth to anus. Until recently, researchers and clinical physicians alike paid virtually no attention to the microbiome and the Read More

  • New Hope For Sinus Sufferers

    When osteopath Dr. Rob Ivker moved to Colorado in the 1980s to set up his family practice, he had no idea that when he stepped off the plane he’d succumb to symptoms of chronic sinusitis that just wouldn’t go away: stuffy nose, thick mucus, pressure behind his cheekbones and above his eyebrows, dull aching headache, and thick goopy drainage in the back of his throat. Read More

  • Director of IV Therapies Katie McManigal, BSN, ANP

    Most people at some point in their lives have had an intravenous (IV) line. An adept nurse warned you about the tiny pinch of the needle as it was smoothly inserted and taped in place.  Then the  fluid dangling above your head slowly started making its way through a tube and into your body. IVs are all over the place in hospitals. They’re seen in Read More

October Sale – Save 20% off UltraMeal Rice

UltraMeal RICE is a tasty, non-dairy, nutritionally fortified, powdered meal replacement for those who want to support healthy body composition but may be sensitive to soy.

Click here to take advantage of this month’s promotion!