Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue? |

Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?

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If you’re burning the candle at both ends and struggling to bounce back, your hormones could be to blame. Hormonal burnout, aka adrenal fatigue, includes symptoms spanning anxiety to weight gain and even a loss of libido. So, is your hectic lifestyle the root of your health problems?

What are the adrenals?

Two walnut-sized glands which sit just above the kidneys and produce key hormones, such as cortisol (which regulates blood sugar and is vital for our flight-or-fight reaction), aldosterone (which regulates blood pressure) and androgens (sex hormones).

And what is adrenal fatigue?

Prolonged stress, whether emotional or physical, is disastrous for the adrenals. As leading nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville explains, the problem with modern lifestyles is that stress in our day-to-day lives is relentless, meaning cortisol is consistently pumped around the body – this, in turn, puts serious strain on the adrenals, affecting hormone production and a whole host of systems in our body.

What are the symptoms?

Initially, symptoms of adrenal fatigue (i.e. chronically elevated cortisol levels) can include weight gain, particularly around the tummy, blood sugar imbalances, memory loss, high blood pressure, dizziness, night sweats and muscle wasting. Over time, this can lead to adrenal burnout, when the body is unable to maintain adequate hormonal production. Symptoms include irritability, insomnia, addictions to sweet or salty foods, allergies, anxiety, sensitivity to cold and headaches. 

Anything else?

Your hormones could be wreaking havoc with your complexion, too. Facialist Dr Nigma Talib, whose clients include Sienna Miller and Charlotte Tilbury, believes hollow cheeks and sagging skin are a classic symptom of overworked adrenals, which can trigger a breakdown of collagen.

Who is at risk?

Those constantly on the go, who rely on a cycle of caffeine, sugar and alcohol to fuel endless busy days, as well as those experiencing prolonged periods of emotional stress – the death of a loved one or a divorce, for example. Plus, hands up those who rush from the office come 5pm for a sweat-fuelled spin class? Big mistake, according to nutritionist Cassandra Barns, who explains the endorphins felt after an intense workout are merely the body’s reaction to increased levels of cortisol, i.e. stress put on the body during high-intensity exercise.

So, exercise isn’t good for stress levels?

Not necessarily – if, instead of getting a boost of energy post-workout, you’re left feeling achy, exhausted and hungry, it could be a sign of sluggish adrenal glands. Sound familiar? Try meditation, gentle yoga, walking or swimming.

On a Similar Note

How can you tackle it?

Although the World Health Organisation recognised adrenal fatigue as a disorder in 2010, many health officials remain sceptical and it is often ignored by GPs, who insist the condition’s array of symptoms could be linked to other issues, which have to be ruled out first. While tests can be carried out by a qualified nutritional therapist or naturopath, the following steps will enable the body to more adequately deal with stress and rebuild the adrenals.

Keep Sugar Levels Steady

“Maintaining steady blood sugar is key to stabilizing mood,” explains Dr Glenville. Have a small meal every two to three hours which contains some form of protein as well as two sensible snacks per day. Try soybeans, dark chocolate, bananas and avocado – all rich in magnesium, which helps to calm the nervous system. Whole-grain carbohydrates, such as brown rice, also help to regulate levels of serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone.

Nutritionist and co-founder of Wild Nutrition, Henrietta Norton, also stresses the importance of green superfoods chlorella and spirulina, which are packed with a whole host of vitamins and minerals and easily absorbed by the body as they require little digestion. Try in pill or powder form.

Stock Up On Vitamins

Make sure you're getting enough B vitamins – particularly B5 – which are crucial for optimal adrenal function, as well as magnesium (“nature’s tranquilizer”, according to Glenville) for sleep, chromium for blood sugar balance and L-theanine for reducing anxiety.

Ditch The Espresso

“Drinking coffee is like adding fuel to the fire,” Glenville stresses, so it's best avoided. Try chicory root – a caffeine-free coffee substitute – which offers myriad health benefits. Make your own at home by mixing ground chicory, a teaspoon of raw cacao and hot water.


Celebrity weight-loss expert Louise Parker (aka ‘The Figure Magician’) recommends avoiding high intensity exercise – think HIIT and spin classes – in favour of cardio conditioning, which will tone the body and burn fat without a super high heart rate. “Make an effort to get your heart rate up to 160BPM (around 70-80% of your maximum) on a regular basis”, explains Parker.

Focus On You

“The right lifestyle practices are crucial to cope with stress,” says Henrietta Norton, who advocates plenty of good-quality sleep (aim to be in bed by 11pm) and advises clients learn how to relax (think meditation and yoga) and avoid checking emails once leaving  the office. “Don’t feel guilty resting and spending time on yourself. We live in an era where ‘doing’ is more valued than ‘being’ and this is having a detrimental effect on our mental and physical wellbeing.”


The term ‘adrenal fatigue’ somewhat gives this solution away – those glands need ample rest. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Remember, sleep is when your body produces melatonin, which sets your circadian rhythm, and when the body’s sleep clock is out of whack, it puts stress on the adrenals. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, filling up with melatonin-rich foods can help – try bananas, pineapples, rice and oats. Or, talk to your doctor about taking a melatonin supplement.

Anything else?

Adaptogens – a unique group of herbs used to boost the health of the adrenal system – are big news in the health world right now and could be worth taking as a supplement if you’re looking to support stressed-out adrenals. So-called due to their ability to ‘adapt’ their function according to the body’s specific needs, reishi (a type of mushroom), ashwagandha and holy basil can help to calm the body and soothe the adrenals when the body is stressed. Either look for pill versions or powders, which can be mixed into smoothies and drinks.

Magnesium Oil Spray, £13 | Kiki Health

Peace Protein Powder, £32 | MACACHA

KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus, £19.50 | Wild Nutrition


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