Adrenal exhaustion: the 21st century disease

by Dr. Gifford-Jones

• Are you tired for no reason? Having a hard time getting out of bed or feel run-down and stressed all the time? If so, you may have the first symptoms of adrenal exhaustion and must learn to “adapt” before it becomes a steady habit that causes more than heartburn. As Charles Darwin, the British scientist remarked, “It’s not the fittest that survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who can adapt to their environment.” Or, as is often said, ‘It’s not the work that kills, it’s the worry.’

A bowl of small red berries
Schisandra chinensis is considered one of the most highly protective of all medicinal plants and the berry is included in many traditional herbal formulas for improving energy and mental health.

The thumb-sized adrenal glands are situated on the top of both kidneys and have been called the body’s primary “shock absorbers.” They produce a number of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. If you encounter a sabre-toothed tiger, adrenaline shoots up, the heartbeat quickens and you prepare for battle and survival. Today’s hectic pace also keeps our adrenal glands in high gear.

Stress is the most common cause of adrenal fatigue. This can occur when a loved one dies or from overwork, physical and mental strain, chronic pain, infection, anger, sleep deprivation, chronic illness, depression and anxiety. As one wise sage remarked, “Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you haven’t been to sleep yet!”

Patients with adrenal fatigue may complain of cold hands and feet, low back pain, sweet cravings, headaches, arthritis and allergies. Cortisol dysfunction can also lead to low blood sugar, infertility, immune problems and heart disease.

Temporary and minor stressful situations result in slightly higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. But day after day, stress is also associated with an increase in blood pressure and excessive levels of adrenal hormones. Finally, if there’s no relief from stress, adrenal hormones drop and adrenal exhaustion occurs. Adrenal fatigue is like withdrawing money from a bank account until there’s none left.

As adrenal hormone levels decline, apart from weakness and fatigue, digestive distress is one of the most common symptoms. Some people complain of nausea, constipation and diarrhea. There is also a tendency to weight gain, reduced sex drive and feeling better when stress is temporarily decreased, such as on a holiday.

So how do you fight adrenal fatigue? First, learn to “adapt” to stress. A good start is to separate the possible from the impossible. You can’t tell an idiotic boss to go to hell until you win the lottery. Or, as Joseph Stalin once remarked, “One has to live with the devil until one reaches the end of the bridge.”

Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can be helpful. So can massage, as the hands-on approach does more than just give you a good feeling. Athletes get a good rub down to get rid of the lactic and carbonic acid produced by tense muscles. It also helps to exercise, get rid of caffeine, increase the amount of raw fruits and vegetables in the diet along with whole grains and protein.

Make sure you receive adequate amounts of minerals and vitamins. For instance, stressful situations eat up vitamin C. Studies show that, under stress, animals immediately produce 10 times their normal amount of C. Humans should also increase their intake of vitamin C to bolster their immune system. Studies also show that taking extra vitamin C pills, or Medi-C Plus, a powder that contains large amounts of C and lysine, can prevent atherosclerosis (narrowing of coronary arteries) and even reverse this process to prevent needless heart attack, the nation’s number one killer.

Another natural remedy called AdrenaSense also helps to combat adrenal fatigue. It contains a number of international root herbs whose health effects have been tested over time. For instance, Siberian ginseng has been used for years in Siberia and China and known for its adaptogenic and anti-stress properties.

Other herbs such as suma, Rhodiola, Schisandra berries and ashwagandha help to decrease depression, stimulate the nervous system, improve memory, enhance work performance, support the immune and digestive systems and have a positive effect on thyroid and adrenal function.

The dosage of AdrenaSense is one capsule, three times a day with meals and unlike many prescription drugs is safe and well tolerated.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones is a graduate of the University of Toronto and The Harvard Medical School. During his medical training, he has been a family doctor, hotel doctor and ship’s surgeon. He is a Fellow of The Royal College of Surgeons and author of seven books. For comments, email Dr. Gifford-Jones at,

photo © Lshtandel

Leave a comment