Healing Your Exhausted Adrenal Glands

Published: August 10, 2012

Series Parts: [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 ]

What's New in S.H.I.N.E. — Part 6: More on Hormones

In the previous part of this series, I discussed adrenal-related problems called POTS and NMH. These disorders can result in low blood pressure, dizziness upon standing, and "crashing after exercise" — symptoms that are often seen in CFS/fibromyalgia.

This week, I'll look more generally at common adrenal problems, which typically show up as irritability when hungry (episodes of what I call "Feed me NOW or I'll kill you!"), being exhausted all day yet wide awake at bedtime, frequent infections or sore throats, low blood pressure, and crashing with stress. I'll show you some excellent natural approaches to support healthy adrenal function, and I'll share the latest findings on a particular problem where levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol can become "topsy-turvy" — too low during the day, too high at night — and how you can correct that condition.

Your adrenal glands manufacture hormones that help your body respond to stress, and adrenal exhaustion from the stress of modern life is becoming more and more common. Unfortunately, standard medicine refuses to recognize any adrenal fatigue issues as real — until the adrenal gland is so destroyed that the condition can literally kill you!

Symptoms of Adrenal Exhaustion

How do you know if your adrenals are exhausted and need support? There are several telltale symptoms:

You're irritable when your blood sugar is low. I call this the "Feed me now, or I will kill you!" syndrome. You know you have it when you're travelling with your honey and you say, "We’ve got to eat," and your honey says, "There's a nice restaurant a half hour up the road, Dear" and you say, "That’s nice, but you'll be dead by then." I’m exaggerating — but only a very little! Hunger-sparked irritability is one of the best ways to tell if you need adrenal support.

Other symptoms of adrenal exhaustion include:

  • Dizziness when standing
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • "Crashing" when under stress

I find that sometimes people who are going through marital counseling or divorce are often having problems because their low adrenal function is causing irritability. So in a sense, being on the verge of divorce can sometimes actually be a symptom of an adrenal issue. Many of the problems that drive couples to counseling clear up when adrenal support is provided. (Talk about being supportive!)

Whatever your symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, a wonderfully effective way to help clear them up is by taking an herbal supplement that supports adrenal function.

Topsy-Turvy Cortisol

The common conception of adrenal exhaustion-related fatigue is that your adrenal glands are pooped and can't generate stress-fighting hormones. But it's a little more interesting than that!

Before your adrenal glands hit rock bottom, you can go through a period when the normal, day/night cycle of cortisol, called the "circadian rhythm," is reversed. Instead of being high during the day, when you need cortisol to cope, your levels are too low — leaving you feeling exhausted. And instead of being low at bedtime and during the night, so you can sleep, your levels are too high — leaving you wide awake with your mind racing. What can you do?

I've found that an herbal sleep-support supplement that helps maintain healthy cortisol levels — a natural sleep aid that includes stress-reducing ingredients — can help in several ways. If your cortisol is high at night, causing insomnia, this should clear up the problem in two or three days. (And if it does help, that's a better indication of reversed cortisol levels than any medical test.)

If you have chronic anxiety, you could be in the earliest stages of adrenal fatigue, with elevated cortisol even during the day. Because herbal sleep-support supplements that help maintain healthy cortisol levels often contain ashwagandha — an adaptogenic herb that brings bodily systems back into balance — they can decrease cortisol levels that are too high and increase cortisol levels that are too low. So in these cases, taking the supplement during the day can be helpful. (If your holistic physician has conducted salivary or blood tests that found higher-than-normal daytime or evening cortisol levels, taking it in the morning can be an excellent remedy.)

For more information about adrenal support, please see "The Adrenal Gland."


Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. His newest book (June 10, 2024) is You Can Heal From Long COVID. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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