How Can Functional Medicine Help with Adrenal Fatigue?

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What is Adrenal Fatigue?

It’s likely you’ve heard of adrenal fatigue and wondered if it might be causing your constant exhaustion if you’re feeling tired and fried. But what exactly is it, and how can you tell if it’s the cause of your lack of energy? Here’s what we need to know.

The term “adrenal fatigue” refers to the depletion of the adrenal glands, which is becoming increasingly common yet sometimes controversial. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenals to regulate blood pressure. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. As a result of excessive cortisol release, the adrenal glands become overworked and cannot produce the level of cortisol necessary for optimal body functioning.

What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?

·   Fatigue, especially upon waking, with intermittent “crashes” throughout the day

·         Stress response and mood regulation are poor

·         Problems with cognition or “brain fog”

·         An increase in energy levels in the evenings

·         Sweet and salty cravings

·         The overuse of stimulants such as caffeine

·         Immune system dysfunction

Symptoms that are less common include:

·         Sleep deprivation

·         Urination on a regular basis

·         Muscle tone loss

·         Circulation is poor

·         Feeling depressed

·         Gaining weight

·         A decrease in libido

How functional medicine can help with Adrenal fatigue

Functional Medicine aims to restore optimal function to the body, so understanding adrenal fatigue requires some background regarding how the body’s stress organs and stress responses normally function.

Functional doctors conducting an adrenal fatigue test most often do so using urine or saliva tests to measure cortisol levels.

Other testing that we may use could include:

·         Digestive system testing

·         Blood testing

·         Urine testing

·         Saliva Testing

·         Heavy Metal testing

·         Fatty Acid testing

·         Antioxidants

·         Minerals and Vitamin testing

Dr Stavy can prepare a personalised treatment plan for you based on a comprehensive analysis which can include:

·         Advice on nutrition

·         A plan and advice for exercising

·         Medication

·         A lifestyle change and recommendations  

If adrenal fatigue is left untreated, what happens?

In the absence of treatment, adrenal insufficiency may cause: Severe belly (abdominal) pain. A feeling of extreme weakness. Blood pressure is low.

What is the healing time for adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years to recover from. It is important to note that every individual has a unique set of symptoms and a unique response to treatment. Depending on the stage and severity of adrenal exhaustion, the recovery process will vary.

Relaxation and rest

In order to heal from adrenal fatigue, you need to rest and take it easy on yourself. The ultimate marathon runners often experience adrenal fatigue following stressful events, so treat your body like you’re recovering from a marathon and end up in the same place you are. It is also possible to make adrenal fatigue worse by overexerting.

In addition to the right diet and supplements, rest, meditation, low-impact exercise (such as yoga, walking and swimming) and affirmations can also help heal adrenal fatigue.


Food can be either extremely healing or extremely harmful when you have adrenal fatigue. A high-stress life fuelled by gallons of coffee, lattes, and espresso makes you a prime candidate for adrenal fatigue. As a result of our fast-paced, technologically-intimidating world, adrenal fatigue is on the rise.

An adrenal fatigue diet provides guidelines similar to other balanced diets, which generally include:

protein sources, like lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and legumes.

  • leafy greens and colourful vegetables.
  • whole grains.
  • relatively low-sugar fruits.
  • sea salt in moderation.
  • healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.

By increasing your energy levels naturally, you won’t burn stored nutrients.

Adrenal fatigue diets have not been evaluated for their ability to decrease adrenal stress. However, certain lifestyle changes and eating a more balanced diet can help you feel better physically and mentally. However, if you believe you may have adrenal fatigue, you should consult your physician to determine whether other health conditions are also contributing to your symptoms.

6 foods you should avoid on any diet for adrenal fatigue:

Adrenal fatigue’s worst enemies are foods that spike blood sugar and further deplete vital hormones.

1. Sugar

When we eat sugar, our body signals the adrenals and pancreas to begin producing insulin and cortisol to process the sugar. Sugar contributes to low levels of key hormones, such as oestrogen and cortisol (this is why adrenal fatigue causes low libido). Stressing out the already overworked adrenal glands further hinders recovery from adrenal fatigue, leaving you even more exhausted.

Sugar-lovers may find it depressing that you avoid sugar for your adrenal fatigue diet, but your body cannot begin to heal until you do! Period. 

2. Alcohol

People with adrenal fatigue often crave alcohol because it is high in simple carbs and a quick stimulant. In addition, it should be avoided at all costs. A “naked carbohydrate” like alcohol causes a blood sugar rollercoaster, causing adrenal fatigue to worsen.

Alcohol’s harsh demands on the adrenal glands exhaust the body. Alcohol, like sugary feasts and caffeine-filled drinks, might temporarily mask adrenal fatigue symptoms, but will eventually make them worse.

3. Dairy

If When you have adrenal fatigue, you should avoid foods that you might be allergic or sensitive to. Chronic fatigue can be caused by adrenal fatigue, which aggravates and worsens food allergies. In addition, dairy contributes to part of the swollen middle you get with adrenal fatigue (some of it is also inflammation).

You might be intolerant to casein even if you are not lactose intolerant. Gluten and casein have similar molecular structures, and most people who are gluten intolerant are also casein intolerant.

4. Caffeine

Using caffeine and other stimulants to get through the day can lead to adrenal fatigue in the late stages. Our adrenals are triggered to release our stress hormones every time we drink coffee or energy drinks, further aggravating the problem.

When we suffer from adrenal fatigue, we are so depleted of energy that we rely on stimulants like coffee to keep going. The truth is, if you keep using caffeine to get you through the day, your symptoms will worsen and you will drive yourself deeper into imbalance.

The best thing you can do for your body is to stop drinking coffee in order to heal from adrenal fatigue. You can still have coffee after you heal, but hold off until you are fully recovered.

5. Gluten

To heal adrenal fatigue, you must uncover all the causes that could be contributing to and exacerbating this condition. As gluten intolerance is one of the causes of adrenal fatigue (and food allergies are another form of stress on the body), you need to treat this if you hope to recover.

As with adrenal fatigue, gluten intolerance causes inflammation, weight gain, and fatigue

Without treatment, undetected gluten sensitivity can lead to adrenal fatigue in the late stages. In order to recover from adrenal fatigue, elimination diets are key to identifying all disorders stressing your system.

6. Soy

We cannot avoid soy in our diet unless we take great steps to do so. Among people with adrenal fatigue, soy can block iodine absorption in the body (which is the cause of salt cravings). Women need iodine to avoid thyroid disorders of all kinds.

As a phytoestrogen, soy mimics real oestrogen, and with adrenal fatigue, we need real oestrogen badly. Soy competes with our natural oestrogen, reducing its effects in our bodies. What is the result?  Menopause-related depression, weight gain, and slowed metabolism.  


     YES! Despite the fact that exercising may seem counterintuitive if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, you should still incorporate some movement into your routine. Activity type and intensity will vary from person to person. Therefore, it’s equally important to listen to your body’s signals when it’s time to rest, when intensity is too much, or when pain replaces discomfort. 

Monitoring your feelings during your workout can help you avoid overdoing it when exercising.  

You want to avoid overdoing it, and that extra five reps means there is still some fuel left!  Assess whether you could repeat your workout as soon as you finish. You may have pushed too far if the answer is no.


Cardio exercise that lasts more than an hour is not recommended when managing adrenal fatigue, and intensive circuit training with short rest periods may actually be worse! The most adrenal stress is caused by workouts like CrossFit or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). In the case of adrenal issues, lower-level cardiovascular and weight training is more beneficial since it is significantly less taxing on the adrenal glands nervous system.


  1. If you’re just getting started, keep your training under an hour.
  2. Ground yourself! If possible, walk barefoot in nature. Nature walks have been proven to reduce anxiety and stress as well as improve health.
  3. Make sure you aren’t working too hard by investing in a heart rate monitor. HRmax should be between 60-70% of your ideal HR.
  4. Over time, gradually increase your exercise capacity. Over time, your capacity will improve by adding a little bit more volume and work!


An adrenal program often helps people get up and over the hump when they are tired and out of commission. There are 3 supplements that can really work for fatigue. 

liquorice Root

Among liquorice’s many benefits is the treatment of immune disorders, mood disorders, and digestive problems, but liquorice is also one of the best known herbs for the treatment of adrenal fatigue. A major hormone produced by the adrenal glands to combat stress, cortisol, is prevented from being broken down by liquorice. As a result of its cortisol sparing effects, it preserves energy levels, which results in a better response to stressful situations. liquorice is also a great herbal remedy for supporting and protecting liver function, which increases energy production. Because of its mild estrogenic properties, liquorice combats PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, irritability, and bloating. 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t take Liquorice? Yes! The cortisol sparing effect of liquorice can increase blood pressure in some individuals with high blood pressure. Predisposed to breast cancer, especially oestrogen dominant breast cancer, should also avoid it.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is good for everything, including energy production. In addition to supporting energy production, vitamin C also aids the immune system. Vitamin C must be obtained through the diet since humans cannot produce it. A fatigue-busting protocol should include 1000mg of vitamin C daily.


In the body, zinc is found in every tissue and plays a direct role in regulating the rate at which cells divide, which contributes to energy production. Stress and ageing are accelerated by low levels of these hormones. Furthermore, zinc is one of the most important minerals in maintaining fertility in both men and women due to its ability to optimise immune function and enhance athletic performance. To get all of zinc’s benefits, it is generally sufficient to take 50mg once a day. Zinc should be taken with a low dose of copper if taken at higher doses or for long periods of time to avoid lowering copper levels.