Adrenal fatigue – Is this why you feel so tired all the time?

fatigueAdrenal fatigue is a condition that many people don’t know about, however,  I find myself discussing it with patients almost every day.

Adrenal fatigue is the consequence of chronic mental, biochemical and/or physical stress.

‘Stress’ refers to a bunch of biochemical, hormonal, neurological and physical changes that take place in the body when the going gets tough. When we are under increased pressure our adrenal glands (which sit on top of our kidneys) produce cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are responsible for our fight or flight response and ensure that if we are caught in a life or death situation our systems are primed for the effort required. This is all well and good if we are in a life threatening situation but more often than not, we are experiencing non-life threatening stressors daily that have exactly the same effect. Waking up late and rushing to work, getting stuck in traffic, having too much work, running around with kids after school then rushing home to do dinners, washing etc.

Emotional, financial, vocational, familial, environmental and physical stress are all major players. You can even be stressed doing something you love especially when it means that you are running around like a headless chook all day. In the end being too busy for too long (whether it be something you love doing or not) all ends up overloading your adrenal system.

Physiological systems cannot continue on red alert indefinitely. Periods of high cortisol and adrenaline can be beneficial in short bursts but chronic unrelenting stress inevitably leads to “adrenal fatigue”.

 Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue:

–          Tiredness, low energy, periods of weakness and fatigue

–          Poor sleep

–          Low stamina, poor exercise tolerance

–          Poor concentration, poor cognition, brain fog

–          Low mood, depression

–          Anxiety

–          Irritable moods and outburst

–          Frequent colds and flu’s or other infections

–          Dark circles under the eyes

–          Digestive symptoms- bloating, reflux, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea

–          Dizziness, light-headedness

–          Poor libido

–          Dry skin

–          Muscle twitching, cramps and spasms

–          Joint aches and pains

–          Sugar cravings

–          Excessive sweating and hot flushes

–          Heart palpitations and chest pains

–          Light sensitivity

–          Unexplained weight gain

There is an easy test to measure your level of adrenal fatigue.

So how do you know if your adrenal glands are fatigued? Chances are it is highly likely if you are experiencing 3 or more of any of the symptoms listed above.

Adrenal hormone profiling is  the simplest and most effective way to measure your adrenal function. It is done by saliva a sample which means it is non-invasive. This also means that we get a complete look at your 24 hour hormone balance as you provide samples at various times of the day.  It is one thing to know you  feel ‘stressed’ but it is so important for long term management to determine how your adrenal glands are handling the pressures of your life. Whether your levels are high (Adrenal fatigue stage 1), suboptimal (Adrenal fatigue stage 2) or low (Adrenal fatigue stage 3) determines how to approach treatment as well as how long it will take to feel better.

 Strategies for adrenal fatigue can be focused on:

1- Sleeping – what time you should sleep and for how long? Is an afternoon nap good for you or will it make you feel worse?

2- Exercise – whether cardio, resistance or a combination of both is needed for your body and what time of day you will get the most out of your workout.

3- Diet – should you cut out caffeine, or can your body handle some? What time should you eat breakfast? Should you be a snacker or can you go without? What time should your last meal of the day be?

4- Relaxation and time out techniques – mindfulness, meditation, guided relaxation- which is best for you?


Herbal and nutritional treatments are also very effective at supporting the adrenal system and recovery, but must be based on where your adrenal hormone readings are at.

Interested in testing your adrenal function? Send me an email to or call 9518 0722 for more information or to organise testing

Hayley Stockbridge Better Health Naturopath

Hayley Stockbridge
Better Health Naturopath