Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms, Causes + The Top Natural Remedies To Restore Your Energy


My patients come to me with many different health issues, but the most common one by far is fatigue. I witness the epidemic of extreme exhaustion on a daily basis, as my patients tell me how they wake up feeling exhausted and depend on caffeine to keep them awake throughout the day.

They are irritable and “hangry” (hunger that makes them feel angry), crave salty or sugary foods, or both. They have trouble losing weight despite dieting and exercise, and have little to no sex drive. Their energy level crashes in the afternoon, but they often get a “second wind” before bed and find they can’t wind down or sleep soundly, perpetuating the cycle.

Sadly, many think this is just the way people feel, and that it must be normal because everyone else seems to feel the same way. But just because something is common doesn’t make it normal. Feeling constant, unrelenting fatigue is not normal. In fact, it is one of the primary symptoms of adrenal fatigue.


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All about your adrenal glands

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys, like little kidney baseball caps. They regulate and produce many critical hormones in your body, but one of their primary jobs is to control the release of your main stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is essential for survival.

Our bodies are built for stressful events. When our ancestors were chased by predators, the sympathetic nervous system responded by switching the body into fight-or-flight mode. During this stress response, the adrenal glands release cortisol, which increases blood pressure and blood sugar for faster response and better survival. When the predators were gone, cortisol decreased, and so did blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Normal balance was restored. However, ongoing stress (that feels like predators to your brain) doesn’t turn it back off. This constant stress signal can cause intense adrenal fatigue, affecting your energy and health.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is classified as tiredness and other symptoms which are thought to be due to chronic (long-term) exposure to stressful situations. In a healthy individual, cortisol is higher in the morning to help with waking, and slowly lowers throughout the day. Melatonin, your “sleepy time” hormone, is inversely proportional to cortisol, so when cortisol is high, melatonin is low and vice versa. Adrenal fatigue happens when there is an imbalance in this cortisol rhythm. Cortisol is either low when it should be high, high when it should be low, or always low or always high. Adrenal fatigue can look different case to case.

Many people ask “How do you reset your Adrenals?” But the problem isn’t isolated in your adrenals. In fact, your brain tells your adrenal glands what to do through a complex web of communications called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), or simply the brain-adrenal axis. Your hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which tells the pituitary gland to release the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then tells your adrenal cortex to release cortisol.

Adrenal fatigue is really a dysfunction of your brain’s communication with your adrenals – not the adrenal glands themselves.

What is the root cause of adrenal fatigue?

Some chronic stressors that can lead to adrenal fatigue include:

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What does adrenal fatigue feel like?

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Slow to start in the morning
  • Cravings for salty or sugary foods
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue in the afternoon
  • A “second wind” in the evening
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Dizziness when standing up quickly
  • Afternoon headaches
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Weak nails and brittle hair
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty losing weight

Struggling with these symptoms? Take our Adrenal Fatigue Quiz.

15 Expert Tips For Adrenal Fatigue Treatment

Now that you know all about adrenal fatigue you may have identified your own issues and are asking “How do you fix adrenal fatigue?" These are a functional medicine expert's top tips on tackling adrenal fatigue and restoring power over your energy and overall lifestyle.

1. Ask your doctor about diagnostic labs

Because adrenal fatigue symptoms are so non-specific and could be indicative of other diseases such as depression, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, and certain autoimmune diseases, seeing a medical professional or endocrinologist to establish a baseline of what’s going on in the body is the first step to knowing how to treat adrenal fatigue. In addition to conventional blood labs, I recommend:

  • Adrenal fatigue labs: This saliva test involves spitting into several vials throughout the day. This will give you and your doctor a lot of information about your brain-adrenal function. When I did these labs, I learned I did indeed have adrenal (HPA) dysfunction.
  • Microbiome labs: This is the community of trillions of bacteria and fungi in your gut. Because gut health is the foundation of overall health, it is important to discover what is going on and deal with any underlying gut problems such as leaky gut syndrome, candida overgrowth, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in order to recover from adrenal fatigue.
  • Methylation labs: Methylation is a collection of biochemical actions in the body that happen 1 billion times every second. Healthy methylation helps to maintain a healthy brain, gut, hormones, and detox pathways, and also protects your DNA. However, some of us have genetic mutations that impair the methylation process. Methylation gene mutations can make you less able to absorb certain essential vitamins.

These initial tests will give you and your functional medicine doctor a better idea of what is really going on in your body systems, and send you in the right direction of knowing how to reverse adrenal fatigue in your specific case.

2. Intervene your chronic stress

Another key element of adrenal fatigue treatment is managing chronic stress. Pinpoint your key areas of stress and work to modify them, whether that means testing for food intolerances, detoxifying your environment, or just letting yourself heal by clearing your schedule for a while. You can never eliminate all stress in life but if you can be sure to work in periods of rest and relaxation so stress levels can subside for a while, you will break the chronic stress cycle to regain your health and feel like yourself again.

3. Bring down inflammation

Curcumin, a compound in the turmeric root, has potent antioxidant properties, as well as a neuroprotective quality. Bonus: It’s a mood-enhancer, too. In a randomized controlled trial, turmeric appeared to act as an effective option for depression, (1) which can occur concurrently with adrenal fatigue.

4. Eat nutrient-dense proteins


Oysters are packed with zinc, and having a balanced trace mineral ratio between copper and zinc can help with healthy neurotransmitter function and adaptogen to stress. Increased copper and decreased zinc have been shown to contribute to brain stress and anxiety. (2) Oysters—the superfood of the sea—are a great way to achieve this balance to help ease your stress levels and adrenal fatigue.

Organic turkey

There is some truth to the notion that a post-Thanksgiving meal heavy on the turkey will put you into a “food coma.” The reason is the calming amino acid tryptophan in the turkey. Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps you feel calm and better able to deal with anxiety. (3)

Grass-fed organ meats

Organ meats like liver are some of the best sources of nutrients needed to beat adrenal fatigue, like zinc and vitamin D. They also contain copious amounts of choline and other B vitamins needed for methylation. (4)

5. Eat more green superfoods

Leafy greens

Plant foods like Swiss chard and spinach are rich in magnesium, the original nutritional “chill pill,” which helps to regulate and optimize communication in the brain-adrenal axis. (5)


This sulfur-rich vegetable also contains the beneficial B vitamin folate. Low levels of folate are linked to neurotransmitter impairment, which can lead to brain-hormonal problems. (6)

6. Eat healthy fats every day


Avocados contain beneficial B vitamins and monounsaturated fats that boost neurotransmitter production and brain health. This fatty superfruit also contains potassium, which naturally helps to lower blood pressure.

Full-fat kefir

Bacterial imbalances in your gut can contribute to brain problems (7) because the gut and brain “talk” to each other through the vagus nerve. Kefir is rich in beneficial bacteria for your microbiome and also has fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, which are important for brain health, so it helps out from both ends of this critical connection.

Coconut oil 

Coconut oil is super versatile – you can cook with it, put it in smoothies, or just eat it off a spoon as I do. It offers good fats like medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can help with brain function. (8)

Wild-caught fish

Omega-rich foods like Alaskan salmon can help decrease inflammation, which is crucial for brain and hormonal health.

7. Practice breathing exercises

You breathe all day long, but doing it consciously and with focused awareness is a powerful practice for reducing the stress response. Take time throughout the day to become aware of your breath and you’ll diffuse stress and reboot the brain-adrenal axis. I also recommend mindfulness meditation or present-moment awareness to my patients struggling with adrenal fatigue.

8. Sip on herbal tea

Chamomile tea

This soothing, mild herbal tea isn’t actually from the tea plant. It’s made from an herb, Matricaria recutita, that has been shown to help decrease anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms in just a few weeks. (9)

Rooibos tea

Another non-tea “tea,” this one comes from the African red bush, typically known as Rooibos, and can have a balancing effect on cortisol. (10)

9. Practice mindfulness techniques

Reducing emotional stress using mindfulness tools like focused breathing can help you stay calm and soothe your brain-adrenal axis.

10. Try natural medicines

Rehabbing the brain-adrenal connection takes time and what works for one person may not work for you, so it’s important to discuss natural medicine therapy with a qualified practitioner who can make personalized recommendations based on your needs. However, here are some general natural medicines that can help mitigate stress:

  • Adaptogenic herbs: Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, Holy Basil, and Eleuthero Ginseng can have a regulating effect on cortisol rhythm.
  • Magnesium: Works to help support the adrenal glands, relaxes stressed muscles and nerves, and promotes quality sleep. It can also help keep you regular.
  • Methylation support: Taking activated forms of B12 and folate are effective ways to support healthy methylation pathways, which help balance the melatonin-cortisol rhythm.
  • GABA support: GABA is your calming, inhibitory neurotransmitter and herbs like passion flower and amino acids such as theanine, glycine, and taurine can help calm you down by acting on the gabaminergic pathways in your brain.

11. Sleep more

In order to allow your brain and adrenals to recuperate overnight, you need to get enough sleep. Promote quality sleep by turning off the TV and smartphone a few hours before bed and reading a book instead. Most professionals recommend at least 7 hours per night for adults.

12. Spend more time outdoors

Because I have a job that’s indoors, I need to make it a point to get outside more often. I believe there is something coded in our DNA that gives each of us an affinity with the sun and fresh air so that we seek out these health-boosting influences. I also like to practice earthing, or walking barefoot outside, as much as I can to help de-stress. Something about that skin-on-earth connection feels literally grounding and refreshing.

13. Get vitamin D levels into a healthy range

Spending more time outside in the sun helps boost levels of vitamin D, because your body manufactures this important vitamin/hormone when it senses the sun on your skin. Vitamin D is responsible for regulating over 200 genetic pathways, so make sure your levels are high enough. I recommend an optimal range of around 60 to 80 ng/ml. Ask your doctor about a simple blood test to help you keep track.

14. Learn to say “no”

Managing stress means creating space in your life to refuel, spend time with the people you love, and doing what you need to do for you and you alone. Don’t just pencil it in. It’s as important as anything else you do for your health, and maybe more so, especially for proper adrenal fatigue healing.

15. Give functional medicine a try

Depending on your individual brain-adrenal dysfunction, you may need to work with a qualified practitioner to assess your condition and carefully replace a small portion of the levels of the missing adrenal hormones for a period of time. That’s where functional medicine comes in. Specific amounts of DHEA and the precursor to cortisol, called pregnenolone, can stimulate your body to begin producing it naturally. It is necessary to find professional guidance to determine how much and how often, in order to really nip that adrenal fatigue in the bud in the healthiest way possible.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.


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  1. Sanmukhani, Jayesh et al. “Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 28,4 (2014): 579-85. doi:10.1002/ptr.5025
  2. Russo, A J. “Decreased zinc and increased copper in individuals with anxiety.” Nutrition and metabolic insights vol. 4 1-5. 7 Feb. 2011, doi:10.4137/NMI.S6349
  3. Hudson, Craig et al. “Protein-source tryptophan as an efficacious treatment for social anxiety disorder: a pilot study.” Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology vol. 85,9 (2007): 928-32. doi:10.1139/Y07-082
  4. Zeisel, Steven H, and Kerry-Ann da Costa. “Choline: an essential nutrient for public health.” Nutrition reviews vol. 67,11 (2009): 615-23. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x
  5. Sartori, S B et al. “Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: modulation by therapeutic drug treatment.” Neuropharmacology vol. 62,1 (2012): 304-12. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.07.027
  6. Coppen, Alec, and Christina Bolander-Gouaille. “Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 19,1 (2005): 59-65. doi:10.1177/0269881105048899
  7. McMaster University. "Gut bacteria linked to behavior: That anxiety may be in your gut, not in your head." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2011. <>.
  8. Reger, Mark A et al. “Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.” Neurobiology of aging vol. 25,3 (2004): 311-4. doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(03)00087-3
  9. Amsterdam, Jay D et al. “Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study.” Alternative therapies in health and medicine vol. 18,5 (2012): 44-9.
  10. Schloms, L., Smith, C., Storbeck, K.-H., Marnewick, J.L., Swart, P. and Swart, A.C. (2014), Rooibos influences glucocorticoid levels and steroid ratios in vivo and in vitro: A natural approach in the management of stress and metabolic disorders?. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 58: 537-549.

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Gut Feelings

Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
Between What You Eat And How You Feel