Fatigue & Adrenal Health

Fatigue & Adrenal Health


Do you struggle to drag yourself out of bed or make it through your day?

Do you hit a midday slump grazing for a “pick-me-up” to keep going?

These are major warning signs of fatigue. Fatigue is one of the most common health complaints today. There are many possible reasons, such as lack of sleep, poor diet, adrenal fatigue, and the list goes on. Low vitality is often a signal of an underlying problem in your body.  Let’s dive deeper into fatigue and five common causes

#1 – Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenal glands cannot produce adequate amounts of cortisol.  Cortisol is a primary stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Cortisol helps you deal with stress and regulates blood sugar levels, immunity, and inflammation. When the adrenals cannot produce enough cortisol, you can experience fatigue, unbalanced blood sugar, immune problems, and inflammation.

This hormone release was beneficial in early times since the release of cortisol and other stress hormones triggered the “flight or fight” reaction, which aided man in escaping or fighting a potential danger – like running from the saber tooth tiger. Super handy when our long-ago ancestors would find themselves face to face with a ravenous wild animal. It was a evolutionary safety mechanism for survival that was activated for only on rare occasions. [1, 2, 3]

Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms & Testing

Nowadays, people feel constantly stressed out by persistent demands and life stimuli, putting their adrenals under continuous stimulation. As if they are CONSTANTLY being chased by the saber tooth tiger. As a result, modern life creates a perfect breeding ground for adrenal fatigue causing various symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Low blood sugar
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low sex drive
  • Insomnia or fatigue after sleeping
  • Craving salty foods and caffeine
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Low blood pressure (especially on standing)
  • Feeling quickly overwhelmed [3]

Some useful tests for looking at adrenal status is to look at the cortisol production and rhythm. Saliva tests such as such as an Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) and Awakening Cortisol Response can be very helpful in getting to the root cause of your fatigue in addition to it’s patterns related to other testing mentioned here as well.

#2 – Hypothyroidism

Various hormonal imbalances can contribute to fatigue, however hypothyroidism is a hallmark hormone  at the root of fatigue. Hypothyroidism comes from the body’s inadequate production of thyroid hormones, which control how the body uses energy, regulates metabolism, and affects growth in various body systems. The most common form of hypothyroid is “Autoimmune Thyroid,” called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Over 90% of all hypothyroid cases are Hashimoto’s. This is not a classical hypothyroid condition; in fact it is really an autoimmune condition attacking the thyroid and must be addressed from that perspective. Just going on a thyroid medication does not adequately address Hashimoto’s. It MUST be addressed comprehensively as an autoimmune condition.

Hypothyroidism: Symptoms & Testing

Symptoms of hypothyroidism are wide-ranging and can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss Resistance
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • High cholesterol
  • Muscle aches
  • Painful, stiff joints
  • Thinning hair
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland in the throat) [4]

To determine the pattern of thyroid dysfunction, a Comprehensive Thyroid Panel Analysis including Thyroid Antibodies should be performed on the thyroid to determine actual thyroid function patterns and the potential for Autoimmune Thyroid (Hashimoto’s or Graves Disease).

#3 – Food Sensitivities

As a Functional Medicine Nutritionist and Burnout Recovery Specialist, I know firsthand how much food can impact our overall health and daily energy levels.

People can become susceptible to food sensitivities from ingredients they eat most often. This food sensitivity puts a significant strain on your body over time. When you eat a meal containing food you’re sensitive toward, it activates an inflammatory response in your body, necessitating the release of Cortisol to reduce the rising levels of inflammation. This alone, can make you feel tired and the vicious cycle is kickstarted by the repeated release of inflammatory food triggers. The repetitious process typically results in blood sugar dysregulation and adrenal fatigue. [5]

Food Sensitivities: Symptoms & Testing

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a food sensitivity:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss Resistance
  • Allergies
  • Aches and pains
  • GI Distress/Gas & Bloating
  • Migraines
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea

One of the best “tests” for food sensitivities is to do an Elimination/Provocation process where by you avoid a certain food for at least 4 weeks (ideally 12) so you can give your immune system a chance to not “see” the aggravating food. Then you “provocate” the immune system with re-introducing the food to see if you have a response.  This is considered the “gold standard” for food sensitivity testing.  Additionally, it is helpful to look at testing that includes cooked and raw forms of foods looking at the IgG, IgA and IgE antibodies.

#4 – Anemia

Anemia is a deficiency in the size and number of red blood cells, and frequently the hemoglobin contained within them, limiting the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between blood and tissue cells. Various anemia types occur due to causes like low iron, hemoglobin, B12 and folic acid deficiency.

It results in diminished oxygen to your blood, tissues, and brain. Millions of people experience this condition, and unfortunately, overlooking it’s serious nature is not uncommon. If you aren’t getting enough oxygen to your brain and tissues, you’re compromising the performance of your entire body. You must address this first before optimizing other areas of health. [7]

Anemia: Symptoms & Testing

A few common signs of anemia are:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Bizarre cravings
  • Muscle weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Brittle Nails
  • Migraines

Appropriate functional blood chemistry analysis can assess if you have anemia, what kind, and the best course of an approach. [8]

#5 – The Krebs’ Cycle

The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell? The Krebs’ Cycle (also known as the Citric Acid Cycle) occurs in your mitochondria. This cycle is where your energy is generated from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates as part of a complex metabolic chemical conversion. This complex cycle requires several nutritional needs and co-factors for its efficiency. Often, people are lacking in those nutrients and co-factors, resulting in fatigue.

Additionally, the Krebs’ cycle is particularly sensitive to toxins. Toxins like metals and phthalates deplete the nutrients needed for a functional Krebs cycle and slow down it’s function. The result? Fatigue. [9]

Krebs Cycle: Symptoms & Testing

When the mitochondrial energy power plan is interrupted, several symptoms often arise:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss Resistance
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Attention deficits
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Rashes
  • Hair Loss
  • Diabetes
  • Angina
  • Dementia [10]

Specific Functional Lab Testing can identify what nutrients you are deficient in and how your body produces energy – or doesn’t.

Ready to reclaim your vitality? Contact us today at Get Nourished and schedule a consultation to learn more about optimizing your health. My team and I are ready and committed to help you achieve your optimal health.

May you be well & thrive!


  1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16353426/
    1. Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M., & Rebuffé-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obesity research, 2(3), 255–262. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x
  2. org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906
    1. Kearns, A. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it? Mayo Clinic, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/adrenal-fatigue-diet#symptoms
    1. Link, R & Anthony, K. The adrenal fatigue diet. Healthline n.d. Updated on Oct 1, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/adrenal-fatigue-diet
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    1. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid): overview. Mayo Clinic n.d. mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23869173/
    1. Lind, R., Berstad, A., Hatlebakk, J., & Valeur, J. (2013). Chronic fatigue in patients with unexplained self-reported food hypersensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome: validation of a Norwegian translation of the Fatigue Impact Scale. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, 6, 101–107. https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S45760
  6. clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21688-food-intolerance
    1. Cleveland Clinic. Food intolerance. Cleveland Clinic Medical Library, 2021. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21688-food-intolerance
  7. org/education/patients/anemia
    1. American Society of Hematology. Anemia. Hematology.org, n.d. hematology.org/education/patients/anemia
  8. https://www.healthline.com/health/iron-deficiency-anemia#diagnosis
    1. Cafasso, J. & Zimlich, R. What is iron-deficiency anemia? Healthline, n.d. Updated on Nov 22, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/iron-deficiency-anemia#diagnosis
  9. nature.com/articles/srep34990
    1. Yamano, E., Sugimoto, M., Hirayama, A. et al. Index markers of chronic fatigue syndrome with dysfunction of TCA and urea cycles. Sci Rep 6, 34990 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep34990
  10. org/2013/04/krebs-cycle-intermediates/
    1. Dean, W. & English, J. Krebs’ Cycle Intermediates. Nutrition Review, 2013. nutritionreview.org/2013/04/krebs-cycle-intermediates/
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