Adrenal Fatigue, Modern Stress Syndrome


By Jane Barthelemy.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
According to Dr. Mercola, up to 80% of adults experience adrenal fatigue during their lifetimes, yet it remains one of the most misunderstood illnesses in the US. The term “Adrenal Fatigue” was first coined in 1998 by naturopath and chiropractor Dr. James Wilson, author of the book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”, and founder of the CCNM Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, the largest Naturopathic college in the world. At first the medical community rejected the concept as ridiculous. However now Adrenal Fatigue is seen as a genuine disease by doctors, and commonly diagnosed by the medical community.

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue May Include:
Fatigue, Weakness, Suppressed immune system, Increased allergies, Muscle and bone loss, Muscular weakness, Depression, Hair loss, Cravings for foods high in salt, sugar or fat, Hormonal imbalance, Skin problems, Autoimmune disorders, Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms, Low libido, Lightheadedness when getting up from sitting or lying down, Decreased ability to handle stress, Trouble waking up in the morning despite a full night’s sleep, and Poor memory. Do you have Adrenal fatigue? To find out, take this excellent online questionnaire from “The Adrenal Fatigue Solution” by Fawn Hansen and Dr. Eric Wood.

How Do We Diagnose for Adrenal Fatigue?
The test for Adrenal Fatigue checks for the presence of cortisol and other hormones in saliva, blood, or urine. The test must be taken several times in a 24-hour period, and the results are tricky to interpret. There’s no hard and fast rule, and the test results can be unreliable. Thus Adrenal Fatigue is a diagnosis used by some doctors, although it is hard to pinpoint, and often misdiagnosed. Adrenal Fatigue is different from Chronic Fatigue, a complex disorder characterized by extreme exhaustion that cannot be explained by any underlying medical condition. Chronic Fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but does not improve with rest, and it is even more difficult to diagnose. Adrenal Fatigue is quite different from Addison’s disease, a rare, chronic endocrine system disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient cortisol.

There Are Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue:
Stage 1: Imminent Stress that is not chronic. Calm down and take a rest. There will be high levels of both cortisol and sexual hormones in the saliva.
Stage 2: “Wired but Tired”. There will be high levels of cortisol, but reduced levels of sexual hormones and DHEA. This is the body’s way of cutting back on non-essential hormones to produce needed cortisol. Coffee and sugar dependence often starts here.
Stage 3: “Pregnenolone Steal”, when all the body’s Pregnenolone hormone is taken for emergency cortisol, and none is going into DHEA and other sexual hormones. Indicated by tiredness, lack of enthusiasm, weak immunity, and low sex drive.
Stage 4: Burnout, Adrenal Failure – Characterized by extreme tiredness, lack of libido, irritability, depression, anxiety, weight loss, apathy, disinterest in the world. All endocrine hormones are low, which affects every part of the body. Recovery from Stage 4 Adrenal Fatigue requires time, patience, and lifestyle changes.

Kidneys, the Foundation of Yin and Yang in the Body
Chinese medicine sees the Kidneys as the source of the body’s Yin and Yang, the “congenital foundation” and the origin of life. In other words, the Kidneys store primordial Yin and primordial Yang (also called Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang). Kidney Yin is the foundation of the Yin fluids of the whole body, such as the lymph, blood, plasma, and cerebral spinal fluid. Kidney Yin moistens and nourishes all the organs and tissues. Kidney Yang, also called primordial yang, true yang or true fire, is the foundation of the Yang Qi of the whole body. It warms and vitalizes the functions of the organs and tissues. When the Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang are balanced, all is well. However when there’s an imbalance, we have a problem.


Any imbalance between Kidney Yang and Kidney Yin spells trouble.

Fear When There’s Nothing to Fear
In Chinese medicine, the Adrenals and Kidneys are associated with the Water element, and the emotion of fear. Then Kidneys rule the brain and nervous system, hair and the graying of hair. Adrenal Fatigue is considered a Kidney Yang Deficiency. However, if the condition continues without resolution, it can also result in a Kidney Yin Deficiency. A Chinese medicine perspective on it might be as a Kidney Yang deficiency and pattern of Fear in the body, which persists even when there is nothing to fear. TCM practitioners believe in curing the root of a disease and not just treating symptoms. There’s rarely a single cause for any imbalance. Rather there are several factors that combine to create a pattern. And just as there are myriad causes, each individual case will have a unique set of treatment solutions.

Possible Causes and Triggers of Adrenal Fatigue Include:

  • Caffeine Induced Adrenal Stress
  • EMF’s Electronic Intrusion in Energy Field
  • Empathic Nervous System Ultra-sensitivity
  • Fear Pattern in External Environment
  • Feel Lack of Support from Family & Friends
  • Fight-Flight Nervous System Pattern
  • Heavy Metals in Bone Marrow
  • HPA Axis, Inherited Endocrine Dysfunction
  • Hydration – Insufficient Water Intake
  • Hydration, Poor Cellular H2O Assimilation
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Low Cellular Repair in Bone Marrow
  • Overwork, Trying to Do Too Much
  • Psychological Influence from Parents
  • Poor Diet
  • Salt: Excess, Deficiency, or Poor quality
  • Stress accepted from external sources
  • Stress self-imposed
  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Toxic Relationships
  • Toxins in Food, Water, and Air
  • Trauma
  • Wei Qi holes or imbalance

fear-savage-chickensThere are many causes of Adrenal Fatigue, and just as many solutions.

HPA Axis and Adrenal Fatigue
A common medical term for Adrenal Fatigue is HPA Axis Dysfunction. Humans respond to stress through a coordinated feedback loop between three endocrine glands, the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal (HPA) axis. When the HPA axis is working normally, the nervous system is able to deal with the stresses of everyday life, and then calm down when the threat is over. However when this coordinated endocrine function is subjected to constant or repeated extreme stress, or even perceived stress, it can exact great wear and tear on the body, so that one’s nervous system is revved up all the time. Chronic stress makes a person vulnerable to illness, inflammation, psychosis, depression, and anxiety. Further, since the nervous system controls brain function, heart rate, digestion, breathing, salivation, sweating, pupil dilation, and more, any dysfunction of the HPA axis has widespread consequences in the body. Even an inborn weakness in the HPA axis can lead to a chronic pattern of fear and stress.

The Caffeine – Sugar Connection:
One of the key signs of Adrenal Fatigue, is when coffee and sugar no longer give you that familiar energy rush. You have your usual coffee and sweet, but you’re still just as tired as before. Chinese Medicine views the Kidneys as the storehouse of Qi, or vital energy. The Kidneys provide this energy to the other organs as you need it. It’s like having money in a bank account. You can dip into that store when you need it. That’s what it is for. Coffee and sugar don’t provide energy by themselves – they squeeze the stored Qi reserves in the Kidneys to fuel your body’s activities. Those energy reserves could be used today or tomorrow, or they could be saved for the future, sort of like a savings account in the bank. When we use caffeine and sugar for energy, we’re effectively squeezing from our reserves in the Kidneys, depleting the stores that we may need for a long and balanced life in the future. After years of using caffeine and sugar to get going, it is no surprise when we reach the end of our reserves, and there’s simply nothing left to squeeze. Adrenal fatigue is like a bankruptcy warning.


“When coffee and sugar no longer deliver the familiar buzz, that’s Adrenal Fatigue.”

How to Heal Adrenal Fatigue?
Most doctors recommend a long period of intense rest, combined with diet and lifestyle changes. In order to heal, it is essential to address the specific causes in each individual case. This is the only way to break the pattern of fear or stress, to calm and normalize the nervous system.

Self-Healing Adrenal Fatigue with Diet:
Foods to Avoid: Caffeine, Sugar, Processed foods, SALTY processed foods, Cold foods, Raw foods, Antibiotics, Microwaved foods, Hydrogenated Oils, Processed salts (such as Morton’s).

Eat Lots of These: Protein, coconut oil, olives, cruciferous veggies, wild salmon, organic chicken & turkey, walnuts, almonds and other nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia, flax seeds, kelp, seaweed, Celtic or Himalayan salt

Supplements to Consider: Ashwagandha root, Holy Basil, Fish Oil, Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C.

Lifestyle to Self-Heal Adrenal Fatigue:

  • Cat Naps are good anytime. Just rest when you’re tired.
  • Sleep 8 – 10 hours a night.
  • Get to bed on time, ideally in bed by 10:00.
  • Laugh and do something fun every day.
  • Minimize stress from work and relationships.
  • Avoid negative people
  • Discontinue negative self-talk
  • Daily exercise such as Walking, Qigong, Taiji, and Yoga.
  • Eat regular meals. Ex: Breakfast 9am, lunch 1:00, dinner 6pm, is a regular schedule.
  • Hydrate your body with 65 to 75 oz. of clean, filtered water every day. Use a good quality water filter. If hydration is a priority, ask Jane for an exercise to improve water assimilation.
  • Qigong shaking or a rebounder will clear toxins held in your body fluids. The Kidneys are associated with the water element, and rule the fluids in the body. Any toxins in your body are held in the fluids and must be removed or you will be sick. It is essential to move the fluids every day. Body fluids include: lymph, cerebral spinal fluid, synovial fluid, urine, saliva, blood, sweat, tears, vaginal lubrication, spit, semen, pericardial fluid, gastric juices, meningeal (brain) lymphatic system…

 Deeper Healing for Adrenal Fatigue to Break a Pattern of Fear in the Nervous System

  • Acupuncture – Chinese medicine views Adrenal Fatigue as a Kidney Yang deficiency. Thus it would normally stimulate Kidney Yang. If acupuncture is accompanied by self-care and lifestyle changes, it can alter the stress pattern and be very beneficial, shortening recovery time. However acupuncture alone cannot cover up an established pattern. If a downward spiral gathers steam and is not addressed through lifestyle solutions, it can lead to a state of over-excitation, anxiety, and insomnia, triggering paradoxical reactions, ultimately leading to collapse.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing – Called Nadi Shodhana is a type of Pranayama that helps to calm the nervous system whenever you feel stress or any discomfort relating to apprehension or fear. Use 4 counts inhale and 6-8 counts exhale, as is comfortable, with a longer exhale than inhale for a relaxation response. For complete instructions:


Nadi Shodhana: Better than a double espresso for waking up! And better than a double Valium for calming down. 

  • Brain Re-Set – Touch Eyes & K-27, then tap. To reset the nervous system and reduce stress response, touch both eyes softly and firmly with one hand, and touch both K27 points with the other. While holding these points, tap the 3 dantiens, top of head, heart, and belly. The K 27 Immune points are stress release points located in the space just below the collarbone and to the side of your breastbone.  Pressing these points gently and touching the eyes (brain tissue) releases the impact of stress on your body and activates a relaxation response.

Switching-tappingBrain Re-Set: Using 2 fingers on one hand, touch both eyes gently.
Using 2 fingers on the other hand, touch both K27 Points just below the clavicle.
Then release the eyes and tap lightly several times on head, heart, and navel area (the 3 dantiens).
This boosts the immune system, re-sets a fear response, and reduces nervousness before an event. It balances the autonomic nervous system: the Yin parasympathetic and Yang sympathetic.

  • Cranial Sacral Therapy – CST Normalizes brain patterns in the body, especially the cerebral spinal fluid and meningeal lymphatic system in the brain. These important fluids are both closely associated with the nervous system. CST can help heal stress response, whether it is environmental or inborn.
  • Meditation – Normalizes and relaxes body systems and the electro-magnetic field.
  • Qigong and Taiji to Strengthen Wei Qi – Several effective Qigong forms for this are Bone Marrow Cleansing, Dragon Swimming, Warrior, Straddling the River, Good Morning, Opening like a Flower, and Internal Alchemy.

 Case Study: Kinesiology Indicates Factors or Causes in Tendency to Adrenal Fatigue

 Adrenal Fatigue has many causes, and is rooted in deep patterns. What are they?
Kinesiology (applied muscle testing) can be used to indicate the primary causes of a tendency to Adrenal Fatigue. In this case study for my client Natalie Campagna (not her real name) the top #1 factor indicated an inherited endocrine dysfunction. It suggests that it is unlikely to completely heal, but can significantly improve with treatment. The 2nd top factor is a perceived lack of support from family and friends, which can be healed completely. Factor #3 is a chronic Fight-Flight pattern in the nervous system, which can heal completely.

Natalie Campagna – Causes of Adrenal Fatigueadrenal-fatigue-causes

Best Treatments for This Case of Adrenal Fatigue?
There are many possible solutions for Natalie’s Adrenal Fatigue. Which ones will be most effective? Applied Kinesiology indicates the #1 most significant healing may be through more meditation. The #2 best healing would be Cranial Sacral Therapy. And #3 very significant benefits can be achieved by getting to bed by 10:00.

Natalie Campagna – Solutions to Heal Adrenal Fatigue:adrenal-fatigue-solutions


Suggested Resources:

The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, an ebook by Fawn Hansen and Dr. Eric Wood:

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