Push the Pause Button on Adrenal Burnout.

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“Why am I always so tired? What about adrenal burnout? How do I get my energy back and heal my adrenals?”

First, you need to know what your adrenal glands do, why they malfunction, and what can you do about it.

Adrenals are really important, because they help us respond to stress. If you have chronic stress, your adrenals get beat up, and it is difficult to manage your life, and your energy plummets.

You feel tired and wired. You get palpitations. You feel anxious. You have trouble sleeping. You might crave salt. You may get dizzy when you stand up. You might have low blood pressure. You might even have sugar cravings, because your blood sugar can’t be regulated. All these are clues that you could have adrenal problems.

So, why do we get adrenal burnout?

We get it from the chronic, unremitting, ongoing stresses of everyday life: stresses of our families, stresses of relationships, stresses of work, the stresses of constant interaction with Facebook and Twitter and the online world, and all these inputs that never let us pause.

Now, how many of you know where your pause button is? I bet you don’t. I bet you haven’t found it yet, and you don’t know where to go to turn it on or how to turn it on.

Understanding the body’s response to stress

It’s really important to understand how the whole stress response works, why it goes wrong, and why, over time, your adrenal glands, which are these little glands that sit on the top of the kidneys, are not able to compensate for the chronic stress that we have in our lives.

So, how do you know if you have adrenal burnout or if you’re on the way to adrenal burnout? It’s very simple. You ask yourself a set of questions:

  1. Do you have any of these symptoms?
  2. Are you feeling tired and wired?
  3. Are you irritable?
  4. Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep?
  5. Are you having trouble with low blood pressure or low blood sugar?
  6. Are you craving sweets?
  7. Are you craving salt?
  8. Are you just feeling kind of overwhelmed?

If you have any of these symptoms, you might just have adrenal burnout.

When you have adrenal burnout, your cortisol starts to go down, you can’t respond normally to the stresses of life, and you end up just feeling tired and crummy most of the time. We push ourselves with coffee. We push ourselves with stimulants. We push ourselves to feel better using things that don’t really work.

So, what does work? How do you heal your adrenals and regain your energy?

Find your pause button

It’s quite simple—find your pause button. That’s the first thing to do, and I’ve found lots of different pause buttons that I like the push. You need to find yours.

I do it through yoga—that’s one of my favorite pause buttons.

I also use a hot bath at night. I call it the UltraBath, where I take two cups of Epsom salt, half a cup of baking soda, 10 drops of lavender oil, and soak for 20 minutes. You end up with a really decreased stress response. In fact, they put lavender oil in babies’ baths, because it lowers cortisol and helps to balance their whole hormonal system.

Also, there are other things you can do. Massage is great, as is meditation and deep breathing. There are all sorts of tools and resources available for you everywhere—online, on my website, where you can actually be guided through the experience of how to do this.

Very simple things have profound effects. Exercise is also really important—gentle, regular exercise like a morning walk, a light jog, a little bike ride. Do something out in the fresh air to get natural light that affects your pineal gland and helps reset your brain and the stress response.

I also recommend regular rhythm. Rhythm is key, because your hormones are balanced in rhythms. So, waking at the same time every day, going to bed at the same time every day, eating at the same time every day—these are the rhythms in life that help to reset your natural balance. Following your natural rhythms of work and rest during the day is also essential. Take natural breaks when you are tired. Our bodies function best on ultradian rhythm cycles of 90 minutes of activity punctuated by a few minutes of rest or zoning out! Naps are also a great way to reset. If you are all over the place, your adrenals are going to burn out.

Boost Your Stress Resilience with Supplements

Then, of course, there are some really simple things you can do with supplements.

  • Try Siberian ginseng or Rhodiola or Cordyceps. These are wonderful herbs that you can use to help balance your adrenal and stress response. I use Adreset, one to two caps, twice a day with my patients.
  • Vitamin C 500 to 1000mg a day, zinc 30mg a day, B complex vitamins, two a day, especially vitamin B5: all these things help to balance your adrenals.
  • Ashwagandha, magnolia, theanine (from green tea), and phosphatidyIserine can help calm an overactive stress response and improve sleep. The combination I use successfully with my patients is Cortisol Manager, one or two at night.

So, if you have any of these symptoms, if you’re worried about your adrenal stress response, if you’re thinking that you might have adrenal burnout, I encourage you to take some time, find things you like to do to hit your pause buttons, get into rhythm, try a few vitamins and herbs, and reset your life.

So, now I would like to hear from you…

  • Have you ever experienced adrenal burnout?
  • What’s worked? What hasn’t?
  • How did you overcome it? Or maybe you haven’t.

Please share your experience with us in the comments section.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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anonymous Sep 28, 2015 9:25pm

I have mostly recovered from adrenal fatigue after living most of my life in intense, unrelenting stress. I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, PTSD, and CPTSD — and was finally diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion. Basically my naturopath said I should be comatose all day based on my cortisol profile, and I pretty much felt that way for years, but just powered through it. My night levels were also high, but I had learned to just sleep through it, but was a late-night owl.

What helped? Ultimately, bio-identical cortisol (hydrocortisone) HRT supplementation at low doses to rest my adrenal. After finding the right dose, my adrenal profile improved dramatically. I was almost out of the woods when the next stress hit, so still trying. Before finding this HRT, I found significant help from taking raw adrenal glandular (in a multi-organ glandular supplement, HypoAde from Enzymatic Therapy, which has since been discontinued. I later tried Raw Adrenal Complex, but that dose was a bit high for me with my CFS-related MCS sensitivities. There may be other Enzymatic Therapy products with multi-organ raw glandular.) I also liked licorice (DGL), rhodiola, and astralagus supplements along with a quality diverse multi (SuperNutrition) and MANY other supplements for years and after recovery, as needed. As for lifestyle, I slowed down and downsized my life to cut down on busyness and stress, and removed all stressful people from my life for about 2 years. This included some family. I refused to put myself in stressful situations, though stress happens. HeartMath biofeedback training can help deal with stress when it happens, though I just use the theory myself, consciously relaxing myself right when a stress I don’t really have to deal with hits.

Another above mentioned magnesium, and I took a 250 mg dose nightly for about a decade. This, plus omega 3 EFAs and progesterone (if needed, bio-identical cream), relax me and help me sleep. I also took Cortisol Manager for a while for reducing night cortisol to sleep, but became allergic to it. Before that, I took melatonin. Before that, I took long hot baths before bed. I also have a rule about no stress before bed, on weekends or holidays. And no homework help after 10 pm. Boundaries, stress “keep away”.

It is also important to get all your hormones tested. I also had virtually no testosterone and have done bio-identical testosterone HRT (via pellet insertion) for over 14 years, and I am a woman. Both genders need a certain level of testosterone, which tends to get crowded out by stress, and as we hit middle age. I have observed that high estrogen can also be a problem, so looking into the need for progesterone can help. Thyroid levels can also be affected, but often are secondary to these other problems. Balance the other hormones and thyroid problems often fix themselves. But it is useful to get tested to know for sure.

Don’t be afraid to try very low dose cortisol replacement if you need it, after testing, and under the care of someone who really knows about that. That’s my experience and opinion, but I am no kind of healthcare provider. Good luck!

anonymous Sep 28, 2015 11:21am

I have been dealing with adrenal burnout for almost 2 years. My physician actually made me worse by putting me on Prozac. Since working with a naturopathic doctor I am SLOWLY getting better. I take vitamins B, C and D, Catechola Calm (to keep my epinephrine down), probiotics, magnesium, a natural progeste cream (I had almost no progesterone), and just switched from licorice root to Adrenal Complex. My cortisol is still low and my naturopath can’t seem to figure out why. I don’t eat dairy, gluten, caffeine, alcohol or sugar. I try to rest as much as possible, but have a hard time pressing my pause button. I’m trying to exercise, but I was used to intense exercise and now I’m told only gentle exercise which is boring to me…it took years I’m sure for my adrenals to get this bad so I think it’s just going to take time for them to heal!

anonymous Sep 27, 2015 10:05pm

I like what you mentioned about rhythm and the pause button. Now that I have figured out a healthy rhythm I have found my remote. It’s important to know how to regulate your rhythm so you don’t go into overload. Once you find the right setting then energy levels will increase and you will feel much more alive. During our lifespan we will only need to make minor tweaks and this will be possibly once we identify our rhythm and understand how we operate.

anonymous Jul 26, 2015 8:36pm

4 years ago I came out of an intensely stressful 9 year relationship and string of difficult events. Near the end I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time, I had frequent nightmares and would wake up with intense anxiety and run away thoughts. I was sick for a week or more every 2 weeks, so I was basically sick all the time. My whole body ached all the time but I was still pushing myself to work 10-14 hours a day to finish the house my ex and I had together so it could be sold and I could be done with him.

The first year I was just dead, I honestly thought I’d never be able to function again.

I’ve tried everything on this list and more. I’ve never been able to partake of anything with caffeine as it makes me anxious and jittery, so at least I didn’t have to break that habit. I’ve not been able to take any of the ginseng, its just too stimulating. Same with any of the B vitamins.

I do take the Vit C and zinc.

One thing he doesn’t talk about is magnesium. I went to the natropath who said my adrenals were shot, and he gave me a list of things to do, very similar to the list here, but he ALSO added magnesium.

For me at least, the magnesium has helped more than anything else. I now take 500mg every day 30 minutes before bed. I’m a big tall person tho, 6′ and 270lbs so I’m guessing most women would take less.

I do the exercise thing for sure. With my work and hobbies (I like to garden and play sports) I get plenty of exercise.

I shut off all technology, the phone, everything 2 hours before bed.

I got black out drapes for the bedroom as well as removed anything except clothes, my bed and a few relaxing books to read. Nothing for me to look at that will get my brain going or cause me stress.

I’m very careful to remove all sources of blue spectrum light 2 hours before bed, since its blocks all melatonin production. There is a very interesting documentary the Nature of Things did called ‘lights out’ that talks a huge amount about the impact blue spectrum light has.

All this has brought me to a place where I sleep 8 hours restfully and wake up feeling pretty good. Sometimes I have to get up in the middle of the night to pee, but I fall right back to sleep easily. For the first couple years I would wake up and never even really wake up and no inspiration for anything, I’d just drag myself through my routines.

I only got sick 2 times last winter, which I feel is a normal amount. I’ve actually had the energy to pick up more of my other hobbies again, sewing, music etc.

I’m still not 100% though. I still get tired too easily, my head is still much cloudier than it was before. I still have some upper body aches but its hard to separate what 20 years of carpentry has done to my body from the anxiety/adrenal issues I still have.

I also gained 40lbs, most of it around my middle which although has stabilized this last year, hasn’t retreated either. It might sound like a lot, but on my big frame its not as dramatic as you might think lol. It does irritate me from time to time though as my work requires a lot of bending and fitting through tight spaces.

I’ll keep trying anything I think might work to improve my health.

I’ve recently started taking nettle in the form of a tea steeped overnight. 2/3C steeped with 5C of boiling water. Makes about 1 quart jar worth. I make it at night and let it steep, drinking it the next morning. Its supposed to be good for adrenal support as well as high in iron which I’m chronically a bit low on.

I’m not sure if I should be doing more, or if my body just needs more time to heal from the whole experience. I thought once I changed my life to remove the sources of intense stress, fed and rested myself well I’d be better in a year or two, but here I am 3 years later not at 100%. I mean its been a bit of a slow climb. I couldn’t work that much the first year, and its hard to do much when you’re broke all the time lol, you just do what you can.

anonymous Apr 3, 2015 1:19pm

I think I might be the poster child for adrenal fatigue. For the first nine years of my life I took very strong stimulant seizure meds. Ever since I have had weight, energy, hormone, and blood sugar issues. My life is also very stressful, one life event leading into the next. At this point I think it’s sort of an issue resembling the old ‘chicken and egg’ argument. I work with a wellness specialist who treats my thyroid, weight, and hormone issues, but I’d rather cut to what I believe to be the root of the problem. I’ve taken adaptogenic herbs and have felt much better, but always either run into issues with product availability, money, and/or time constraints, and I revert to my old ways. I need a more viable solution. Yoga is good, but I’m also looking for nutritional support that doesn’t necessarily come from a supplement.

anonymous Jun 8, 2014 7:35pm

Tyrosine is a brilliant supplement for adrenal fatigue – it just gives the adrenals more raw materiuals, rather than being a stimulant.

anonymous Feb 27, 2014 12:58am

I have suffered from Adrenal Fatigue and am still going through getting my balance back… But What I can say is its the "gift that keeps on giving"… It forced me to sit back, and smell the roses so to speak, take a look at me, my life, what brought me here and the way in which I had pre-conceived ideas about how to handle things.

Yoga, is a true blessing, being mindful and peaceful
Avoiding the stressors as much as I can
Routines, timing is essential
Vit C, magnolia, systemic enzymes, not digestive
Do things that make you happy
Learning to say no

Its amazing, and the articles are so clear, yet somewhere in the fray, things have been forgotten.

We are so caught up in what to wear and how to wear it, where to be, what to earn, what to say, what to do…
We really only have two hours of conscious thinking, and most of the time we waste it.

Love the articles!

anonymous Feb 8, 2014 9:46am

Thank you! What would you recommend whit addisons of vitamins and supplements? I also have pcos and hyypothyroid.

anonymous Jan 1, 2014 5:20pm

Hi. I use Adrenal Stress End from fatique to fantastic which is part of Enzymatic Therapy. This has vit c, vit b, pantothenic acid, adrenal polypeptides, betaine, ltyrosine, adrenal cortex. I also take three other supplements. I was given a test from a md/nd. Of the things that can possibly cause adrenal stress I had checked 18 of them. I am a mom, nurse, risk manager, consultant, author, and for many years a director in a pysch facility. All of those were stressors. When it was suggested I take the above, I did. Within two days i was feeling more like me. Hope this helps. If you have further questions or i can be og assistance pm me.

Thank you. Barbara Scott Fasanella

anonymous Jan 1, 2014 3:47pm

Here's a great article about the herbal allies that can help http://bit.ly/SupportHappinessKidneyAdrenalCare

anonymous Nov 29, 2013 12:59pm

Last year I struggled with adrenal burnout including afternoon fatigue which sent me home from work regularly, difficulty falling and staying asleep, general anxiety and irritability etc. My acupuncturist recommended B6 and B complex daily in addition to my regular meditation practice, daily light exercise, healthy eating etc. It changed my life: I was able to completely cut out caffeine and melatonin which I had been relying on daily for yrs. Now my sleep and daily patterns are consistent and stable and I take these vitamins religiously everyday.

anonymous Nov 20, 2013 3:26pm

Thanks for this informative article and video. I suffer from severe Adrenal Fatigue. I previously suffered from post traumatic stress disorder – talk about chronic stress… I absolutely agree with the importance of hitting the pause button. My pause button used to be running. I used to love it. I ran to clear my mind. But now I can barely walk for 10 minutes. Any tips on finding a new pause button when your previous one is no longer available would be appreciated. http://sarahshealthblog.wordpress.com/

    anonymous Jul 30, 2014 9:05pm

    So I'm not sure if this is what you were looking for, but I watched this TED Talk a couple weeks ago and it helped me develop a more complex perspective on the benefits of running and long-term mindfulness. I hope you'll find at least some of what you're looking for! 🙂

anonymous Nov 14, 2013 7:53am

After experiencing severe stress over a 2 year period, I developed severe fatigue. I could only last 2-3 hours on my feet before having to sleep 2-3,4 hrs. Every MD checked my thyroid and when the values were what they considered normal, it was dismissed with advise to get more cardio. I went to a physiciatrist to be sure is wasn't depression. I was told that my plate was very full, but not depressed. I found Dr. Sensenig, ND. My cortisol level, except of a spike at midnight was perfectly flat. ADR Formula by Pure was prescribed and within weeks was functioning well. I practice yoga 3 to 4 times a week, practice living as mindfully as I can and have addressed chronic back pain with an excercise physiologist. I so grateful for finding a physician practiced in medicine beyond the confines of traditional western medicine.

anonymous Nov 13, 2013 5:10pm

Hello, I have had two hormone testings showing low cortisol and high DHEA and Testosterone. I have have difficulty sleeping and have been taking magnesium, Vitamins B and C. I have been doing restorative yoga at 2 – 4 times a week for 6 months. I am just getting some longer stretches of sleep yet can't find any research about high DHEA and low cortisol. Lots is said about reducing high cortisol yet that part occured for me in 2011. While I thought I had handled it, it is not a short term fix. I don't drink coffee etc, have removed sugar from my diet, learned to slow down and take strolls as I was used to running and cycling

anonymous Oct 28, 2013 11:32am

When I start to notice these things, I try to cut out all caffeine, limit my sugars, get some light exercise, shut off anything stimulating 1 hr before bed and really cut back on the social media. Also, I have found some help with taking magnesium with the B vitamins.

anonymous Oct 28, 2013 9:02am

Also fuzzy eyesight is a symptom of Adrenal imbalance! The reason for salt cravings is a plummeted mineral level, so a liquid multi mineral is VERY helpful! Great article Dr Mark, very on point. I've been living with burnout for about 5 years now. It came from a combo of stress, undiagnosed Celiacs, drug use, and a past poor vegetarian diet. It's been very difficult to treat and hitting the "pause" button is difficult. While working in a clinic my Naturopath told me once "Just because you CAN do everything doesn't mean you SHOULD." It's taken me years to understand that!!

Also, Cordyceps is not an herb it's a mushroom. I use Host Defense Cordychi (Cordyceps with Reishi) which is better for Adrenal burnout.. Cordyceps alone can be too firey and can irritate the adrenals in some people. Reishi is AMAZING for stress it balances and modulates the whole body.

Much love <3

anonymous Oct 27, 2013 7:53pm

i am experiencing adrenal burnout this whole week. Thank you for this post! It came just in time. What caused it too much exercise, too much yoga asanas and too much social media. I need to find my pause button! I've been craving for so much sugar and salt and I didn't know what was going on. This all makes sense to me now. Thank you!

anonymous Oct 27, 2013 5:09pm

Yes… i am in a real bind right now though beacuse i am so tired and sleeping so much that i feel like i cant excercise. i did go for a walk last night and yesterday afternoon prepared a few days worth of meals to make sure i eat well. they are the first steps… going by this, i will try to work out tonight too somehow. And i'll note your info on what else to do. I have CPTSD and things have been really hard for a while, so i think this makes sense.

anonymous Oct 27, 2013 4:17pm

I have just been told I have a mild level of this, I mentioned a book I was given to read on the subject in the comments section that appeared on Facebook

anonymous Oct 27, 2013 3:00pm

Thanks! Some radical self-care is in order 🙂

anonymous Oct 27, 2013 1:35pm

For over a year, I suffered from chronic fatigue. When my D.O. tested my 24 hour cortisol it showed overall low especially in the morning with one spike occurring at night when our cortisol should be going to sleep so that we can too. I have found relief using the methods that you recommend. For energy, having a glass of Emergen-C does far more than coffee, although I still need my coffee. When work gets stressful, I take a blend of herbs that you mention, I think the name of it is Adrenasense. Exercise and yoga also very therapeutic and good to do after work, so that I fall asleep without trouble.

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Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Hyman and his team work every day to empower people, organizations, and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience.
Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.
Dr. Hyman works with individuals and organizations, as well as policy makers and influencers. He has testified before both the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine. He has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention, and participated in the 2009 White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa nominated Dr. Hyman for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. In addition, Dr. Hyman has worked with President Clinton, presenting at the Clinton Foundation’s Health MattersAchieving Wellness in Every Generation conference and the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as with the World Economic Forum on global health issues.
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