Adrenal Fatigue

By Dr. Lam, M.D.

Before You Begin

Information presented here is for general educational purposes only. Each one of us is biochemically and metabolically different. If you have a specific health concern and wish my personalized nutritional recommendation, write to me by clicking here.

Signs And Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Glands Basics
Cortisol (Hormone Of Death)
Cortisol Regulation
Common Causes Of Adrenal Fatigue
How Stressors Affect The Body
Stress Response From A Hormonal Perspective
Adrenal Fatigue Progression
Why Conventional Medicine Missed Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue
Laboratory Test
Women And Adrenals
Adrenal Fatigue Protocol
Tips To A Healthy Adrenal Glands

Fatigue and lethargy is one of the most common complaints amongst adult patients. If you have symptoms such as tiredness, fearfulness, allergies, frequent influenza, arthritis, anxiety, depression, reduced memory and difficulties in concentrating, insomnia, worn-out, inability to loose weight after extensive efforts, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue (technically known as hypoadrenia).
Adrenal fatigue has a broad spectrum of non-specific yet often debilitating symptoms. The onset of this disease is often slow and insidious. Patients are told that they are stressed and need to learn to relax more. Yes, we all know that “stress kills” to a large extent. But, the question is how? And, what are the solutions?
The real truth is that stress is not a mysterious entity at all. Our body has a built-in mechanism to deal with it. Being able to handle stress is a key to survival, and the control center in our bodies is the adrenal glands. When our adrenal glands become fatigue and unable to handle stress, dysfunctional physiological smptomatology sets in.
Adrenal fatigue was first described in the medical texts in the 1800s as a clinical condition. It was one of the most prevalent conditions, afflicting almost every adult in one way or another. Despite effective diagnostic tools and treatment programs,  most conventional physicians were simply not informed and not prepared to treat adrenal fatigue as a serious threat to health. This condition was seldom diagnosed as a sickness for the past 50 years. Instead, it was considered as a condition whereby no treatment was available other than to tell the patient to “relax”. Why was this so? The reasons were simple.  Laboratory tests were unable to detect any abnormality, until recently. Today, adrenal fatigue could be accurately diagnosed, overcome and treated properly.
Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with another medical condition called Addison’s disease where the adrenal glands are not functioning. While Addison’s disease is often caused by auto-immune dysfunction, adrenal fatigue is caused by stress. Adrenal fatigue is the non-Addison’s form of adrenal dysfunction. Unfortunately, conventional medicine only recognizes Addison’s disease as hypoadrenia, despite the fact that adrenal fatigue is a fully recognizable condition. As such, do not be surprised if your doctor is unfamiliar with this condition.


Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

- Tendency to gain weight and unable to loose it, especially around the waist.
- High frequency of getting the flu and other respiratory diseases and these symptoms tend to last longer than usual.
- Tendency to tremble when under pressure.
- Reduced sex drive.
- Lightheaded when rising from a laying down position.
- Unable to remember things.
- Lack of energy in the mornings and also in the afternoon between 3 to 5 pm.
- Feel better suddenly for a brief period after a meal.
- Often feel tired between 9 – 10 pm, but resist going to bed.
- Need coffee or stimulants to get going in the morning.
- Crave for salty, fatty, and high protein food such as meat and cheese.
- Increase symptoms of PMS for women; period are heavy and then stop, or almost stopped on the 4th day, only to start flow again on the 5th or 6th day.
- Pain in the upper back or neck with no apparent reasons.
- Feels better when stress is relieved, such as on a vacation.
- Difficulties in getting up in the morning
- Lightheaded
Other signs and symptoms include:
- Mild depression
- Food and or inhalant allergies
- Lethargy and lack of energy
- Increased effort to perform daily tasks
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Dry and thin skin
- Hypoglycemia
- Low Body Temperature
- Nervousness
- Palpitation
- Unexplained hair loss
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea
- Dyspepsia
If you have many of these signs and symptoms, it is time you consider adrenal fatigue as a possible cause once you have ruled out other organic pathologies. None of the signs or symptoms by itself can definitively diagnose adrenal fatigue. When taken as a group, these signs and symptoms do form a specific syndrome or picture – that is of a person under stress. These signs and symptoms are the end result of acute severe or chronic excessive stress and the inability of the body to reduce such stress. Stress, once a “basket” term used by physicians to explain non-specific symptoms undetectable by conventional blood test, is of no mystery to the body at all.
The ability to handle stress, physical or emotional, is a cornerstone to human survival. Our body has a complete set of stress modulation system in place, and the control center is the adrenal glands. When this gland becomes dysfunctional, our body’s ability to handle stress reduces, and symptoms will arise.
Let us now look at how the adrenal glands work.
The adrenal glands are two small glands, each about the size of a large grape. They are situated on top of the kidneys. Their purpose is to help the body to cope with stress and help it to survival. Each adrenal gland has two compartments. The inner or medulla modulate the sympathetic nervous system through secretion and regulation of two hormones called epinephrine and nor epinephrine that are responsible for the fight or flight response. The outer adrenal cortex comprises 80 percent  of the adrenal gland and is responsible for producing over 50 different  types of hormones  in three major classes – glucocorticoids,  mineralcorticoids and androgens.
The most important glucocorticoid is cortisol. When this is lowered, the body will be unable to deal with stress.
Mineralcorticoids such as aldosterone modulate the delicate balance of minerals in the cell, especially sodium and potassium. It therefore regulates our blood pressure. Stress increases the release of aldosterone, causing sodium retention (leading to water retention and high blood pressure) and loss of potassium and magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. When the body lacks magnesium, it will suffer from a variety of pathological conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias, uterine fibroids and osteoporosis.
The adrenal cortex is also responsible for producing all sex hormones, although in small amounts. One exception is DHEA, a weak androgenic hormone that is made in large amounts in both sexes. DHEA, together with testosterone and estrogen, are made from pregnenolone, which in turn comes from cholesterol.
Pregnenolone also leads to the production of progesterone and as one of the intermediary steps in the making of cortisol. Pregnenolone is therefore one of the  most important intermediate hormones being produced in the hormonal cascade. Prolonged deficiencies in pregnenolone will lead to reduction of both glucocorticosteroids and mineralcorticoids such as cortisol and aldosterone respectively.

Cortisol (The Hormone of Death)

The most important anti-stress hormone in the body is cortisol. Cortisol protects the body from excessive stress by:
Normalizes blood sugar - Cortisol increase blood sugar level in the body, thus providing the energy for the body to physically escape threat of injury  in order to survive. Cortisol works in tandem with insulin from the pancreas to provide adequate glucose to the cells for energy. More energy is required when the body is under stress from any source, and cortisol is the hormone that makes this happens. In adrenal fatigue, more cortisol is secreted during  the early stages. In later stages ( when the adrenal glands become exhausted), cortisol output is reduced, and blood sugar balance becomes a problem.
Anti-inflammation Response – Cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.  When we have a minor injury or a muscle strain, our body’s inflammatory cascade is initiated, leading to swelling and redness commonly seen when a ankle is sprained or an insect bite. Cortisol is secreted as part of the anti-inflammatory response. It’s objective is to remove and prevent swelling and redness of nearly all tissues. These anti-inflammatory responses prevent mosquito bites from enlarging, bronchial tress and eyes from swelling shut from allergies, and swelling from being too intense.
Immune System Suppression - People with high cortisol levels are very much weaker from the immunological point of view. Cortisol influences most cells that participate in the immune reaction, especially white blood cells. Cortisol suppresses white blood cells, natural killer cells, monocytes, macrophages, and mast cells. It also suppresses the auto-immune system response to foreign insult.
Vaso-constriction – Cortisol contracts mid-size arteries. People with low cortisol (as in advance stages of adrenal fatigue) have low blood pressure and reduced reactivity to other body agents that constrict blood vessels. Cortisol tends to increase blood pressure that is moderated by calcium and magnesium.
Physiology of Stress – People with adrenal fatigue cannot tolerate stress and will then succumb to severe stress. As their stress increases, progressively higher levels of cortisol are required. When the cortisol level cannot rise in response to stress, it is impossible to maintain the body in optimum stress response. In this respect, we can conclude that stress does kill.
In summary, cortisol sustains life via two opposite but related kinds of regulatory actions: releasing and activating of existing defense mechanisms of the body and shutting down and modifying the same mechanisms to prevent them from overshooting and causing damage or cell death.

Cortisol Regulation
The adrenal glands are controlled via the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. There is an existing negative feedback loop that governs the amount of adrenal hormones secreted under normal circumstances. For example, the HPA axis adjusts cortisol levels according to the body’s need via a hormone called Adrenal Corticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) that is secreted from the pituitary gland in response to signals from the hypothalamus. When the ACTH binds to the walls of the adrenal cells, a chain reaction occurs within the cell. This leads to the release of cholesterol where it is manufactured into pregnenolone, the first hormone in the adrenal cascade. After this, cortisol is released into the blood stream where it travels in the circulatory system to all parts of the body and back to the hypothalamus, where it is measured. This completes the negative feedback loop.
Cortisol and ACTH are not secreted uniformly throughout the day. They follow a diurnal pattern, with the highest level secreted at around 8:00 a.m. in the morning after which there is a gradual decline throughout the day. Episodic spikes during the day can also occur when the body is stressed or when certain foods are taken. The cortisol level is at its lowest between midnight and 4:00 a.m.
Chronic stress is very common in the western society. The most common causes of stress are work pressure, death of a love one, moving house, changing jobs, illness and marital disruptions. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount of stress overextends the capacity of the body to compensate and recover from stress.
Stressors that can lead to adrenal fatigue include:
- Anger
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic illness
- Chronic infection
- Chronic pain
- Depression
- Excessive exercise
- Fear and guilt
- Gluten intolerance
- Low blood sugar
- Mal-absorption
- Mal-digestion
- Toxic exposure
- Severe or chronic stress
- Surgery
- Late hours
- Sleep deprivation
- Excessive Exercise
- Excessive sugar in diet
- Excessive caffeine intake from coffee and tea
One of the most commonly overlooked causes of adrenal fatigue is chronic or severe infection that gives rise to an inflammatory response. Such infection can occur sub-clinically with no obvious signs at all. Parasitic and bacterial infections including Giardia and H. pylori are often the main culprits.

When a person is stressed, the body reacts by mounting a stress response through the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. This is also called the “fight or flight” response as the body arms itself to face what it perceives as danger. When this happens, epinephrine is secreted from the adrenal medulla, and the hypothalamus-pituitary axis is stimulated to release ACTH, which in turn causes the adrenal cortex to increase production of the anti-stress hormone cortisol.
When a person experiences chronic stress, the cortisol level may rise to such a high level that its production reduces as the adrenal becomes exhausted. At the same time, DHEA, a hormone normally produced in the adrenal glands, will start to decrease with stress without hitting a peak first (as in the case of cortisol). With chronic stress, there is decompensation of DHEA with concurrent rise of cortisol. As a result, the ratio of cortisol to DHEA increases.
As with most hormonal systems, there is a negative feedback system in the body to limit the production of each hormone. The same occurs in the case of cortisol, with one exception. During prolonged or acute stress when the body perceives that its survival is at stake, the excessive cortisol output actually blunts the negative feedback response. In other words, instead of a negative feedback system to shut down cortisol production when the total cortisol is high, the body reacts in the opposite way. As cortisol is the anti-stress hormone, the body will interpret a very high cortisol level and impending danger. When this happens, the high cortisol exerts a dampening effect on the negative feedback system instead in order that we can survive this threat.  More cortisol will therefore be produced. This is the body’s way to ensure that we can cope with the on-going stress that threatens its survival.
When our body is stressed, our cortisol level rises in an environment where the negative feedback system is dampened.  While this is happening, our DHEA level continues to drop. The result is a high cortisol to DHEA ratio and:
1. Reduced insulin sensitivity, reduced glucose utilization and increased blood sugar, which lead to diabetes.
2. Reduced secretory IgA (the main cellular defense factor), natural killer (NK) cell  and T-lymphocyte activity. This leads to increase chances of getting infections such as Herpes, yeast overgrowth, and viral infections.
3. Increased loss in bone mass as calcium absorption is blocked and demineralization of bone occurs, thus leading to osteoporosis.
4. Increased fat accumulation around the waist and protein breakdown, thus leading to muscle wasting an inability to reduce weight.
5. Increased water and salt retention, leading to high blood pressure.
6. Estrogen dominance, leading to PMS, uterine fibroids, and breast cancer.

STRESS RESPONSE From a Hormonal Perspective
At work, what happens if your boss screams at you? Let us now examine some of the effects within our body from a hormonal perspective.
- Your hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to release ACTH.
- The ACTH will stimulate the adrenal medulla to secreted epinephrine, and the adrenal cortex to secrete cortisol, among other hormones.
- Your cortisol level will increase and convert more stored glycogen into blood sugar for energy. Energy is also increased from the release of epinephrine from the adrenals.
- Your heart rate will increase (from the epinephrine)
- You will tend to sweat more (from cortisol)
- Your muscle tension will increase (from cortisol and epinephrine)
- Your digestion will slow down as blood is diverted away to more important tissues.
- Your bladder and rectum muscle may relax.
When the above physiological response occurs over a long duration, or in certain cases when there is acute stress, then adrenal fatigue can result as the adrenal glands become worn out.

Diseases progresses through stages normally as the body decompensates. Let us take a closer look:
Stage 1: Alarm Reaction (Flight or Fight response)
In this stage, the body is alarmed by the stressors and  mounts an aggressive anti-stress response to reduce stress levels. Some doctors called this the Early Fatigue stage.
Typically, there is an increased ACTH from the pituitary gland that stimulates the adrenal glands into full gear to mount an retaliation response. The adrenal medulla is stimulated to secrete more epinephrine, and the total cortisol output from the adrenal cortex  is increased from the excitatory stimulus. There is a corresponding reduction in DHEA production. During this period, the  body needs cortisol to overcome stress, and production of cortisol is therefore  increased. After some time, the adrenals will experience difficulties in meeting the body’s ever increasing demand for cortisol.
Stage 2: Resistance Response
With chronic or severe stress, the adrenals eventually are unable to keep up with the body’s demand for cortisol.  As such , the  cortisol output  will start to decline from a high back to a normal level,  while the ACTH remains  high. With protracted ACTH and adrenal fatigue, less cortisol is produced due to the adrenal becoming exhausted. While the morning, noon, or afternoon cortisol levels are often low, the nighttime cortisol level is usually normal.
A phenomenon  called pregnenolone steal (also called cortisol shunt) sets in. Cortisol production becomes the predominant pathway of hormone production as the body favors the production of this hormone. Other hormones such as pregnenolone, DHEA, testosterone and estrogen are less favored and their production will decline. As a result, total pregnenolone output is reduced but total cortisol output continues to be maintained at a normal level. Careful analysis of the daily diurnal cycle of cortisol shows a dysfunctional pattern of abnormally low cortisol in the morning. This is  a time when cortisol is needed the most. Nighttime cortisol is usually still normal.
Stage 3: Exhaustion
Despite rising ACTH, the adrenals are no longer able to keep up the increased demand for cortisol production. This may happen over a few  years. Total cortisol output is therefore reduced, and DHEA falls far below average. The nighttime cortisol level is usually reduced as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis “crash” and the body is unable to maintain homeostasis. Severe sex hormonal imbalances (estrogen, progesterone, and androgens) are common and a precursor to adrenal failure.
Stage 4: Failure
Eventually, the adrenals are totally exhausted. Patients at this stage have a high chance of cardiovascular collapse and death.

Why Conventional Medicine Missed Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue

Despite sub-clinical adrenia with its various stages was recognized as a distinct clinical syndrome since the turn of the 20th century, most doctors are unfamiliar with this condition for the simple reason that it is difficult to diagnose effectively by traditional blood test. Normal blood tests are designed to detect severe absolute deficiency of adrenal hormones known as Addison’s disease. This disease afflicts only 4 out of 100,000 and is often the result of auto-immune disease or infectious origin. Blood tests are also useful to detect extreme excessive levels of adrenal hormones in a condition known as Cushing’s disease.
Adrenal hormones are low in the case of Adrenal fatigue, but still within the “normal” range and not low enough to warrant the diagnosis of Addison’s disease by regular blood tests. In fact, your adrenal hormones can be half of the optimum level and still be labeled “normal”. Such “normal” level of adrenal hormones does not mean that the patient is free from adrenal fatigue. Conventional doctors are not taught the significance of sub-clinical adrenal fatigue. They are misguided by blood tests which are not sensitive enough to detect sub-clinical adrenia. As a result, patients tested for adrenal functions are told they are “normal” but in reality, their adrenal glands are performing sub-optimally, with clear signs and symptoms as the body cries out for help and attention.
Adrenal fatigue afflicts more people than Addison’s disease. It is not recognized and has become an epidemic of massive proportion. To truly diagnose adrenal fatigue, more sensitive laboratory testing and meticulous detail to a complete history is required.
Adrenal fatigue has been demonstrated in laboratory studies of surrogate markers of adrenal function. Two such markers used are cortisol and DHEA.
The best way to test your adrenal health is to measure your level of free key adrenal hormones such as cortisol and DHEA.  Saliva testing is preferred as it measures the amount of free and circulating hormones instead of the binded hormone commonly measured in blood test.
DHEA can be measured anytime during the day. Cortisol, on the other hand, is the highest in the morning and lowest in the evening before bedtime. Taking 4 samples of cortisol (at 8 am, noon, 5 pm, and before bedtime) is the most accurate. With multiple samples taken throughout the day, we are able to map the daily diurnal curve of free cortisol in the body relative to DHEA level. This will give us a much clearer picture of adrenal function.
If you are taking oral or applying topical supplemental hormone creams such as DHEA or pregnenolone, the saliva test results may be elevated immediately. Blood test results will also increase, but it will take about 3 months to show.
Stress can also affect the levels of adrenal hormones. Your cortisol level tested after a quiet and relaxing morning will be very different from that taken when you are under tremendous stress.
To rule out sub-clinical infection as a cause of adrenal fatigue, specialized test measuring the immunoglobulin response is necessary as normal culture for bacteria and parasites will often be negative.
The adrenal glands contribute about 35 percent of female hormones pre-menopausal and almost 50 percent post-menopausally. Furthermore, without the proper functioning of the adrenal glands, pregnancy cannot occur.
· Estrogen Dominance.  Today, women often have exhausted adrenal glands by the time they reach their mid-thirties or early forties due to a stressful lifestyle. Stress is regulated by our adrenal glands primarily. In  early stages  of adrenal fatigue, cortisol output is high as the body attempts to neutralize the stress by producing more of it. However, when too much cortisol is produced, it will have multiple undesirable effects. For example, cortisol blocks progesterone receptors, making them less responsive to progesterone.   Progesterone normally produced by the adrenals comes to a halt in favor of cortisol. Insufficient progesterone production leads to an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone. With reduced  progesterone to offset estrogen, the body may experience estrogen dominance and a host of undesirable side effects associated with excessive estrogen. This leads to a condition known as estrogen dominance. It is no coincidence that we see a proliferation of conditions associated with excessive estrogen such as PMS, fibroids, and pre-menopausal syndrome when a women reaches their mid thirties and early forties.
· Adrenal normalization should precede hormone modulation. The adrenal glands deal with the daily stresses of life. A woman must normalize her adrenal glands in order to have a total body hormonal balance. In fact, replacement of deficient hormones alone without addressing the overall health of the adrenal gland is a band-aid approach and often ineffective in the long run. The normalization process can begin with investigating and eliminating stressors. Stressors are often chronic in nature, and can be related to lifestyle, dietary, mental, and inflammatory causes. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding and adrenal exhaustion can normalize their adrenal functions with natural cortisol, adequate sleep, proper diet, and nutritional supplementation before considering progesterone therapy. Progesterone may make their bleeding even heavier. This is usually only temporary and occurs in the beginning when the estrogen sites are being resensitized. Women under stress can paradoxically have high cortisol and adrenal insufficiency (stage 1) at the same time before they get to the adrenal fatigue stage where the cortisol level eventually drops (stage 2-3).
· Most post- menopausal women who are experiencing hair loss have an adrenal function problem. Hair loss is a sign of excessive androgen. Some women tend to produce too much androstenedione, which then gets converted into estrone and testosterone. Estriol can be given to offset the testosterone effects as estrogen balances testosterone in the body. Cortisol is also very helpful and can be used as a first line natural medicine. It keeps the adrenal glands from getting stuck in the androgen part of the stress cycle. Cortisol also complements the use of progesterone as well. The effective cocktail therefore consists of estriol, cortisol and progesterone.
Because of tremendous individual variation, the use of nutritionals should therefore be personalized for your body. One person’s nutrient can be another person’s toxin. If you have a specific health concern and wish my personalized nutritional recommendation, write to me by clicking here.
Adrenal Fatigue can be reversed. You may need to allow 6 months to 2 years for the recovery process to take place. These are some of the important steps:
1. Removal of the stressors. This is the most important step. Emotional stressors such as marital, family, relationship, or financial problems needs to be dealt with and normalized.
2. Sleep. The most important is to have enough rest. It is important to go to sleep by 10 p.m. every night. Why? This is because our adrenal glands kick in for a “second wind” to keep us going from 11 pm to 1 am. This puts tremendous stress on the adrenals. When we rest early, our adrenals are fully rested and the high gear is avoided. Between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., our adrenals work the hardest to repair the body. We should also try to sleep in until 8:30 a.m. or 9: 00 a.m. if possible. This is because our cortisol level rises to its peak from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. in order to wake us up and get us going for the day.
In later stage adrenal fatigue, the level of cortisol falls and we feel tired. It will be more difficult to wake up. If we were to wake up too early, this will only increase stress on the adrenal glands, which will have to produce more cortisol when it is already exhausted.
A good night sleep is therefore mandatory. Without a good sleep, our bodies cannot regenerate itself to deal with stressors the next day. We should also rest in a completely dark room to maximize melatonin production.
If you are unable to fall asleep, take oral melatonin (0.5 mg to 3mg) 30 minutes before bedtime. You may begin with a low dose (0.5 mg) and gradually work upwards. If you start with 3 mg, the common over-the-counter dose and find it not helpful, go to a lower dose instead. The right dosage varies from person to person.
If you have a tendency to wake up at 2 to 3 a.m. and find that you are unable to fall back to sleep, that is a sign of excessive stress. In this case, you may wish to consider a time-release melatonin. You may also wish to try other sleep aids such as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) 50-100 mg, adrenal extracts, and trace mineral tablets. Another wonderful relaxant and sleep aid is magnesium. Some common herbs that enhance sleep are valerian (root), hops (whole plant), and licorice (root).
3. Avoid Coffee or Caffeinated Beverages. Coffee and tea act as stimulants and interrupt sleep pattern. Herbal tea is acceptable because it does not contain  caffeine.
4. Avoid TV and Computers. Some people may be photosensitive. Watching television or working at the computer may prevent the melatonin level from rising to induce sleep. If you are one of these people, you should turn off your television or computer by around 8 p.m. at night.
5. Exercise. This is a wonderful stress reducer and a tremendous oxygenator. Exercise reduces depression, increases blood flow, normalizes level of cortisol, insulin, blood glucose, growth hormones, thyroid, and makes you feel generally much better. You can exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day, dividing each session into 10-minute blocks.
Simple exercises such as brisk walking, or climbing stairs are easy to do and can be done almost anywhere. You should vary your routine so that exercise becomes fun. Plan to burn about 2,000 to 3,000 calories each week. When exercising, you should cover the following three categories:
- Aerobics – such as fast walking, stairs climbing, Nordic track, swimming, and treadmill.
- Anerobics – such as weight lifting, push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups
- Flexibility – such as stretching, yoga, and tai chi.
6. Nutritional Supplementation. It is prudent to optimize the adrenal gland functions. Supplement such as DHEA at 15 to 30 mg, pregnenolone at 25 to 50 mg, low dose natural cortisol at 25 to 50 mg, natural progesterone at 20 mg, or cortisol enhancing agent such as licorice root extract can be taken.
We should take an optimal balanced of vitamins and minerals for optimum adrenal function. These include:
A. 500 mg to 3,000 mg of vitamin C with bioflavonoids, lysine, proline, pine bark extract
B. 100 to 200 mg of fat-soluble vitamin C called ascobyl palmitate
C. 900 to 1,500 mg of vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid) as most hormone production in the adrenal gland needs the co-enzyme A, a by-product of Vitamin B5, to be produced.
D. Vitamin E is another important nutrient, which is involved in at least 6 different enzymatic reactions in the adrenal cascade. Take 400 to 800 I.U. of vitamin E daily.
E. Take 10,000 to 25,000 I.U of beta-carotene and other important minerals such as selenium (200 mcg), magnesium (500 mg) as well as important amino acids such as lysine (1-2 gm), proline (500mg – 1gm) and glutamine (1-5 gm) or more in advance cases.
F. DHEA 15-50 mg, pregnenolone 25-50 mg , adrenal glandular, adrenal extracts, licorice root  can be helpful.

It is very important to understand that a short-gun approach by taking many nutrients at the same time seldom works and may even backfire.  The use of nutritional supplementation in overcoming adrenal fatigue needs to be individualized, base on each person’s history, background, and body metabolic system. One person’s nutrient may be another person’s toxin. Each nutrient is like one bullet in the arsenal. Using the right bullet at the right time is critical because there are not many bullets available. Many simply take the whole battery of nutrients without this consideration and that approach seldom works long term in the case of adrenal fatigue. Even if some nutrient appear to work well at first, it may subsequently fail as the body developed tolerance. More is not necessarily better and may make things worse in many cases because during the recovery process, the metabolism changes, and it is important to match the dosage to the metabolic throughout the entire journey for maximum effectiveness.
In adrenal fatigue, the body’s ability to process and assimilate nutrient is often compromised.  Testing doses are often used initially to see the amount of reserve the adrenal has before application of any high dose nutrient.  Nutrients in the right dose should be administrated in a graded and step-wise approach, with follow up by the health care professional .
7. Supplementing with Natural Hydrocortisone or cortisone acetate in doses of 2.5 to 5 mg two to four times a day can be a safe and effective way to replenish depleted adrenals. However, this should be done under the guidance of a physician and it is a prescription drug.
Because of tremendous individual variation, the use of nutritionals should therefore be personalized for your body. One person’s nutrient can be another person’s toxin. If you have a specific health concern and wish my personalized nutritional recommendation, write to me by clicking here.
8. Eating Pattern.  When our cortisol levels are at its peak from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., we may have no appetite. Many people skip breakfast because “they are not hungry”. This is because our bodies need sugar to run on. Furthermore, our body’s energy requirement does not change during this period. Even a small snack is better than nothing at all and will provide the needed energy even though there is no urge to eat.
Skipping breakfast is not a good idea. If you are low on sugar, the adrenals are instructed to secrete cortisol because cortisol activates gluconeogenesis to increase blood sugar level and allow the body to function. It is therefore important to have a healthy breakfast soon after waking and not later than 10 a.m. This will prevent the body being put in a position to play “catch-up” for the rest of the day.
The best time for lunch is from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sometimes, a nutritious snack between 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. will be needed to sustain our bodies through the dip in cortisol levels that occurs between 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Evening meals should be around 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Supper, if needed, should be in small quantities and low in glycemic to avoid the steep rise in blood sugar commonly seen in high-glycemic index snacks such as cakes. These snacks will cause the blood sugar to rise and a corresponding increase in insulin output.
Over time, insulin secretion becomes dysfunctional, resulting in a hypoglycemic state in the middle of the night. These symptoms are characterized by nightmares, anxiety, and night sweats. When this occurs, the body will have to activate the adrenals to put out more cortisol in order to raise the blood sugar back to its normal level. This will eventually put an excessive burden onto the already fatigued adrenal gland if carried on year after year.
9. Diet
A poor or unfitting diet is one of the key and leading causes of adrenal fatigue. Without a diet that is bio-chemically and metabolically compatible with the needs of a damaged adrenal gland, complete recovery is simply not possible.
Glucose is a simple sugar found in food. It is an essential nutrient that provides energy for the proper functioning of the body cells. After meals, food is digested in the stomach and is broken down into glucose and other nutrients. The glucose is absorbed by the intestinal cells, carried by the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. However, glucose cannot enter the cells alone. It needs assistance from insulin in order to penetrate the cell walls. Insulin therefore acts as a regulator of glucose transport and metabolism in the body.
Insulin is called the “hunger hormone”. As the blood sugar level increases after a meal, the corresponding insulin level rises with the eventual lowering of the blood sugar level and glucose is transported from the blood into the cell for energy. As energy is produced by the cell, blood glucose level slowly is lowered, the insulin release from the pancreas is turned off. As energy continue to be generated, the blood sugar level continues to drop. When it drops below a certain level, hunger is felt. This often occurs a few hours after the meal. This drop in blood sugar triggers the adrenals to make more cortisol. The cortisol increases the blood sugar by converting protein and fat into its component parts. With this, the blood sugar rises to provide a continuous supply of energy for our use between meals. Cortisol therefore works hand in hand with insulin to provide a steady blood sugar level 24 hours a day and keep blood glucose levels in a tightly controlled range.
When the adrenal gland is in a state, the amount of cortisol production drops below the normal level, and the amount of sugar available to the cells is reduced. With less sugar, less energy is available to the body, and fatigue is experienced. As the sugar level drops below a critical point, dizziness and lightheadedness can be experienced. These are common symptoms of low blood sugar (also called hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar is most likely experienced between meals at 10am-12pm, as well as 3-4pm.
To make things worse, the body’s automatic response when more sugar is needed during a stress response is to make more insulin in an attempt to move the sugar into the cell from the blood stream to create more energy. Insulin opens up the cell membrane to push the glucose in, resulting in further reduction in blood glucose. This worsens the already existing hypoglycemic state.
Those with adrenal fatigue often report symptoms such as dizziness and weakness, as the blood sugar level drops below a comfortable level for the body to function normally. To overcome this, the quick fix solution is to take food that is high in refined sugar such as donut or sweets, or drinks that is stimulatory to get the adrenal to put out more cortisol, such as coffee or cola drinks. This gives the person a boost of energy. However, this hypoglycemic symptom relief only lasts for about 1-2 hours. Inevitably, it is followed by a crash to an even lower blood level. Those suffering from adrenal fatigue are constantly on a roller coaster ride in terms of their blood sugar level throughout the day. The sugar level tends to increase after each quick fix, but drops after a few hours. By the end of the day, the body is totally exhausted.
A diet that maintains a constant sugar level in the blood is a critical consideration in adrenal fatigue recovery. This can be done by taking a variety of low-glycemic index food that releases sugar slowly to sustain the body during and between meals. Starchy carbohydrates that are converted quickly into glucose (such as pasta and bread) should be limited. Soda drinks should be totally avoided.
The amount of salt in the body is highly dependant and regulated by a chemical called aldosterone. This chemical is manufactured in the adrenal cortex under the direction of another hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone). ACTH is produced by the anterior pituitary gland. ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete a wide variety of hormones including aldosterone as well as cortisol. Like cortisol, aldosterone follows a diurnal pattern of secretion, peaking at 8 a.m. , and at its lowest betwee12-4am. Aldosterone is a very specific compound that is responsible to maintain the concentration of sodium and potassium in the cell as well as outside the cell. This in turn has a direct effect on the amount of fluid in the body. Aldosterone therefore plays a significant role in regulation of blood pressure.
It is important to note that in our body, sodium and water goes hand in hand. Where sodium goes, water follows. As the concentration of aldosterone rises in the body, the concentration of sodium and water rises, more fluid is retained in the body, and blood pressure rises. Conversely, when the level of aldosterone lowers, the amount of sodium and water in the body is reduced. The blood pressure goes down.
Unlike cortisol, aldosterone does not have its own negative feedback loop when there are excessive amounts. If the aldosterone level is too high, aldosterone receptor sites will be down regulated and its sensitivity to aldosterone is reduced. In the early phases of adrenal fatigue, the amount of cortisol and aldosterone increases in our body due to the ACTH stimulatory effect from stress. As a result, the sodium and water is retained in the body with a feeling of bloated. The baro-receptors ( receptors that are sensitive to pressure) of the blood vessels are triggered and blood vessels goes into a relaxation mode automatically and this is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. This auto-regulation helps to maintain a stable blood pressure at a time when the total fluid volume increases due to high level of aldosterone triggered by stress. With stress, the adrenal glands also secrete another hormone called epinephrine. This hormone constricts the blood vessels and increases blood pressure in order to ensure that our brain have adequate blood flow and oxygen to help us deal with impending danger. The sum reaction of aldosterone, epinephrine, and the autonomic relaxation response are some of the key factors that ultimately decide the final blood pressure at any point in time. During the early stages of adrenal fatigue, the resulting blood pressure is often normal if all bodily function is well balanced. If the body is unable to overcome the aldosterone and epinephrine response, then the blood pressure is elevated. It is common to find many under stress experiences increase in blood pressure.
As adrenal fatigue progresses to more advance stages, the amount of aldosterone production reduces. Sodium and water retention is compromised.. As the fluid volume is reduced, low blood pressure ensues. Cells get dehydrated and become sodium deficient.
As with advanced adrenal fatigue reports a low blood pressure as well as a salt craving. The low blood pressure is due to the reduced fluid in the body. Salt craving is because the body is in a absolute deficiency of sodium. Both are due to the lack of aldosterone. In order to compensate for this, potassium is leaked out of the cells so that the sodium to potassium ratio remains constant. The loss of potassium is less then that of sodium, and as a result the potassium to sodium ratio is increased. This imbalance causes another set of problems.
Those suffering from adrenal often have a low body fluid volume accompanied by a salt craving due to absolute deficiency in sodium as well as a normal to high potassium level. While lost fluids should be replaced, it has to be done carefully. When the fluid is replaced without adequate sodium, the amount of sodium in the body actually gets diluted, therefore resulting in an even lower sodium level. This is called dilutional hyponatremia, a dangerous condition that can be deadly. It is therefore important to add salt liberally to fluids that are taken in by anybody suffering form adrenal fatigue.
Commercially available electrolyte replacement drinks such as Gatorade are designed for people who have normal adrenal and excessive loss of potassium during exercise. These drinks are designed to be high in potassium and low in sodium. They can be taken in as fluid replacement if adrenal fatigue is very mild. Sufferers of advanced adrenal fatigue usually have a low cortisol and sodium level. They should take filtered drinking water with ½-1 teaspoon of salt on a regular basis, especially in the morning.
Only a small number of people with adrenal fatigue have concurrent high blood pressure. Those that fall into this category should check their blood pressure carefully during fluid replacement.
Sea salt is better than table salt in that it contains additional trace minerals as well. A good fluid cocktail for adrenal fatigue suffers is vegetable juice diluted with water and sprinkled with sea salt and kelp powder. Kelp contains about 90 mg of potassium and over 200 mg of sodium per serving and is easily absorbed.
Hydration of a person in adrenal fatigue should take about 24-48 hrs. The drink should be administered 2-4 times a day in intermittent dosages. Coffee, alcohol, and tea (with the exception of herbal tea) should be avoided.
Carbohydrate, Protein and Fats

It is important for adrenal fatigue patients to balance the amount of protein, fat, and well as carbohydrates. As compared to a normal person, the adrenal fatigue person has an immediate need for sugar when hunger strikes. At the same time, they also need good protein as well as good fat to have sustained energy until the next meal comes.
The primary diet should be high in raw food and that is low in glycemic index. Fruit juices should be avoided. Whole fruits should be limited, especially melons, which are high in sugar and causes sugar spikes soon after food enters the body. Good quality protein from meat, fish, and eggs are recommended. These provide a steady source of energy to carry the body through between meals.
Vegetarians who have adrenal fatigue have a much higher challenge. Legumes (beans) must be eaten with whole grains, seeds, or nuts to make a complete protein. It is important for vegetarians to add eggs, miso, as well as combining beans, seeds, and nuts with a small amount of whole grain. About 50-60% of the diet should consist of raw food. 6-8 servings of a wide variety of vegetables should be included.
Seeds and nuts are critical elements and sources of fatty acids that the adrenal glands need in order to manufacture cholesterol, a precursor to all adrenal steroid hormones. The key is to take nuts and seeds that are raw and free of rancid oils. Oils that are rancid make the symptoms of adrenal fatigue worse and should be avoided at all cost. Raw nuts should be taken on a liberal basis and should be soaked overnight in water. Nuts such as cashews, almonds, brazils, pecans, walnuts, and chestnuts are excellent. Peanuts should be avoided. Olive oil should be used for light cooking. The cooking heat should be low to moderate. Use coconut oil and butter for any high heat or deep-frying.
Vegetables high in sodium include kelp, black olives, red hot peppers, spinach, zucchini, celery, and Swiss chard. Fruits should only be taken in moderation. If you feel worse after food consumption, that is the body’s way of telling you that you are on the wrong track. Organic fruits such as papaya mango, apples, grapes, and cherry are recommended. Bananas, dates, figs, raisins, and grapefruit are high in potassium and should be limited.
Many people with adrenal fatigue also have a lower level of hydrochloric acid (HCl), which is necessary to break down the protein. Symptoms of this problem include gas, bloating, and heaviness in the stomach after eating a meal containing protein. In such case, the use of digestive enzymes, probiotics, as well as HCl replacement is indicated
Dietary Tips:
1. Always eat breakfast, and do it before 10am. The body’s glycogen supply needs to be replenished after going through the evening. Try to each your lunch before noon followed by a nutritious snack between 2 and 3. The evening meal should be taken before 6pm. Just before bedtime, a couple of bites of high quality snacks are recommended.
2. Combine small amount of whole grains with generous portion of protein and fat at every meal and snack except at bedtime. This will ensure sustained energy is available at and between meals.
3. Eat 20-25% whole grain, 30-40% above the ground vegetables (50% of which should be raw), 10-15% beans, nuts, and seeds, 10-20% animal food, 10-15% good fat, and 5-10% whole fruits (except banana and fruits in the melon family).
4. Whole fruits are permitted in lunch and dinner except banana, figs and those in the melon family.
5. Sprinkle sea salt liberally to food to pleasant taste provided that blood pressure is normal. Food that is high in potassium such as bananas and dried figs can make the adrenals worse and should be avoided.
6. Start each morning with a full glass of water and half a teaspoon to one teaspoon of sea salt. The typical breakfast of fruits and yogurt will only worsen the adrenal fatigue sufferer. In fact, those with adrenal fatigue usually experience an increase in shakiness after a breakfast high in fruits. A good breakfast would be one that is high in protein and fats such as eggs and raw nuts. A very small amount of grains is acceptable.
7. Eat 5-6 frequent small meals instead of 3 large meals
8. Take small amount of healthy snacks high in protein and fat such as cottage cheese or nuts before sleep if there is a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night.
9. Take small amount of carbohydrate such as whole grain bread before sleep if there is a difficulty to fall asleep.

Sample Dietary Plan of 2000 calorie a day:
20% whole grain = 400 calories = 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 cup of brown rice, and half cup of oat meal.
30% vegetables = 600 calories = 3 cups salad, 2 cups green leafy vegetables, 2 cups mixed vegetables.
15% nuts and beans = 300 calories = ½ cup legumes, 3 tablespoon of nuts and seeds.
15% fat = 300 calories = 2 tablespoon olive oil.
10% animal food = 200 calories = 2.5 oz meat (including chicken, or fish).
10% whole fruits = 200 calories = 2.5 medium whole fruit such as apple.

Food Choice Table

- Sleep by 10 p.m.
- Sleep in until 9:00 a.m., if possible
- Do the things that you like
- Avoid coffee or other caffeine containing beverages
- Eat early
- Have a glass of water in the morning with ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt
- Avoid grains such as bread
- Avoid starchy foods such as potato
- Avoid trans-fat such as French fries
- Laugh several times a day
- Take vitamin C, pantethanic acid, magnesium, and vitamin E
- Take pregnenolone and DHEA as needed
- Avoid getting over-tired
- Avoid sugary fruits such as melons
- Never skip breakfast
True Stories
Dear Dr. Lam:
The following are my comments regarding your successful treatment of my numerous diagnoses.While working as a practical nurse for holistic physicians for years, I knew there had to be a physician who could treatment my multiple diagnoses. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!! My diagnoses prior to receiving treatment from Dr. Lam were:
  1.  Hypoglycemic; Insulin Resistance;
  2.  IBS/Constipation;
  3.  Acute Insomnia;
  4.  Acute Fatigue;
  5.  Chronic Acid Reflux; Ulcer Tendency;
  6.  Stress Incontinence;
  7.  Hypercholesterolemia;
  8.  Acute Drug Allergies;
  9.  Acute allergies: wheat/corn/peanuts/caffeine (RAST Testing)
       MSG, Aspartame, Red #40 Dye, Sulfites;
       A.  Symptoms of allergy attacks:
          1.  Panic Attacks (feeling of impending doom, out of
          2.  Tachycardia;
          3.  Hypertension: Blood Pressure, Normally 90/60;
          4.  Blurred vision; and
          5.  Excessive Perspiration.
  10.   Chronic Inhalant Allergies;
  11.   Acute Candidiasis as per Darkfield Microscopic Examination;
  12.   Immune System Compromised;
  13.   Chronic sinus infections;
 14.  Chronic bilateral ear infections;
 15.  Chronic bronchitis;
 16.  Acute Dental Problems;
 17.  Acute dry skin/hives;
 18.  SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder; and
 19.  Depressive Reaction Due to Multiple Allergies.
I had a family history of father having diabetes, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, multiple strokes, acute migraines, high blood pressure; and history of mother having hypotension, bipolar, and pancreatic cancer.
Since Dr. Lam’s treatment over the past 4 months with PanThree, Matrik, and Sea Salt, I am extraordinarily pleased to announce I no long have many of my prior diagnoses.  They are as follows: Acute Insomnia, Acute Fatigue, Acute IBS/Constipation, Acute Acid Reflux/Ulcer Tendency; Stress incontinence; Hypoglycemia; Insulin Resistance; Panic Attacks; Chronic sinus, ear, and bronchial infections.
It took a while for me to get there, but I have had 34 days in a row of a sense of well-being, my energy level is astounding, no more sleep issues, no more GI issues, no more infections, no more blood sugar issues, and absolutely no more panic attacks. Added bonus: I am now down 20 pounds.
I plan on continuing with Dr. Lam’s program and am looking forward to even more improvements and less diagnoses.  In my estimation:  He is truly a “life-saver.”
I would definitely encourage anyone who reads this testimony, to please reconsider your options, and pursue treatment with Dr. Michael Lam.  Most definitely you will see dramatic improvement in your medical well being.  You will add years to your life!
Appreciatively yours,
Jeannie D.
Adrenal fatigue is a decrease in the adrenal gland’s ability to carry out its normal function. The chief symptoms are fatigue, excitability, or depression.
Adrenal fatigue is commonly cause by chronic stress from any source (including emotional, physical, mental, or environmental) that exceeds the body’s capacity to adjust appropriately to the demands placed on it by the stress. It is a condition that afflicts children as well as adults.  It can be diagnosed by properly laboratory test, if only the physician pay more attention.
Adrenal glands can be restored to optimum health naturally by adhering to healthy living principals. Proper rest, together with specific nutritional diets and removal of stressors are key components to adrenal fatigue recovery.
The road to adrenal recovery is not a linear or straightforward path because of the complexity of our internal hormonal and stress-regulation system.
Most people who suffer from adrenal fatigue also have multiple endocrine imbalances including sub-clinical hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, and estrogen dominance. These need to be optimized as well. Adrenal recovery is a process akin to running a marathon. The process is long, but it can be done easily and painlessly, one step at a time. Most will find some improvement in a matter of weeks, depending on the degree of pre-existing damage and the clinical skills of the health professional. Because the amount of hormonal balancing is intricate and is highly sensitive, the process take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years under the best of hands. It is a long marathon, and recovery should not be expected in a matter of weeks. Frustration and disappointments are common and normal. Patience is key. During the recovery process, most, if not all, will go through a roller coaster type ride with advances and setbacks.
The use of the proper amount of nutritional supplement can certainly speed up the recovery process, if done properly. It is critically important to note that while there are many nutrients that can help the adrenal recover, only a few are normally needed at any point in time. Nutrients, if not dosed properly, can become toxic and make the adrenal fatigue worse. A shot gun approach seldom works and can in fact backfires if the adrenal is not able to take in the nutrients at the right rate, time, and dose.
Take it one step at a time under professional guidance is best to ensure that the right step is taken at the right time. This is especially true for advance case. Laboratory test can be helpful, but is not critical in most cases. The key is a knowledgeable clinician who takes the time to understand your body’s signal and cries for help, a total nutritional and lifestyle approach that helps the adrenal gland to normalize itself, and on going adjustments in terms of nutritional supplementation to help the adrenal during this recovery.
Message from Dr. Lam
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About The Author
Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M. is a specialist in Preventive and Anti-Aging Medicine. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from  Loma Linda University School of Medicine, California. He also holds a Masters of Public Health degree and  is Board Certification in Anti-aging Medicine by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine. Dr. Lam pioneered the formulation of the three clinical phases of aging as well as the concept of diagnosis and treatment of sub-clinical age related degenerative diseases to deter the aging process. Dr. Lam has been published extensively in this field. He is the author of The Five Proven Secrets to Longevity and Beating Cancer with Natural Medicine (available on-line).
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