Located above your kidneys are the adrenal glands. These are glands that are critical to your health and wellbeing because they secrete the hormones that help your body deal with stress and regulate many bodily functions. It’s urgent to understand that your adrenal glands respond to the input from your nervous system. Adrenal “burnout” is when your adrenal glands function is low. These days, it is shockingly common. Adrenal burnout is not simply fatigue, which can be handled by a few decent nights sleep. It’s better described as profound exhaustion of your body’s energy-making systems. Fatigue is merely one symptom. You may actually sleep very well, but your body is not energized by sleep. Adrenal burnout may be triggered by an accident, injury or emotionally traumatic event, or series of events—but not develop symptoms for many years later.
The great news is that adrenal burnout can be treated using natural methods (hormone treatments are in my opinion, rarely necessary).
Determining Adrenal Burnout
It seems sadly, that most physicians are not adequately determining if people are suffering adrenal burnout. Millions of prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs and sleep medicine are testimony to this. The harsh reality is that the majority of doctors won't even acknowledge that it exists... that it's one of those "alternative health care" phenomena. Perhaps this is because adrenal burnout is not a condition for which a “little white pill” can be prescribed. Plus, there's no billable medical insurance code either. Unless you're diagnosed with Addison's disease, a very severe form adrenal dysfunction, you may likely never have your adrenal function considered... And you'll quite possibly continue to suffer needlessly.
Fortunately, with a little effort, we can fairly easily determine adrenal exhaustion, beginning simply with symptoms. Low blood pressure is an example of a common symptom, along with fatigue (regardless of sleeping fairly well). However, since so many people use coffee, tea and soda as “energy” boosters, fatigue can be less noticed. Other common symptoms include: depression, joint pain, back pain, as well as craving for salt and sugar.
Traditional laboratory testing may not provide evidence of adrenal deficiency. Fortunately the blossoming field of Bio-energetic Medicine may provide you with health information beyond traditional medical testing. This form of testing is covered in a separate article on this website, and I believe that it is "must-read" information. In addition, if your adrenals are troubled, we must consider if there are toxic metals in your system. This is important because the presence of toxic metals like mercury, aluminum and others can affect your mineral balance and adrenal function. The great news is that there are many natural ways to detoxify your body, such as homeopathic formulas and dietary changes.
Basically the answer is simple. The causes are: Chronic Infection, Emotional Stress, Chemical and electromagnetic Toxicity, Structural Imbalances, Poor Nutrition and energetic blockages. An apparently little-known, but common cause of adrenal exhaustion is Lyme disease. Working too hard, stressful family problems and too much mental stimulation are huge factors in burning out the adrenal glands. Our lives are loaded with fear and stress. It’s no wonder people are such a mess. Our adrenals are overloaded like no time in human history.
We are all exposed to heavy metals and chemicals. They’re in the air we breathe, as well as the food we eat and the water we drink. They’re in many medications too. Also, poor digestion can contribute to metals building up in your tissues. If you are healthy, your body is better equipped to get rid of these toxins. Toxic buildup makes your adrenal glands weaker.
Another giant factor is the stress of electromagnetic pollution. Electric fields generated by cell phones, microwave ovens, power lines, computers, etc. are an easily dismissed, but monumentally significant threat to our health. My patients combat electromagnetic pollution by keeping an inexpensive, multipolar magnet in their pockets.
Poor nutrition may seem obvious, but there’s more to it than just taking an extra multi-vitamin. When your stress is high, you’ve got to eat better. Your adrenal glands need better nutrition. This includes the right quality of water and naturally occurring minerals. Unfortunately our food supply does not provide all of the necessary nutrients, which is why diagnostic testing and supplements are so important. You can even have nutritional deficiencies passed down to you from your mother during pregnancy. This is not genetics, it’s fetal development. If the mother is nutritionally deficient and in a state of adrenal exhaustion, the child can be born already at a disadvantage.
Stimulants Damage Your Adrenal Glands
The boost that you get from your daily coffee, cola drink or caffeinated tea, is damaging your adrenal glands and contributing to exhaustion, as well as chronic fatigue and pain. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol are devastating to your adrenals.
Too much or too intense exercise can even contribute. While it may feel good short-term, excessive exercise can have a negative effect on the adrenals. I advise most of my patients to stop vigorous exercise for a while. This gives the adrenal glands a fighting chance to recover.
Your emotions, particularly rage, hatred and anger play an important role. Taking control of the emotional component is a critical factor in overcoming adrenal exhaustion. In my practice I recommend the use of “Emotional Freedom Technique”—a method of tapping on acupuncture points while focusing on a negative emotion. Becoming able to deal better with stress is a critical factor in overcoming adrenal exhaustion. Many emotional and psychological symptoms can be present with adrenal exhaustion. If you feel apathy, hopelessness, despair, irritability, anxiety, anger, resentment, or feel a loss of faith in people… you could be suffering from adrenal exhaustion.
Low blood pressure, blood sugar, or body temperature, are common symptoms. Food and chemical sensitivities and allergies may result from adrenal burnout, as a result of low levels of the hormone, cortisol. Thyroid imbalances can develop as a result of adrenal burnout. The thyroid and adrenal glands share a close relationship, thus a problem in one affects the other. When your adrenals are weak, you are susceptible to toxic buildup of copper. This negatively affects your emotions. When your energy is low, your body loses its ability to eliminate toxic metals, which also can cause countless physical and psychological symptoms.
Is it “all in my head”?
Adrenal burnout is a biochemical problem; not psychological. It most certainly does affect you emotionally. However, it’s scary to realize how many people are treated for psychological disorders with prescription medications. In my opinion, adrenal exhaustion must be taken seriously and naturally treated, as a primary approach. People are going through their lives with adrenal burnout. They’re so busy that they don’t realize how exhausted their bodies actually are. Many people appear to be healthy, but they’re actually highly stressed. Adrenal burnout of exhaustion is not a quick fix. It can take years to recover, so it requires a serious commitment to your health. This means following a strict diet and supplementation regimen. I advise my patients to stay away from stimulants and chemicals that mask symptoms (creating an illusion of well-being). In my opinion, adrenal exhaustion/burnout is tragically under-diagnosed. Many physicians blow it off as not having a scientific basis. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Hair mineral analysis and hormone testing easily documents it.
The challenge is that there’s no “miracle drug” for it… I suspect that if you could take a pill that could mask the symptoms of it; everyone would know about it. Sleeping pills won’t cure it (they’ll make it worse). Stimulant drugs and anti-depressants may make it worse too. If you’re waking up without feeling rested—odds are good you’re in a stage of adrenal burnout.
In my treatment programs, I usually take people OFF of exercise. Things to avoid:
The first step in overcoming adrenal burnout is working with a doctor who even acknowledges and understands it in the first place. Your doctor must understand all of the challenges of recovery. Family, friends and co-workers may very well not understand what you’re going through. Adrenal burnout can contribute to damaged relationships because of this. It is a complex and demanding problem to overcome… but tremendously rewarding once properly evaluated and treated. We live in a “quick fix” health care society. This is one of reasons adrenal burnout is so rarely discussed. There is absolutely no instant recovery from it. Your body must go through a healing process over time. There are no shortcuts. It takes energy to recover. That’s why it’s a must to have a doctor who understands the steps that must be taken. Recovering from adrenal exhaustion is like “rebuilding” your body. It’s not a minor repair. Improper adrenal function can lead to other degenerative diseases and must be taken very seriously if you really want to get healthy again.
Action Steps to Recover
There are several important steps to take. Both you and your doctor have to create a program of lifestyle changes. In my practice, once it is determined that you indeed have adrenal burnout/exhaustion, we implement the following protocols:
Detection and Correction of Energy Imbalances: Bio-energetic testing utilizing Auricular Medicine, a magnificent European system of addressing subtle energy blockages throughout the body
treatment: determined by Bio-energetic
testing. Nutritional changes may be recommended as well.
Bio-energetic Treatments: Needle-free Ear Acupuncture (Auricular Therapy), Cold Laser Therapy, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Diagnosing and Treating Structural Imbalances: distortions and dysfunction of the spine, and other skeletal, muscle, ligament and tendon structures throughout the body using Atlas Orthogonal (neck alignment) and various gentle manual therapies.
Gentle Lymphatic Rebounding Exercise: Rebounding is the use of specialized mini-trampoline to stimulate the immune system (this is perhaps the best exercise you could do when suffering from adrenal burnout)
In my practice I advocate a natural approach. I do NOT suggest or take any involvement in the prescription or removal of medications of any kind. Medications are an issue for you to only discuss with your prescribing physician, if applicable.
If you feel you may be suffering from adrenal burnout, make sure you find a doctor who understands this condition. If you'd like details about my practice philosophy (integrated medicine), Click HERE.
Although I receive lots of questions daily, I do respond to all of them (in the order received), usually within 48 hours. Please understand that my answers are for general information only. I cannot provide specific medical advice via email; that can only be provided through proper evaluation in my office. For appointments, please call my office.
Your email address or other information is confidential; I wll never share it with anyone, nor will it be used for any form of solicitation. I look forward to your questions!
- Dr. Donald Liebell