10 Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Published on December 19, 2023

By Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs

In a world where our minds and bodies constantly absorb information, pressures, and expectations, our health can often fall by the wayside. 

As we connect more with nature and our inner selves, we recognize the balance our bodies crave. Within this lies adrenal health, an important topic frequently overshadowed by more prominent health discussions. 

At Gaia, we pride ourselves on utilizing ancient practices and combining them with modern research. Our mission is to enlighten and empower individuals about their wellness, starting with the core concepts like adrenal health. 

Let’s dive deep into adrenal fatigue, what causes it, some of the most common symptoms, and a few ways that you can address it. 

What are Adrenal Glands?

Nestled right above our kidneys, the adrenal glands might be small but significant in function.REF#3261 These glands enhance our body's responses to various stressors. 

Think of a time when your heart raced before a presentation or your senses heightened when you heard an unexpected noise late at night. Behind these reactions is the adrenal glands' handiwork, primarily through the secretion of adrenal hormones like cortisol.

Cortisol, often called the "stress hormone," is fundamental to our health.REF#3262 It fuels our "fight or flight" response, ensuring swift reaction time. Yet, this hormone plays a broader role in today's world, where stress is more psychological than physical. 

Working in tandem with the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands keep a tight check on cortisol's production and release.REF#3263 The two strive to ensure that our reactions to daily stressors, whether emotional dilemmas or physical exertions, remain balanced.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Contrary to its name, adrenal fatigue isn't just about feeling tired. Technically, this term is not an official medical diagnosis and isn’t universally accepted in mainstream medicine.REF#3264 However, it’s still a commonly discussed topic within the holistic health community. It represents a potential state where the adrenal glands might struggle to maintain their optimal function after prolonged periods of stress or illness.

These disruptions to adrenal function can be traced back to several causes. 

Chronic Stress

One of the most significant contributors to an adrenal crisis is chronic stress. We often juggle multiple roles, responsibilities, and pressures, leading to heightened alertness. 

Over time, our adrenal glands can become overworked from producing cortisol, leading to a potential imbalance.

Sleep Dysregulation

A good night's rest is more than feeling refreshed the next day. Sleep is when our bodies repair, rejuvenate, and recalibrate.REF#3265 

Any disruptions in our sleep patterns, whether due to lifestyle choices, external factors, or medical conditions such as sleep apnea, can strain our adrenal glands. 

The consistent lack of deep, restorative sleep can impact cortisol regulation, resulting in higher cortisol levels in your blood and further exacerbating adrenal fatigue symptoms.

Emotional and Physical Strains

It’s well known that our physical and mental health are interconnected. What happens to one can significantly influence the other. 

Emotional stress and upheavals, whether personal loss, workplace pressures, or even societal issues, can have tangible effects on our adrenal health. Similarly, chronic physical stress and health issues can also strain our adrenal system.

What are the Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?

The exact symptoms of adrenal insufficiency can vary from one person to the next. However, there are a few side effects that commonly appear in individuals with adrenal fatigue. 

If you’re experiencing multiple symptoms, it’s recommended to schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist or medical professional. They can perform an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) blood test to determine if adrenal fatigue or another health condition is the root cause.REF#3266 

1. Persistent Fatigue

One of the most telling signs of adrenal insufficiency is consistent tiredness. Imagine feeling constantly drained, even after a long night's sleep. This isn't your ordinary end-of-a-long-day fatigue — it's a more prominent tiredness that doesn't seem to lift.

2. Difficulty Waking Up

For many, the morning signals a fresh start. But for those potentially grappling with adrenal fatigue, mornings can be particularly challenging. Persistent grogginess can make waking up and starting the day an uphill task.

3. Cravings for Salt or Sugar

Increased cravings can be our body's way of signaling an underlying dysfunction. People with adrenal fatigue often report an insatiable desire for salty foods or an unusual spike in their blood sugar desires, leading them to reach for sweets more frequently.

4. Need for Stimulants Like Caffeine

Increased dependency on caffeine to combat constant fatigue could also indicate adrenal fatigue. It's as if the body is constantly in need of external pick-me-ups to navigate through the day.

5. Reduced Ability to Handle Stress

Life, with its ups and downs, demands resilience. However, an apparent dip in your ability to handle even minor stressors, feeling easily overwhelmed or anxious, might hint at skewed cortisol levels.

6. Lightheadedness When Standing Up

While this might seem unrelated initially, sudden dizziness or lightheadedness when standing up can be connected to adrenal health. It might hint at low blood pressure, a potential side effect of adrenal dysfunction.

7. Reduced Libido

Our mental health, physical well-being, and hormonal balance influence our libido. Those facing adrenal challenges may notice a distinct decline in their interest in intimate activities, reflecting the body's overall state.

8. Cognitive Difficulties or "Brain Fog"

The brain thrives on balance. Cognitive challenges, ranging from forgetfulness to a lack of clarity in thought, often termed "brain fog," might indicate underlying adrenal issues.

9. Symptoms of Depression

It can be difficult to understand the source of your mental health state. While various factors can contribute to feelings of sadness or hopelessness, persistent mild depression could be a symptom of adrenal insufficiency, signaling the body's cry for help.

10. Decreased Immune Response

Our immune system is our body's frontline against infections. However, recurrent illnesses or constantly being "under the weather" could signify that the immune system isn't functioning at its peak, potentially due to adrenal challenges.

How Can You Address Adrenal Fatigue?

Navigating modern life can often leave us feeling adrift. Tapping into nature's wisdom can provide the anchor we so desperately seek. 

Here's how you might address this holistic health concern:

  • Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in whole foods supports more than just weight loss — it provides the necessary nutrients that encourage proper adrenal function. You can prioritize lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to ensure your body receives the consistent energy it needs. Try some healthy recipes from our recipe index or our adrenal cocktail recipe.
  • Proper Hydration: Staying adequately hydrated supports overall bodily functions and aids in maintaining stable blood pressure, which is especially crucial for those with adrenal concerns.
  • Regular Exercise: While it's essential not to overstrain, moderate and consistent exercise can help increase blood circulation, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being. Activities like yoga or tai chi can be especially beneficial, emphasizing physical and mental balance.
  • Get More Sleep: Quality sleep can feel rejuvenating. Prioritize seven to nine hours of restful sleep to give your body and adrenal glands the time to recover and rebalance.
  • Stress Management: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and journaling can help manage and reduce stress. Taking intentional breaks and setting boundaries also play an important role.
  • Limit Stimulants: Reducing the intake of caffeine and other stimulants can decrease the burden on adrenal glands, helping to maintain optimal cortisol levels.

How Can Supplements Support Adrenal Health?

Supplements, especially those made from natural ingredients, may offer support. Various minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron can help bolster your adrenal glands. Herbs like ashwagandha, holy basil, and milky oats can help support during life’s stressful seasons.

It's important to remember that while supplements offer support, they should not replace prescribed medications. Always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any supplementation regimen.

A Final Word

Understanding your body and navigating potential health issues such as adrenal insufficiency requires compassion and knowledge. At Gaia Herbs, we’re here to guide you through holistic health.


  • 1. Nussey S, Whitehead S., "Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach. Oxford: BIOS Scientific Publishers; 2001", Chapter 4, The adrenal gland.
  • 2. Thau L, Gandhi J, Sharma S., "Physiology, Cortisol. [Updated 2022 Aug 29]", In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. .
  • 3. Smith, S. M., & Vale, W. W. (2006), "The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress", Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(4), 383–395.
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