What Causes Adrenal Fatigue: The 4 Red Flags You Need to Know


by Erica Jones MHS

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue

How much stress have you been dealing with this week? Is it the rip your hair out, scream at the top of your lungs kind of stress? Or the subtle, but very present sense of urgency and “not enough time to get everything done” kind of stress?

It’s just inevitable, isn’t it? Modern day living seems to come prepackaged with an unhealthy dose of stress. Considering that the average person has terrible nutrition, does little physical activity, is exposed to numerous toxins as well as stress and fatigue, it’s no wonder that sources say we are living the worst quality of life since the early 20th century.  

All of these challenges create the perfect storm for issues like adrenal fatigue. So, what causes adrenal fatigue? And really, what is it?

Adrenal fatigue happens when you experience physical, mental and emotional stress due to the poor function of the adrenal glands.

Ironically, our adrenal glands are only as big as a groundnut and weigh only as much as a grape, yet they are capable of maintaining one of the most significant functions of the human body: stress management.     

What causes adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal glands produce hormones, like the cortisol hormone, that assist our body in dealing with stress. If you’ve experienced too much stress it can compromise the function of your hormones and cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

Before we can go deeper on  what causes adrenal fatigue, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. A symptom is just your body trying to tell you that it is out of balance or not receiving the kind of support it should. Here are common symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

Common Symptoms of Adrenal fatigue
  • Unusual and unexplained fatigue
  • Difficulty in handling stress
  • Feeling difficult to get up early in the morning
  • Mild depression
  • Cravings for salty, sugary and fatty foods
  • Craving for caffeine
  • Insomnia
  • Weak immune system
  • Anger, fear and anxiety
  • Increased allergies
  • Weakness in the muscles, muscle and bone loss
  • Skin issues
  • Imbalance of hormones
  • Menopausal symptoms or increased PMS
  • Lightheadedness when sitting, standing or lying down
  • Memory disruption
Other less-common symptoms include:
  • Dark circles in the face and just below the eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Asthma and respiratory complaints
  • Frequent urination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Back pain
  • Poor blood circulation and numbness in the fingers
  • Unusual weight gain

As you can tell from the name, the most evident symptom of adrenal fatigue is the feeling of being bogged down or not being able to live up to your daily demands, also called “unrelenting fatigue.” Fatigue, being a very common symptom, is often misdiagnosed even by the best doctors.

This is why functional health testing is so beneficial because it can give you an inside look into the body without guessing or speculating on what the root cause of the problem is.

So, what causes adrenal fatigue?

Remember, adrenal fatigue doesn’t happen instantly. Often, it occurs due to slow hormonal changes happening over a period of years. Therefore, if you are trying to determine the causes of adrenal fatigue, it is important to rewind your life a little bit and look at the full picture.

A traumatic emotional event or an accident that happened to you years ago could have been the start of  your adrenals taking a downward spiral. Even something exciting, like a having a baby, could be one of the causes of adrenal fatigue. Simply because your regular sleep rhythm is disrupted significantly while your body is also trying to balance hormones after just having a baby.

On that note, let’s have a look at the most common long-term causes of adrenal fatigue:

1- Emotional stress and how to combat it

By far, stress is the number one cause of adrenal fatigue. It could be a heart-breaking relationship problem, a toxic friend or a long and horrible encounter with your boss or maybe relocating to a new place that you didn’t like. There could be numerous reasons.  

This kind of stress is low-grade; it makes you think that you can handle it in the short term, but it often has immense effects on your body and mind in the long term.

Fortunately, you have many ways to cope with this kind of stress, but one of the most obvious methods is to identify and eliminate the cause. But sometimes it’s not that simple. You can’t just “get rid of” your spouse, or your boss or your screaming kids. You have to find a way to “deal” in the moment in a way that is appropriate.

Deep breathing – especially with the use of calming essential oils like Lavender is a favorite strategy that is easily accessible no matter where you are. You simply add a drop of essential oil to the palm of one hand, rub your palms together to combine, cup your hands over your nose and inhale deeply several times. You will feel relaxation wash over you instantly.

Other strategies for dealing with emotional stress are to journal, talk to a friend, do yoga, take a relaxing bath or get a massage. Give yourself time to have breaks and to rejuvenate and you’ll be more balanced and less stressed in no time. This is hugely beneficial for your adrenals and for preventing adrenal fatigue from happening in the first place.

2 – It’s the usual suspect again – Diet

We eat more sugar today than in the history of mankind. In the past 200 years in the US alone, the intake of sugar by an average adult has increased from 1-2 lbs per year to more than 150 lbs. a year. POUNDS per year, you say? Um…yes. It’s bad. Very bad.

Our genetics have never changed all these years. So how are we going to cope with the intake of these empty calories? We have simply contributed to our own hormonal imbalance and this is just another key insight into what causes adrenal fatigue. As we eat more and more sugar, we also produce extra insulin and cortisol, putting more stress on the adrenals and pancreas.

Are you surprised? Probably not really. It’s just too easy to over consume sugar these days. It’s everywhere – it’s in the not so obvious places, like “healthy” smoothies and protein bars and all of the processed foods that we find in the grocery aisles- even at stores like Whole Foods! But it gets better.

There is yet another connection between adrenal fatigue and the intake of sugar. Too much sugar can make you obese, and that’s an obvious thing. But did you know that obesity can cause adrenal fatigue, too?

Imagine the amount of stress on your body from the excessive weight. But to add insult to injury, your adrenals get hammered too.  

In this case, a change to your nutrition is paramount. Not only will you start to feel more energized, like you can actually be productive during your workday, but you’ll have the energy at the end of it to do what you want to do!

Whether it’s playing with your kids, going to the gym or working on a project or hobby that you’re passionate about. Your energy is the key to your vibrance in life. Preserve it and you will live to the fullest extent, always experiencing more!

3- Disrupted Sleep

Our ancestors enjoyed nine hours of restful sleep every night, and here we are struggling to get even half of that. Like emotional stress, there are so many reasons for insufficient sleep. Poor work-life balance, relationship issues, illness, loneliness, a new baby (or a teething baby) and the reasons go on and on. These are more contributing factors to what causes adrenal fatigue.

My children are 1 and 3, so that means they wake up early every morning. And only the last 6 months I’ve actually been getting to sleep through the night. They wake up early on the weekends. And even on my birthday.  It’s just the way it is!

So, I know a thing or two about rebuilding your adrenals and balancing hormones. There’s no way I’d be able to run our businesses without having the energy to be productive at the times when I really need to focus. Before I chose to live the high performance lifestyle I was just like the typical American.

On average Americans sleep just 6.1 hours every night. This is already bad. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours each night. And to function well off of 7 hours, you’ve got to have your ducks lined in a row. Eating clean, exercising, de-stressing, taking care of yourself at a high level.

The truth is, your body needs a long and restful sleep to repair and restore itself. The body has an extraordinary ability to heal itself. But the thing is, it needs enough time and rest to work its magic. So, make sure you sleep for seven to eight hours, at least, or you might find yourself suffering from adrenal fatigue.  

4- Toxic Load

Toxins are present in our foods, chlorines in water, pollutants in the air, pesticides in the vegetables and antibiotics in meat. It’s even in our makeup and personal care! Toxins are everywhere.

According to estimates, about two thousand chemicals are brought into the consumer marketplace every year through foods and other products. Toxins and chemicals that we unknowingly load into our body can fuel the fire for serious health conditions like heart diseases, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Even if you don’t show symptoms of any of these conditions, the toxins present in your body could affect you materially, impacting your immune system, your digestion, and the overall quality of your life.

So, how does it take on the adrenals? Specifically, hormone disrupting chemicals and ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products can interfere with healthy adrenal function. Your body can handle a certain amount of toxic load on it’s on, but constant exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals for long periods of time can definitely be the a contributing factor for adrenal fatigue.

If you can relate to any of the 4 factors that cause adrenal fatigue, then you need a plan to get yourself back on track. Depending on how long you’ve been suffering from fatigue and low energy, you could already be in the advanced stages of adrenal fatigue. And the sooner you do something about it, the better!

Let us know in the comments if you can relate and how you plan to get yourself back on track!


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Meet Erica

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Meet Erica Jones, MHS

Hi there! I'm Erica Jones, MHS.
I'm a mom to 4 amazing little kids, wife to an incredibly talented doctor and I’ve been doing this “healthy lifestyle” thing for over a decade. I’m super passionate about essential oils, health, wellness and making natural living easy. I’m so grateful to be living my BEST life and I'm here to help YOU live yours.

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