Adrenal Fatigue: Signs, Symptoms and The Functional Medicine Approach


It's time for bed, but you're wired. You're exhausted but you just can't get restful sleep. You toss and turn for hours and wakeup feeling like you never fully rested.

You may have anxiety during the day, but you're dependent on coffee or other stimulants to get you through the work day.

This scenario is reality for millions of men and women around the world and there is an answer to this problem--but you wont get it from your mainstream doctor.

They don't recognize this condition; adrenal fatigue.

Function of the adrenal glands

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and produce 3 types of hormones. The adrenal glands consist of an outer and inner layer.

All steroid hormones require cholesterol for their production. [source].

The adrenal cortex is the outer layer of the adrenal glands, similar to the crust on earth.

This outer layer secretes the infamous stress hormone cortisol along with other glucocorticoids. Cortisol helps control inflammation in the body and is a key player in our stress and immune response. Cortisol also plays a role in blood sugar and blood pressure regulation.

Cortisol is a catabolic hormone which breaks town muscle tissue to increase blood sugar levels.

This is partially why highly stressed individuals have trouble burning fat or building muscle.

Do you have adrenal fatigue?The adrenal cortex also produces our sex hormones and allows us to maintain a libido. This is partially why adrenal fatigue, burnout, high stress and low libido may be experienced together.

Lastly, our adrenal cortex produces aldosterone which is a steroid that helps regulate our potassium levels and blood pressure by coordinating with the kidneys.

People with low aldosterone commonly crave salt and may feel lightheaded when going from a lying or sitting position to standing up.

The inner region of the adrenal gland is called the medulla.

The medulla produces adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. This is where our "fight-or-flight" system comes from.

This system becomes "stuck on" when you're exposed to chronic stress, eventually sapping your energy levels.

Causes of stress

You can assume most that people in the developed world have some level of adrenal fatigue for a myriad of reasons:

  • Chronic stress
  • Blood sugar dysfunction
  • Overconsumption of sugar
  • Low thyroid function
  • Inflammation
  • Food intolerances
  • Poor gut health
  • Autoimmunity
  • Low cholesterol (mostly from statins)
  • Not enough dietary fat
  • Type-A personality
  • Too much coffee and stimulants
  • Too much exercise
  • Heavy metal toxicity (mainly too much copper)
  • Low zinc status
  • Lack of fatty acids
  • Poor self esteem
  • Harboring anger and hatred
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Not enough play time
  • Taking yourself too seriously
  • Lack of laughter

While some of these play a bigger role than others, these are all important factors to look at when you are self-treating or working with a qualified functional medicine practitioner.

The stages of stress

Do you have adrenal fatigue?

Take a good look at this chart. Where do you currently lie?

The reason that we hear about stress so often is because the modern world presents new inputs, incomprehensible to our ancient ancestors, or even our grandparents.

iPhones, tablets, computers, emails, social media, notifications, TV, YouTube and more are constantly pulling us away from the rest-and-digest mode that we are designed for about 99% of our lives.

We are designed for stressful events about 1% of the time.

Our ancestor would have been walking in the woods when they startled upon a bear.

For the next 3 minutes, they would have either been running from the bear or hunting the bear. That fleeting moment of stress would not leave a significant impact on the nervous system or adrenal glands.

What stress does

When we become overwhelmed with long-term stress we can experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased tolerance to heat or cold
  • Aches and pains
  • Feel tired even after sleeping
  • Depression
  • Feelings that life is "unreal"
  • Lightheadedness and a poor sense of balance when sitting or standing
  • Fatigue and dizziness when fasting
  • Extreme energy and crash after a meal
  • Frequent colds
  • Sleep disruption or insomnia
  • Cravings for chocolate, caffeine and sugar
  • Mood imbalance and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues

and almost anything.

World renowned Functional Medicine expert, Dr. Mark Hyman and I discussed stress together on the podcast. He agreed with the concept that 95% of all health symptoms worldwide are either caused by or worsened by some form of stress.

To be a bit more specific, stress first tends to wreak havoc on our digestive system by shunting blood away from the gut and into the muscles to prepare for a fight, getaway or to the brain to help improve decision making.

Digesting a meal to breakdown the proteins into amino acids which fuel the brain becomes a luxury. As does reproduction.

You're running from a bear, even if that bear is just an email notification, so your body puts your sex drive and digestive enzyme production to the wayside.

Cortisol scavenges our precious muscle tissue to make a quick source of fuel (glucose) for the brain and body.

Even having a cell phone around us can create a stress response due to the radiation emissions [source]. If that doesn't seem concerning, our neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that allow us to have a stable, bright mood are also affected by cell phones [source].

Minimizing our exposure to stress and minimizing our response to stress is of the utmost importance.

How can stress cause so many diseases?

This excerpt from stress.com, dedicated to the "founder of stress", Hans Selye explains:

[intense_blockquote color="#f5f5f5" font_color="#333333"]Many of these effects are due to increased sympathetic nervous system activity and an outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related hormones. Certain types of chronic and more insidious stress due to loneliness, poverty, bereavement, depression and frustration due to discrimination are associated with impaired immune system resistance to viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and cancer. Stress can have effects on other hormones, brain neurotransmitters, additional small chemical messengers elsewhere, prostaglandins, as well as crucial enzyme systems, and metabolic activities that are still unknown. Research in these areas may help to explain how stress can contribute to depression, anxiety and its diverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, skin and other organs.[/intense_blockquote]

Stress can have effects on other hormones, prostaglandins, as well as crucial enzyme systems, immune function metabolic activities that are still unknown. Research in these areas may help to explain how stress can contribute to depression, anxiety and its diverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, skin and other organs.

What can we do about this?

Since conventional medicine laughs at the idea of adrenal fatigue or dysfunction, it's important to work with a functional medicine practitioner that recognizes and treats this health issue at the root causes.

In the meantime, you can use these non-supplemental methods, that are free:

  • Engage in mild exercise. A study found that found that exercise prevents the anxiety-like behavior related to the stress response. Too much and/or too intense exercise taxes the adrenals. A good gauge to determine if your exercise is "good for you" is to pay attention to your energy levels after your workout. If you are much more fatigued after your workout than before it, you may want to tone it down a bit. Exercise should energize and vitalize you.
  • Avoid high-carbohydrate intake. The american diet is laden with an abundance of refined carbohydrates and sugar. The blood sugar fluctuations that occur with such a high-glycemic diet wears out the "PAL system", which consists of the pancreas, adrenals and liver. If you put stress on any part of this triad, symptoms arise.
  • Avoid horror movies and TV stimulation. Drama, the news and movies are stimulating and addicting to the mind and body. We seek these out for a short burst of fear-based energy. Find a show that makes you feel good if you insist.
  • Avoid loud and excessively stimulating music. Existing in the natural world was relatively quiet, much quieter than our modern world of chainsaws, diesel trucks and sound systems. Sound pollution not only disturbs humans, but other life forms as well. The guy blasting heavy metal to get through his workout may already be in adrenal burnout and not know it.
  • Seek out funny things. I've documented an increase in heart-rate variability (indication of a relaxed nervous system) during and after laughing. We all have different senses of humor. It's simple; find videos or things that make you laugh!
  • Don't take yourself so seriously. Looking at the lighter side of an issue can ease the whole response to it.
  • Use an acupressure mat. The body has various points that can be stimulated and activated to induce relaxation. Make this a regular practice.
  • Reduce cell phone and technology use. Find time to disconnect and completely get away from the inundation of WiFi, cell phones and other man-made electromagnetic fields.
  • Avoid heated arguments and don't feed them. We all end up in tense situations from time to time. Keep your cool and prevent an escalation.
  • Don't weave and speed through traffic. Driving amongst others is stressful enough. Weaving and speeding through traffic tells our body to escape. Drive defensively but passively. Don't let someone cause you road rage. Control yourself.
  • Try yoga. Yoga is not just a trend--it has thousands of years of practice and plenty of research proving the engagement of the parasympathetic, rest-and-digest mode of your nervous system.[source].
  • Go camping. Forest bathing, known as Shinrin-yoku to the Japanese, has been proven to normalize cortisol levels and blood pressure. Instead of a late night out on the town drinking alcohol, spare the health of your liver and circadian rhythm and opt for a night under the stars.
  • Go for a walk in nature. Nature deficiency is a major factor in our poor health and depression. Forest therapy has been proven to lower salivary cortisol and induce a calm nervous system. Depressed alcoholics even benefit from time spent in the forest and boost their immune system [source][source].
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine and other stimulants. Caffeine is the world's most widely abused drug. It is effective, but it further depletes the adrenal glands due to its stimulating effects.
  • Go to bed by 10pm every night. Yes, even on the weekends.  A proper sleep cycle is essential to recovery and napping during the day may also be helpful in the beginning stages of your treatment.
  • Hug your friends and family. Our love hormone oxytocin is essential to detoxification and a feeling of happiness. Hug long and tight. Enjoy the people around you.
  • Avoid yelling and arguments as much as possible. Pumping up the adrenals with stress and anger will slow your recovery. This is a good excuse to practice solving altercations in a gentle manner.
  • Do fun things. Workaholics and those who think life is only about our duties are commonly stressed and fatigued. Find a minute to go for a walk and play frisbee with your friends. If you don't have friends, try making a few in a local meetup group.
  • Take epsom salt baths and try float tanks. Magnesium acts as a cofactor in hundreds of reactions in the body. Absorbing magnesium transdermally is a great way to calm the nervous system and enhance your brain function, since adrenal fatigue and brain fog coincide.
  • Generally take it easy. You can be your best friend or your own worst enemy. The perception of how you perform in life can be self-limiting and destructive. Make sure you celebrate the small wins and achievements and learn how to be content.

This topic is huge

Another entire article, or even a book can be written about the therapies that are helpful for adrenal fatigue such as herbs, botanicals and adaptogens.

We have reached 2000 words and I am left feeling like I've barely scratched the surface of this complex and pervasive issue in our modern world.

We have brought most of our fatigue and stress upon ourselves with globalization, 24/7 technology, poor economy, agriculture, industry and all of the supposed progress of modern life. We have many blessings and technologies that make our life more exciting and easier, but we must remember to take the simple road sometimes.

I hope this helps you and please share this with those who need help. Changing the world, starting a business, or even making it through your workday when you are fatigued is nearly impossible.

Remember that we can't help others until we help ourselves first.

Not Just Paleo now offers specialized salivary adrenal test kits to identify what stage adrenal fatigue you may be in. Evan Brand, the author and practitioner behind Not Just Paleo Functional Medicine Clinic will review your results and guide you towards healing via Skype or phone.

Resources Mentioned

[intense_collapsibles] [intense_collapse]











Alpha Brain




Vitamin C and zinc



Shroom Tech Sport

Krill oil



How to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up


How to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up How many times have you thought about just giving up?

Whether it was giving up on your career, your relationship, your workout routine, your diet, or life itself, you've made it to this article--Consider yourself saved.

Alright, I felt a bit like I was the host of a late night infomercial or something. But, really, I think I have something to offer you.

When I wanted to give up

When I was working at UPS to pay for my college, I debated giving up almost every night. I didn't start my shift until midnight or sometimes 1AM. The thoughts that would go through my head each night were those that "I would escape, I have to escape, I will escape, wait, I can't escape!". I had to pay for college right? Since college is the answer that everyone seems to push on you in your senior year of high school, they must know some secret that I didn't know. College was the golden ticket to be successful in the real world. The "real world" seemed so distant and non-existant to me. It seemed like a place that would never pertain to me.

During my time in college, I realized that it definitely wasn't for me, or Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Albert Einstein. There was something about the institution as a whole that just gave me a sort of dissonance. I knew in my heart that it wasn't going to be sustainable in the long term and that it ultimately wouldn't make me happy. How was I supposed to make a career? You're telling me at age 18 you're supposed to be able to pick your "dream career" for what you want to do for the rest of your life? Now all that's left to do is to put in the work, study, take the tests, get your piece of paper and then you'd enter the magical world of your career.

I took a good look around at the adults, as I have for most of my life, and realized that most people are absolutely miserable. In fact, the CDC states that major depression will be the second most debilitating cause of disability next to heart disease in the next 6 years. The upcoming years are going to be arguably some of the hardest years that many people have ever experienced. I see why people are on the verge of just giving up. Looking back, I see how I was on the verge of giving up too.

I pushed through for a couple more years working nights and going to school all day. It was a learning experience. Now that it's over with, I guess you could say it was worth it. The thing is, the education itself did not stick. The people, the stories and the incredible walks on campus with professors talking about the future of the planet were some of the most mind opening and inspiring experiences I've ever gone through.

Now that my story is out of the way, let's talk about some things I've learned that can help you.

Let the dark cloud pass

The way I described my often incessant struggles with my moods while working third shift was like this:

It's almost as if a dark cloud is out in the distance hiding behind the hills. Sometimes the dark cloud would drift down the hill and sneak through the valley undetected without leaving a trace. Other times the dark cloud emanates from the hillside forming an ominous mass that encapsulates my entire consciousness and stays stagnant directly above me for several minutes, hours and rarely for days. Sometimes a simple sprint in the woods can cause the clouds to break up, allowing the positive rays of sunshine to peek through and give me enough courage and strength to wait out the storm. Other times nothing in my power can disperse the strength of the clouds and I remain consciously powerless to the storm until it decides to pass.

I use these analogies because I spent a lot of time working in the woods. During that time I saw many thunderstorms, snowstorms, hailstorms and rain showers come and go. When the storm would approach, you'd get butterflies as if you were on the way to a first date. The storm would come in, your senses would light up like a firefly and you would become fully immersed into this unique experience. No two storms were the same. What was certain though is no matter how bad the storms got, they always passed.

When you are facing difficult times remember that nothing is stagnant. Times are always changing, people are always changing, we are always changing and you are definitely always changing. Minute by minute, experience by experience, we are shaped and molded by every moment in life. It's what we can gain from these experiences that make us special. If you were to say that you've never learned from a mistake, you're crazy. When you mess up, when you feel like giving up, or you feel like the dark cloud above your head just simply won't go away, give it time. Take a walk by yourself with a pet or a loved one. Sit on a trail in the middle of the woods and weep if you have to. Crying has the effect of reducing the buildup of cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for creating so many flustered and tattered souls. Visit a music store and bang around on the drums and strum a guitar. Play around on the piano and synthesizers and find a tune that resonates with your current emotional state. Let it all out.

Grow from your struggles

Would you be a better person if you didn't have to endure the hard chapters of life you've experienced? Would you take back the struggles in exchange for a life of convenience, pleasure and the abundance of anything and everything at your command? I've had many things given to me in the form of spiritual, emotional and physical things and while it's always appreciated, the best things in life have come from the inside. Maybe you feel the same way. Have you had the experience where a certain song just allows you to truly feel alive? Have you climbed a hill or walked on a beach and had the sensation that everything in the universe is aligned exactly how it's supposed to be? These moments are few and far between for most folks, but I have found a recipe for cultivating these experiences.

Reduce the amount of inputs

Many of us simply have too many things going on. We have to watch the morning TV show to get our information or entertainment. We then jump in the car to listen to the radio and catch up on the latest talk show or other broadcast. We get to work to check up on all the emails and notes that have popped up since we left yesterday. We listen to music and podcasts throughout the day in a conscious effort to pass the time. We are just waiting for  "that time". When will the right time for you to "truly start living" happen? We then come home to hear the news, the latest updates on celebrities and other people in the mass media. We lay down to go to sleep with the mental chatter equivalent to a school lunchroom in the middle of a food fight. We toss and turn until drifting off. We then wake to the sound of an alarm to jump start the day all over again. Is anyone surprised that most people aren't happy?

Okay, you get it. But what can you actually do? I've covered how to ditch your alarm clock, how to maintain sanity and how to naturally boost your moods, but maybe you need more direction.

By reducing the amounts of inputs into your life, you'll find much more clarity in your thoughts. Clear thoughts will positively shape your actions. You may find that the "I don't know what to do" attitude and thought process just disintegrates right before your eyes. You are now free to set your intent and direction. Use this opportunity to evaluate the direction you've been in and align your compass to the direction you want to head in. Any belief limiting thoughts are just that; they're thoughts.

Go recharge

We all know that an object in motion stays in motion, right? So, in an effort to keep the pace up and prevent our ultimate and inevitable collapse, we keep running. We run from the things in life that suck. That's natural. However, the best thing that we can do is rest and recover. Not only does sleeping help regulate many of our hormones and our immune systems, but it simply feels good. We are the only creatures that willingly and consciously deprive ourselves of sleep in an attempt to gain something. Wait, what are we going for again?

As Dr. Alan Christianson and I discussed, the mindset that we can endlessly and tirelessly work with no rest in between to achieve our goals will only kill us.

The ultimate takeaway is that a healthy mindset towards life itself is of upmost importance. As we talked about in that show, people who commit themselves to 50 years worth of hard, intensive work to attempt to relax and retire later on die short of their goals, literally.

Instead, we should recharge every weekend, or at least every month. It doesn't have to be extravagant. Many of us can drive in a certain direction for 20 minutes or so and discover a new piece of green space that we've never seen before. If we don't have a car, we can walk until we find something that interests us. We can find a bench, sit down with a friend and a drink and just talk. These are the simple experiences and habits that we can use to manifest huge shifts in willpower, personal motivation and inspiration. Try it out for yourself!

What did this article make you think, realize or wonder? I hope that it has sparked a source of positivity to bloom inside of you, now is the time to act. Comment below.

5 Ways to Sleep Like a Lion


5 Ways to Start Sleeping Like a Lion

Let's talk about ways you can sleep better

The Center for Disease Control calls insufficient sleep as a "public health epidemic".

From young children staying up too late, to adults incapable of making it through their day with energy, sleep issues are rampant in modern society.

Why is our sleep suffering so much these days and how can we improve it?

Maximize melatonin production

The detrimental effects of night time artificial light on sleep has been extensively covered on the podcast with Dr. Hansler here.

In short, artificial light at night has been linked to a reduction of melatonin. A study using a quarter-sized light behind a subject's knee was enough to suppress melatonin levels.

Melatonin is not just our "sleep hormone". Melatonin is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body and is responsible for many other functions and actions in keeping us healthy.

Melatonin is related to:

  • Headaches
  • Seasonal depression
  • Obesity
  • Protecting against radiation
  • Tinnitus
  • Bipolar
  • Alzheimers
  • Jet lag
  • Insomnia
  • Autism
  • Aging
  • Immune system

Hormones in the body rarely serve just one purpose. As you can see with melatonin, many of the "poor health" symptoms can be caused from a lack of this crucial hormone.

Conversely, with an ample supply of melatonin, the immune system can be boosted, jet lag can be eliminated and your moods can improve!This is why maximizing our natural melatonin production is the first step to a healthy body, calm mind and quality sleep.

If you insist on staying up past 930PM and want to maximize your melatonin production, you will have to wear these glasses until all the lights are turned off.

Some people are more sensitive to light than others. I am particularly sensitive to light exposure and will toss and turn if I expose myself to too much light. After all, the eyelids are the thinnest skin on your body.

Dr. Hansler's company who specializes in removing blue lights from the home using glasses, light bulbs, iPad covers and more is my recommended resource.

Action: Put on your glasses, upgrade your lighting system and go to bed at 930PM.

Reduce blood sugar crashes

When it comes to sleep, there are many puzzle pieces that combine to form our waking experience. With a disruption in any of our natural cycles, we can experience poor moods, fatigue and a lack of quality sleep.

It doesn't matter if you are in bed 8 hours if the quality of those 8 hours are poor.

When we eliminate sugar as much as possible from the diet, we are taking many steps in the right direction. With the lack of sugar in the bloodstream, the body can begin to burn its fat stores.

As long as our insulin are raised due to sugar in our system, fat cannot be burned. Let me rephrase that again. When sugar is in the bloodstream, fat can literally not be burned, regardless of how fast and far you push yourself through an exercise routine.

When sugar is introduced to the body, it presents a fear response by the body. We cannot survive with an excess of sugar in the bloodstream. Insulin is released to shove the excess sugar into the fat cells. Now that the blood sugar is "safe" and stored in our fat cells, blood sugar drops.

When blood sugar drops, we get fatigued, moody and sometimes even lightheaded. This also triggers a fear response. If blood sugar gets too low, we pass out. Therefore, our stress hormone cortisol fires in an emergency attempt to bring the blood sugar back up to a stable level. This would allow you to have energy, run from an enemy or stay awake at your computer desk.

Does this whole process seem chaotic? That's because it is. A lifetime of the blood sugar roller-coaster will create an exhausted, unhappy and diabetic human.

Eventually, the pancreas gets tired from shooting out insulin all the time to store the excess sugar. It gives up and  you now have type II diabetes.

Now to survive and deal with the sugars you input into the body, you have to inject insulin artificially. Without proper levels of blood sugar, you can experience blurry vision, anxiety and extreme thirst.

Action: Avoid sugar except for the naturally occurring amounts found in berries. Keep some stevia packets with you just in case.

Limit caffeine intake

With the whole community posting pictures and jokes about their coffee dependence, I'm not laughing. From my experience, I fear that many of these people that innocently joke about their coffee addictions are in fact, covering up an underlying low-thyroid or adrenal function issue.

Depending on the person, the process of metabolizing and excreting caffeine can take 24 hours or more.

Cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine 50% faster than non-smokers. This partially explains why you see cigarette smoking, coffee drinkers. The other explanation is that they are looking for a double boost of their dopamine receptors. I cover neurotransmitters more in depth in my article on naturally boosting your moods.

Caffeine can be a very helpful and addictive drug for many people. It's one of the only drugs that employers will give you an allotted amount of time to "do", next to sugar.

Action: Limit caffeine beyond 10am and keep it to 100mg per day or less. For reference, a cup of coffee is about 100mg. Here's the full list of drinks.

Limit the bedroom to sleep and sex

In the age of portable electronics, it's so easy and tempting to bring our tech toys to the bed with us. Not only is the artificial light from these devices destroying our melatonin production, but the stimulation from the activity itself can keep us tossing and turning throughout the night.

Expecting to get restorative sleep after we check our email and facebook pages up until the moment we shut our eyes is about as likely as getting a tan at the North Pole.

Our brains are creatures of habit. They carve neural pathways that teach us what actions to perform to get pleasure, satisfaction, food and survival. If we've been in these habits for even just a month, there can be some neuro-plasticity that has occurred. Now, it's that much easier to perform these nightly habits without even realizing it.

Remember the last time you opened your phone or web browser, ended up on facebook and have no idea how you got there? That is the power of neural pathways in the brain.

Action: Perform technology and social activities during the daytime and more importantly, keep these activities out of the bedroom.

Reserving the bedroom for sleep and sex only will teach your brain that when you enter the bed, it's time for only 2 activities.

Go for a walk each day

You may wonder why exercise is presented in so many articles on the web these days. I agree, it's one of those things we inherently know is good for us, but often we just put it aside.

Whether or not you perform extreme exercise, sprints and heavy lifting, you can still benefit from a walk. We are nomadic creatures that are built to walk.

Although the sedentary lifestyle is hedonistic and pleasurable, it's not the best for our fat-burning and deep sleeping abilities.

The body is designed to heal and flourish on its own, as long as we perform the Primal instructions that have been programmed into us. Therefore, after a session of walking, the natural response would be to relax and maybe sleep!

Hopefully this helps explain why a sedentary lifestyle does NOT promote sleep. We must use and work the body so that it can perform the opposite reaction: rest, repair and sleep.

Action: Go for a walk daily. Even if your walk is 5 minutes, the important part is that you are triggering a rest and recover response in the body.

REM Rehab

If you've been a follower of my blog for sometime, you know my strict attentiveness to details, relationships between the mind and body and explaining the sometimes complex analogies that our body creates.

REM Rehab is my latest and greatest project that is an eBook, Audiobook and Support group dedicated to fixing your sleep habits, quantity and quality. It's available for pre-order here and will be released on March 27th. If you know anyone that would benefit from this program, please share using the buttons below.

Action: Pick up a copy of REM Rehab and urge others that need this valuable information to do the same! Thanks for your support.

If you want to take control of your life, you must prioritize your sleep, technology  use and diet habits!