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Your Adrenal Glands Part IV: Recover from Adrenal Gland Dysfunction

by drgangemi on November 24, 2013

adrenal gland stressRealizing you have an adrenal gland problem is only beneficial if you know how to correct the problem, otherwise you’re just going to be more stressed knowing you have something wrong with you. Dealing with this issue can vary greatly depending on the severity of the problem. If high stress levels have only been causing adrenal gland problems for a short period of time, then there may not be much involved in correcting the hormonal imbalance. But if stress has been chronic and lasting many years, then resolution is often very involved and can take some time to fully recover.

Steps to Improve Adrenal Gland Function

  • Daily stress -> Though often easier said than done, lowering stress to the best of your ability is a great way to aid in adrenal gland recovery. Decreasing work commute times, making more efficient use of your time, working with people you enjoy working with, and being around positive and influential people will only benefit the health of your adrenal glands and of course your overall health. Sure you may not be able to get rid of a troublesome boss or immediately cut work hours, but managing stressful aspects of your life to the best of your ability will only bring positive results.
  • adrenal glands caffeineDiet -> Diet plays a huge role in adrenal gland health. Limiting or eliminating sugars and caffeine will help the adrenal glands recover faster. Interestingly enough, sugar and caffeine are the two major substances that people crave when their adrenal glands are stressed. Although these foods are not terrible to consume in moderation, (low moderation that is), at the very time when your body desires them is the same time when you shouldn’t be consuming them as they will fuel the stress cycle and only further hinder your impaired adrenal glands.

Protein is also essential to help aid in the recovery of adrenal gland dysfunction. I believe that a person should consume approximately 1.5grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. So a 125 pound woman would need 85 grams of protein a day. This protein should be high quality protein – grass fed beef or other meats, poultry, eggs, undenatured whey protein, and dairy if tolerated.

Many holistic physicians and nutritionists often advise eating many small meals throughout the day to sustain blood sugar levels. I used to think this, but now I do not subscribe to this philosophy. Eating multiple times throughout the day only fuels the problem many have with blood sugar dysregulation. That’s why people who eat this way always need to eat and they never correct the problem. I teach my patients to eat three to four times a day – a lot of protein and healthy fats – to sustain normal blood sugar levels and help heal/correct hormonal imbalances. Check out the Paleo-Type Diet for more info.

  • Exercise -> Exercise can have a positive or negative impact on the adrenal glands depending on intensity and duration. Too much high intensity training (HIIT workouts) eventually will take their toll on the body and especially the adrenal glands. Those participating in long distance training, such as  endurance events, (marathons, for example), are at greater risk of adrenal gland dysfunction. More “true aerobic” exercise, rather than cortisol-secreting anaerobic exercise, will help with adrenal gland recovery. For more on this check out the Sock Doc Training Principles.
  • Sleep -> Restful sleep will work wonders for healing fatigued adrenal glands. Ideally you should be going to bed (to sleep) around 10-11pm and for most, sleeping 7-9 hours. Sleeping eight hours from 11pm to 7am is much more beneficial than sleeping from 2am to 10am. It’s all about that circadian rhythm that we’ve discussed previously. Lots more on sleep here.
  • Nutrients and Supplements -> There are many products on the market which claim to help a person recover from adrenal gland dysfunction. Some of these products contain adrenal glandular substances, (derived most often from a bovine (cow) source). I caution you on such products as many of them are not regulated by any outside agency and they can, and often do, over-stimulate the adrenal glands, especially if used for a prolonged period of time, even just several weeks. Yes, many people claim to have abundant energy taking such products, but they’re simply stimulating the adrenal glands in an unhealthy manner much like if they drank coffee all day long.

adrenal gland supplementsThe hormone DHEA should also be used with caution. This product is still easily available to purchase at almost any “health food” or nutrition store, often in very high doses of 25-50mg. I only give DHEA to my patients when I have a confirmed lab test verifying such low levels and most often I prescribe 5-10mg a day for just a few weeks. More is not better when it comes to hormones, though so many look for a quick fix pill that provides energy and claims of a youthful appearance. DHEA is even put in many cosmetics today to help give a youthful appearance to the skin. You should be careful taking any hormone especially ones laced in creams, lotions, make-ups, and other cosmetics. Typically if you stick with natural products you won’t have to worry about hormones in your products. Dr. Haushka and Andalou Naturals are two great companies for natural cosmetics.

Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, and B5 can be beneficial for adrenal gland function. Typically with vitamins there is no harm in taking them for short periods of time at low doses, but of course it is very difficult to figure out which one(s) you may benefit from. B-complex supplements tend to have too high amounts of too many vitamins, and correcting an imbalance of one or two vitamins often doesn’t happen when you take massive doses of them all.

The adrenal glands store a lot of vitamin C, more so per gram than any other organ in the body. Therefore, vitamin C may help aid in adrenal gland recovery as it’s depleted as cortisol is secreted. However, I never use the traditional ascorbic acid which most vitamin C products on the market are. Vitamin C is best taken in a natural, non-synthetic form with all its co-factors and enzymes rather than the isolated, often GMO corn-derived ascorbic acid.

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can greatly help heal the adrenal glands. Get your vitamin C from fruits and your minerals and vitamins from vegetables. Zucchini and squashes are great vegetables to consume for adrenal gland health because they contain high levels of naturally occurring salts – fuel for the adrenals. Put some kale or spinach in your fruit and protein smoothie and make yourself an adrenal gland health shake.

  • See a doc -> Finally, seeking out a holistic doc may be your best option when it comes to figuring out what to do to help resolve your health issues. As discussed earlier on, most conventional doctors will not address adrenal gland dysfunction as they feel like these glands aren’t an issue in any health problem. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and holistically-trained physicians are often your best bet when it comes to helping you figure out and heal your adrenal glands (and often many other health problems too).

This concludes the four-part adrenal gland article. I hope you learned a lot  and I’d love to hear your comments!

From → Health Concerns


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  1. Jan permalink

    Dr. Gangemi,

    Thanks again for another great article and explanation about the B and C vitamins. I was taking them because I had read that they were supposed to help with adrenal support. They just made me completely wired. My naturopath thinks I’m in stage one adrenal fatigue and am thus creating too much cortisol.
    It’s not too late for me to turn it around and much appreciate the information you’re providing.

  2. SteveL permalink

    I found out through the Two Week Test diet you have on your site that my adrenals were fatigued due to my carbohydrate intolerance.

  3. Jonas permalink

    Great article, as always.

  4. sierra permalink

    I recently had a hair analysis that deemed me to have “extreme adrenal exhaustion” a slow oxidizer and some hypothyroidism. my dr gave me a diet similar to your TWT except no coconut and only non night shade veggies and they have to be steamed and the only exceptable nuts is almonds. this is the dr wilson “nutritional balancing program” by dr wilson

    well after several attempts i couldnt make it past the 1st week without a horrible sugar crash… its not even like oh a piece of candy sounds good its like oh my gosh i need this or I’m gonna die its a cellular craving.

    I did your TWT got to day 12 lost about 9 lbs and then had some chocolate fondue at xmas party next day i weighed 4.5 lbs! more and felt horrible. this a common reaction to sugar i puff up the next day my hair starts to fall out the days following and i feel awful.

    i tried the TWT again i added in mixed nuts and canned 100% coconut milk to curb my hunger. horrible reaction to both i felt bloated, fat and lost nothing on the TWT plan throughout the few days. so those are out as a snack.

    so will doing the TWT long term help heal me and my adrenal fatigue and help with insulin resistance and weight loss.

    I want to feel healthy and live healthy and lose this excess weight.

  5. Jan permalink

    I stopped following Dr. Wilson when I read about a recent study showing that too much iodine intake (over 400 mg per day) acutally causes subclinical hypothyroidism. Wilson recommends very high doses of kelp, many times the dosage of iodine mentioned in the study.
    The thyroid, adrenals and the rest of the endocrine system need to be in balance to work. If you’re unbalancing your thryroid with too much iodine, this can affect your adrenals (I think, I’m not a doctor).

    • Yes, many people take way too much iodine. It can also cause right brain/left brain imbalances.

  6. Hennie in Canada permalink

    Great articles, Dr Gangemi, but you never covered how to test for adrenal fatigue? Is the 24-hour cortisol saliva test the recommended one?

  7. Barbara Suen permalink

    I have anxiety disorder. I’m 49 yrs old. I take 40mgs. Paxil/day and xanax .5 mgs. 3 x day. I recently had blood work done. High cholesterol, hematuria, BP is normal, blood glucose high. serotonin levels extremely low. I also have sleep apnea. Problem now is I am craving sugar at night, and after all the meds, I am not getting enough sleep. Maybe 4-5 hours.
    What kind of tests should I have? I’m perimenopausal, I feel tired a lot. I take calcium supplem. and fish oil. Do I ask doctor for adrenal function tests or cortisol tests, or both? I must add that I have been on the Paxil and xanax for 13 years. The doctor had to double dose of paxil from 20mgs to 40 a few months ago. he feels no need to change that med. Yet, I feel no better from the doubling of the dose, and still have a hard time with anxiety with the 3 xanax hardly getting me through the days. Help!

  8. Sharon Misuraco permalink

    You can probably address both of my comments at once. More of my history is that I have suffered from insomnia for 35 years. I’m currently taking 1/4 mg. clonazapam, which has been reduced after taking 1 mg, then 1/2 mg over many years. If I miss one dose, I don’t sleep at all. The same is now true of melatonin, I started with 3 mg capsules, then switched to a liquid melatonin, but I combine it 50/50 with passion flower, and take only 1/2 tsp. each night, also do not sleep if I don’t have it. The addictions seemed like the lesser evil, rather than continually being sleep-deprived.
    Recently, I’ve had several nights when it felt like I was in the middle of a tug-of-war, one factor wanting me to stay asleep, the other wants me to wake up. I’m the loser in this battle either way because the sleep quality is disrupted.
    Weight is not an issue, we have used healthy fats for many years and buy organic when we can. Exercise is a challenge because it aggravates an old ski injury to my inner knee. I read your comments on the adrenals affecting the knee, so I have double concerns there. Help is needed!

  9. Elaine permalink

    I found your site and have even recommended it to others. Somehow I am realizing all my “stuff” is related. Stuff is: Heberden nodes in my fingers (arthritis), bursitis on my ankle (for years), weight gain (thinking blown out adrenals from lots of stress), sleep problems (waking up in mid of night). I’ve read a lot about acid/alkaline for arthritis. I believe you say body needs to be acid (but a different site says alkaline). Very confusing. Would you suggest Boric Acid (Boron) or Apple Cider Vinegar for arthritis? I am a nutritional freak so I eat pretty darn good (fermented, liver, low sugar, etc.) so I’m kind at a loss how to heal my adrenals. A saliva test years ago showed low DHEA but you say don’t supplement DHEA so not sure how to heal adrenals and hopefully solve 15# weight gain.

    • This is really something I can only help you out with by seeing you or a consult. Hormones are very individualized. Or look for a holistic doc in your area.

  10. Joni permalink

    Wow! I wish I would have come across your site and articles earlier. It’s like your talking about me! The symptoms describe me to a “T”. I’ve been through a long journey of getting to the root issue of my health problems. The few medical doctors I’ve seen didn’t know what is causing my problems. Finally found a doctor who is willing to try to get to the root of it. Through testing, I’ve discovered I have mild thyroid issues, but reading your article, you explained my scenario, high T4 that is not being converted, and the adrenals being the root cause.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for explaining so well how our adrenals work and relate to our health.

  11. Vinnie permalink

    Dr. Gangemi –
    What is THE BEST way to test for adrenal function? Who, if anyone, can you recommend in the NJ area – for holistic medical evaluation?

  12. Leigh permalink

    What do you think about Magnesium as a supplement for adrenal health?

    • It can be beneficial to help detox cortisol in the liver and Mg has many many other health benefits. But like anything, it’s not necessarily for everyone.

  13. Patricia permalink

    Could adrenal fatigue cause episodes similar to cataplexy? For a fraction of a second I lose total control of my balance but bounce back quickly and I am able to catch myself before I fall. My doctor prescribed Effexor, which caused the episodes to become less frequent but it caused depersonalization. I am weaning off the Effexor and the balance episodes have returned. Your article describes my other symptoms perfectly except for my episodes which are very bothersome and I haven’t had any success so far in treating them. I am starting meditation and cleaning up my diet. Thank you for your help!

  14. Sheryl permalink

    Your article is spot on. Our son is a competitive swimmer. A year ago he went from swimming 1000 of yards to barely swimming 25 yard. His heart was all over the place. He was gaining weight. Having silent seizures. Developed a ton of food allergies. And other things. Traditional Drs wouldn’t listen that is was adrenal fatique or over training syndrome. They told us to seek a psychiatrist for him and us. Well we pushed on and meet a dietician who rain cortisol tests. He was low in the am and high at night. We started supplements and he started to improve. Then we meet a kinesiologist who practices the applied kinesiology (muscle testing). Lets just say he is totally fine now. Has no allergies is back to racing at national. level and is our son again. Our doctor is still learning and would benefit from your articles.
    I myself had the mirena for 8 years. I had to beg my doctors to remove it. I was diabetic overweight pain every where, neurological issues, memory issues, you name and I have it. I told them it was the mirena they said no. Finally I found a dr to remove it. Its been over a year now and I am starting to get better, but relapse very often. I am not as exhausted as I used to be. There were days I couldnt function at all due to my energy levels being so low. i feel horrible because I missed out on the last 8 years of kids lives. Not to mention I was a real witch all the time. I dont get angry anymore. I don’t over react to little things an blow up since removing the Mirena. My blood sugar and weight is still an issue. i have done 5 detoxes in the past year. The muscle testing says I have copper imbalance. Too much copper. I just want to lose the weight and have normal blood sugar. I don’t have the pains I used to. But will I ever recover from the Mirena? We live in AZ. IS there any way you can work with our doctor to help guide him? I have also started the electromagnetic machine.

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