Basic principles of treating adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue treatment

Having finally managed to get a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, it may be more than a little disappointing to discover that the frustrations are not fully over yet. With understanding of the condition still in its infancy, mainstream doctors tend to shy away from offering any support and the recommendations of private practitioners can vary wildly.

The major principle behind treating adrenal fatigue lies in accepting the individual nature of each sufferer. Not only does this relate to their symptoms and specific adrenal function, but also to their responses to foods and supplements. Patient A may show the same deviations of cortisol and DHEA as patient B, but they may react totally different to adrenal extracts. Equally, one of them may benefit from a herbal support formula, while this may worsen symptoms in the other. They will likely require different amounts of vitamin C.

Seeking a practitioner

In looking for a practitioner to help you recover from adrenal fatigue, it would be wise to choose a professional who is flexible in their approach to the condition. This means not being too caught up on the use of adrenal extracts, or believing that licorice root represents the best way to deal with the problem.

It means understanding both the benefits and drawbacks to using hormonal replacement with hydrocortisone and DHEA. All of these modalities can be useful for different individuals, but none are suitable for all.

Some practitioners also fall into the trap of trying to define adrenal fatigue by stages, forever talking about Stage I, II and III (although some American doctors have recently spoken of a Stage IV). Although useful in understanding the basic progression of adrenal fatigue, these stages rarely serve a purpose in creating suitable treatment plans and can sometimes distract from the individual expression of adrenal fatigue seen in the patient in question.

It remains more important to understand the specific interactions between cortisol, DHEA, aldosterone, adrenaline that are occurring in the individual and measure the improvements yielded than it is to try and move them ‘out of a stage’ and into another.

Interventions and supplements for adrenal fatigue

When it comes to intervention and supplements, less is often more. A shotgun approach to supplements (starting several different supplements all at once) can not only cause an unexpected challenge to the individual’s metabolism, it will also make it harder to determine which item caused the unexpected response. Because sufferers of adrenal fatigue commonly have paradoxical reactions, making changes to routines or introducing supplements should be handled on a step-by-step basis.

It is also worth pointing out that the nutritional requirements of a patient are likely to change over time. Responses to herbs and supplements also change during the course of treatment; just because an intervention misfired in the initial stages, does not mean it has no role to play at a later stage.

Perhaps the biggest error of all in treating adrenal fatigue surrounds the failure to spot fungal infections in sufferers. In my experience, this occurs in over half of individuals. It would appear that the suppression of the immune system found in adrenal fatigue, combined with the carbohydrate cravings that are typical, create the perfect environment for opportune organisms like candida to take a stronghold.

Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, poor digestion, hypoglycaemic-type episodes are found in both issues. Itching, intolerance to alcohol and bloating after eating carbohydrates are caused by tungal-type dysbiosis; if you have adrenal fatigue and these issues, you can almost guarantee that you will need to undertake a fungal cleanse. Any chronic infection is severely stressful on the body; attempting to treat adrenal fatigue without addressing such issues is fruitless.

Treatment timescale

Finally, having the right level of patience remains important for both patients and practitioners. Adrenal fatigue has often developed over the course of several years, during which time the metabolic function may have accumulated a number of impairments.

As such, changes can take time to really take affect; abandoning a protocol too early can mean missing out on some highly beneficial interventions. Equally, being too patient might end up with similar frustration, this time from a laissez-faire attitude and a failure to critically examine the improvements being achieved. Somewhere in the middle seems right to me.

Treating adrenal fatigue requires understanding of the complexities in the body, including the way the adrenals affect the function of the liver, immune system and digestive tract. But it also requires flexibility and patience. A thoughtful combination of all three represents your best bet at a quick recovery.

Learn how to recognise adrenal fatigue here

London Nutritionist and Fitness TrainerAbout The Author

Marek Doyle is a London nutritionist, personal trainer and the pioneer of the Combined Allergy Test.

In 2008, he was recognised as one of the UK’s top trainers and counts world champion athletes, cover models and TV personalities amongst his clientèle.

His website is

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