Adrenal Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue

Posted to Subscribers on 3 March 2008


Many of you are asking about fatigue.  Putting the right name or label on the symptoms is the first step towards shifting the problem.

In nearly every case, there is nothing inherently wrong with the adrenals themselves.  There are a few instances in which this might not be true, but in most cases, the adrenals are doing what is expected even if overtaxed.

Adrenal Glands
So, let's start with the "design" of the adrenals.  They are about the size of Brazil nuts and sit on top of the kidneys.  They are triggered by any stress.  That should read "any stress at all."  If you are allergic to something or someone and don't know it, the adrenals are activated, with or without your permission or conscious awareness.  In short, a danger could be very subtle but if it exists at all, the adrenals can dump mega amounts of hormones into the blood stream. 

I associate the adrenals with the first chakra and the sense of smell.  This is our most basic and primordial sense and studies have been done to show that the only torture people cannot overcome at all uses odor to break people.  This is because we must breathe.  Therefore, we also know how important the quality of air is and why we all have a right to be upset by anything that affects what we breathe.

In most instances, one can neutralize some of the toxicity through deliberate measures to clean up our personal space, but if our work involves exposure to chemicals or other odors, it could, in fact, wear us out.  I have seen people become so sensitive that they are explosive over cleaning agents, shampoo, and odors that cling to clothing. 

The textbooks would have us believe that there are two basic survival mechanisms, fight or flight.  Someone with "fight" tries to prevail over challenges through tenacity, determination, and perseverance whereas "flight" types survive by evading the risks through sharp perceptivity, cleverness, and speed.  I might argue that there is a third response, one we could call "fright".  People governed by this reaction panic and freeze, like the canary being watched by the cat.

Choosing the right adrenal tonic requires some assessment of your coping mechanisms.  If you are the type who tackles problems head on with the expectation of overcoming or conquering obstacles, you are probably basically strong and only in need of something to compensate for the  energy lost in struggle.  Usually, this would be something like a Chinese "kidney yang " formula or stamina formula.  The primary herb used in Chinese medicine would probably be rehmannia and Planetary has a formula called Rehmannia Endurance for people on the go who want to improve their margins.  Ginseng is another herb for these types.  In Ayurveda, ashwagandha plays a somewhat similar role but it has a deep rejuvenative property that works on many levels besides stamina.

People who are working long hours and exerting themselves can often benefit from these types of herbs, but few such people are "basket cases".  Most likely, they are high energy to begin with and simply need more evenness in flow.  This is often achieved through expanding the coping ability so that whether the main issue is time or the attitude towards time and effort, the ability to increase the output of energy or sustain the output at the desired level is enhanced.

The problems for the flight (and fright) people are different because their instincts tell them to escape the situations where the problems are so they depend on the ability to run.  To make this clearer for some people, if you were trying to find the chakra guardians for fight people, you would expect a big animal with very few natural enemies to appear:  an elephant, a lion, a buffalo, or sometimes even a crocodile or python.  However, where it's more important to flee than to stand one's ground, the guardian is probably going to be something known for its speed and cleverness like a fox or rabbit.  Once in a while, one has a guardian known for endurance like a camel or tortoise, and very occasionally, when the fears are deeply nocturnal, one finds a guardian of the night such as an owl or even a bat.  Learning to work with the chakra guardians has helped a lot of people, but dealing with the issues is the ultimate solution.

In the meantime, let's have a closer look at the fright people.  They are usually very alert so there is a lot of stress on the nervous system.  They live on nervous energy rather than stamina so they can do a lot in fits and spurts but rarely are they able to sustain long-term stress.  These people need tonics that strengthen the nervous system, the "kidney yin" tonics as well as all the many, many nervines, some of which are gorgeously aromatic . . . and this antidotes some of the toxicity of obnoxious odors.  One of the loveliest of these is holy basil, tulsi, because it promotes deep relaxation, sleep, and rest.  Rejuvenation occurs during sleep so being able to sleep soundly is important.

Some tonics are called "vitalizers" or "energizers" or "stimulants" or "stress reducers" but they all work more or less on the principle of nourishing the nervous system so that there is more elasticity in the response to stress and deeper relaxation between exertions of energy.  Our online store has a wide selection of these tonics, for both fight and flight types.

Now, a point often overlooked is that because the adrenals sit on top of the kidneys, the kidneys tend to go into a bit of spasm when the adrenals are triggered.  This will usually stimulate the need to pass water, often before trace minerals have been reabsorbed through the amazing filtration system in the kidneys.  This means that the flight people in particular often have a trace mineral deficiency.  This is best corrected through eliminating the spasm because some people are so chronically stressed that they have to pass water every 10-20 minutes.  Initially, they will lose weight and this adds to the complications because the moisture that buffers nerves, that keeps the nerves farther apart or separated, is reduced by the loss of "insulation."  Obviously, nervousness will be exacerbated by calcium and other deficiencies in the blood so the body will cannibalize the bones for the calcium and this will lead to more osteoporosis or bone loss.  It's a vicious cycle that has to stopped at the root, not by short-term strategies to cope.

In any event, shilajit is a lovely supplement for flight people who have lost nutrients but some sort of trace mineral supplement, a natural one that is easy to assimilate is very important.  Otherwise, these people are going to complain about hair loss and other complications of deficiencies.  It is for this reason that many of the Ayurvedic kidney formulas refer to digestion and assimilation as if this were more important than the stress causing the problems.

The secondary complication of chronic stress is the borrow from Peter to pay Paul syndrome.  The adrenals steal energy from the reproductive system and digestive system as well as the thyroid to keep the first chakra spinning at a higher velocity.  This weakens the libido and compromises digestion and assimilation so patients (and they are patients at this point) go into a tail spin in which nothing seems to be working right.  Once the kidneys are overtired, the pattern of frequent urination subsides and there is water retention instead of elimination and this is terribly confusing to people who never used to have a weight problem.  Most likely, their doctors will put them on a thyroid medication but this is really not going to solve the problem because the cause is adrenal and needs to be dealt with at that level.

Finally, and there can never be an end to nuances and variations of this subject, there are very specific causes for exhaustion such as subclinical medical conditions that are taking a toll on people.  Mercury is a good case in point because the body is actually waging a battle with the toxins and often there is an allergic component to the issue on top of the toxicity issues.  These problems have some of the same symptoms as the flight conditions but they require deeper strategies in order to correct them at the core level.

Mold is another such condition.  It is rarely diagnosed and even if found, it is not taken seriously unless the patient is "immune compromised" but which came first the immune challenges or the mold?  Many people were probably healthy before being exposed to life threatening conditions.  In any event, just as with the toxic metals, the exposure to mold and the fungal infection must be addressed in addition to fatigue.  Jatoba is the ideal herb for the adrenal part of this syndrome but it does not eliminate the mold, just some of the fatigue associated with the mold.

There are many additional factors to cite, including electromagnetic and radioactive exposures, bombardment by fear emanating from our corrupt governments and media, side effects to treatments that terrify the unconscious aspects of our being even if not recognized by the intellect . . . and so on and so forth.

So, when you write me asking what to take when exhausted, it goes without saying that the answer is that it depends on why you are tired!  Hopefully, this little essay will help you make better decisions.

My main article on adrenal exhaustion is on Kitchen Doctor.  There are also some audio cassettes.  The herbs are available from Sacred Medicine.  I am thinking of creating some short audio "essays" for those who are interested.

Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2008


Herbs for Adrenal Exhaustion


Photo Credits: [public domain]





Seventh Ray Press
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2010

Home || Contact Us

No content on any of the pages of this web site may be reproduced without written permission of
Ingrid Naiman and Seventh Ray Press, publisher of this site.


Design by Damien Francoeur