What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a phrase often thrown around in the alternative medicine community. But I don’t actually like the use of term itself. Here’s why.


Adrenal “fatigue” implies that your adrenal glands are ‘fatigued’, which isn’t necessarily the case. It’s not telling us anything really about what is happening.


Your adrenal glands don’t oddly just become ‘fatigued’ and cease to work altogether (except in the case of Addison’s disease). However, the adrenal glands may well still be under-functioning (or over-functioning) for other reasons.

So instead of fatigue, we may instead be better of using the phrases “adrenal insufficiency” “hyper-cortisolism” or “hypo-cortisolism”.


What are the adrenal glands?

They are two small glands that sit above your kidneys. They are important for the production of:

  • glucocorticoids (e.g. cortisol, the stress hormone)
  • DHEA and sex hormones (e.g. testosterone / estrogens)
  • mineralocorticoids (e.g. aldosterone, which is important in controlling sodium/potassium balance)

So either directly or indirectly, function of the adrenal glands can have an impact on your:

  • energy
  • mood
  • sleep quality
  • sex hormones and sexual function
  • mental state
  • thyroid function
  • blood pressure


A case of "adrenal fatigue" / low cortisol production
A case of “adrenal fatigue” / low cortisol production

As you can see, taking care of your adrenal glands is very important. An analysis of your DHEA and cortisol levels (from a simple saliva test) can indicate one’s level of adrenal function.



  • You may be in a state of ‘hypo-cortisolism’ where your cortisol levels are too low, contributing to your loss of drive in life and energy.
  • You may be in a state of ‘hyper-cortisolism’ where your body is in such a state of overdrive, that the signals telling it to “switch on”, or so to speak, are far higher than normal. This level of chronic stress can result in a decline in sex hormone production, disrupted sleep, immunosuppression and anxiety.

Both are manifestations of a form of adrenal stress, but can be remarkably different in terms of how symptoms manifest.


Adrenal insufficiency isn’t an illness in and of itself. Often, it’s the symptoms that manifest as a product of adrenal fatigue that are labeled as your problem. For instance, tiredness, insomnia, low libido can be a byproduct of adrenal inadequacy.


Unfortunately, whilst Addison’s disease is universally accepted, most healthcare practitioners worldwide won’t recognize adrenal insufficiency, which manifests as low cortisol production (which is odd because they will recognize low testosterone). Often, diagnoses of chronic fatigue are given, which (once again) is a symptom not a diagnosis.


In most cases, the functional medicine approach to adrenal fatigue is to find out what’s exactly is at the route of the problem, aka what is stressing your body so much that the adrenal glands have been this burdened? Through the use of lifestyle adjustment, nutritional recommendations and use of specific supplements and nutraceuticals, we can aim to restore balance.


Book a FREE appointment with Jack to discuss your own health concerns.


DISLCAIMER: Nothing you read on this website is not to be misconstrued as medical advice, nor should you ever disregard advice from your doctor because of something you have read on the internet. 

Jack Galloway

Jack Galloway

Jack Galloway is a pioneer of health within the context of the 21st century, specialising in holistic health programmes and body transformation programmes. He has an extensive skill base in nutrition, exercise physiology and functional medicine, and has helped hundreds of clients transform their health and physiques.
Jack Galloway


London, UK - Health Pioneer | Clinical Nutritionist | Personal trainer | Coach | Musician
@benmwiggins I'll send you the link when I've done it buddy! Hope you're well, mate - 3 years ago
Jack Galloway
Jack Galloway

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