How to Avert Fatigue in Codependency

By Karta Purkh Khalsa.

The journey to a healthy relationship sometimes takes a lot of energy, and that can really take a toll on the way we feel day by day. While growing out of codependency, sometimes it can help to get the support of some energizing natural treatments.

Your adrenal glands don’t take up much space, but they sure pack a punch. About the size of a grape, each of your two adrenal glands sits like a tiny pyramid on top of a kidney (ad- over, renal- kidneys). These diminutive endocrine glands manufacture and secrete potent hormones that are essential to your health and vitality. 

These chemical messengers affect the functioning of your every tissue, organ and gland, they also have profound consequences for the way you think and feel. Without these adrenal hormones, you would die.

Your adrenals enable your body to deal with stress from many sources, including injury, threat and disease- the well known fight or flight response. They largely determine your moment to moment energy. It is also your adrenal glands’ responsibility to keep your body’s reactions to stress in balance so that they are not harmful. Anti-inflammatory hormones, including cortisol, help to minimize allergic reactions, such as swelling and inflammation. At normal levels, also cortisol helps us by converting proteins into energy and releasing glycogen. But at the sustained high levels brought about by unremitting stress, cortisol gradually tears your body down.

While the poor adrenals are chronically overworked and straining to maintain high cortisol levels, they also lose the capacity to produce sufficient DHEA, which is a precursor hormone to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, all of which exacerbates the problem.

Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. This syndrome has been called many different names over the past century, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia and adrenal apathy. Although proponents say it affects millions of people around the world, conventional medicine does not recognize it as a distinct syndrome.

The effects can be profound, and include relentless fatigue, especially upon arising, sleep disorders, muscular weakness, dizziness, immune system suppression, slow healing, muscle and bone loss, moodiness, depression, skin inflammation, low libido, weight changes, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, craving salty or sugary foods, concentration difficulty, unexplained hair loss, allergies, masculine characteristics in women and autoimmune disorders. 

Adrenal fatigue may factor into many related conditions, including fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and premature menopause. It might be more correct to think of it as a part of a syndrome of “chronic endocrine dysregulation”, rather than pointing to the adrenal glands as if they function in a vacuum. 

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue, yet live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People suffering from adrenal fatigue often use caffeine and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to sustain energy throughout the day.

In serious cases, you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. As the disorder progresses, changes occur in nutrient metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system and sex drive.

James L. Wilson D.C., N.D., Ph.D., author of Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome maintains that adrenal fatigue affects 80% of people living in industrialized countries at one time or another in their lives.1

According to Nurse Practitioner Marcy Holmes, an associate of Christiane Northrup, MD, every woman who enters their clinic with suspicious symptoms gets an adrenal fatigue and cortisol test, and the results are remarkably consistent. Only 1% have cortisol levels marking healthy adrenal function, while 99% exhibit impaired function, from significant adrenal stress to complete “adrenal exhaustion”.2

Many factors can make you more prone to adrenal fatigue. Poor diet, substance abuse, too little sleep and rest, too many pressures, lack of exercise, surgery, a chronic illness or repeated infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, can exhaust these workhorse glands. The Mayo Clinic describes “adrenal fatigue” as a label applied to a collection of these same nonspecific symptoms, and confirms that it isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis. According to them, the medical term “adrenal insufficiency” refers to inadequate production of one or more of these hormones as a result of an underlying disease, and that adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed by blood tests and special stimulation tests that show inadequate levels of adrenal hormones. They dismiss the syndrome as one in which proponents claim this is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress, and that the “unproven theory” behind adrenal fatigue is that adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal. As a result, they can’t produce quite enough of the hormones you need to feel good.3

Conventional medicine typically thinks of adrenal function as normal or in overt failure. Addison’s disease (primary adrenocortical insufficiency), the extreme of adrenal fatigue, is diagnosed when the adrenal glands are not able to produce enough cortisol or aldosterone.

To get a good handle on adrenal fatigue, there are several laboratory tests available, and it is good to perform a collection of them to get a good assessment. The Adrenal Function Test measures levels of DHEA and cortisol during four periods of the day to determine if there is a hormone imbalance. Jonathan Wright, MD, of the Tahoma Clinic in Kent, Washington, says that the most accurate test of adrenal function is to determine the amounts of natural adrenal steroids in the urine, collected over a 24-hour period, and compare these amounts to those found in a second 24-hour urine sample, taken after an injection of ACTH, a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands.

Healthy living is critical for adrenal health. To get started on the path, remove stressors, such as relationship or financial problems, got to bed and get plenty of restful sleep, avoid caffeine and resolve to do some solid exercise to capacity several times per week.

Remedy 1. The Harmonizer. Licorice

Licorice root is widely used anti-inflammatory and stamina supporting herb that is rich in saponin and flavonoid compounds. In fact, it is so useful and so well tolerated that it is the most often used herb in Chinese formulas, where it is called “the Universal harmonizer”. The structure of the active ingredient resembles adrenal hormones. 

Licorice has a long history in Ayurveda for improving eyesight, strength, sexual potency and libido.

Licorice inhibits the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, a body compound that normally inactivates cortisol in the kidney. The net effect is that cortical stays in the blood longer and remains active.4

The dose is about 500 mg per day. Since this herb is very sweet, it is often brewed into a delicious tea.

Remedy 2. The Energizer. Pantothenic acid

This vitamin, also known as B5, is present in all living cells and is very important to metabolism. It functions as part of the molecule coenzyme A, which is closely involved in adrenal cortex function, so B5 has come to be known as the “antistress” vitamin. The adrenals store large amounts of the vitamin, which is necessary for the adrenal glands to produce of cortisol and other adrenal hormones. Large doses of pantothenic acid have shown increase ability to withstand stress, and several studies have shown that pantothenic acid even substitutes for adrenal hormones to a certain extent.

Dr. Wright advises 1 gram of pantothenic acid twice a day for adrenal fatigue.

Remedy 3. The Stress Reliever. Vitamin C

Compared to any other tissue, the adrenal glands store high amounts of the vitamin C, and Vitamin C mobilization in the adrenal glands peaks whenever stress shoots up. The vitamin is required to produce adrenal hormones in the cortex. It is also vital for the synthesis of epinephrine from the amino acid tyrosine in the medulla.5

Russian researchers looked at vitamin C to improve adrenal function in a surgical setting, where lung cancer patients were able to better adapt to the stress of surgery, and had normalized levels of cortisol and ACTH, when supplemented by vitamin C.

Many vitamin C proponents say the greatest benefit comes from a “bowel tolerance” dose- just short of the dose that produces loose bowels, which is about 15 grams per day for most people.

Adrenal Fatigue
RemedyFormDoseComments
LicoriceCapsules500 mg per dayDo not take if hypertensive
Pantothenic acidTablets200- 2000 mg per dayUse along with other B vitamins
Vitamin CCapsules or powder1-10 grams per dayUse ascorbate form to reduce digestive discomfort

Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Yogaraj (Ayurveda), A.D., D.N.-C, R.H., has over 50 years of experience in holistic medicine, and is one of the foremost natural healing experts in North America. Khalsa is President Emeritus of the American Herbalists Guild, director emeritus of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, and is a respected teacher, writer and lecturer. Use gift coupon FREEGIFT towards a retail value of $45 here.

  1.  James L. Wilson D.C., N.D., Ph.D., Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome, http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/ ↩︎
  2. Marcy Holmes, Women’s Health NP, Certified Menopause Clinician, Adrenal fatigue — the effects of stress and high cortisol levels, http://www.womentowomen.com/adrenalfatigue/effectsofhighcortisol.aspx ↩︎
  3. Todd Nippoldt, M.D., Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and men’s health specialist, Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/adrenal-fatigue/AN01583 ↩︎
  4.  Winston, David; Steven Maimes (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press.  ↩︎
  5.  Vitamin C is an important cofactor for both adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla
    Auteur(s) / Author(s)
    PATAK P. ; WILLENBERG H. S. ; BORNSTEIN S. R. ; 
    Résumé / Abstract
    The adrenal gland is among the organs with the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body. Interestingly, both the adrenal cortex and the medulla accumulate such high levels of ascorbate. Ascorbic acid is a cofactor required both in catecholamine biosynthesis and in adrenal steroidogenesis. Here we provide an overview on the role of vitamin C in the adrenal cortex and medulla derived from in vitro and in vivo studies. In addition, recent insights gained from an animal model with a deletion in the gene for the ascorbic acid transporter will be summarized. Mutant mice lacking the plasma membrane ascorbic acid transporter (SVCT2) have severely reduced tissue levels of ascorbic acid and die soon after birth. There is a significant decrease of tissue catecholamine levels in the adrenals. On the ultrastructural level, adrenal chromaffin cells in SVCT2 null mice show depletion of catecholamine storage vesicles, signs of apoptosis, and increased glycogen storage. Decreased plasma levels of corticosterone and altered morphology of mitochondrial membranes indicate additional effects of the deficiency on adrenal cortical function. The data derived from these animal models and various cell culture studies confirm a crucial role for vitamin C for both the adrenal cortex as well as the adrenal medulla further underlining the interdependence of the two endocrine systems united in one gland.
    Revue / Journal Title
    Endocrine research   ISSN 0743-5800   CODEN ENRSE8  
    Source / Source
    2004, vol. 30, no4, pp. 871-875 [5 page(s) (article)]
    ↩︎

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