Adrenal What?

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tired woman
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Adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, adrenal burnout…is this where your stress overload is taking you?

The adrenal glands, which sit just above the kidneys, are hormone producers. As well as secreting hormones like estrogens and testosterone, they are also the production house for the stress response hormones, adrenalin and cortisol.

Under normal stress conditions, the adrenal glands in a healthy individual are able to adequately regulate hormone secretions. However, with severe or prolonged stress, the adrenals can take a beating. Essentially, what happens is that the adrenal glands go into overdrive, trying to keep up with the body’s need for adrenalin. Eventually, this wears the adrenals down and they become underactive. It may begin with mild symptoms of adrenal fatigue, but over time can lead to severely debilitating adrenal burnout.

Excessive stress is the main cause. Working too much, sleeping too little, the constant demands of a fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle, and even stressful life events can compromise the adrenals. Although it can affect anybody, those most at risk are Type A personalities who are seen as highly productive and highly successful; the sort of people who burn the midnight oil, never switch off their iPhone or Blackberry, answer emails on Sundays, and cram their day with an endless list of ‘to do’s’. Pushing limits is natural for Type A personalities, and they often find it difficult to slow down and stop ‘doing’.

People with adrenal imbalance often reach for stimulants like caffeine and sugar to ‘keep them going’. Excessive use of stimulants can further damage the adrenals, so this kind of temporary energy boost only aggravates the problem.

Adrenal burnout is not something that can be fixed with a few good nights sleep. It is a deep imbalance of the body’s energy-producing system, and rest alone is not enough to restore balance.

Adrenal burnout is a syndrome rather than a disease. It is a combination of different symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Constant fatigue that is not relieved by rest.
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure and/or blood sugar levels
  • Back and joint pain
  • Decreased immunity – susceptibility to colds, flus, infections
  • Emotional symptoms such as apathy, despair, anxiety and irritability
  • Excessive behaviour such as working at a furious pace, intense exercise, loud music (your body’s attempt to stimulate adrenals).
  • Other glandular imbalances, such as hypothyroidism and lowered immunity, can be secondary.


For complete recovery, you need to consider both the physical and emotional aspects. Adrenal burnout is a lifestyle illness fuelled by cultural values and a personal psychological disposition; a lifestyle approach is needed to deal with it. Diet is very important, as the bodies nutritional needs increase under stress. Things like excessive carbs and stimulants and insufficient protein can further stress the adrenals. Nutritional supplements may be required, and holistic healing therapies can help to restore both your physical and emotional condition. It is also important to address the emotional and psychological issues and stressors. It has been said that if you want something different, you need to do things differently. In the case of adrenal imbalance, this is not only true for your recovery but also for your ongoing health.

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa – Koh Samui, Thailand:

Stress is a major cause of disease and premature ageing in our modern, fast-paced world, so treating the symptoms, supporting the body’s systems, and learning stress management techniques makes good health sense. Kamalaya Koh Samui’s deeply restorative Balance & Revitalise programs deal holistically with the symptoms and underlying causes of adrenal burnout and address stress prevention from a mind, body and spirit perspective. For further information, visit

By Karina Stewart, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Kamalaya Co-founder

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