Adrenal Insufficiency vs Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

What is Adrenal Insufficiency?

Adrenal Insufficiency, also called Addison’s Disease is best described as having Low Cortisol Levels. This can happen after long periods of stress. Adrenal Insufficiency is an uncommon disorder where your adrenal glands, located just above your kidneys, produce too little cortisol and, often, too little aldosterone. According to John Hopkins Medicine Primary adrenal insufficiency is most often caused when your immune system attacks your healthy adrenal glands by mistake. 

Your adrenal glands are the bodies first responder to stress, and when stressed they produce higher levels of cortisol. It is thought that with long periods of high cortisol production your adrenal glands begin to suffer, where eventually your immune system shuts down, resulting in adrenal insufficiency.

Adrenal Insufficiency is treated glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid pills, daily and usually for life. Androgen replacement may be recommended for women. The goal of treatment is to stabilize hormone levels and relieve symptoms

Adrenal Insufficiency Symptoms

  • Skin discoloration (hyper-pigmentation)
  • Severe Fatigue
  • Body aches.
  • Unexplained or unintentional weight loss.
  • Gastrointestinal issues – including nausea, vomiting & abdominal pain
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Lightheadedness and fainting
  • muscle and joint pains
  • Loss of body hair.
  • Salt cravings

See a doctor immediately if you have any combination of those symptoms!

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue, as it is referred to in naturopathic circles, is the stage with High Cortisol Levels. Adrenal Fatigue has symptoms very similar to those listed as symptoms associated with Perimenopause & Menopause, and may very well go hand-and-hand with each other.

Fibromyalgia suffers or anyone with Chronic Pain or Chronic Inflammation will also be taxing their adrenals as a result of the constant output of adrenal cortisol, which over time causes adrenal “burn-out”. The good news is this is not permanent. Adrenal Fatigue is a syndrome. This means if you provide your adrenals with support it will help reduce your chronic pain, aid in lowering your inflammation, and your adrenals can heal bringing your cortisol & hormone levels back to normal.

Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?

Adrenal Fatigue is simply high levels of cortisol from being over stressed. This can be from over exercising, long term fasting or dieting, not enough sleep, an autoimmune disease, hormone imbalance, menopause, etc. In other words, yes adrenal fatigue is real, although the debate is alive an well in the medical community.

NOTE: Wikipedia describes Adrenal Insufficiency as a real syndrome, but states that Adrenal Fatigue (which it is known for in alternative medicine is a conspiracy theory and has no evidence that it exists.) Adrenal insufficiency, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Adrenal_insufficiency&oldid=1087565056 (last visited May 14, 2022). Adrenal fatigue, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Adrenal_fatigue&oldid=1069124120 (last visited May 14, 2022).

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It’s release is increased in response to stress and low blood glucose levels. When cortisol is being produced properly it controls inflammation, contributes to muscle tone, and aids in the production of many functions related to immune suppression.

Your adrenal glands are two small glands that sit above your kidneys. They are each about the size of a large grape and weigh about 6 grams. Your adrenals are responsible for the output of over 50 hormones including 40% of your Estrogen & Progesterone as well as DHA and Cortisol. The adrenal glands are a key in maintaining your sex hormones, which also contribute to a healthy libido and in men erectile function.

Chronic Fatigue, Adrenal Insufficiency, Adrenal Fatigue,

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

  • Fatigue – still tired in the morning, with crashes throughout the day
  • Poor stress response (agitated easily)
  • Mood Swings
  • “Brain fog” / Forgetful
  • Increased energy in the evenings
  • Cravings for salt & sweets
  • Overuse of caffeine to get going in the morning and to maintain energy
  • Compromised Immune System (Chronic Pain / Fibromyalgia / Hormone Imbalances)
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent urination
  • Poor circulation (cold easily)
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased Libido

All stresses contribute to how your adrenal glands function including: yo yo dieting, your diet, allergies to food or not eating well, emotional stress, anxiety, overuse of antibiotics, divorce etc.

A 2011 evidence based review published in Integrative Medicine states “Studies have shown a correlation between hypocortisolism and numerous disease states, such as metabolic syndrome and fibromyalgia, as well as chronic pain syndrome, cardio metabolic disease, mood disorders, autoimmune diseases and malignancies”.

Although the traditional medical community holds its doubts, naturopaths, homeopaths and doctors who practice functional medicines, increasingly support adrenal fatigue as a genuine syndrome. Here is what is fascinating, the best supplements to support your adrenals are pretty much identical to the ones suggested for Perimenopause / Menopause and Fibromyalgia. This means you don’t need 100s of supplements. The right protocol can help you on many levels for all of your symptoms.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please note the products listed are not brand specific, we are promoting the ingredients that are beneficial, not specific brands. Purchase whatever brand you trust or prefer. The ones listed are all recommended by real women based on personal preferences.

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Adrenal Support Supplements

Vitamin C

Liposomal vitamin c

Vitamin C Natural Liposomal Vitamin C – 200 Capsules, Immune System & Collagen Booster, High Absorption Fat Soluble VIT C, Buffered, Skin Vitamins, Anti Inflammatory, Sunflower Lecithin, or any brand your prefer.



Magnesium Magnesium Glycinate Supplement for Women – 200mg Chelated for Maximum Absorption – Supports Sleep, Mood, PMS, Stress Relief, Muscle Cramps & Tension, or any brand your prefer.

🥉Vitamin B

Vitamin b colmples

🥉 Vitamin B Complex B Complex – Whole Food Complex with Vitamin B6, Folate B9, B12, Biotin – Supplement for Energy and Stress – High Potency, or any brand you prefer.

Coenzyme Q10

Q10 co enzyme supplement

Q10 Coenzyme Super CoQ10 with Enhanced Mitochondrial Support Ultra-Absorbable – Benefits Cell Energy, Heart & Brain Health, or any brand you prefer.


Licorice Root

🥇Rhodiola Rosea –

Adrenal support supplement

🥇 Adrenal Support Formula -Extra Strength Adrenal Support and Daily Energy Support – Ashwagandha, Licorice Root, Rhodiola Rosea any brand with these key ingredients.


L Phenyalanine supplement

🥈 L Phenyalanine Nervous System Support -Enhance Mood, Nourishing Memory, Focus & Cognitive Performance Support, acts like a natural prozac. Any brand you prefer.

Other ways to support good adrenal function and heal from adrenal fatigue are:

  • Eat at consistent times
  • Maintain your blood sugar
  • Hydration hydration hydration
  • Light exercise
  • A calming routine such as making yourself a nice cup of tea, warm bath, meditation, yoga, and a good nights sleep.

For more information on these supplements and the similarities between symptoms go my post on Fibromyalgia-My Story or Perimenopause

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