Adrenal Fatigue?

Hey CT,

hope you’re doing alright!

I got a question. I came down with what the internet calls “adrenal fatigue” two months ago. Haven’t been to the gym since, body is slowly recovering but I had a complete break from nearly any stressor now for at least 6 weeks and the mornings are still low mood, low energy and not much better than in the beginning. The evenings are better. I still have headaches and trouble concentrating as well as depressive symptoms some days.

Can I do something to speed up the recovery process or why does it take that long to regain receptor sensitivity?

As I explained in one of my Question of Strength column, there is no such thing as “adrenal” fatigue… the symptoms are real, but it’s not what most people think it is.

Most of the time it’s a desensitization of the adrenergic receptors. When the receptors stop responding the body tries to adapt by producing even more adrenaline to try to make the receptors respond. How do you do that? By increasing cortisol production.

Wait, what?

Cortisol increases the PNMT enzyme that increases the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline.

The problem is that now you have the following

  • Desensitized adrenergic receptors
  • Noradrenaline depletion (whcih led to the headaches and likely problems with concentration and focus)
  • Excess cortisol

And that excess cortisol production itself will lead to lower testosterone levels, shut down immune system and lowered T3 levels.

I’m travelling to Australia today, but I will try to come up with some help a bit later.

Wow that was quick! Thanks for your time; be assured it is highly appreciated.
I wish you a good journey.

I’m having a rough few weeks, never missed the gym for more than 2 weeks in 6 years so I’m thankful for your help.

Hey CT,

since your post I took high dosages of St. John’s wort as well as time released melatonin at night. Especially the good nights sleep helps greatly. The St Johns is expected to work after two weeks. So we’ll see how that goes. What’s your opinion on that approach? And I don’t want to stress you but I’m also curious about your follow up. Hope your trip went well!

It depends on what the exact problem is. While getting better sleep certainly will help, it might not fix everything

The main problem seems to be excess cortisol and low serotonin and GABA

Again, this is very broad. And it is more complex than you write. For example, excess cortisol would also lead to excessive adrenaline production (cortisol increases the conversion of noradrenaline to adrenaline) which could lead to adrenergic desensitization and noradrenaline depletion. It could also be the reason behind the GABA and serotonin issue. Because if you are constantly amping up the nervous system you constantly rely on sero/GABA to bring it down and it can lead to depletion.

You must find the ONE linchpin cause. The main reason why you are messed up. Not try to attack everything at once. I believe that cortisol is likely the main reason for your problem and mostly the adrenaline production it leads too.

If you don’t first solve the cortisol issue, fixing serotonin and GABA will only be a band-aid.

Rhodiola in the morning (to balance dopamine and serotonin, minimizing excessive conversion of dorpamine into noradrenaline, which would lead to excess adrenaline), phosphatidylserine post-workout and at the end of your work day, glycine post-workout and at the end of the day and magnesium taurate 3x per day would help with the cortisol/adrenaline issue. Z12 at night would help with both serotonin and GABA.

I thought low serotonin and/or gaba leads to excess cortisol which is why I tried fixing low serotonin and GABA. The „adrenal fatigue“ carried on for months so it got into (stress-) depression territory. That’s why I went to St. John’s Wort instead of the other supplements.

Low serotonin especially can lead to high cortisol. Especially if dopaminergic activity is high.

I call it the dopamine - serotonin - adrenaline triangle.

The bodywants to keep dopaminergic and serotoninergic activity balanced… if serotonin is low, the body increases the conversion of dopamine into noradrenaline to decrease dopaminergic activity.

If cortisol is high you will convert that noradrenaline into adrenaline.

Increasing serotonin will decrease adrenaline. And, indirectly, cortisol by making your body better at balancing its mood. But the best way to lower cortisol still is to adress the issue directly.

Ok, I’ll try Rhodiola in the morning starting today. I’ll sleep >8 hours every day and stay with the St. John’s Wort for now. As an addition I’ll take magnesium. Thanks CT. Hope I’ll get out of this soon. My doctor already mentioned SSRIs if I don’t get better, hope I can prevent that.