You have adrenal fatigue and nothing is helping. So you reach for supplements.
But there are so many to choose from. How can you tell which are the best supplements for adrenal fatigue?
Let me help you make sense of all the supplements for adrenal fatigue. I’ll show you exactly which supplements to take, when to take them, and for how long. But before we jump in, let’s pump the brakes.
Because supplements are not the cure for adrenal fatigue!
Do this one thing before purchasing supplements for adrenal fatigue
Think of adrenal fatigue like a pyramid. Supplements are at the top of the pyramid – so they should be used the least. Yet supplements are always the first thing most people use to treat adrenal fatigue. Before reaching for the adrenal fatigue supplements, you need to build the base of your pyramid.
The base of your pyramid is the food you eat.
You can take all the supplements you want but if you’re eating fast food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you’re not going to overcome adrenal fatigue. That’s because the base of your pyramid is too weak.
Before you take any supplements for adrenal fatigue, you need to change your diet. If you need step by step guidance, I can show you how to craft your very own personalized nutrition plan.
With a healthy base to your pyramid, your supplements will exert a much stronger effect. But without diet and lifestyle changes, you will not overcome adrenal fatigue.
I know, diet change is hard. No one wants to radically alter their nutrition. If this describes you, check out my online course Stop Feeding Fatigue. In this course, I’ll guide you in a step-by-step fashion to craft a fatigue-fighting nutrition plan that’s both delicious and effective.
Why supplements alone aren’t the cure
You cannot supplement yourself out of adrenal fatigue.
I’m not saying supplements aren’t important – I believe they have their place. But supplements and vitamins won’t cure adrenal fatigue.
You need to uncover the underlying or root cause. The most common root causes of adrenal fatigue are:
These three areas – blood sugar, sleep, and inflammation – are the other levels in your pyramid. Before you add vitamins for adrenal fatigue, make sure each of these three levels have been addressed.
To clarify – if you are having problems with any of these three things, no amount of supplementation is going to help.
What should you eat if you have adrenal fatigue?
I strongly recommend the paleo or keto diet to all of my patients. However, if you don’t have the energy to change your diet, do this one thing:
Eat real food.
If your food comes in a bag or box, don’t eat it. If your food doesn’t rot, don’t eat it. Follow this rule and you’ll be 80% of the way towards a diet that helps you beat adrenal fatigue.
Now, if you’re eating real food and it doesn’t seem to help your energy levels, check out my digital course called Stop Feeding Fatigue. In this course, I help you identify exactly which foods give you energy and which foods take it away. By the end of the course, you’ll have identified your very own adrenal fatigue fighting nutrition plan.
Next, we’ll discuss the most important vitamins and minerals needed to overcome adrenal fatigue!
The most important vitamins and minerals for adrenal fatigue
While more than 70% of Canadians have used natural health products like vitamins and minerals, herbal products, and homeopathic medicines, at least 10% report that they have experienced unwanted side effects. (1) That’s why knowing exactly what supplement(s) to take for adrenal fatigue is essential to seeing improvement.
Ideally, the majority of the nutrients listed below will come from your diet. However, there are times when a healthy diet will not provide enough of these nutrients. In these cases, I recommend adding supplements. However, start by incorporating the whole-food versions of the following nutrients before you add supplements.
Do NOT supplement everything listed in this post. Instead, work with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner who can recommend a targeted supplement protocol.
Pantethine or Vitamin B5
- Pantethine (2, 3) is the active form of vitamin B5
- It is essential to help our bodies break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
- Most importantly, our bodies need pantethine to create adrenal steroids.
- Best food sources of pantethine:
- Chicken liver
- Sunflower seeds
- Portabello mushrooms
- The adrenal glands contain the highest amount of vitamin C (4, 5, 6) in the body.
- Our bodies require Vitamin C to produce cortisol.
- When the body is under stress it requires substantially more vitamin C.
- Best food sources of vitamin C:
- Red peppers
- Green peppers
- Phosphatidylcholine (7, 8) is a component of your cell walls. It helps to protect the cells from stress.
- Our bodies also require it to help balance your fight-or-flight nervous system with the rest-and-digest nervous system.
- Best food sources of choline:
- Remember, adrenal fatigue is a brain problem, not an adrenal gland problem. Vitamin E or tocotrienols (9, 10, 11) prevent oxidative stress from occurring in the brain.
- Best food sources of vitamin E:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pine nuts
- A naturally occurring sugar found in the body.
- This supplement has may help to alleviate fatigue. (12)
- Best food sources of ribose:
- Our bodies need B vitamins (13) to create and excrete adrenal hormones.
- Low levels of B vitamins can result in the body tolerating stress poorly, resulting in stress-related effects.
- Best food sources of B vitamins:
- Organ meats
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild-caught fish (not the farmed varieties)
- Leafy green vegetables
- The most common mineral deficiency in North America. (14)
- Helps with sleep and increases overall energy levels.
- Best food sources of magnesium:
- Cooked spinach
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
Ok, these are the foods you should be eating in order to get the necessary vitamins/minerals to combat adrenal fatigue. Next, we’ll jump into the best supplements for adrenal fatigue.
Please keep in mind that you should not add supplements until you’ve:
- changed your nutrition,
- balanced your blood sugar,
- improved your sleep.
The best supplements for adrenal fatigue
There is no shortage of supplements marketed for adrenal fatigue. Unfortunately, most of them have little to no research backing their claims. Instead, manufacturers often use the term proprietary blends to hide the actual vitamin/mineral content. By stating your supplement is a proprietary blend, you don’t have to list the exact amount of vitamins, minerals, or herbs in your product. Be extra cautious when you see the words proprietary blend. Instead, opt for supplements that clearly state their ingredients.
Many of the following herbs are known as adaptogenic. This means they adapt to what your body needs and can stimulate or suppress the same organ tissue. (15)
Here is a list of adrenal fatigue supplements that have research supporting their reported benefits:
- Adrenal glandulars(16) are adrenal glands from cows, sheep, or pigs that have been dried out.
- People with low thyroid function are most likely to take this treatment (in place of Synthroid).
- Unfortunately, taking glandulars can’t guarantee exactly how many peptides or hormones are being ingested.
- Glandulars have not been clinically tested for any adrenal fatigue conditions in human subjects.
- There are many anecdotal reports of the benefits from supplementing adrenal glandulars. Unfortunately, there is currently no research confirming (or denying) how effective adrenal glandulars are.
- Adrenal glandulars have an impeccable safety record. This means that taking glandulars will not produce any harmful effects.
Eleuthero or Siberian Ginseng
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticous or acantho-Panax senticous) (17, 18,19) is commonly known as Siberian Ginseng.
- Eleuthero root is used to improve physical and mental fatigue, as well as mental performance under stress.
- Two different studies showed success in either chronic fatigue or quality of life after supplementing with eleuthero for one month. However, the results did not continue after two months.
- Overall, research suggests that eleuthero should be supplemented in combination with other herbs/vitamins; it should not be used exclusively when treating adrenal fatigue.
Schisandra or Magnolia Berry or Five-Flavored Fruit
- Schisandra (schisandra chinensis) (20, 21, 22, 23) is native to China and eastern Russia.
- Schisandra has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system.
- Schisandra can help with mental exhaustion.
- There is little published research on taking Schisandra as a stand-alone herbal for treating adrenal fatigue, though there are many studies where it is used in combination.
Rhodiola or Roseroot, Golden root, or Arctic root
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) (24, 25,26,27) has been used for many years in both Europe and Asia.
- There have been at least 11 clinical trials examining Rhodiola’s effectiveness. Eight of the trials found Rhodiola improves physical performance, fatigue and mental performance.
RSE– a combination of Rhodiola, Schisandra, and Eleuthero
- This blend (28) increased cognitive speed and accuracy in subjects who were under mental fatigue.
- Another study found the RSE combination helped decrease the number of antibiotics needed when treating pneumonia. In the same study, subjects reported a higher quality of life scores when taking the RSE combination.
- This herb, also known as Withania somnifera (29, 30, 31) is commonly used in ayurvedic medicine to promote physical and mental health.
- Ashwagandha offers an improvement in anxiety and stress measurements.
Panax Ginseng or American and Korean Ginseng
- Ginseng (32, 33, 34, 35) has been used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years.
- Ginseng has been researched for a number of different maladies.
- In general, don’t take ginseng on its own for HPA axis dysfunction or adrenal fatigue. Instead, combine it with other herbals to offset its potentially stimulating effects.
- The active ingredient in licorice root is glycyrrhizin (36). Glycyrrhizin has been shown to raise cortisol levels in those with hypocortisolism (adrenal fatigue).
- DO NOT take licorice root you have high blood pressure.
- Do not dose above 10mg/day of glycyrrhizin.
- Mucuna (mucuna pruriens) (37) is a tropical legume native to Africa, India, and the Carribean.
- The seed of mucuna contains L-dopa (a precursor to dopamine) making it a worthwhile natural therapy in Parkinsons’s disease.
- Mucuna significantly increases serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels in animal studies.
- Additionally, a study done on mice showed mucuna to have strong anti-depressant properties.
Why some adrenal fatigue supplements make you feel worse
I strongly advise you to avoid treating adrenal fatigue on your own. Work with a knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner – his/her advice is invaluable.
I don’t make this recommendation to get more patients. I make this recommendation because properly treating adrenal fatigue can be tricky. I’ve written at length about why testing for adrenal fatigue is almost always done wrong. When the testing is wrong, the treatment is wrong.
Adrenal fatigue describes a condition of low cortisol. In medical lingo, this is known as hypocortisolism. But your body can also be in a condition where it’s creating too much cortisol. This is known as hypercortisolism. And too much cortisol can cause a very similar set of symptoms as not enough.
However, the ways to treat high cortisol (hypercortisolism) and low cortisol (hypocortisolism or adrenal fatigue) are vastly different. In fact, this could be the reason why you feel worse whenever you try to treat your adrenal fatigue.
Some supplements raise cortisol levels. Other supplements help to lower cortisol levels. If you have adrenal fatigue (low cortisol) and you take supplements that lower cortisol levels, you’re going to feel worse.
If you have high cortisol levels and take supplements that raise cortisol, you’re going to feel worse. This is why working with a knowledgeable practitioner is so important.
If there are no practitioners in your area or if you’re unsure if your cortisol levels are high or low, opt for adaptogenic herbs.
Even more supplements to improve adrenal fatigue
The supplement recommendations I have given you are general adrenal tonics. But remember, they don’t address the underlying or root cause of your adrenal fatigue. For supplements to work, your pyramid levels must be strong. You have to address the root causes:
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Circadian (sleep) interruption
Here are supplement recommendations for the three most common causes of adrenal fatigue:
Blood sugar imbalance:
- Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by some plants. It is the reason for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. (40)
- It has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. (41)
- If you are suffering from inflammation, an investigation should be done to identify and eliminate the cause. The continued supplementation of curcumin, while helpful, is not a cure.
Ok, now you have a basic understanding of common herbals used in the treatment of adrenal fatigue. Read the ingredients list carefully when purchasing supplements to ensure that the majority of the herbals listed are effective.
How to finally overcome adrenal fatigue
I want to be clear, you cannot supplement yourself out of adrenal fatigue.
You need to identify and treat the underlying or root cause. Only then will supplementation be effective. To overcome adrenal fatigue – for good – the best place to start is with the food you eat. Check out my online course to help you identify exactly which foods you should be eating to overcome fatigue!
Now, I want to hear from you.
What supplements have you found helpful in treating adrenal fatigue?
What supplements made your symptoms worse?
Leave your answers in the comments section below!
Looking for more information? Check out what else I’ve written about restoring adrenal health.