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Adrenal Fatigue - One Reason for Weight Gain?

April 11, 2011

by Dr. Kelly Jennings


RB is a 32-year-old female who recently came into the office to discuss her chronic fatigue. As we talked, she described an inability to focus, lack of mental clarity and fatigue throughout the day that was worse after meals. Though she had tried multiple diets over the last three years, she had been unable to lose weight, though she ate little and exercised two times a day. She had been experiencing high job and domestic stress for the last four years, exacerbated by the death of her father and a recent move.


Her main goal was to improve energy, though she really wanted to lose 30 pounds.


While taking her history, it became apparent that we needed to check her adrenal function. The adrenal glands sit just on top of the kidneys and they release the stress hormone cortisol when we are stressed out. Cortisol affects various others functions as well, such as blood glucose, energy, metabolism, thyroid function, mental clarity, muscle tone, etc.


Over long periods of chronic stress, the adrenal glands (like any other organ) can experience burnout. When this happens, total stress hormone levels drop. Metabolism slows down, energy drags; a person loses their zest for life. Someone can feel like he or she is doing all the right things to lose weight but nothing happens.


A simple test, called the Adrenal Stress Index, can help determine whether your symptoms are caused by an imbalance in stress hormone levels. The test costs about $130. Based on the results, a comprehensive treatment plan includes dietary and lifestyles changes, as well as a focused mineral and supplement program to give the adrenals a boost. Occasionally, a person’s stress hormones will be so low that for a short time they will require small doses of cortisol to get the system back in action.


It is important to get tested if you experience any of the symptoms listed below. Low cortisol levels have been associated with a number of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Epstein Barr Virus, as well as an increased frequency in colds and flus. Get help developing an individualized program with your naturopath or come see me at Urban Wellness Group.


Symptoms of adrenal fatigue can include;

• Cravings for sugar

• Cravings for salt on food when you eat

• Feel dehydrated and thirsty and require plenty of water

• Difficulty falling asleep at night, sleep lightly or wake early or often

• Difficulty relaxing, nervous, anxious or hyperactive

• Often spacey, or foggy thinking, even memory loss

• Lack of motivation

• General exhaustion

• Hormone imbalances

• Low libido

• Weight gain, especially in abdomen and waist area

• Losing muscle tone

• Sagging skin, dry, yellow or pale in color

• Hair starting to gray, thin out and become dry

• Lips losing their color

• Loss of appetite

• Anorexia

• Weight loss

• Difficulty relaxing, nervous, anxious or hyperactive

• High blood sugar


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