The 7 Causes of Adrenal Fatigue

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/09/2024

Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your adrenal glands get overworked and burned out. It can take a major toll on your health and wellbeing, so you’ll want to avoid the major adrenal fatigue causes if you can. In this article, learn what causes adrenal fatigue and how to fix it.

We will cover:


What is adrenal fatigue?

Medical image of human body anatomy, human kidneys and adrenal glands on skeleton.

The adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys. They are on each side of your body, and they look like little triangles. They produce adrenal hormones like cortisol and play a key role in the body’s stress response. You can learn more about hormones and hormonal imbalance here.

A small amount of stress on the body can be good for you. When under a small amount of stress (such as when exercising, taking a cold shower, doing intermittent fasting, etc.) your body is able to compensate and get stronger. This is a concept called hormesis, and you can learn more about it here.

But the problems start when we are under stress all of the time and it doesn’t stop. Chronic exposure to certain stressors breaks things down and wears out our adrenal glands. This leads to something called adrenal fatigue.

Your adrenals are forced to pump out cortisol (a stress hormone) to deal with the constant, chronic stress. But eventually your adrenal glands get completely worn down and are unable to function properly. This is a big problem and leads to a wide range of symptoms in the body.

The major signs of adrenal fatigue to watch for include:

  • Fatigue and feeling tired all the time

  • Inability to sleep

  • Feeling run down

  • Not able to recover and rejuvenate

- Adrenal fatigue word cloud with words like chronic stress, energy loss, autoimmune, sleep.

Over time, adrenal fatigue causes a lot of problems throughout the whole body. It can impact everything from your immune system to your weight to your skin and hair.

You’ll want to avoid this condition if you can help it. And to do that, you’ll want to know: “What causes adrenal fatigue?”


The top 7 adrenal fatigue causes

So what causes adrenal fatigue in the first place? Can stress cause adrenal fatigue? Can coffee cause adrenal fatigue?

Discover the top 7 common causes of adrenal fatigue below.

1. Chronic lack of sleep

Sleep helps to rejuvenate your adrenal glands. Whether it is due to working late shifts, having a young baby, doing your medical school residency, or some other reason, if you are going for many years without sleeping enough then you could end up with adrenal fatigue syndrome. In fact, chronic lack of sleep is probably the number one cause of adrenal fatigue.

What to do about it:

If you need help sleeping, then there are some things you can do to support yourself. Check out my Stress Webinar, where you can learn many different tools to help you sleep well (including how to use acupressure for sleep).

Man lying in bed awake next to clock, sleepless night, can’t sleep, not enough sleep.

2. Long-term consumption of too much caffeine

High amounts of caffeine from coffee or tea can also drain your adrenals. Excessive caffeine intake depletes you of nutrients like vitamin B1, calcium, and potassium – all three of which are essential to support healthy adrenal glands.

Too much caffeine is definitely near the top of the list when it comes to adrenal problems, so it is important to pay attention to.

What to do about it:

Cut your coffee consumption down to one cup per day if you can. Consider these coffee substitutes as alternatives.

3. No exercise

If you aren’t exercising, then your body doesn’t have an effective way to release stress. Exercise is a great way to keep stress out of the body; without it, stress will build up in your body and your adrenal glands will start to suffer.

What to do about it:

Walking is a great solution to stress. A daily walking routine can do wonders for preventing the long-term effects of stress and benefits both your mind and body.

4. Chronic stress or shock

If you are in a situation where you are under constant pressure and stress (whether that is due to work, family life, marriage issues, etc.), your adrenal glands will start to burn out. Additionally, if you have a sudden shock in your life or a trauma (such as loss of a loved one or an accident), that will wear out the adrenals as well.

What to do about it:

Relieving stress and reducing stressors is so important. Take stock of the things going on in your life, and make any changes you can to put less pressure on yourself. Implement healthy daily habits that support your wellbeing and help you to feel calm as possible.

5. Low nutrients

There are several key nutrients your adrenal glands need to function properly. These include:

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin B1

  • Zinc

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium

  • Vitamin D

Woman in apron holds frying pan, cooking with nutrients, vitamins and minerals text in air.

Unfortunately, many common things can deplete these nutrients in your body. These can all be a part of the problem:

  • Refined carbs

  • Alcohol

  • No veggies in the diet

  • No sun

  • Low stomach acid

  • Phytic acid consumption from grains

What to do about it:

If you want to ensure you have enough of the key adrenal nutrients in your body, then make sure to eat plenty of vegetables; stay away from carbs, grains, alcohol, and sugar; and get outside into the sunshine regularly.

6. Chronic pain and inflammation

Pain and inflammation can wear your adrenals down quickly. Whether you have an injury or you have a chronic inflammatory condition, it can be a problem.

Young woman with shoulder pain holds her hand to her shoulder, red showing pain and inflammation.

What to do about it:

One of the best things you can do is a combination of intermittent fasting and vitamin D supplementation. These are both essential for reducing inflammation in the body.

To deal with pain, turn to the many tips and tricks I share in my blogs and videos. I can help you to get rid of the pain – whether it is in your back or your foot or your neck.

7. Chronic infection

An underlying infection in your body can really destroy the adrenals. You may have even had a virus a long time ago and thought you got over it. But that virus could have gotten reactivated during a time of stress and is now wearing out your adrenals. Common infections that can have this kind of long-term effect include Epstein-barr, cytomegalovirus, and even TB.

What to do about it:

Clearing your body of viruses, microbes, and pathogens can give your system a break and your adrenals time to recover. A good remedy that you can take regularly is oregano oil. This is a powerful natural antibiotic that can clean the body up. Another option to consider is ozone therapy.


Additional things to consider about adrenal fatigue causes

There are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to causes of adrenal fatigue.

  1. You may notice more adrenal problems during menopause. When you go through menopause, your adrenal glands have to take over for your ovaries. For this reason, your adrenals can get overworked during this time of life. Learn more here.

  2. Past prednisone use may be part of the equation. If you have taken prednisone in the past (which is a synthetic version of cortisol), it can weaken your adrenals. Read about the dangers of prednisone here.


The bottom line

Burned out and feeling the toll of adrenal fatigue?

woman sitting on bed leaning with head on computer, stressed, tired, burned out, adrenal fatigue.

Understanding the root causes of adrenal fatigue syndrome can help you to figure out what is going on and start to find relief.

Remember, the common underlying causes of adrenal fatigue include:

  1. Chronic sleep deprivation

  2. Too much caffeine

  3. Lack of exercise

  4. Chronic stress and shock

  5. Not enough vitamins and minerals

  6. Chronic pain and inflammation

  7. Underlying infection

Reducing these factors in your life through lifestyle changes (like exercising more or cutting back on caffeine) can go a long way. Additionally, you’ll want to pay close attention to your diet, eat plenty of veggies, focus on stress relief, get rid of your pain, and make sleep a priority.

If you are dealing with adrenal stress and adrenal fatigue, you may consider supporting your body with the nutrients it needs to heal and get back on track. Taken together, my two products called Adrenal & Cortisol Support and Adrenal Stress Advanced Formula can provide a lot of positive benefits.

Have you ever had adrenal fatigue? What did you do to find relief? Share in the comments below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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