Can supplements help with adrenal gland health?

Jessica Migala, Maurice Beer M.D.
March 10th, 2022 · 4 min read
Medically Verified
The adrenal glands may be little, but they have a really big job. Located at the top of each kidney, the job of the two triangular-shaped adrenal glands is to produce several hormones: adrenaline, aldosterone, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and norepinephrine, explains the Endocrine Society. These hormones are vital for everything from heart health to a healthy stress response. If you’ve been feeling mentally and physically fatigued lately, you might be wondering if you have an adrenal problem, like adrenal fatigue. 
And, if that’s the case, are supplements the key to helping you feel better? Here’s what you need to know. 

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What does the adrenal gland do?

Adrenals produce hormones that play a starring role in your body’s health and function, particularly when it comes to your heart. They’re involved in the metabolism of food, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, balance of electrolytes in your body, and supporting a healthy pregnancy, says the National Library of Medicine.
You probably know a lot about cortisol by now, especially if you live a stress-packed day-to-day, and it’s your adrenals that churn out cortisol to activate your fight-or-flight stress response. Of course, it’s an ancient system designed to keep you safe. These days, you’re likely battling deadlines and the near-constant ping of email rather than a wild animal, but still, the response is similar---and that’s where things can go wrong.  

What are common adrenal gland issues?

When your adrenal glands start to pump out too much or too little of one of these hormones, overtime you can develop an adrenal gland disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These are some of the ways the adrenal gland can go awry:
Adrenal Fatigue
Stress happens—but too much stress can eventually “burn out” adrenals, impairing the release of the stress hormone cortisol. (Cortisol is often seen as the bad guy, but your body does need it for a healthy stress response.) That’s said to usher in symptoms like fatigue, aches, weight loss, and low blood pressure. However, whether or not adrenal fatigue is a legit medical diagnosis is highly controversial.
Addison’s Disease
Also called adrenal insufficiency, sluggish adrenals stall the production of cortisol and aldosterone, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Fatigue and muscle weakness, appetite changes, and weight loss, as well as GI and mood problems, are all symptoms in the disease that’s most likely to affect women ages 30 to 50.
Cushing’s Syndrome
Weight gain with thin arms and legs, muscle weakness, bruising easily, irregular periods, female hair growth on the face, neck, and chest, or erectile dysfunction may all be symptoms of cushing’s syndrome. The disease is the result of an overproduction of cortisol. Although it’s fairly rare, it most frequently happens in adults ages 30 to 50, notes the NIDDK.
Hyperaldosteronism
When too much of the hormone aldosterone is produced, your body’s potassium and sodium balance can be thrown out of whack. Weakness, muscle spasms, tingling, extreme thirst, and frequent urination are all clues, notes Cleveland Clinic. This may also be the reason why you have high blood pressure, despite trying to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle.
Pheochromocytoma/Paraganglioma
They may be tongue-twisters, but these are the names of two tumors that form in (pheochromocytoma) or outside of (paraganglioma) adrenal glands. High blood pressure, headache, heavy sweating, irregular heartbeat, and shakiness, and are some symptoms to watch for.

Are there vitamins and supplements that can support adrenal health?

Most vitamins and supplements geared toward adrenal health are designed specifically for adrenal fatigue. These contain a variety of botanicals or adaptogenic herbs (ingredients that are said to support the body’s stress response), and each brand uses a different formulation. While there are many that claim to help common symptoms of adrenal fatigue, unfortunately, there is no medical evidence to support these claims. 
What’s more, taking adrenal supplements when you don’t need them can be dangerous, according to the Endocrine Society. That means it’s even more important to pinpoint what’s behind your symptoms and have an informed discussion with a healthcare provider before self-treating with a supplement.

Getting to the root of your adrenal issues

If you suspect you have an adrenal disorder, talk to your doctor first. One of the most common symptoms associated with adrenal problems is fatigue. Know that there are a number of other conditions that can cause extreme exhaustion, including thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions, and nutritional deficiencies. Your PCP is a great person to tap for this initial conversation. They can suggest blood tests or recommend a specialist. If you’re not satisfied with their response (or they tell you it’s just “stress” when you have a feeling it’s something more), seek a second opinion. Vague symptoms like fatigue can be difficult to get an answer for, and you deserve to understand what’s going on with your body and feel better.
If you are experiencing symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, irritability, or depression that are commonly written off as adrenal fatigue, Base’s Energy Testing Plan can help you get to the bottom of it.
There are other things you can do to support your ability to respond to stress in a healthy manner. These include getting the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep per night, practicing daily movement that feels good (a short walk, light stretching, or easy yoga poses all count when you’re otherwise too tired), focusing on eating a diet that makes you feel good (more fresh, whole foods, and less highly processed packaged fare are always recommended), and connecting with friends and loved ones can help address fatigue, mood problems, and support hormonal health to help you feel your best.

Struggling with adrenal fatigue?

Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you identify the cause of your fatigue so you can beat it!

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