Ways to Overcome Adrenal Fatigue and Stress with Functional Medicine


Clare Kelway DIHom BCHN®

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As a functional medicine practitioner, adrenal fatigue, and chronic stress are common partners in my practice. Ladies, I imagine that since you’re reading this, you may be feeling drained, overwhelmed, and exhausted!

You’re not alone.

This was me a couple of decades back that started my journey into Functional Medicine.

You might have wondered whether there are ways to deal with your exhaustion more than merely symptom management. Let’s guide you through how Functional Medicine can help you, from its focus on the body’s intricate network to personalized wellness strategies.

Functional medicine is a holistic approach to addressing health issues. It delves deep into the root causes and connections behind your stress and fatigue.

Key Takeaways

  • The most common symptom that clients come to us complaining about is fatigue.
  • Clients have often been dismissed or not taken seriously by their medical doctors because standard blood testing may miss adrenal fatigue entirely unless you are suffering a genetic issue or total breakdown.
  • Chronic stress and fatigue are interrelated, creating a cycle such as overactivity of the HPA axis, inflammation, and immune system.
  • Functional Medicine addresses stress and adrenal fatigue with a holistic approach including adrenal function, nutrient deficiencies, gut health, and lifestyle strategies like stress management, sleep quality, and exercise.

Your body’s stress response drives the connection between Chronic Stress and Fatigue

Stress response in your body

Stress. It’s like that uninvited guest that just won’t leave, and boy, does it love to mess with our energy levels. But, have you heard about adrenal fatigue? It’s like your body’s “battery low” signal when the stress won’t stop.

Your endocrine system, a texting group of glands including those two tiny but mighty adrenal glands perched atop your kidneys, are the masterminds in this plot.

They’re the ones pumping adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream, giving you that juice to power through stress – think of it as your own battery pack. Chronic stress and fatigue take a toll on your overall health and well-being.

Fatigue typically escalates due to stress, a cycle fueled by various biological mechanisms like sustained activation of the HPA axis, sympathetic nerves, inflammation, catecholamines, and ultimately changes in the immune system.

But what does this mean for you? It means that to break free from this cycle, you need to understand its dynamics, recognize the hidden physical symptoms beyond tiredness, and acknowledge the potential long-term health implications.

The Role of Adrenal Function in Stress Response

During stressful periods, the adrenal glands assume a vital function by releasing glucocorticoids and catecholamines, which influence metabolism, energy provision, blood pressure elevation, and immune system regulation.

However, chronic stress can impair adrenal function, causing prolonged cortisol secretion and heightened adrenaline production.

To support adrenal health, functional medicine practitioners often recommend supplements and adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, Holy Basil, and Eleuthero Ginseng.

Conquering Extreme Fatigue

Extreme unexplained fatigue in women

Functional medicine utilizes a holistic strategy, to overcome extreme fatigue. By identifying the underlying cause of unexplained fatigue and providing long-term solutions, it seeks to break the cycle of chronic stress and fatigue.

This involves a comprehensive analysis of the intricate interconnections within the body’s systems and a deep dive into lifestyle factors that may negatively impact energy levels and immune function. With functional medicine treatment, clients can experience lasting relief from their symptoms.

The approach includes personalized strategies for energy restoration including an in-depth focus on gut health, which plays a significant role in energy levels and overall well-being.

Take Control of Your Gut and Boost Your Vitality!

Woman experiencing poor gut health and low energy.

Think of your gut microbiome as a bustling metropolis, home to trillions of microbes that can influence more than just your digestion. These tiny residents play a major role in how you feel day in and day out. When things are in harmony downstairs, they can help fend off stress and boost your energy levels.

You’re not just what you eat; you’re also how you digest it!

Overall well-being is greatly influenced by your microbiome and energy levels. It is responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, supporting immune system dysfunction and health, and even influencing mood, hormones, and cognitive function.

Do these sound familiar?

Laura, a fabulous IT manager and a mother of two, felt exhausted daily. She said, “I couldn’t figure out why I was always so tired. Then I learned about my gut. Making small changes made such a big difference. I have more energy now than I did in my twenties!”

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Here’s How You Can Follow Laura’s Lead:

  1. Bid Farewell to Food Foes: Start by identifying foods that don’t sit well with you. Keep a food diary or consider a food intolerance test.
  2. Focus on Fiber: Your gut loves fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They’re like a spa getaway for your gut microbes!
  3. Cheer with Probiotics: Incorporate fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, or even sauerkraut to introduce more friendly bacteria to your gut party.
  4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!: Water is very much a life elixir for your gut. Stay hydrated and your gut will thank you with more joyous days.
  5. Beat Stress with Mindfulness: Activities like yoga and meditation can calm your mind and, in turn, positively sway your gut.
  6. Seek Guidance: When in doubt, reach out to a functional medicine practitioner who’s savvy about your microbiome and its ties to mood and energy.

The Leaky Gut Saga and Stress

Ever heard of a leaky gut? It’s not about plumbing but it’s something that can actually add to your stress levels. Imagine your gut lining as a net with extremely small holes that only allow specific substances to pass through.

Now think of that net getting damaged, allowing things to slip through that ordinarily wouldn’t—causing inflammation and affecting your mood. Yikes, right? But don’t worry, we can patch things up!

The Role of Poor Sleep Quality in Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Woman experiencing poor sleep quality

Did you know that poor sleep can be both a cause and a symptom of adrenal fatigue? Our bodies are designed to follow a natural sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. Quality sleep is the backbone of our well-being, especially as we gracefully grow in years.

Here’s how sleep can become your ally in combating adrenal fatigue:

  • Restorative Rest: Deep sleep is when our body repairs itself. Think of it as hitting the reset button on your adrenals every night.
  • Balancing Act: Regular sleep regulates cortisol, your stress hormone, keeping those adrenals from working overtime.
  • Holistic Healing: Sleep supports overall hormonal balance, essential for a peaceful mind and a pep-in-your-step kind of day.

Mary, a 45-year-old teacher and part-time yoga instructor, found herself dragging through the day, coffee in one hand and a to-do list that never ended. By prioritizing her Zzz’s and tweaking her bedtime routine, she felt rejuvenated within weeks. Here’s what she says:

“I never realized how much my late-night Netflix habits affected my well-being. Swapping screen time for a calming book and a cup of herbal tea made all the difference. I’m more energetic, and my students notice it too!”

Your Bedtime Blueprint for Beating Adrenal Fatigue

To combat adrenal fatigue, aligning with your natural sleep cycle is key. Here’s a bedtime blueprint you can start tonight:

  1. Set a Schedule: Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, and stick to a consistent bedtime.
  2. Create a Haven: Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Think cool, dark, and quiet – your personal sleep oasis.
  3. Wind Down Rituals: Establish a pre-sleep routine that signals your body it’s time to power down. A warm bath, a chapter of a book, or gentle stretches can work wonders.
  4. Tech Time-Out: Power down your devices at least an hour before bed. Digital screens are not just sleep disruptors; they’re adrenal aggravators.
  5. Mindfulness Matters: Meditation or deep breathing can ease you into a state of rest, reducing stress and nurturing your adrenals.

Remember, ladies, investing in rest is like investing in your own well-being bank. The payoffs? Huge! You’ll be more present for your family, more focused at work, and ready to conquer the world (or at least your little corner of it).

Lifestyle Factors Influencing Adrenal Fatigue and Stress

Woman balancing blood sugar through dietary modifications

Adrenal fatigue doesn’t stand a chance against the power of nutrient-dense foods. Picture your plate brimming with nature’s vibrant palette—brilliant berries, leafy greens, and wild-caught fish or pasture-raised poultry. This is your edible arsenal against exhaustion.

Indulge in foods rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, and omega-3s. Why, you ask?

Because they’re like loving text messages for your adrenals, offering reassurance and support in every bite. Chronic fatigue and other stress management techniques are notably influenced by lifestyle factors. These factors can range from blood sugar balance to regular exercise.

Blood sugar levels influence energy levels by providing fuel for cells to produce energy. When blood sugar levels rise, insulin is released to facilitate the absorption of blood glucose by cells for energy.

On the other hand, regular exercise, including aerobic activities and anaerobic exercises, has been shown to both alleviate symptoms of fatigue and promote relaxation, effectively managing chronic fatigue and stress.

Wave Goodbye to the Energy Levels of the 3 P.M. Slump!

Being exhausted at your desk and not being able to focus.

You know it all too well—the clock strikes three, and your get-up-and-go seems to have packed up and left. Say hello to steady, sustained energy with simple shifts in how you approach your meals and manage your lifestyle, all designed to keep your blood sugar on an even keel.

Energy levels benefit positively from balanced blood sugar levels by preventing feelings of fatigue and maintaining sustained energy throughout the day.

It’s important to note that insulin plays a critical role in preventing blood sugar levels from escalating excessively and in regulating the levels of glucose in the bloodstream.

To maintain balanced blood sugar levels, it’s recommended to include the following foods in your diet:

  • Broccoli and non-starchy vegetables
  • Legumes that provide a high level of fiber and low glycemic carbohydrates
  • Berries and other low-glycemic fruits
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios can be an effective way to help regulate blood sugar levels. …

Diet and lifestyle modifications can contribute to maintaining blood sugar balance by enhancing insulin sensitivity, regulating blood sugar levels, managing blood sugar issues, and adjusting the consumption of fiber, protein, and fat.

The Sweet Spot of Blood Sugar Balance for Your Adrenals

Balancing your blood sugar isn’t just about avoiding that sleepy feeling after lunch. It’s a loving gesture towards your adrenals, those tiny but mighty glands that manage your stress response. A blood sugar see-saw can send them into overdrive, but with balance comes adrenal harmony and an overall sense of well-being.

Zen Your Way to Vitality

Woman meditating to manage stress and fatigue.

Stress is the arch-nemesis of adrenal health. Enter meditation and yoga, the superheroes of serenity. Carving out time for these practices is like sending your adrenals on a spa retreat. They return rejuvenated, ready to face whatever life juggles at them.

“Taking the time to meditate daily can significantly reduce the demands placed on the adrenal glands” – Clare Kelway

Move Your Body to the Rhythm of Wellness

Woman engaging in moderate activities

Regular exercise is not just for those who want to conquer marathons or flex in front of mirrors. It’s a balm for your weary adrenals too! Moderate activities like a brisk walk or a heart-pumping dance class could spell out the difference between feeling drained and feeling dynamite!

Regular movement is healthier than a single 45 minute exercise routine per day! Get up from your desk every hour and walk around – Clare Kelway

But remember, this isn’t the time for intense workouts that push you to your limits. Gentle, consistent movement is your best ally. A fit body fosters a serene mind, and together they make for a happy adrenal duo.

Evidence suggests that regular physical activity, encompassing both aerobic activities like walking, swimming or yoga, and anaerobic exercises like strength training, can help alleviate fatigue and promote relaxation, effectively managing chronic fatigue and stress.

Movement and exercise enhance energy levels through physical alterations in the body, diminishing the likelihood of low energy and fatigue, enhancing the quality of sleep, managing stress, and fostering confidence.

It’s recommended that individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome engage in activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, yoga, Tai chi, and Pilates as part of treating chronic fatigue.

Addressing Adrenal Stress with Specific Nutrients

Healthy foods arranged to boost the immune system.

The Dynamic Trio: Vitamin C, B-Vitamins, & Magnesium

Your Daily Dose of Vitality: Vitamin C

You’ve probably reached for vitamin C during cold and flu season, but did you know it’s also an adrenal fatigue fighter? This mighty antioxidant helps combat stress by supporting the adrenal glands—the small but mighty organs that manage your stress response.

Say bye to Burnout with B vitamins

B vitamins are like your personal stress busters. Feeling foggy or fatigued? These vitamins are essential for converting your food into much-needed energy, helping you push through that 3 PM slump.

Magnesium Magic for Your Nerves and Moods

Magnesium is the chill pill you didn’t know you needed. It’s vital for muscle and nerve function and plays a pivotal role in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body. If you want calmness and balanced blood sugar levels, magnesium is your go-to amigo.

Stress symptoms, including anxiety, may worsen with nutrient deficiencies, such as magnesium insufficiency. Common nutrient deficiencies related to stress are:

To address these nutritional deficiencies, functional medicine designs personalized nutrition plans that address your specific nutrient needs, aiming to enhance your overall well-being through targeted improvements of specific nutrients.

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish, Stress Management Techniques are Essential against Adrenal Fatigue

Burnout is a strong indicator of your adrenals waving the white flag. They’re not demanding a vacation in the tropics (though they wouldn’t say no to that); they’re asking for regular doses of self-care.

Whether it’s a peaceful walk, a good book, or a long soak in the tub, find what replenishes you and do it often.

Now’s the time to take charge and rewrite your well-being narrative in your new journal!

With some proactive lifestyle changes, your adrenals can go from fatigued to fabulous. Start that gentle exercise routine, savor that vibrant buffet of nutritious food, and ride the calming waves of meditation and yoga. Remember, these aren’t mere choices; they’re stepping stones to a more energetic and happy you!

Ready to shake off adrenal fatigue with empowered choices? Your journey to rejuvenation and stress management starts today.


In conclusion, energy levels and fatigue are intertwined in a complex cycle that takes a toll on your health.

Whether it’s through supporting adrenal health, balancing blood sugar levels, optimizing sleep quality, or implementing mindfulness techniques, you have the power to revitalize your health and enhance your quality of life.

If you’ve got more questions about your symptoms schedule a consultation with a functional medicine practitioner today.

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Clare Kelway Experienced Functional Medicine practitioner specializing in natural health solutions.

Clare Kelway

Functional Medicine Practitioner

Metabolix Health Clinical Director, Clare Kelway BS DIHom HHP BCHN® is recognized as an expert in functional metabolism. She is a  Functional Medicine practitioner with decades of experience in natural health solutions.  She specializes in optimizing your metabolism, hormones, and gut health. Her own health turnaround in her 30s led to her career in functional medicine. She is the Founder of Metabolix Health, a virtual functional medicine practice in Erie, Colorado. A lifelong learner and researcher, her passion is helping clients reverse their health issues in the simplest way. She is a candid, direct communicator who clients often refer to as a “breath of fresh air”. She champions their journeys and says her reward is watching her clients restore their health and regain their vitality for life.