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Could I have adrenal exhaustion?

Using Functional Testing in clinic assists in getting to the root cause of the symptom. Its an investment but it is also a very targeted approach that can save time and money in the long term.

Its important that if you invest in any Functional Test that you also get a very comprehensive assessment of the results, so this cost is justified. Its best to align yourself with a Practitioner who specialises in test interpretation and has done extensive additional study in these niche areas.

When you use Functional testing often as a Practitioner you also see common patterns.

As I use HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) with every client I always see adrenal issues. 

This can make complete sense as most clients who present clinically to address health issues have some underlying stress driven symptoms. Stress whether it is triggered by emotional, physical, physiological factors can be a source of inflammation that the body is dealing with.

It then becomes investigative detective work to find where this stress is originating from?

Before we dive into the stress management side of things (Note: Program launch details to come) its best to discuss symptoms you may be experiencing that are adrenal related.

Most clients assume they have no adrenal issues until we talk about the signals your body may be giving you and it is best to not ignore the body’s’ warning signs. Looking after your adrenals should be a key focus as depleted adrenals can lead many chronic health issues and disease. 

Key signs your adrenals may be struggling?

Your Minerals are out of balance

Minerals are the body’s spark plugs so without them you literally ‘lose your spark’ or your energy supply. The body can’t make minerals itself, so it is relying on them from food and water and even in todays’ times these sources are limited or unfortunately highly toxic.

Stress and being busy are another way minerals become depleted in the body. If your body and nervous system is constantly in “fight or flight” your nervous system will burn through your minerals.

When nutritional deficiencies, imbalances and toxicities arise the top 4 (the big 4) minerals – Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium need to be replenished in the correct ratio’s either through dietary sources or if supplementation is needed then its best under the care of a trained Practitioner. 

Minerals work like a symphony and some work together in the body and each have an antagonist so it’s important to get the right advice. Its minerals that run the body’s’ biochemistry and metabolic processes. 

It’s the adrenal and thyroid glands that are the body’s two main energy glands, so the mineral connection is important to keep them both vibrant and healthy.  

Minerals are the foundations of your body’s vitality and energy system. 

Blood sugar Issues

Blood sugar imbalances are very common. Most people (again a clinical observation assume they have no blood sugar issues) however they are not fueling their body adequately throughout the day with adequate nutrition for the body to carry out its biochemical reactions. Generally, they need a little guidance around tweaking their macronutrient ratios.

Fasting or restrictive eating puts a lot of stress on the body and as the body adapts it may trigger the body to store fat. Stress in any capacity pushes up cortisol impacting adrenal function.

Cortisol is the one hormone that is responsible for proper blood sugar regulation. If blood sugar drops below optimal levels the adrenal glands protect the body by releasing the hormone cortisol to help raise blood sugar back to normal. 

Low blood sugar can be caused by eating too much sugar (which can raise blood sugar and then a crash), restricting carbohydrates, skipping meals, over exercising, and not having the nutritional fuel for the body. 

Disrupted Sleep

Our circadian rhythm tightly regulates our cortisol patterns over a 24hr period. The normal pattern of cortisol should be highest in the morning and gradually decreases throughout the day. Evening should be when cortisol would be lowest, and this then triggers the body to release melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle. When the adrenal output of cortisol is dysregulated (too much or not enough) then the cortisol pattern will be disrupted. When cortisol is elevated in preparation for sleep (you may feel tired and wired) melatonin production is affected causing poor sleep quality and quantity.

When you have an altered cortisol pattern you may always feel like you are burning the candle at both ends- you constantly are buzzing but too tired to do anything. This may make you push through your to do list during the day and when you then you find it very difficult to unwind or slow down in the evening. Typically, you get a second wind at night and enjoy staying up late only to wake every morning feeling depleted and then the cycle continues. 

Clients are very interested to hear that you need energy to sleep! The body needs this energy reservoir to carry out repair, regeneration, detoxification processes. Ever wondered why you are unable to sleep- perhaps you don’t have the energy stored for this.

Hormone Imbalances

When hormone production and assimilation of the hormone into the cell is impacted then this can lead into thyroid complications and sex hormone issues (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) that directly impact adrenal function. 


Extreme exhaustion and waking up feeling tired even after a seemingly good night’s sleep can indicate an adrenal dysfunction. If you experience the 3pm slump or feel tired long before your bedtime this can be another indication. 

Do you need coffee (a stimulant) first thing in the morning to get you going and give you energy throughout the day? Adrenal glands should be releasing cortisol all day long at just the right intervals. If you need a glass of wine or alcohol early evening to help you wind down? This may also suggest an adrenal dysregulation. Both stimulants are a band aid fix and ultimately end up making this problem worse. 

Cravings for salt or sugar

When I ask clients what they crave mostly, 9/10 the answer will always be salt in the form of salt and vinegar or plain potato chips! A craving for salt in people with adrenal fatigue is usually due to low aldosterone, the steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It’s this hormone that regulates blood pressure. Interesting in mineral balancing principles it is the magnesium and sodium (Na) minerals that regulate the adrenals. As a population in the past, we were warned against adding too much salt in our diet. This has been misrepresented and current research is suggesting that salt (Na Cl) was not the actual problem causing heart and blood pressure issues.

Aldosterone levels can fluctuate like cortisol, and when aldosterone is low it can alter the electrolyte balance and most importantly sodium imbalances. Adding salt to drinking water or using the adrenal ‘cocktail’ is one way to correct these electrolyte imbalances and nourish the adrenals. Client almost instantly feel re-energised and have increased vitality.

Dizziness, vertigo-like symptoms, lightheaded when you stand up fast, low blood pressure 

When there is inflammation or stress in the body blood pressure is affected. When the body is in constant fight or flight and there is chronic stress the adrenals cannot respond to stress and as a result blood pressure if affected first. The hormones aldosterone and cortisol both released by the adrenals are the key hormones responsible for blood pressure regulation and lead to all the above symptoms including dizziness and feeling lightheaded.

Exhausted after High Intensity Workouts

I always ask my clients – how do you feel after a cardio workout? Are you re-energised or depleted of energy? Its after this question that the penny drops that potentially adrenals are depleted and need some love. When making the decision to do a high intensity class the mindset usually switches on adrenaline and many find themselves pushing through the class in the hope, they will feel amazing at the end of the class. For those who ‘push’ and struggle to lose weight, have an energy crash post class and could curl up for a sleep immediately it may be time to reconsider your choice of exercise. Perhaps a walk in nature or a yin yoga class is going to be more suitable until we get your adrenals back on track and feeling nurtured. 

Belly Fat, finding it hard to shift abdominal weight

When weight accumulates in the abdominal area there is a cortisol issue where energy is stored as fat with an increase in cortisol receptors. With adrenals stimulating cortisol production the tissue in this area attracts fat and there is excessive storage. 

Can you test for adrenal fatigue and exhaustion?

The allopathic model of medicine does not recognise adrenal fatigue most likely because there is no medication that can fix this problem acutely.

There is no easy fix. To address all these symptoms takes a multi-functional approach based on nutrition and lifestyle modifications. Predominantly you really need to address the root cause of each system. Using mineral balancing and addressing biochemical foundations are also a great start.

Using HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) provides a great interpretation of key areas that can provide a focus towards correction. When minerals are imbalanced (for various reasons – see previous blog posts) other systems of the body are affected. 

The comparative ratio Magnesium and Sodium (Mg:Na) provides an indication of the strength of your adrenal function and whether stress or inflammation may be causing havoc for your body and its energy system.

Another way I test properly is using the DUTCH © test as a cortisol measure and the function of the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal). This Functional Test measure 2 main cortisol markers – Metabolised Cortisol and 24-Hour Free Cortisol. Blood tests will not provide both markers.

Metabolized cortisol is the total production of cortisol for the day. Free cortisol is the total amount of active cortisol available to tissues of the body for the day – only 1-3% of total production. 

As you can see from the graph below, the DUTCH test provides the pattern of free cortisone (the inactive form of cortisol) and provides more clues as to how the adrenals are functioning. 



Testing really is a key step when understanding what may be driving any of the symptoms (of exhaustion) that have previously been discussed.

If these symptoms sound familiar, then it is highly likely you have adrenal exhaustion?

I highly suggest you consider a DUTCH test and even a HTMA and together both tests will give you a good indication of what is going on with your biochemical functions and energy systems.

Life really is too short to be dragging yourself through each day. Get your spark back by getting tested and take the next small step to feeling re-energised with mineral balancing and nutrition and lifestyle modifications.

Stay tuned for the launch of @Mineral Mavericks Energy and Metabolism Reset Program