Adrenal Fatigue 101—Plus My Favorite Adrenal Cocktail Recipe

An exhausted woman lies in her bed holding her child's stuffed animal.

Adrenal fatigue can result from prolonged exposure to stress, inadequate rest, lack of nourishment, or the relentless pace of modern life.

Adrenal fatigue, also known as HPA-Axis dysfunction, is not currently a recognised medical condition as it does not appear in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Rather it is a term that is increasingly used to describe the symptoms that arise when the adrenal glands are overwhelmed by the ongoing and excessive release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Over time the adrenal glands may become less effective at producing and regulating cortisol excretion in the amounts necessary for the body to function at its best.


Adrenal fatigue can result from prolonged exposure to stress, inadequate rest, lack of nourishment, and/or the relentless pace of modern life. In this article, we'll take a look at adrenal fatigue, what causes it, and its potential effects on the body. I'll also share my favorite Adrenal Cocktail recipe that supports healthy adrenal gland function. 

What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a subclinical condition that arises from chronic stress and is characterized by a diminished capacity of the adrenal glands to produce adequate levels of certain hormones, especially cortisol. This condition is distinct from more serious adrenal disorders such as Addison's Disease, Cushing’s Syndrome, and pheochromocytoma, which are serious medical conditions that require a medical workup and care.

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

To understand how and why adrenal fatigue comes about, we must first look at the body systems at play. The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis is the junction between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. This axis regulates the body's reaction to stress and is crucial for maintaining homeostasis (1). When we face stress, our adrenal glands work overtime to release cortisol, helping us stay alert and focused, which also starts a cascade of hormonal signals in the HPA axis in order to mobilize and regulate the body's stress response (2).


During the early stages of human evolution, this type of stress response was needed when humans were in acutely stressful situations, like running from a saber-toothed tiger. After a short term danger passed, our ancestors’ systems returned to a state of homeostasis. In our modern world, however, we have more long term stress. The body doesn’t differentiate well between the stress of being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and that of an unpleasant conversation with a coworker or ongoing marital issues, for example. The body just perceives stress. Because of the unrelenting nature of modern life, many of us do not get enough stress-free or low stress time for our systems to return to a balanced state.


Stressors may include things that we perceive as stressful, like deadlines, competing responsibilities, traffic, world events, politics, racism, interpersonal conflict, finances, health, work, etc. Stressors may also include things that we don’t perceive as being innately stressful but stress the body anyway. These could include sleep deprivation, shift work, inappropriate light exposure, nutrient deficiency, over/under-exercising, medication, and more.


With all of the daily stressors of modern life, the adrenal glands can become overworked or fatigued, which can lead to the symptoms we associate with adrenal fatigue.

Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue

When the HPA axis is out of balance due to prolonged stress or illness, the body may exhibit a variety of symptoms. The following are some of the most common and characteristic signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue (3):

  • Fatigue, especially in the morning and afternoon

  • Decreased libido

  • Irritability and difficulty in coping with stress

  • Brain fog and decreased concentration

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Cravings for foods high in salt, sugar, or fat

Note: The above are non-specific symptoms that could be associated with many medical conditions. If you’re experiencing any of them, be sure to check with your doctor to rule out other issues like thyroid imbalance, depression, anemia, and others. Adrenal fatigue is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other more serious causes must first be ruled out. 

A stressed woman rests her head on her head while sitting at a desk and looking at a computer.

How To Support Adrenal Function

An adrenal system fatigued by ongoing stress may benefit from lifestyle modifications that could include stress management, sufficient rest and sleep, daily movement, outside time, and more. Increasing nourishment and the use of adaptogens are also helpful for stress management and adrenal support (4).

The Adrenal Cocktail

The Adrenal Cocktail is a supportive addition to a healthy lifestyle because it contains the following stress specific nutrients and adaptogens:

1. Vitamin C

Most, if not all, adrenal cocktails include a source of vitamin C. This is because the adrenal glands have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body, and vitamin C is essential to various aspects of adrenal function, including hormone production and stress response (5). Some adrenal cocktails use orange juice as a source of vitamin C; however, I like to use my Immune Liquid Vitamin C for a concentrated boost of vitamin C with acerola and rosehip without the extra sugar of orange juice.

2. Electrolytes and Minerals

Stress is a mineral heavy process (6), and many of us feel better when we are properly hydrated and take in sufficient electrolytes and minerals.


Coconut water is commonly used as the base ingredient in adrenal cocktails thanks to its richness in electrolytes, particularly potassium and magnesium — critical for hydration, muscle function, and overall cellular health.


Stress increases the "burn rate" of magnesium (6), and up to 50% of Americans are thought to be deficient in this important mineral (7). Sufficient magnesium intake is supportive of a calm mind and body (8). I include a scoop of Mighty Magnesium™ in my Adrenal Cocktail recipe for an extra boost of this important mineral beyond what is already present in the coconut water.


Potassium is an important electrolyte that is important for optimal body functioning (9) and stress response (10). I add a small scoop of cream of tartar to my Adrenal Cocktail for an accessible and flavorless potassium boost. 

3. Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a unique class of plants that help balance, restore, and protect the body by supporting the bodies ability to cope with stress and fatigue (11).


In my adrenal cocktail recipe, I like to incorporate either my Mother's Immunity™ or Adrenal & Focus™ glycerites that contain Eleuthero root, Red Chinese ginseng root, American ginseng root, licorice root, gingko leaf, Fo-Ti root, codonopsis root, and fresh ginger root. These adaptogens support the body in regulating healthy cortisol levels and reducing stress-induced fatigue and encourage mental clarity and focus.


My Mother's Immunity™ glycerite contains a blend of 14 adaptogenic mushrooms, including chaga - supports cellular health and resilience (12), lion’s mane - supports brain health and mood (13), and reishi - may improve resistance to stress through increasing strength and stamina (14).

A glass of coconut water rests on a wooden table.

Dr. Green Mom’s Adrenal Cocktail Recipe 



⏲️ Prep Time: 5 Minutes


🍴 Serves: 1


Ingredients


Directions

  1. Pour coconut water into large glass or shaker bottle

  2. Add a scoop of Mighty Magnesium™, dropperful of Immune Liquid Vitamin C, dropperful of Adrenal & Focus™ or Mother's Immunity™, and teaspoon of cream of tartar

  3. Add a splash of organic juice

  4. Stir well (or shake if using a shaker bottle)

  5. Enjoy!

Summary

Adrenal fatigue is a term for fatigue, difficulty coping with stress, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed that can stem from prolonged stress and decreased adrenal gland efficiency. The combination of hydration, essential minerals, antioxidants, and adaptogens in this adrenal cocktail recipe work synergistically to replenish nutrients depleted by stress and support adrenal function. For busy parents facing the challenges of modern life, this cocktail offers a simple way to nourish your body and boost your energy levels — and it tastes great, too!

References:

  1. Dunlavey C. J. (2018). Introduction to the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis: Healthy and Dysregulated Stress Responses, Developmental Stress and Neurodegeneration. Journal of undergraduate neuroscience education : JUNE : a publication of FUN, Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, 16(2), R59–R60.

  2. Smith, S. M., & Vale, W. W. (2006). The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(4), 383–395. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.4/ssmith

  3. Wilson, J. L. (2014). Clinical perspective on stress, cortisol and adrenal fatigue. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 1(2), 93–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aimed.2014.05.002

  4. Liao, L. Y., He, Y. F., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y. M., Yi, F., & Xiao, P. G. (2018). A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chinese medicine, 13, 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9

  5. Patak, P., Willenberg, H. S., & Bornstein, S. R. (2004). Vitamin C is an important cofactor for both adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla. Endocrine research, 30(4), 871–875. https://doi.org/10.1081/erc-200044126

  6. Lopresti A. L. (2020). The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 11(1), 103–112. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz082

  7. Low magnesium levels make vitamin D ineffective: Up to 50 percent of US population is magnesium deficient. (n.d.). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226122548.htm

  8. Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050429

  9. Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050429

  10. Zhao, X. J., Zhao, Z., Yang, D. D., Cao, L. L., Zhang, L., Ji, J., Gu, J., Huang, J. Y., & Sun, X. L. (2017). Activation of ATP-sensitive potassium channel by iptakalim normalizes stress-induced HPA axis disorder and depressive behaviour by alleviating inflammation and oxidative stress in mouse hypothalamus. Brain research bulletin, 130, 146–155. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2017.01.026

  11. Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188

  12. Eid, J. I., Al-Tuwaijri, M. M., Mohanty, S., & Das, B. (2021). Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) polysaccharides exhibit genoprotective effects in UVB-exposed embryonic zebrafish (Danio rerio) through coordinated expression of DNA repair genes. Heliyon, 7(2), e06003. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06003

  13. Docherty, S., Doughty, F. L., & Smith, E. F. (2023). The Acute and Chronic Effects of Lion's Mane Mushroom Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Stress and Mood in Young Adults: A Double-Blind, Parallel Groups, Pilot Study. Nutrients, 15(22), 4842. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15224842

  14. Reishi Mushroom | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (n.d.). Www.mskcc.org. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/reishi-mushroom

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