Your adrenal glands are essential for your everyday health. They produce hormones that help your body to:

If your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, it can lead to a variety of symptoms and health issues.

Also known as Addison’s disease, adrenal insufficiency is a medical condition that occurs when your adrenal glands aren’t producing adequate amounts of one or more essential hormones.

Adrenal fatigue is a theory that suggests high stress levels can trigger a mild form of adrenal insufficiency.

Read on to learn more about these two conditions.

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when your adrenal cortex is damaged. This causes your adrenal glands to not produce enough of the steroid hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol regulates the body’s reaction to stressful situations. Aldosterone helps with sodium and potassium regulation.

People who have adrenal insufficiency may experience the following symptoms:

Proponents of the theory of adrenal fatigue believe that when somebody has chronic stress, their adrenal glands can’t keep up and therefore produce less of the hormones needed to feel healthy.

They theorize that current blood testing technologies are not sensitive enough to identify this small decline in adrenal function. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue might include:

Even though adrenal fatigue is not a medically recognized condition, it doesn’t mean that the symptoms you’re feeling aren’t real.

Often, an underlying condition causes your adrenal glands to not produce sufficient amounts of certain hormones.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, your first step should be a thorough evaluation by your doctor. Some of the medical conditions that might cause similar symptoms are:

If your doctor rules out biological explanations of your symptoms, they may look into possible mental health conditions such as:

Talk with your doctor about the possibility that your symptoms could be triggered by multiple causes. Discuss formulating a personalized plan that might involve a combination of counseling, medications, supplements, and lifestyle changes.

Advocates of natural healing suggest a number of ways to address symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue diet

The adrenal fatigue diet follows the guidelines of many recommended balanced diets, based on increasing your consumption of:

It also suggests decreasing your consumption of:

The diet also suggests proper timing of meals to properly regulate blood sugar.

Decrease stress

The adrenal fatigue theory is based heavily on stress. Some ways to reduce stress include:

Vitamins and minerals

Advocates of the adrenal fatigue theory suggest supplementing your diet with:

There’s no direct evidence that these supplements will alleviate adrenal fatigue. Before adding vitamins and minerals to your diet, talk with your doctor.

Herbal supplements

Many natural healing practitioners who subscribe to the adrenal fatigue theory recommend treating the condition with herbal supplements such as:

Since herbal supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, their claimed benefits are often not proven with research. Talk with your doctor before adding any herbal supplements to your diet.

If you have symptoms such as feeling tired, weak, or depressed, you should get a full diagnosis from your doctor. You may have adrenal insufficiency, obstructive sleep apnea, depression, or other health problems.