Depression - exhausted adrenal glands?

Your adrenal glands have two primary functions: they will wake your body up in the morning, bring it from sleep to activity and they handle all the stress that your everyday activities cause. Cortisol is the main hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex. On the other hand, adrenal marrow mainly secretes adrenaline. Adrenaline is responsible for emotions including struggle, escape, fear and worry, among other things. However, when talking about exhausted adrenal glands, what is being referred to are the adrenal cortex and cortisol production. This article is about cortisol. 

Cortisol Secretion 

Cortisol is naturally released during a 24-hour cycle when the highest amount is around 6:00 AM. From that point on, less and less cortisol is being released with the lowest level being at midnight. When you sleep, the immune system works to "clean up" in the body and lower cortisol levels during the night which is good, since high cortisol levels regulate the sleep-related immune system. In other words, the increased cortisol levels in the morning mean that you become alert and that the sleep-related immune system decreases in activity. 

Difficulty waking Up 

If you have problems waking up in the morning, it might be due to a combination of poor sleep and too much built up toxins, which means that the sleep-related immune system has to work harder and with low adrenal function. As already mentioned, the adrenal glands make sure you wake up properly in the morning and that you manage throughout the day. Coffee is often used to wake up in the morning, but large amounts of coffee can strain the adrenal glands and, over time, you can develop a dependence on coffee, often combined with simple carbohydrates to get through the day. This can lead to even poorer sleep and a vicious cycle being created. Adrenal glands need protein to function properly and if you struggle with the energy levels in the morning, the worst option is a carbohydrate-rich breakfast or skipping breakfast altogether. The adrenal glands communicate with the liver to maintain the energy and the liver also needs protein to function in an optimal way. Carbohydrate-rich breakfasts often cause blood sugar levels to fall as a result of eating pastries or drinking coffee to get through the day, which will just make things worse. 


When you are in a stressful situation (emotional stress, injury, cold, exercise, illness) your adrenal glands signal to the liver to release more energy (calories) for immediate use. Stress also causes inflammation in the body; the adrenal glands then release cortisol which has an anti-inflammatory effect. This cortisol secretion in the bloodstream differs from the normal 24-hour cortisol cycle. Under stress, extra cortisol is released to protect the body. After about an hour, cortisol levels return to normal levels if the adrenal glands are working properly. On the other hand, if the stress is more or less always there, the adrenal glands will work even harder and produce cortisol non-stop, which over time wears them out. After a while, the stress will take over and the inflammatory by-products created cannot be taken care of by the cortisol that is being produced. Then, the first signs of excessive stress often occur: you will experience extreme tiredness, will be easily irritated, have very low energy in the morning, but even during the day, you might can have severe mood swings, experience pain in your muscles and joints, and have a lowered immune system. Allergies can also get worse by too much stress. 

Adrenal glands and thyroid gland 

Your adrenal glands and the thyroid gland work together and problems with them have several common symptoms, although there are differences. Problems with energy levels in the morning, low tolerance to stress and reduced aerobic capacity are often related to the adrenal glands. While issues with the thyroid gland can cause afternoon fatigue, a sensation of feeling cold and mental fatigue. Among other functions, the thyroid regulates the body's metabolism which determines the body's energy levels. If these become too low, the body sees it as a stressful situation which automatically affects the adrenal glands and extra cortisol is released. On the other hand, exhausted adrenal glands will increase inflammations in the body even from normal activities, causing the thyroid gland to be put on the backburner for a while an not reduce inflammation. Over time, there is risk of thyroid disorder. Therefore, constant stress affects both the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. Read the thyroid article here. 

Sexual drive 

Both the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland affect sex hormones. If both systems are functioning properly then menstruation is more or less painless and regular. Also, it would mean that the sex drive for both men and women is normal. Reduced or lack of sexual drive may be a sign that the adrenal glands are exhausted. 

Adrenal glands and other endocrine glands 

The adrenal glands are also closely connected with other endocrine glands, such as the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA). There is also communication between the adrenal glands, the thymus and the serotonin system. When you feel that you have no control over life, it can be connected to the HPA Axis where the adrenal glands are an important part of the function. On the other hand, when one feels grief and apathy, it can be linked to the adrenal glands and thymus. Your adrenal glands are important for being able to cope with virtually any change in life and if they do not function properly, it will be difficult to deal with changes and this can also lead to feelings of sorrow and depression due to the adrenal function. 

What to do? 

A good way to strengthen adrenal function is by having proper nutrition, rather than supplementing it with external hormones that can result in unpredictable negative behaviours since the receptors of the hormones may also be fatigued as well. In addition, an adrenal hormone from animals can create autoimmune reactions in a person who already has an ongoing inflammatory process due to impaired adrenal function, which is not good. 

Protein is important for the function of the adrenal glands and the best sources of it are meat, fish, poultry, eggs or seafood. Adrenal glands also need salt to function normally and total salt restriction is not good. If you have several symptoms of both adrenal and thyroid problems, you need to treat them at the same time. If this is the case, it is good to use supplements that strengthen both the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. In addition, it is good to exercise on a level that you can handle at the moment and then increase it over time. The important thing is that you regularly exercise, several times a week and don't push yourself too hard at the beginning. Exercise reduces stress and strengthens the body in general and the adrenal glands in particular. There are several good supplements for both the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. Adrenal Response is excellent for adrenal function, but also for thyroid function. CoQ10 is very good for the thymus as its entire surface has receptors for CoQ10. A good multivitamin and mineral preparation is a cheap way to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need, not only for the adrenal glands to get the nutrition they need, but for the whole body to function properly.