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Leaky Gut And Adrenal Fatigue 2022: What’s The Connection?

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Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

leaky gut and adrenal fatigue

There has been significant debate as to whether adrenal fatigue truly exists. However, a burned-out adrenal system may lead to difficulty sleeping, depression, aches and pains, chronic fatigue, and other problems. Considering how much the gut’s microbiome impacts overall health and bodily function, it is safe to say that adrenal fatigue and leaky gut share a connection. You may want to consider using supplements in addition to making dietary changes to alleviate adrenal fatigue and heal your gut.

What Is Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenal glands are located at the top of the kidneys and produce hormones that help regulate metabolism, and stress response and support healthy immune function. When the adrenal glands are fatigued, one may frequently experience body aches, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, and other concerning issues. 

The term adrenal fatigue[1] isn’t necessarily a medical diagnosis, but it is a lay term that describes when a host of symptoms related to a taxed adrenal system is present. It is believed experiencing long periods of stress causes the adrenal glands to become fatigued. However, there may be a connection between adrenal fatigue and a leaky gut.

Experiencing chronic stress is not easy for the body to continue to deal with, as the adrenal glands can burn out from prolonged secretion of cortisol and adrenaline. According to The Endocrine Society, adrenal fatigue is not an official disease because other illnesses or health conditions could trigger many symptoms of an exhausted adrenal system. Seek healthy ways to cope with and reduce experiencing prolonged periods of stress to heal adrenal fatigue.

How Is Adrenal Fatigue Connected To A Leaky Gut?

The digestive system and gut microbiome can be considered a third brain of the human body. If the gut has a balanced and healthy microbiome, the body is less likely to experience health ailments caused by inflammation, stress, hypertension, and poor immune function. 

Stress has a significant impact on the healthy, normal function of the adrenal gland and digestive system. If the gut is stressed because of a poor diet, lifestyle choices, occupational hazards, or life events, the adrenal glands can overproduce cortisol and adrenaline, exacerbating adverse conditions.

Both the gut and adrenal glands are essential to influence the regulation of the immune system, stress response, and overall health. When these vital systems are fatigued or underperforming, one may develop depression, difficulty sleeping, low energy levels, and other problems.

Understanding Cortisol And Stress Response

The release of cortisol[2] affects the body’s function and wellbeing, as it is a fight-or-flight response hormone that impacts mood, fear and prepares your body to react. Throughout the day, an average level of cortisol will be released as needed. However, too much stress can lead to experiencing the following.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive Problems
  • Sleep Problems
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Poor Memory
  • Hearth Health AIlments
  • Development of Cushing syndrome

Cortisol is essential for boosting energy levels to tackle stress, regulating blood pressure, managing how carbs, fats, and proteins are used, and controlling sleep cycles. However, adrenal fatigue and leaky gut contribute to and may be brought on by high-stress experiences. Valid forms of stress may be physical, emotional, psychological, or work-related.

Adrenal fatigue and leaky gut often share similar symptoms. There is no blood test for adrenal fatigue, but persistent symptoms should be investigated by your physician. Work with your physician to develop a plan to fix adrenal fatigue, reduce stress, and stop leaky gut.

  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Skin discoloration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Depression
  • Feeling lightheaded or nauseated

Make an effort to regularly clean your gut, restore the balance of your gut’s microbiome, and reduce adrenal fatigue. In addition to periodically taking supplements or applying herbal medicine[3],  consuming particular foods with added prebiotics[4] may prove helpful.

Helpful Foods, Supplements, And Vitamins

Consuming prebiotics and probiotics is beneficial for controlling cortisol, can fix adrenal fatigue, and healing leaky gut. Add the following to your plate at your next meal, or try a supplement.

  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut

The prevalence of leaky gut and adrenal fatigue may be due to the demands of a fast-paced, modern society and convenience foods lacking specific nutrients and vitamins to keep the body’s systems balanced and nourished.

Getting adequate amounts of specific essential vitamins or supplements may support healthy adrenal function, heal adrenal fatigue, and address a leaky gut.

  • Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B12 and C
  • Magnesium
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Panax ginseng
  • Withania somnifera

Consuming more zinc, probiotics, fiber, L-glutamine, and vitamin D can help fix a leaky gut and promote wellness. Collagen may help support balanced hormonal function and can make up for degradation caused by cortisol. 

What Causes A Leaky Gut?

When the bacteria within the intestinal tract is imbalanced, it can develop a leaky gut[5]. Often, one may experience aches and pains, painful gas, cramping, bloating, and sensitivities to certain foods when a leaky gut is present.

Eating a poor diet, refined grains, sugar, dairy, and genetically modified foods can cause the gut’s microbiome to suffer. Certain autoimmune diseases may be connected to leaky gut and symptoms of chronic fatigue, allergies, acne, obesity, and mental illness.

Since most modern diets are low in fiber and have an excess of saturated fats, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods, it contributes to inflammation and imbalanced gut microbiota. The gut microbiome is critical to healthy immune function, reduced inflammation, and the elimination of toxins from the body. Prolonged stress is a significant factor that negatively impacts the gut and contributes to developing a leaky gut.

Make positive lifestyle changes, consume foods and supplements that fix leaky gut, reduce unwanted stress and related health ailments, and restore the gut’s microbiota for optimal function. If persistent symptoms of a leaky gut and adrenal fatigue are present, consider it a warning sign from the body to look out for autoimmune disease and a strong need to make immediate changes to improve one’s health.

How To Heal Adrenal Fatigue

Reducing sugar intake, processed junk foods, caffeine, and alleviating stress are a no-brainer that helps fix adrenal fatigue. However, it is wise to consume more vitamins and minerals to support healthy adrenal gland function and restore the body. It may take 1 to 2 years to see the positive impact of fixing adrenal fatigue and the harmful effects of chronic symptoms.

Treating adrenal fatigue helps achieve healthy blood pressure, regulate the hormonal release of cortisol and adrenaline, and improve stress response. You may wish to engage in weight training and light cardiovascular exercises to aid healthy adrenal function.

Seek to reduce inflammation, consume more B vitamins, and eat a more balanced diet, including leafy greens, lean meats, legumes, and whole grains, and keep your plate colorful. Stay away from consuming excessive carbohydrates and sugar that can feed stress, inflammation, and trigger fatigue.

Precautions And Risks

If persistent chronic health problems, such as prolonged periods of stress, a leaky gut, and adrenal fatigue, are left untreated, they can disrupt daily activities and reduce the body’s functions. Take control of your life and seek healthy ways to heal leaky gut, and adrenal fatigue and restore one’s health.

The distress posed by chronic stress[6], leaky gut, and adrenal fatigue can lead to Addison’s[7] disease, contribute to increased risk of mental health[8] issues, and make life unpleasant. Consult a physician before making significant changes to your diet, taking new supplements, investigating potential prescription medicine interference, and other concerns.


+ 8 sources

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  1. Cadegiani, F.A. and Kater, C.E. (2016). Adrenal fatigue does not exist: a systematic review. BMC Endocrine Disorders, [online] 16(1). Available at: https://bmcendocrdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12902-016-0128-4
  2. ‌Wilson, J.L. (2014). Clinical perspective on stress, cortisol and adrenal fatigue. Advances in Integrative Medicine, [online] 1(2), pp.93–96. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212962614000054
  3. ‌Head, K. and Kelly, G. (2009). Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep. Alternative Medicine Review, [online] 14(2), pp.114–140. Available at: https://chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Nutrients_and_Botanicals_for_Treatment_of_Stress.pdf.
  4. ‌Schmidt, K., Cowen, P.J., Harmer, C.J., Tzortzis, G., Errington, S. and Burnet, P.W.J. (2014). Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology, [online] 232(10), pp.1793–1801. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-014-3810-0
  5. ‌Camilleri, M. (2019). Leaky gut: mechanisms, measurement and clinical implications in humans. Gut, [online] 68(8), pp.1516–1526. Available at: https://gut.bmj.com/content/68/8/1516.abstract
  6. ‌Mayo Clinic. (2021). Chronic stress puts your health at risk. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
  7. ‌Mayo Clinic. (2020). Addison’s disease – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350293
  8. ‌Farah, J. de L., Lauand, C.V., Chequi, L., Fortunato, E., Pasqualino, F., Bignotto, L.H., Batista, R.L. and Aprahamian, I. (2015). Severe Psychotic Disorder as the Main Manifestation of Adrenal Insufficiency. Case Reports in Psychiatry, [online] 2015, pp.1–4. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crips/2015/512430/

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Alex Smith is a NY-based content writer who enjoys covering natural health, supporting wellness, personal finance, history, and outdoor living. When he is not behind a keyboard living the wordsmith life, he enjoys visiting landmark destinations and bookstores.

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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