Ever since completing my training with Dr Dan Kalish in 2011, I utilise his adrenal fatigue syndrome treatment method in my practice on a daily basis helping people of all ages, from stressed teenagers to adults in their 60s and 70s to restore their energy levels and zest for life.
It’s estimated that up to 80% of adults experience adrenal stress during their lifetimes, yet it remains one of the most under-recognised conditions/syndromes in Australia and other developed countries.
In fact, the most common cause of any fatigue is adrenal depletion. This means that because of some long-term period of stress, your cortisol levels became depleted (see information below).
Even if the stress was in the past you could still be suffering from depleted adrenals right now, having never fully recovered from the effects of that stress.
Unfortunately, most conventionally trained doctors are not aware and/ or don’t recognise the adrenal fatigue syndrome and thus are not mindful of existing methods of restoring the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (see more below) and adrenal function.
Subsequently, many people suffer unnecessary for years with no relief or solution in sight.
In particular, many clients working in corporate environments who are under stress from working long hours, eating poorly and often skipping meals, lack of sleep and/ or rest, and not exercising enough (but not too much either!), are at a high risk of developing adrenal exhaustion at some stage.
What are the adrenals and their functions
Adrenals are small glands located above each kidney and they produce a number of vital hormones including cortisol, aldosterone, adrenaline, DHEA and sex hormones such as estrogens, progesterone and testosterone (sex hormones are produced in smaller amounts).
Cortisol is produced by the adrenals in response to any stress in the body – physical, psychological or emotional. Cortisol also has many other essential functions such as stabilising blood sugar, neutralising inflammation and allergies, promoting fat burning, helping regulate emotions, and interacting with the ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and balancing them.
Moreover, it helps to regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular function – most people with adrenal fatigue have a low blood pressure as this is one of the symptoms of having depleted adrenals.
Importantly, cortisol levels rise under stress but if stress continues without enough rest for recovery, the adrenal glands become less responsive to the signals from the HPA axis related to cortisol production.
If elevated stress continues for months or years, adequate cortisol levels can no longer be maintained and start to plummet. This has a chain-reaction impact on other hormones, organs and body systems.
Overall, adrenal hormone production is an indicator of overall body function and imbalances in this system are usually a sign of chronic illness. It’s therefore vital to address and treat any adrenal dysfunction as a priority.
HPA axis and the adrenals
Adrenal fatigue syndrome is nowadays more accurately referred to as the HPA axis dysfunction. The HPA axis controls the body’s reactions to all types of stress and regulates many body processes such as digestion, the immune system, neurotransmitters, energy storage and expenditure.
It appears likely that the low levels of cortisol and DHEA seen in chronic stress may be due to HPA axis adaptation (down-regulating) to protect the tissues from the damaging effects of excessive cortisol, rather than being due to the inability of the adrenal glands to continue producing adequate levels of theses hormones long-term, commonly called adrenal exhaustion.
Therefore the aim of any treatment should be to manage contributing and exacerbating factors AND support the HPA axis through the use of specific nutrients, herbs, dietary modifications and lifestyle coaching.
The Kalish Method overview
The Kalish Method, designed and taught by Dr Daniel Kalish based in the United States, integrates scientific testing with supplements and lifestyle modifications to restore your adrenals and their normal function.
It’s a clinically validated method that’s been used for a number of years, yet most practitioners, both naturopaths and conventional doctors, are still not aware of it.
This adrenal protocol is effective and capable of restoring health in most individuals in six to 12 months, depending on level of adrenal exhaustion. The natural adrenal fatigue treatment can be compared to recharging the body’s batteries (adrenals) and this process can last to up to two years in some people who are very depleted, having suffered for many years or decades.
When applied in the USA, the Kalish Method adrenal protocol involves replacing the depleted adrenal hormones, including DHEA and the precursor to cortisol called pregnonelone, with bio identical equivalents. In Australia and other countries where DHEA and pregnonelone are not available to be prescribed by natural therapists (these are prescription only products), naturopaths use powerful adaptogenic and adrenal herbs getting similar consistent results.
Moreover, these herbs have many additional beneficial and synergistic actions allowing to address other imbalances at the same time, including digestive issues, hormonal imbalances or impaired liver function, to name a few.
As stated above, the basis of adrenal fatigue or burnout is prolonged stress and the three main sources of stress in adrenal fatigue are:
- Intense emotional stress – such as the death of someone close, accidents, work or financial stress. According to Dr Kalish, approximately 95% of his patients report having experienced major emotional stress around the time their health began to falter. For example having a second or third child is often a significant source of stress for women and can be a time when the adrenal glands burn out and fatigue starts.
- Poor diet – skipping meals, eating too many carbohydrates and sweets, overusing stimulants such as coffee and soft drinks, indulging in processed foods and generally overeating, will interfere with cortisol production.
- Pain and chronic inflammation – chronic pain substantially depletes cortisol which acts as anti-inflammatory in the body. Muscle pain and fibromyalgia are particularly common in adrenal fatigue.
Unfortunately most of my clients experiencing adrenal fatigue have all three factors going on at the same time, making the treatment more complex and hence taking extra time to correct the imbalances.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms
An abnormal adrenal function also impacts:
- Sleep quality and duration – leading to trouble falling and staying asleep. I have compiled a free guide to sleeping better for individuals with adrenal fatigue, please see the Sleep and adrenal fatigue section below for a link to download it.
- Depression, foggy mind and memory problems – up and down moods throughout the day as well as irritability often reflect unstable cortisol levels.
- Muscle and joint function – leading to achy arthritis-type joint pain and neck, shoulder, and lower back pain.
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight – when cortisol is out of balance the body will store fat rather than burn it for fuel.
- Blood sugar regulation – correcting blood sugar imbalances is critical to successfully managing any adrenal or endocrine issues.
- Hormonal imbalances – the more stress you are under the more female and male hormones imbalances will occur. Most signs of female hormone imbalances including PMS and menopausal hot flushes can be traced to adrenal fatigue.
- Digestive problems – manifesting as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, heartburn or parasitic infections in the gut.
- SIgA secretion (secretory immunoglobulin A) – one of the most important things that cortisol does is regulating secretory IgA (sIgA is part of the immune system and is often called ‘the first line of defence’) in the gut – see my post on sIgA here.
- Immune function – leading to frequent illness and low sIgA levels exposing the body to assaults from pathogens, viruses and bacteria.
- Skin regeneration – causing wrinkles and premature aging.
- Bone health – promoting osteopenia or bone loss.
- Thyroid function – especially underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). As the cortisol levels go up to cope with prolonged stress, one of the normal body mechanisms is to down regulate thyroid. So, almost everybody with high cortisol is going to have lower than ideal thyroid hormone levels. The good news is that, according to Dr Kalish, more than 90% of the time his adrenal program is enough to restore thyroid function without other medication.
Adrenal fatigue treatment test and steps
The Kalish Method involves testing the adrenal function by taking four saliva samples over the course of a day. This maps out your circadian rhythm, showing how your cortisol levels rise and fall throughout the day and in the evening.
Saliva is collected at approximately four-hour intervals: first thing in the morning upon waking, then at noon, late afternoon, and again at night before going to bed. Both cortisol and DHEA levels are being measured at the same time. Find detailed information on saliva adrenal hormones testing in my post HERE.
If it is determined that your cortisol levels are too low or too high, the practitioner then develops a personalised adrenal therapy applying specific herbs for adrenal fatigue (i.e. adaptogenic herbs such as holy basil), supplements for fatigue and stress utilising specific vitamins and minerals that will help your body to begin again producing cortisol and DHEA on its own.
Other hormones, such as testosterone and pregnonelone levels may also be checked and addressed with supplements, if necessary.
Importantly, the test also reveals the level of stress that you’re under and how much you need to focus on the lifestyle changes which are an integral part of the adrenal fatigue treatment program.
The more advanced the adrenal stress is, the more thorough and careful you have to be about nutrition, sleep and rest, exercise (such as gentle walking and/or yoga) and daily stress management.
Stage 3 adrenal exhaustion (burnout – the most advanced phase) clients are tired or exhausted all the time, are unable to lose weight, are depressed, have low sex drive and a multitude of other health problems as stated above.
To learn more about The Kalish Method, watch this video where the natural health physician and Mercola.com founder Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. Daniel Kalish about “The Kalish Method”.
In May 2016 Dr. Kalish released a new study with Sue Cutshall and Larry Bergstrom currently practicing at the Mayo Clinic. This research study was conducted using The Kalish Method adrenal fatigue treatment approach, utilising lab-based supplement programs as well as lifestyle and nutritional counselling.
The study showed the positive correlation between a holistic, functional medicine approach to addressing fatigue, stress and digestive orders.
Naturimedica’s Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Program
Working 1:1 with clients, I offer a comprehensive adrenal fatigue treatment program called From Tired to Terrific that can be undertaken either in person in either the Sydney CBD or Lake Macquarie clinics or online via phone or Skype Australia-wide. Here’s the link to the program’s page .
Through this holistic adrenal burnout recovery program I can offer the best adrenal and other support to my clients on their journey to recovery from fatigue for good.
If a program format is not suitable for you at this stage, I also offer ‘as you go’ option of individual consultations for a period of time needed for each individual to get better.
Take the first step to recovery now! Complete this short Adrenal Stress Questionnaire to assess your current adrenal stress levels and find out the steps to take. The results and interpretation guide will be emailed to you.
Do you need help with recovering from adrenal fatigue? Book a consultation with me (either in person or via phone/ Skype) by clicking the button below.
I also offer a free 15-minute initial discussion to talk about your circumstances and how I can help.
Please note that I can consult with Australia-based clients only.
I look forward to connecting with you and to helping you to feel healthier and happier soon!
Adrenal fatigue and Sleep
Sleeping better is the key to adrenal fatigue recovery; however, it’s one of the most underrated but also one of the easiest and most simple things you CAN do to improve your health and energy levels – starting today.
There is no way to get around sleep in order to be and stay healthy, and there is no substitute for it.
Having seen many fantastic outcomes of just improving sleep in my clinic, I was compelled to write this short guide to give you the most important, simplest and common sense steps you can do right now to get sounder and more restful sleep tonight.
FREE Sleep Guide download
Top 3 Nutrition Tips For Better Sleep Tonight! Key nutrition guidelines for insomnia PLUS my top 3 bedtime snacks for deeper and restful sleep
Download the Top 3 Nutrition Tips For Better Sleep Tonight! Free Guide here and start sleeping better today!
Reversing adrenal burnout is possible and the adrenal fatigue treatment offered by The Kalish Method has a good track record of success. However, it certainly requires commitment and determination to persevere for a period of time (approximately 6-12+ months depending on the stage of adrenal stress).
In addition to tailored supplementation and nutrition program combined with lifestyle modifications, a dose of self-realisation regarding the importance of our emotional and spiritual lives is required and indeed very beneficial for recovery.
If left unchecked, fluctuations in cortisol have profound effects on your health and wellbeing leaving you with little or no energy to enjoy your life fully.
Holistic Health and Lifestyle Therapist
Natural and Lifestyle Solutions for Abundant Health and Wellbeing
Check out other posts here:
- Holy basil: a key herb for stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue
- Magnesium for anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and muscle pain
- Sleep better – Nutrition for better sleep and insomnia
- Low blood pressure – how to raise it naturally
- Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) for healthy gut, digestion and immunity
Joanna Sochan is a Natural Therapist and founder of Naturimedica Holistic Health & Wellness. She has a passion for helping her clients transform their lives by becoming healthy and well naturally. Joanna is a fatigue, sleep and gut health expert helping tired, stressed or unwell individuals to regain their energy, sleep better and be happier, more relaxed and calm. Joanna practices in Sydney and Lake Macquarie, Australia and also conducts online consultations for clients Australia-wide. View full bio.