I saw a great headline the other day. It said “This new calming supplement is like an off switch for stress”.
Wow! We could all use one of those, couldn’t we? Sign me up!
But I’ve learned through a great deal of experience that there’s no such thing as a magic pill to switch off stress.
Some people may experience a calming effect after taking certain kinds of supplements, which can be really helpful if you just need to get some rest.
But unless you’re really addressing the root cause of an overburdened body and mind, it’s likely that your stress button is just going to switch right back on again before you know it.
Addressing adrenal fatigue and your body’s natural stress response is something that makes a huge difference for my patients.
And while there may not be a magic adrenal fatigue pill out there, there are a number of supplements that can really help (as part of a balanced, holistic approach).
Here, I’ll break down the most important and helpful supplements you can take for adrenal fatigue, and why they matter. Let’s take a look!
What is adrenal fatigue?
Before we get into the best supplements for adrenal fatigue, let’s get clear on what it is we’re talking about.
The adrenal glands are responsible for producing and releasing several important hormones, including the “stress hormone” cortisol, in the right amounts and at the right times.
Adrenal fatigue, perhaps more accurately referred to as adrenal dysfunction or HPA axis dysfunction, occurs when the function of the adrenal glands and the stress response become impaired.
This is generally caused by an overload of stress. And from pressures at work to responsibilities at home to a global pandemic, pretty much every woman I know these days knows what I mean.
It’s also important to note that when we talk about stress in this context, we’re referring to even more than the emotional or mental stress described above.
Exposure to environmental chemicals, inflammatory foods, and infections are just a few more examples of stressors that can contribute to adrenal dysfunction.
The Best Natural Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
What kinds of supplements can help with adrenal fatigue? Here are my favorites, and why they work.
Start with the basics: micronutrients
In an ideal world, we’d get all the vitamins and minerals we needed from a well-balanced diet. But no matter how well we eat, a stressful day can really burn through our nutrient stockpiles. So in addition to the small (but important!) changes you make in your eating and lifestyle habits, there are several micronutrients to consider supplementing for your adrenals.
Start with the basics: a well-rounded, high-quality multivitamin/mineral complex that includes the full B-complex group, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, as well as an omega-3 supplement, is essential for countering stress.
I know how hard it is to get all of the nutrients our bodies require in today’s world of processed foods, and eating on the go! Give your body and your adrenals a hand with a solid nutrient base.
Herbal supplements & adaptogens for adrenal fatigue
For further support, there are a number of medicinal herbs to consider. Traditional cultures have been drawing on botanical medicine for millennia, and today, research is bearing out the healing power (and safe use) of these herbs.
Many of these herbs are known as adaptogens, which means they help to support a healthy and balanced stress response. Of course, this means they’re great choices for adrenal dysfunction.
I’ve had great success in restoring adrenal health with the following:
- Astragalus root. Studies show that Astragalus has many health benefits. It helps provide an increase in energy and endurance, as well as bolstering the immune system so you stay well when you’re under stress. Astragalus also aids healthy weight regulation by making cells more receptive to insulin and exerting an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to protect against insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
- Cordyceps. This “anti-aging” medicine is not actually an herb at all, but a fungus. And plenty of research documents the ability of Cordyceps to modulate the immune system, naturally lower high blood-sugar levels, support energy levels, and aid the body’s natural ability to adapt to stress.
- Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng). Sometimes referred to as Siberian ginseng, Eleuthero shouldn’t be confused with “true” ginseng (herbs from the genus Panax). It is a much gentler herb that functions as an adaptogen, meaning that it naturally augments the body’s resistance to stress. Studies indicate that Eleuthero increases performance, concentration, and endurance during fatigue. It also protects the cells of your brain and increases cell sensitivity to insulin.
- Rhodiola rosea. This herb is well-known for its ability to help the body respond to stress efficiently, while offering an increase in energy. Rhodiola extract additionally has a neuroprotective effect, increasing the ability to concentrate in people who report feeling “burnt out.” It also has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
- Licorice root. Probably the best known herb for supporting adrenal imbalance, licorice root increases energy, endurance, and vitality. It can also increase blood pressure, but most women with adrenal dysfunction have low blood pressure, so this can be helpful. If you are among the few who have adrenal imbalance with a history of hypertension, however, do be sure to monitor your blood pressure regularly.
Supplements are just one piece of the puzzle
I’ve seen great success with my patients when using the adaptogenic herbs and micronutrients mentioned above – but they shouldn’t act alone.
The best strategy for improving your adrenal function involves a balanced combination of an anti-inflammatory diet, a healthy exercise routine, and some kind of mindfulness practice.
It’s also so important that you take time for you! So many women I know eat healthy, take supplements, hit the gym often, but still feel run down – and often, it’s because they’re not making any space for the things they love or for themselves.
My prescription? Tell everyone you’re busy tonight, run yourself a bath, and let yourself truly unwind. Or do something else that you find enjoyable! It might be taking a walk in nature, it might be reading a juicy novel, or it might even be lying on the couch and binge watching your favorite TV show.
I firmly believe that making time for yourself is just as important and fundamental as these other pieces when it comes to restoring your adrenal health.
Get the Support You Need for Your Adrenals
I always take pleasure in learning more and sharing about the healing power of herbs. For my readers, I highly recommend you work with an integrative or functional medical practitioner to decide on the best course of action for you. Supplements for adrenal fatigue are a powerful step to adrenal recovery, but making the right choices for you is just as important.
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD