[Editor's Note: Many thanks to Brian Schaefer <firstname.lastname@example.org> of Australia for forwarding this important essay on Adrenal Burnout by
Dr. Lawrence Wilson. Brian was
trying to get me to read this essay as far back as November 2004. He sent me
yet another e-mail on April 11, 2005 and I finally tuned in long enough
to print it out and read it. Now
I know why he wanted me to read it so badly. Many people suffer from adrenal exhaustion and they don't know it- including yours truly. Study the symptoms. If the shoe fits, follow the recomendations to restore adrenal strength. It takes about two years to come back, so don't look for a quick fix. If you need more help, contact me privately by e-mail .Ken]
By Dr. Larry Wilson <email@example.com>
Posted April 19, 2005
Thousands of people suffer from constant fatigue, unrelieved
by rest and sleep. This is the main symptom of adrenal burnout syndrome.
Other symptoms may include a craving for sweets, low blood pressure and
blood sugar, irritability and depression. Low energy impairs every system
of the body. Secondary symptoms range from impaired digestion to infections.
Toxic emotions accumulate with adrenal burnout. The world looks bad, people
are evil, and a hopeless attitude is not uncommon.
The condition is also called adrenal hypofunction, adrenal exhaustion or adrenal insufficiency.
Unlike fatigue, one’s energy does not return after a good nights rest.
Burnout is a more serious derangement of the body’s energy system.
The adrenals are the major glands the body uses to respond to stress. Its
hormones raise the blood sugar and blood pressure, and promote energy production.
Adrenalin (or epinephrine) is used for emergencies. The longer-acting anti-stress
adrenal hormones are cortisone and cortisol. Aldosterone, another adrenal
hormone, retains sodium and increases the blood pressure. Related closely
to the sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response it is called.
When the adrenals become depleted, the body is unable to handle stress.
Most physicians do not diagnose adrenal burnout syndrome. Rarely, if enough
tests are run, it may be called Addison’s disease, which doctors consider
incurable. Recovery from adrenal burnout, however, is definitely possible.
The condition affects both men and women, and even children as well. Some
children are born this way and never experience plenty of energy.
Burnout may develop slowly or be caused by a single trauma. John F. Kennedy
experienced burnout during World War II. A Japanese destroyer rammed his
patrol boat late one night, killing most of the crew. He never recovered
from the shock. For the rest of his life, he needed replacement adrenal
hormones. If he had found the right practitioner, perhaps they would not
have been needed.
Causes of Adrenal Burnout
Excessive stress, an important cause of burnout, can be from many sources.
Chemical toxicity and nutritional depletion are among the physical causes.
Mental, emotional or spiritual stress may be a major factor. Financial,
family or other stress may also contribute to burnout.
Any excessive stress can deplete the adrenals, especially when weakened
by poor nutrition. Working too much or emotional stress are two common causes.
Excessive stimulation, especially for children, is another cause. Fast-paced,
high-stress, fear-based lifestyles are a sure prescription for adrenal burnout.
Other stressors in cities are noise and electromagnetic pollution. Cell
phones, microwave towers and appliances like televisions, microwave ovens
and computers give off strong electrical fields.
Nutritional Deficiencies are a common cause. When under stress, the need
for nutrients is much greater. Carbohydrates, when excessive in the diet,
stress the adrenals. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies.
Inadequate or poor quality water affects oxygenation of the tissues.
Most diets are low in nutrients required by the adrenals. These include
B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C and E, manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium and other and other trace elements. The reasons for this begin with how
food is grown. Most food is grown on depleted soils. Processing and refining
further deplete nutrients. Habits like eating in the car or while on the
run further diminish the value derived from food. Also, allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy productscan damage the intestines and
reduce the absorption of nutrients. Toxic metals and chemicals often play
a large role in adrenal burnout. Everyone is exposed to thousands of chemicals
in the air, the water and the food. Other sources are dental materials and
skin contact with chemicals. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications add to the body’s toxic load.
Toxins may also be generated within the body due to impaired digestion.
When food is not properly digested, it either ferments or rots in the intestines,
producing many harmful substances that are absorbed into the body. Chronic
infections, of dental and other origin, also contribute to the toxic load.
In most people, the organs of elimination do not function at an optimal
level. As a result, toxic substances slowly build up in the body, leading
to adrenal burnout and many other health conditions.
Stimulants damage the adrenal glands. They whip the adrenals. Caffeine,
sugar and alcohol are among the most common stimulants. Less obvious stimulants
include anger, rage, arguing, hatred, loud music, the news and movies full
of suspense. Vigorous exercise, sexual preoccupations and other thrills
may also act as stimulants.
Stimulant use, however, can also be a result of adrenal burnout. Stimulants
are attractive to one in burnout to provide temporary energy. This is an
appeal of the drug culture, both legal and recreational.
Unhealthy responses to stress are another cause of adrenal burnout. These
include habits of worrying, or becoming angry or afraid. Don’t worry,
be happy is a great prescription for adrenal burnout. This applies particularly
to high-strung, nervous individuals and those with very active minds, as
they are especially prone to adrenal burnout.
Many children today are born with weak adrenals due to their parents’
nutritional deficiencies. By age three or four, these children are in burnout.
They are often sick, depressed and have difficulty in school.
Symptoms of Adrenal Burnout
Low blood sugar and allergies result from low levels of cortisol. Joint
and muscle pain are other common symptoms. Multiple chemical sensitivities
is an extreme allergic condition associated with adrenal burnout. Low blood
pressure and low body temperature may also result. Later blood pressure
rises as toxic substances build up in the arteries and kidneys.
Elevated copper and low zinc related to adrenal burnout impair the immune
system. Chronic infections may develop. The stage is also set for the development
of degenerative conditions. Cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases are end-stage results of toxic accumulation and
energy depletion. Often secondary to adrenal exhaustion are glandular imbalances,
hyperthyroidism and more often hypothyroidism. The adrenal glands produce
oestrogen and progesterone. They are the main source of these hormones after
menopause. Premenstrual syndrome and hot flashes often have to do with weakened
Depression and apathy are common in adrenal burnout. One may lose interest
in friends, family and work. Unsure if there is energy to get through the
day, anxiety may occur. Irritability is common as one is less able to handle
even minor stress. Unfortunately, many with adrenal burnout function on
anger and resentment. These act as adrenal stimulants, providing a negative
energy with which to function. Most of the world, in fact, functions on
the negative energy of anger.
Compulsiveness and OCD [Obsessive Compulsion Disorder] is associated with adrenal burnout. One may become
addicted or very attracted to excessive exercise, sex, loud music or other
forms of excitement. The unconscious goal is always the same, to stimulate
the adrenals into activity.
When the adrenals are weak, copperbuilds up in the body. Elevated copper
enhances emotions. Panic attacks, bipolar disorder, mood swings and schizophreniaare related to copper imbalance. As one’s energy level declines, other
toxic metals build up as well. Mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, beryllium and others contribute to hundreds of physical and emotional symptoms.
Myths about Burnout
Myth #1: Burnout is psychological.
Burnout is a breakdown of the energy system of the body. Vital
minerals are depleted or burned out and replaced by toxic metals. Psychological
stress may be a cause and burnout can affect one’s emotions and behaviour.
However, burnout itself is biochemical. Recovery may involve improving emotions
and dealing with psychological issues. However, it also involves rebuilding
body chemistry because it is a physical condition as well.
Myth #2. People in burnout have no energy and cannot work.
Many in burnout hold full-time jobs. They may appear in good
health. However, they are often tired or stressed. They may require stimulants
in order to keep going. Some bury themselves in their work to forget how
tired they feel.
Myth #3. Vigorous exercise is good for burnout.
Vigorous exercise can be attractive to those in burnout. Exercise
temporarily makes them feel better. While it may provide a boost, in the
long run vigorous exercise further exhausts their bodies. People in burnout
need to reduce exercise, often to a minimum in order to conserve their energy
and allow their adrenals to rebuild. Exercise requires energy and adrenal
reserves that people in burnout do not have.
Myth #4. A vacation, a diet, or a nutritional supplement will cause
recovery from burnout.
Most people never recover from burnout. Recovery requires
a strong commitment to healing. A number of natural therapies are often
required. Recovery takes at least several years. If one recovers faster,
one was not in adrenal burnout.
Myth #5. Burnout occurs mainly in men. In fact, it is more common in
This is due mainly to lifestyle changes in women. Many women
now work outside the home, and raise the children as well. Many are in single-parent
homes or both parents work just to pay the taxes. Women have more sluggish
oxidation rates to begin with, so burnout may be less apparent in women,
but it is just as common or more so than in men.
Myth #6. Burnout only occurs in those in high-stress jobs.
Burnout occurs in all groups, regardless of occupation, income
or educational level. In fact, many homeless people are burned out. This
helps account for why they may give up hope or be incapable of holding a
job or supporting a home.
Myth #7. Burnout occurs only in adults.
In fact, it is common today in children and even babies. Children are being
nutritionally depleted and toxic as a result of the ill health of the parents.
This can be measured with mineral analysis. Minimal brain dysfunction, chronic
ear or other infections, crib death, failure to thrive, ADHD and anti-social
behaviour may all be symptoms of burnout in children.
Myth #8. Burnout affects only physical health.
Burnout affects every area of life. Family and work are often
affected. Relationships often suffer. One may lose interest in everyone
and everything. There simply is not enough energy available for others or
for activities beyond those required for survival. Friends, family and employers
are often unaware of what is occurring, which only worsens the situation.
Myth #9. A hectic lifestyle causes burnout.
This may be one cause. However, a hectic lifestyle can also
be a result of burnout. Excessive activity, overwork and a very busy life
can be a way to stimulate one into action, a compensation for feelings of
exhaustion. When such a person stops working and running around, they will
feel just how exhausted and perhaps depressed they really are.
Myth #10. Overwork for years causes burnout.
This is possible. However, it can occur due to a single shock
or just a few traumas that occur together. It may also not be related to
any single trauma or activity. Often a combination of factors causes burnout.
Whether one goes into burnout from an illness, accident, divorce, overwork
or other stress depends very much on one’s ability to handle stress,
rather than the absolute amount of stress.
Myth #11. Burnout is an overused term without a scientific basis.
Just because burnout doesn’t show up on x-rays or standard
blood tests does not mean it is not real. Burnout can be measured and quantified
using tissue mineral testing. The term is not overused. In fact it is greatly
underused. A large percentage of the population is in burnout and it would
be helpful if physicians understood it better, even if they have no cure.
Myth #12. Plenty of sleep will take care of burnout.
Unfortunately, this is not so. The body is unable to regenerate
its energy during sleep. Waking up tired after 8-10 hours of sleep is a
primary symptom of burnout. Like a dead battery, the body does not recharge
itself during sleep. An interesting principle of health is that one can
only regenerate during sleep in proportion to the energy one has. Those
in burnout are overtired which interferes with the restorative power of
Myth #13. Cleaning out toxins will take care of burnout.
The accumulation of toxins that occurs as the body can no
longer remove them properly contributes to burnout. Exposure to toxic metals
or chemicals can be an important factor in burnout. Eliminating them is
helpful. However, energy is required to release toxins. If the energy system
is weak, just fasting or detoxifying will not be enough. One must rebuild
the entire energy system by balancing body chemistry and providing nutrients
as well. A one-month or even six-month cleanse is nowhere near adequate.
It can take a year just to replenish one mineral. For those in burnout,
extreme detoxification programs such as fasting, raw foods or even chelating
agents can be dangerous. This is because the body lacks the vitality to
properly eliminate toxins, the eliminative organs are compromised and toxins
may be redistributed in vital organs. A gentle, complete program of rebuilding
and nourishing the body must accompany any efforts to eliminate toxins.
In fact, as vitality improves, toxin elimination will proceed on its own.
Myth # 14. One will come out of burnout when one changes whatever factor
or behaviour caused the burnout.
This is not how it works. As one goes into burnout, vital minerals become
depleted and toxic substances replace them. They become part of the structure
of enzymes and body organs and glands. Although one changes one’s
diet, lifestyle, attitudes or behaviour, the toxins remain.
Often, burnout does not even set in until several years after a trauma,
illness or injury as depleted and damaged cells proliferate. Though many
change their diets and get over their traumas, most people never recover
from burnout, or make only a partial recovery.
Myth #15. To recover from burnout just re-establish close communication
with those who are close to you.
This is the prescription for burnout in one popular book.
However, this is not enough. Communication is also difficult when one is
in burnout. Burnout can greatly affect one’s attitudes, outlook and
perceptions, making real communication very difficult. Low energy by itself
can impair communication. Lack of understanding of the problem by partners,
friends and others can also impair communication.
Myth #16. To get out of burnout, one needs to get back in touch with
This is not enough for recovery. Also, getting in touch is
difficult due to toxins in the brain. These produce odd feelings, low self-esteem
and negative attitudes that often accompany burnout. Many people in burnout
become overly introspective, which can make them worse as they get in touch
with all their problems.
Myth # 17. One can recover from burnout in matter of months.
It takes at least two years and often longer. Layers of adaptations
and compensations must be undone. Each adaptation uses up energy so that
when one begins correction, there is little energy to work with. This slows
progress and is one reason correction takes several years.
Also, twenty or thirty minerals must often be replenished, a time-consuming
process even assuming that one is ingesting all needed nutrients. Eliminating
toxins that have become integral parts of the organs and glands also takes
time, like rebuilding a house. If the process occurred too rapidly, one
would become very ill.
If one recovers in months, one was not in burnout. Often, a small recovery
can feel like a cure when it is not. Those in burnout need an overhaul,
not a tune up. One needs to commit to doing whatever it takes and devoting
a few years to healing. This needs to become one’s primary occupation
or job for a while, allowing all other interests and activities to become
secondary to the commitment to healing.
Myth #18. Burnout is not an important medical problem unless the stress
of burnout causes high blood pressure or another symptom.
Burnout is degenerative exhaustion. It sets the stage for
all degenerative diseases, because energy is a common denominator of health.
All illnesses start with fatigue. The body is like a newer car with power
steering, power brakes and power windows. The entire car stops working right
when the power goes down. Burnout is a serious medical problem, although
symptoms may be vague and unrelated to a specific disease.
Myth #19. Burnout is new phenomenon. In fact, burnout is as old as humanity.
It can even help understand the rise and fall of civilizations.
Nations often change over time. Repressive traditions can in time lead nations
into burnout. Constant wars as occurred in Europe can contribute to burnout.
Toxic exposure like lead water pipes can contribute to burnout. Vegetarian
diets or destructive religious ideas, as in countries like India, can be
a factor. Oppressive economic systems can contribute in some nations.
The process can be cumulative because children born to burned out parents
continue the pattern until the entire group goes into burnout. Melting pot
nations like America have an advantage in this regard. New immigrants are
often the more ambitious ones that are in better health and can help rejuvenate
the population. Also, nations that emphasize freedom and individual rights
allow people to devise better ways of coping and maintaining their health.
Recovery from burnout is certainly possible. It takes several years and
usually requires a change in diet, improving one’s lifestyle, nutritional
supplements, detoxification procedures and attention to one’s emotional
and spiritual health. Addressing all these aspects is the way to assure
Diet is an important factor for everyone. Eat protein with every meal.
Eggs, natural meats and poultry are the best sources of protein. Toasted
almond butter, goat cheese and nuts are other good sources. Avoid vegetarian
diets. At lunch and supper, have three cooked vegetables. Rotate your proteins
and your vegetables so you don’t eat the same thing every day.
You may have complex carbohydrates, but not wheat and spelt. Some people
are also sensitive to gluten found in rye, barley and oats. Excellent starches
are root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, carrots, onion and celery
root), blue corn, brown rice, quinoa and others. Organic blue corn chips
I recommend everyone avoid wheat, spelt, sugar and cow’s milk dairy
products except butter. If other food allergies are present, avoid these
foods for a while. Avoid Isolated soy protein as it is of poor quality and
contains many anti-nutrients. Reduce all sweets, eat very little fruit and
avoid all junk food. Avoid all vegetable oilsexcept for olive oil. Avoid
all juices. They are too yin, most are too sugary and they can concentrate
food toxins, upset blood sugar and weaken the adrenals. Use sea salt rather
than table salt. Eat regular meals of excellent quality. Make the switch
to organic food, whenever possible.
Excellent are green foods like kelp, barley grass powder and various coloured
vegetables. Cooking with coconut oil is excellent and helps as well with
weight loss, Candida albicans infection and energy. Drink high quality water,
not from the tap. Distilled or spring waters are best. So-called drinking
water or reverse osmosis are often not good as the filters used to make
them may be dirty. Good quality water is an excellent investment in yourSelf.
Avoid all extreme diets. Your body needs a variety of nutrients. Restriction
is not a good idea. In my experience, strict vegetarians will never recover
from burnout. Follow good eating habits with regular, sit-down, relaxed
Nutrients and Lifestyle for Recovery
Food supplements are necessary. Kelp granules and nutritional yeast are
excellent supplements for most people. They are rich sources of nutrients
and kelp assists detoxification. Other nutrients that are very important
for adrenal activity are vitamins A, B, C, E, pantothenic acid (Vit. B5) and
adrenal glandular substance [extracts] . Calcium and magnesium are often needed. A digestive
aid is always needed. I prefer pancreatin and ox bile. Zinc is frequently
needed. Other nutrients may be needed depending on one’s level of
toxic metals and other symptoms or deficiencies. I use hair mineral testing along with symptoms to assess these needs.
Rest and sleep are extremely important. Plan on nine hours of sleep for
at least a few years. At times, more may be needed. Sleep is not a waste
of time. There is no substitute for adequate rest. Also rest after meals,
at mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Gentle walking is beneficial. Vigorous exertion depletes the adrenals. Deep
breathing and stretching, yoga or Tai chi do not deplete the body. Exercise
to relax rather than to build muscles.
Cleaning up your environment assists health recovery. Replace toxic chemical
products used around the house. Non-toxic alternatives are available for
cleaning and as solvents. Pesticides and herbicides are often extremely
toxic. Chemical hair dyes, shampoos and toxic skin care products need to
Ventilate your house and purify the air if needed. Often very toxic is new
construction. At work and at home avoid toxic exposure. Turn off televisions
and computers when they are not in use. Sleep away from these appliances.
Use cell phones only when absolutely needed.
Spend some time in the sun each day. Contrary to some propaganda, half an
hour of sunshine daily will not hurt you. It is a nutrient and assists health
in many ways. Sit in front of a window if it is too cold to go outside.
Detoxification Sauna therapy in particular will greatly enhance and speed up recovery.
The best type is an infrared electric light sauna. One can put together
a light sauna for under $300.00. Click to read about these and how to build
or purchase a kit. If you are in adrenal burnout, use the sauna daily for
no more than 30 minutes. Once or twice a week is excellent for prevention.
Other detoxification procedures are also very good. Coffee enemas are excellent
to assist detoxification through the liver. Brush your skin whenever you
bathe with a skin brush or loofah. Colonic irrigation and herbs for the
liver and kidneys can help improve elimination.
Chiropractic, massage and reflexology can help reduce stress. Many natural
therapies help realign and rebalance the body. Making these part of your
lifestyle will enhance recovery.
Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Health
Often it is necessary to grow out of burnout. A key to recovery from burnout
is improving values and attitudes. They play an important part in every
single case. Negative thinking is a bad habit that eventually tears down
the body. Worry, fear and anger place added stress on the glands. Many techniques
there are to help shift one’s thinking. Inspirational books and tapes,
seminars and therapies there are many. There is no single answer right for
Searching for love outside of yourself depletes the body’s energy.
Find the love inside yourself first, and you will find the right activities
and companions. Burnout may result if you are awakening spiritually. Your
present work and lifestyle may simply be inappropriate. Consider different
employment or work arrangements if you suspect your stress comes from your
Relationships can cause a lot of stress. When one partner goes into burnout,
the other often does not understand. Many couples become energetically incompatible.
This has nothing to do with love or caring. It is important to listen to
the wisdom of the body, and not be blinded by fixed ideas.
Many methods can help one relax and tune in to the wisdom of the self. In
addition to traditional therapy, meditation and visualization exercises
may be most helpful. Slowing down is often necessary if you live a busy
life. It can take great courage to realize that by doing less you can accomplish
more. By staying home more, you can relate better with others. By resting
more, you can be more creative and productive. Change often requires overcoming
guilt, shame and feelings of laziness.
For spiritual orientation, I highly recommend A Course in Mastery, A course
in Miracles, Love Without End by Glenda Green, Journey Beyond Words and
The Other Voice by Brent Haskell and The Real Self by this author. These
and other books and tapes can help one rethink who am I, what is life about
and why am I here.
The Blessing of Burnout Adrenal burnout is always a wake up call. Some area of life is out of alignment.
For a deeper exploration of self, it is often the starting point. Rather
than just existing as a programmed zombie, adrenal burnout may be the beginning
of real living.
Dr. Larry Wilson
Dr. Larry Wilson is a Fellow of the International College
of Bionutrition and Board of Examiners and has authored many papers and
books on health and nutrition. Visit his inpressive web site at http://www.drlwilson.com/
Dr. Lawrence Wilson
P.O. Box 54
Prescott, AZ 86302-0054
All information posted on this web site is
the opinion of the author and is provided for educational purposes only.
It is not to be construed as medical advice. Only a licensed medical doctor
can legally offer medical advice in the United States. Consult the healer
of your choice for medical care and advice.