Your adrenal glands are in charge of producing hormones that moderate your body’s response to life’s many stressors. Chronic, unrelenting stress can exhaust these little glands, leading to a host of problems, including insomnia, low energy, cravings for sweets, mood disorders and compromised immunity, says Dr. Christiane Northrup. Lifestyle changes such as increasing your exercise, eating a healthy diet and using stress-management techniques, can help with adrenal exhaustion. In addition, your doctor may suggest vitamin supplements to boost certain nutrients depleted when your body is under stress.
The adrenal glands have a higher concentration of vitamin C than any other tissue in the body, according to integrative medicine practitioner Jeremy Kaslow, M.D. Dietary sources may not be enough when you’re experiencing extreme stress and adrenal exhaustion. James L. Wilson, N.D., author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Syndrome, recommends choosing a vitamin C supplement with bioflavonoids for best absorption. Ask your doctor to recommend a dosage of vitamin C.
The complex of B vitamins plays an essential role in what Wilson calls the “adrenal cascade” -- the cycle of hormone production as the body undergoes stress and then recovers. In particular, this family of vitamins is important for energy production. A three-month study, published in Human Psychopharmacology in 2011, found that supplementing with a high-dose B complex supplement helped subjects reduce the confusion and depression associated with work-related stress. Wilson says a B complex supplement with the same amount of each B vitamin won't be metabolized properly. Your doctor can recommend a B complex supplement with the correct dosages.
Wilson recommends vitamin E for adrenal exhaustion because of its role as an antioxidant, fighting off free radicals in conjunction with vitamin C. Free radicals are rogue molecules that can damage normal cells and lead to chronic illness. According to Wilson, you should look for a vitamin E supplement comprised of mixed tocopherols, rather than the d-alpha-tocopherols commonly sold in stores. Talk to your doctor about a dosage of vitamin E that works for you, especially if you're taking medications.
Although they aren’t vitamins, herbal supplements known as adaptogens may be helpful in your recovery from adrenal exhaustion. Extracts of plants such as ashwagandha, ginseng and rhodiola are common in supplements marketed for adrenal support. A review published in Phytotherapy Research in 2005 found that administration of Rhodiola rosea, a root; Schisandra chinensis, a type of berry; and Eleutherococcus senticosus, a relative of ginseng, improved mood and work performance with no side effects. Discuss adaptogens with an herbalist or holistic health practitioner, who can suggest dosages.
- Christiane Northrup, MD: Adrenal Exhaustion
- drkaslow.com: Adrenal Dysfunction
- Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Syndrome; James L. Wilson, ND, DC. Ph.D.
- Human Psychopharmacology: The Effect of 90 Day Administration of a High Dose Vitamin B-complex on Work Stress
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin E
- Phytotherapy Research: Stimulating Effect of Adaptogens