Adrenal Fatigue vs Brain Fatigue

Just watched this very interesting lecture by Nora Gedgaudas of Primal Body Primal Mind fame in which she explains that much of what the paleo community considers ‘adrenal fatigue’ is actually the result of central nervous system fatigue.  There are quite a few moving parts before we get to the point where the adrenals secrete cortisol:

  • Hypothalamus secretes corticotropin releasing hormone which stimulates the pituitary
  • Pituitary secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone which then stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

And a whole bunch of inflammatory cascades and feedback loops act on these parts of the brain, which then determine what the adrenals do!

She goes into much greater detail about this in this 45 minute video which I recommend watching.

Few things she talks about that definitely catches my attention:

  • Recommends ketogenic / very low carb diet for maximal blood sugar control as one of the ways to treat these issues
  • Says to avoid taking melatonin!  Unfortunately, she doesn’t specifically talk about shift workers… so I’m not entirely sure this applies to my situation, especially given all the stuff I’m trying.
  • She also says that because all of this stems from the central nervous system, taking adrenal support supplements doesn’t do anything (looks like I’m going to be tossing at least one of these things…), so you need to treat the primary cause instead (inflammation, chronic infection, gluten, not enough sun light, not enough sleep, etc…)

I’m hoping she has recommendations for shift workers so I’ll try to check out her books:


4 Responses to Adrenal Fatigue vs Brain Fatigue

  1. Josh says:

    Hey BjjCaveman, I have seen Nora’s video before. She is indeed very articulate and convincing. However, I must point out that nearly every other health practitioner in the World (bar the odd anomaly e.g. Jack Kruse) think that very low carb is stressful for adrenals. I’m pretty sure that attempting a ketogenic diet in the first place was the trigger for my adrenal issues – which I deal with to this day.

    Loving your blog and keep up on rolling!

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      You bring up a good point. I’d love to see a study where they actually measured the adrenals in patients that were low carb vs not. Like, to see what happens to cortisol as well as norepinephrine and epinephrine and aldosterone…

      • Josh says:

        Late reply, but here you go:

        Low carb diets increase cortisol. High carb diets decrease cortisol.

        • BJJ Caveman says:

          Thanks for pointing out this article. I found this paragraph in the discussion interesting:

          Although the very low-carbohydrate diet produced the greatest improvements in most metabolic syndrome components examined herein, we identified 2 potentially deleterious effects of this diet. Twenty-four hour urinary cortisol excretion, a hormonal measure of stress, was highest with the very low-carbohydrate diet. Consistent with this finding, Stimson et al31 reported increased whole-body regeneration of cortisol by 11β-HSD1 and reduced inactivation of cortisol by 5α- and 5β-reductases over 4 weeks on a very low- vs moderate-carbohydrate diet. Higher cortisol levels may promote adiposity, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease, as observed in epidemiological studies.32- 34 In a 6-year prospective, population-based study of older adults in Italy,35 individuals in the highest vs lowest tertile of 24-hour cortisol excretion, with or without preexisting cardiovascular disease, had a 5-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality. C-reactive protein also tended to be higher with the very low-carbohydrate diet in our study, consistent with the findings of Rankin and Turpyn.36 Other studies also have found reductions in measures of chronic inflammation, including CRP with a low–glycemic index diet.

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