Chronic Fatigue

The Connection Between Environmental Toxicity and Adrenal Fatigue

While environmental toxicity is not the main cause of adrenal fatigue, exposure to it can speed up the process.

Throughout the years, the American society has made multiple advancements in industrialization, technology, manufacturing, and resource production. However, along with all of its improvements since the early 1900s, the population simultaneously has been risking its health quality. Of course, we can take a positive outlook and acknowledge the enhancements made in the medical industry to decrease the cancer death rates and increase the average human’s lifespan. Although, on the other hand, there are still various diseases such as autoimmune conditions, Lyme disease, cardiovascular diseases, digestive illnesses, and other chronic ailments that appear due to mysterious circumstances. Most conventional medical practices don’t recognize environmental toxicity as a threat to one’s health, however at LifeWorks Wellness Center, we’ve treated multiple patients who have previously suffered from diseases that were caused by inflammation born from environmental toxins.

Interestingly, many patients with environmental toxicity have simultaneously been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue; a condition that results in a depleted cortisol production from the adrenal glands due to constant exposure to stressful situations. The condition was first introduced in 1998 by a naturopath named Dr. James Wilson who theorized that certain symptoms such as constant feelings of weakness, fatigue, and strange salty snack cravings may be the result of worn-out adrenal glands and causing prolonged production of cortisol. Just like environmental toxicity, conventional doctors also don’t acknowledge adrenal fatigue as a real condition. Instead, they believe patients with low cortisol production are suffering from adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease, however this is a completely different illness.

It’s not uncommon for environmental toxicity to be linked to various diseases, however what is its connection with the adrenals, and how can it lead to the onset of adrenal fatigue?

Environmental Toxicity and the Endocrine System

Environmental Toxicity and the Endocrine System

While environmental toxicity is not the main cause of adrenal fatigue, exposure to it can speed up the process. Normally, adrenal fatigue develops over a gradual process and almost everyone is susceptible to it. It is explained as “a group of symptoms that occur in people who are under long-term mental, emotional or physical stress¹.” Therefore, anyone who constantly handles the pressures of a fast-paced job environment, single parent, or a working college student may be at high risk of having adrenal fatigue if they don’t know how to properly manage their stress levels. Otherwise, their adrenal glands will burn out and cause a depletion of cortisol hormones in the body.

The adrenals play an important role in the endocrine system, which is responsible for brain functions, regulating growth and controlling hormones. If one is constantly exposed to environmental toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, pollutants, contaminated water, or other chemicals this can greatly disrupt the endocrine system and cause hormone imbalances. Studies show that pesticides increase inflammatory cytokines that will impact hormone balance and augment the risks of autoimmunity.

Stress, Inflammation, and the Adrenal Glands

Stress, Inflammation, and the Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands are made up of two parts: the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex is the outer part of the gland that releases the cortisol (regulating metabolism and stress response) and aldosterone (regulating blood pressure levels). The adrenal medulla is the inner part of the gland that releases adrenaline (to help the body react to stress, nervousness, or excitement) and norepinephrine (a chemical that acts as a stress hormone and neurotransmitter).

When someone feels threatened or is placed in a stressful situation, the body reacts with a “fight-or-flight” response. During this reaction, the adrenal cortex releases more cortisol that increases one’s heartbeat, blood pressure and stamina. Even if one is not constantly in a life-or-death situation, the nervous system reacts the same way as it would handle a stressful job or financial situation. Therefore, if the body is in a constant state of emergency, it becomes more difficult for hormones to return to normal levels. These constant stressors are seen as foreign antibodies, which causes the immune system to release inflammatory cytokines to protect the body, thus inducing inflammation throughout the body. With the addition of environmental toxins, this only increases the inflammation buildup which can quickly lead to autoimmunity that directly impacts the adrenal glands. This is called Addison’s disease and it occurs when the immune system attacks the adrenal glands, disrupting the cortisol production and impacting other parts of the endocrine system such as the thyroid.

Reduce Toxin Exposure and Prevent Adrenal Fatigue *stress changes to wellness*

Adrenal Fatigue and Toxins

Studies have shown that toxin exposure can “inhibit or block any adrenal hormone process that typically helps the body deal with stress².” This means that environmental toxicity in the body can manipulate the hormones released within the body and alter the way that it reacts to stressful situations. As a result, one might experience the onset of adrenal fatigue symptoms such as:

  • tiredness
  • poor mood regulation
  • brain fog
  • overuse of caffeine

Some common toxins that are known to compromise the adrenals are mercury, asbestos, and Bisphenol A (BPA). Mercury within the adrenal glands has been shown to affect the adrenal medulla by triggering a hormonal imbalance which can quicken or worsen the development of adrenal fatigue. Asbestos within the lungs can cause a buildup of acid levels in the blood, thus making the kidneys work harder to excrete it from the body. In turn, the adrenal glands are forced to increase cortisol production to eliminate the inflammation. Overtime, this can impact how the adrenal glands function. Finally, research from the University of Quebec in Canada revealed that BPA can have a direct impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis² and even cause dysregulation. This axis is the interaction between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and adrenal glands that controls immune responses to inflammation and stress.

Reduce Toxin Exposure and Prevent Adrenal Fatigue

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we treat many patients who endure either one or both conditions. Treatment methods for both vary greatly on the symptoms that the patient is experiencing plus their test results. These can include hydrocortisone capsules, dietary changes, peptides, and supplement regimens along with detoxification methods such as intravenous therapies and ozone therapies to cleanse the system of inflammation. Prior to receiving a treatment plan, it’s important for patients to consult with a LifeWorks practitioner to discuss any current or past medications, allergies, and symptoms. This will help the practitioner create the right treatment program to tend to the patient’s condition.

If you or someone that you know are experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, environmental toxicity or both, please call (727) 466-6789 to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners.


About Dr. Minkoff

Dr. David Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then completed both a Pediatric Residency and a Fellowship in Infectious Disease at the University of California at San Diego. He worked at the University of California and Children’s Hospitals in San Diego as an attending physician in infectious disease while conducting original research on Ribaviron, a broad spectrum anti-viral agent to fight disease. He also co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine. In 1992, Dr. Minkoff’s attended a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, widely considered the father of functional medicine, during which he had a eureka moment, and began pursuing the alternative health field with a vengeance, studying under the most accomplished thought leaders on natural & integrative healing. In 1997 Dr. Minkoff and his wife set up a small clinic to help friends with their medical problems. What began as an experiment blossomed into LifeWorks Wellness Center, one of the most successful clinics for complementary medicine in the United States.