The Potency of Adrenal Cortex Extract Supplements Can Do More Harm than Good

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


Supplements containing adrenal cortex extract can actually be more harmful than helpfulVarious natural compounds and supplements are useful for recovering from Adrenal Fatigue. Many of these either support specific functions or replenish particular compounds that have been depleted from the body. Adrenal glandulars, or more accurately, adrenal cortex extract, is one of the latter. Adrenal cortex extract is actual adrenal gland tissue, often dehydrated, powdered, and put into capsule form. These supplements are meant to supply the raw ingredients needed to strengthen the flagging adrenals so that they can function at a higher level. So if your adrenal glands are fatigued, isn’t this the right supplement to take?

The Interconnected Body

This would be true if only your adrenal glands were compromised and the rest of the body was healthy. But in reality, the adrenals do not operate in a vacuum; the adrenals affect all other body systems. The typical progression of Adrenal Fatigue occurs over a long period of time and means that the slow decline of adrenal function has had plenty of time to affect the rest of the body as well, disrupting other hormone systems and neuroendocrine functions. Once Adrenal Fatigue has become evident, the problem is already more widespread than just the adrenal glands; the entire body has been weakened and compromised. This is why successful recovery programs take into account the whole body and attend to your overall health, not just adrenal health.

So what does this interconnectedness mean for adrenal extract use? In order for these supplements to be correctly utilized by the body, other systems and functions have to kick in. The material must be ingested, the nutrients and constituent components must be absorbed by the gut, the compounds must be metabolized, and anabolic processes must be activated to build adrenal tissue.

Glandular Extracts and Adrenal Fatigue

Liver congestion can be made worse with supplements that have adrenal cortex extractNow if you are familiar with Adrenal Fatigue, you may be familiar with the concepts of liver congestion and paradoxical reactions. These two symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue are illustrative of the effect that weakened adrenals can have on the whole body. When these severe symptoms arise, sufferers have difficulty taking medications, supplements, and sometimes even food. The body is running at such a diminished level of functionality that metabolic byproducts—some of them toxic—have begun to build up in the body, because they can’t be processed and excreted effectively. This kind of congestion forms a feedback loop, as the continuing buildup of these waste materials stresses the body and further slows its performance.

Adrenal extracts need to be processed by various functional systems in the body. So you may begin to see why taking adrenal extracts may not be the best idea for you. Attempting to force even these natural compounds into the body—when it is already backlogged with its own biological byproducts—just clogs the system further. Even worse, the glandular supplements may actually be effective, forcing the adrenals into overdrive, but with the body in a fragile and precarious state, the mismatch between the adrenals and the rest of the body may just stress the body to the point of crashing.

Natural Recovery vs. Natural Compounds

The body has a great capacity for self-repair and adrenal cortex extract may simply not be neededAdrenal extracts need to be processed by various functional systems in the body. So you may begin to see why taking adrenal extracts may not be the best idea for you. Attempting to force even these natural compounds into the body—when it is already backlogged with its own biological byproducts—just clogs the system further. Even worse, the glandular supplements may actually be effective, forcing the adrenals into overdrive, but with the body in a fragile and precarious state, the mismatch between the adrenals and the rest of the body may just stress the body the right diet and nutrition, and treating your body properly allows the natural healing and recovery processes to build up strength and energy, healing the adrenals—as well as the rest of the body—over time.

Remember that using natural compounds does not necessarily make for a natural recovery program. The natural compounds must appropriately address the body’s needs. So perhaps adrenal cortex extract can be a useful tool for some people at certain stages of recovery; but since Adrenal Fatigue is such a complex condition and affects each physiology differently, the best course of action is to consult someone with the proper experience and knowledge to design the optimal recovery plan for you.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Liver congestion can be made worse with supplements that have adrenal cortex extract

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12 Comments

  • Otab says:

    Hi Dr. Lam. I have a quick question. I just need to know how can progesterone help my AF symptoms. My worst symptoms are severe dizziness/off balance, fatigue, low blood sugar symptoms but my sugar is actually fine. I have to keep eating every hour, otherwise my symptoms get horrible. Once I eat I feel much better for a little while. My doctor has put me on Vit D,C, multivitamin with iron, Omega 3, Licorice root and Cytozyme AD. My symptoms are not getting better so now he wants to put me on progesterone for a short period of time. I don’t believe this will solve all my issues though and i definitely don’t want to make it worse. Can progesterone really help? Thank you.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Progesterone is calming in nature. If your liver is congested, it can be problematic. I dont know enough about your body to be able to tell you the rational behind your doctor’s advise. I am also concerned about the cytozyme and licorice. Click Adrenal Fatigue Glandular & Herbal Therapy for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • Jen Nichols says:

    I have had adrenal fatigue for about 3 years and I have tried many supplement. The main supplements I am on now are vitamin C, A high-quality multi-vitamin which has green tea comma magnesium and hormone replacement therapy for low testosterone. I have also been on something called adrenaplex. Are you familiar with this supplement and would you consider it to be bad for stage 2 or 3 AFS?

  • Teresa says:

    My adrenal fatigue was caused by poorly treated hypothyroidism. Once I got on a higher level of natural thyroid hormone, everything evened out.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      That is good, but do be careful that often times, higher level of thyroid makes you less fatigue, but the underlying problem is not resolved. Increasing thyyoid will invariably increase energy, but it not the same as healing adrenals. Overtime, thyroid medication needs to be increased to sustain the same level of energy output, resulting in a state called “wired and tired”. Many are confused on which comes first – adrenal or thyroid weakness. Time will tell you. Click Adrenal Fatigue versus Hypothyroidism for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • aina baron says:

    I have recovered somewhat from AF using progesterone and vit C. E, B ,Omega 3 salmon oil. And to complicate things I have atrial fib so am onApixaban and olmetec. I have recently stopped taking Amioderone after taking it one year. My thyroid hormone has recovered after stopping the meds. I have now added magnesium and feel much better. I have a sulphur sensitivity so dont eat much crucerferous vegtables but eat alot of fruit and nuts. I have done alot of reading as well as your newsletters. I consult a NP dr who generally is helpful but usually send me home withanother bottle of supplements. My age is 85 and have had two small strokes since being diagnosed with Ad Fatigue via saliva test

    • Robyn Hope says:

      I recommend yoga and meditation and long walks in nature on sunny days. Plenty of sleep also important for adrenal support.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      At your age, maintaining stability is the key. Sometimes it is easy to find things wrong, but not all things need to be dealt with . sometimes, the therapy can make things worse. So do be careful. Do avoid stimulants with your history of atrial fib, and that can include herba and glandulars. Click Adrenal Fatigue Glandular & Herbal Therapy for more information.

      Dr Lam

      Dr Lam

    • Otab says:

      Hi aina baron! Could you please give me your email? I am suppose to start taking progesterone and i am so afraid of it, I need to know if it can actually help adrenal fatigue.

  • Kathleen caldwell says:

    I have adrenal fatigue from severe longterm stress and a 20% ejection fraction (heart) from an “unknown source”. I suspect that i do not utilize B Vitamins. I have no drive and cannot lose wt.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      You have to be very careful with any supplements when your cardiac function is low. Stimulatory compounds can mask the underlying problem more.

      Dr Lam