Fighting Adrenal Fatigue and High Cortisol Levels? How to Improve Your Energy

Did you know that Candida overgrowth and a wounded inner ecosystem are silent internal stressors? When recovering from adrenal fatigue, poor digestion is a deal-breaker.

Stress can slow down the transit time of food in the digestive tract.

What does adrenal fatigue have to do with digestion?

As it turns out, your inner ecosystem does more than break down food. Your inner ecosystem communicates with the cells of your immune system through brain chemicals that regulate behavior and through your hormones.

When there is inflammation and an impaired inner ecosystem, it can be difficult to maintain steady levels of energy throughout the day.

Dysbiosis is a word that is used to describe an inner ecosystem that is wounded. When there is dysbiosis, bad bacteria and aggressive yeast take over the intestinal tract. There is inflammation. And the lining of the gut is leaky.

This can happen:

  • At birth, when a newborn is born cesarean section and is first exposed to the bacteria on human skin—rather than the bacteria in mom’s birth canal.
  • After antibiotic therapy.
  • When eating the standard American diet.

Restoring balance to the inner ecosystem is a little bit like setting a room up for a party. With everything in the right place, guests come and go. Conversation flows smoothly. And everyone has a good time. Try inviting the wrong guests. Offer little food and entertainment. Or welcome guests with an angry hostess—and the party quickly falls apart.

Imbalance within your inner ecosystem, such as an overgrowth of bacteria or an inflamed gut wall, can quickly ignite a stress response that the entire body feels.

2 Arms of Your Stress Response

There are two ways that your body handles stress. One way is through the HPA axis (also called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), and the other is with the classic fight-or-flight response.

Stress can negatively affect digestive and immune health. When your body releases stress hormones, it immediately shuts down function in both the stomach and small intestine.

1. HPA Axis: The HPA axis is a line of communication that loops from the brain to the adrenals and back to the brain. The adrenals are two walnut-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys. When the brain picks up stress signals from the body, it responds by sending a message to the adrenal glands. The message says, “Make cortisol.”

Cortisol shuts down inflammation in the body—this is why physicians use it to reduce pain.

Cortisol also shuts down the immune system. It raises blood sugar. And it prevents the formation of proteins, specifically collagen (hello, wrinkles!). Cortisol also raises blood pressure and blocks the formation of bone.

2. Fight-or-Flight: One of the most important chemicals involved in the fight-or-flight response is adrenaline, or epinephrine. The fight-or-flight response is nonspecific. Adrenaline works with cortisol to increase resources for immediate energy. It causes blood vessels to contract. It increases your heart rate and tells your brain to send out the memo for cortisol production.

What else?

Digestive function shuts down in response to fight-or-flight signaling. This can mean loss of appetite, large and undigested food particles, gas, cramping, and constipation.

Chronic mental or emotional stress, strenuous exercise, physical injury, and illness can all pull on one or both arms of your stress response system. Over time, this can exhaust the adrenal glands.

Stress in the Gut

When battling fatigue or managing stress, it is common to overlook the gut. Unfortunately, the immediate effect of stress on digestive function and the immune system can keep the body locked into a negative cycle of injury, stress, and exhaustion.

For example, stress hormones shut down function of the upper gastrointestinal tract, specifically the stomach and the small intestine.

In order for the body to absorb and use vitamin B12—a vitamin that’s critical for the synthesis of DNA, nerve cells, and red blood cells—it relies on both the high acidity of the stomach and a narrow range of alkalinity in the small intestine. Without this perfect environment, the body slowly becomes deficient in vitamin B12, memory grows weak, and energy levels plummet.

Stress can also slow down the transit time of food in the digestive tract.

When food stagnates anywhere in the gut, it ferments and putrefies. An overgrowth of bacteria and yeast inflame the lining of the gut wall. And the effects of inflammation are not limited to the gastrointestinal tract.

In fact, studies have found that when the inner ecosystem is out of balance, it throws your entire stress response system out of balance. This can mean that levels of cortisol become irregular. And it can mean changes in the HPA axis. (1)(2)

An overgrowth of bacteria and Candida yeast is not the only source of inflammation. Gluten, alcohol, and NSAIDs also irritate the lining of the gut and make it leaky. (3)(4)(5)

Target Stress and Get Rid of Fatigue

A study published last year highlights the evidence that probiotics can blunt the HPA stress response. (6)

According to researchers, stress increases gut permeability or “leakiness.” This allows bacteria and toxins from bacteria to enter the bloodstream, activating a response from the immune system. This process changes the inner ecosystem of the gut and “leads to enhanced HPA drive.”

The study concludes that, “It is however clear that the gut microbiota must be taken into account when considering the factors regulating the HPA.”

In other words, getting rid of stress may not mean that you need to spend 20 minutes in mindful meditation (although, that’s not a bad idea).

Targeting your stress may mean that you heal the gut and restore balance to your inner ecosystem.

When healing the gut and restoring balance to the inner ecosystem, Body Ecology recommends focusing on correcting digestion, cleansing, and replenishing beneficial bacteria and yeast. Donna recommends taking the Digestive Care Multi and a few ounces of InnergyBiotic with each meal for one month and keeping track of your energy levels, quality of sleep, digestion, and elimination.

Keep in mind that the proper blend of beneficial bacteria and yeast, enzymes, minerals, and cleansing herbs will not only support healing your gut and maintaining healthy energy levels but will also help to manage your stress response!

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Hidden factors like a damaged inner ecosystem and Candida overgrowth can place stress on your entire body. What’s worse is that poor digestion can slow down the adrenal fatigue recovery process. Dysbiosis, or damage, can occur in your inner ecosystem if you were born via C-section, have had antibiotic therapy, or eat the standard American diet.

Once your body undergoes stress, it immediately affects digestive and immune function. This can cause a vicious stress cycle of injury, further stress, and exhaustion. Stress can cause food to become stagnant, ferment, and putrefy in the gut. This can lead to bacteria and yeast overgrowth that will trigger inflammation in the gut lining. Before you realize it, your inner ecosystem is out of balance, and you may experience symptoms of stress throughout your entire body.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. By healing the gut and balancing your inner ecosystem, you can target stress in your body. Taking the Digestive Care Multi with a few ounces of InnergyBiotic at each meal for a month could help to improve energy, sleep, digestion, and elimination by managing your stress response.

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  1. A Stengel, et al. Neuroendocrine Control of the gut during stress: corticotropin-releasing factor signaling pathways in the spotlight. Annu Rev Physiol 2009;71:219–239.
  2. R De Giorgio, et al. Activated mast cells in proximity to colonic nerves correlate with abdominal pain in irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology 2004;126:693–702.
  3. A Fasano. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology. 2012; 42(1): 71-78.
  4. JR Turner, et al. Alcohol, intestinal bacterial growth, intestinal permeability to endotoxin, and medical consequences: Summary of a symposium. Alcohol. Aug 2008; 42(5): 349-361.
  5. W Renooij, et al. Intestinal permeability in irritable bowel syndrome patients: effects of NSAIDs. Digestive diseases and sciences. 2010; 55(3), 716.
  6. JF Cryan, et al. Regulation of the stress response by the gut microbiota: Implications for psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012; 37: 1369-1378.
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