Adrenal fatigue presenting as allergies

Allergic DiseasesBy Dr. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom(NA), OIM

Many people suffer from allergies. Some may have only recently developed allergies, perhaps after a hormonal shift, such as adolescence, pregnancy, or menopause, or after the immune system dips, as a result of prolonged grief or loss.

Although winter is not typically the season in which we think of allergies, the stress of holidays and changes in environmental temperature and dietary indiscretions can result in allergy-like symptoms. Further, an individual’s emotional state may reveal stressors that have fatigued, if not exhausted, the adrenal glands.

What are allergies?

Allergies present as one or more of a number of symptoms caused by the immune system’s hypersensitivity to something in the environment. They are not usually serious or life-threatening.

Conditions associated with allergies include hay fever, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms may include red eyes, runny nose, itchy eyes, itchy rash, shortness of breath, heart palpitations or swelling, and pain in the back or joints.

What makes you sensitive?

One of the most overlooked reasons for allergies is adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion. The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and are responsible for managing stress, producing a hormone called cortisol. When a person is chronically stressed, the adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of the hormone, and, over time, the adrenal glands become fatigued. Once they reach the point of exhaustion, they are unable to produce the amount of cortisol necessary to mount a proper defense against stress.

What causes adrenal dysfunction?

  1. Emotional stress. Typically related to grief or loss.
  2. Poor diet. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugars, processed foods, grains, and genetically modified organisms destroys the adrenal glands. The cortisol that the glands secrete regulates the immune response in your gut. When the gut is stressed by poor diet, immune dysregulation ensues and the body reacts with allergy-like symptoms.
  3. Chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the hallmark of every major chronic disease. It is a signal to the adrenals to “put out the fire” and is a form of an adrenaline response.  Prolonged inflammation and chronic pain  stress the adrenal glands and cause allergic responses or sensitivities.

Symptoms of adrenal stress

Symptoms commonly associated with adrenal stress include:

  • Allergies
  • Low body temperature
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Excess hunger
  • Insomnia or mental fog
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Low sex drive

Adrenal dysfunction is a progressive condition that moves through successive phases. Its symptoms vary throughout its stages and are different for men and women. Adrenal fatigue may be diagnosed in several ways. The main premise is that it must be treated holistically—the person’s body, mind, emotion, and spirit must all be taken into account.

Providers should complete a thorough intake along with history, stress assessment, trauma and grief inventory, blood work, adrenal functional assessment, and salivary cortisol levels.

Integrative solutions

  1. A Certified Classical Homeopath (CCH) can perform a thorough consultation to elicit a totality of symptoms of the mind, body, and spirit. Homeopathy is a unique form of medicine in that it is amenable to both licensed and nationally certified healthcare practitioners, with main players such as MDs, DOs, DCs, NDs, RNs, in addition to CCH professionals. Homeopathic medicine will address the underlying stress to the adrenals and is the only system of medicine that address the emotional causation and maintenance of the disease.
  2. An integrative nutritionist can address an individual’s diet. Select someone whose qualifications represent current training in nutraceutical supplementation, and who is well-versed in the trending research on high fat, low sugar diets.
  3. People with chronic inflammation, pain, and diseases that stem from inflammation should first seek a primary care doctor. An integrative and holistic-thinking provider will be well-versed in the disciplines that will best serve the patient. The hallmark of a great practitioner is to know when to refer and with whom to collaborate for the best outcome for the patient.

Adrenal fatigue is often overlooked until a patient presents with a more serious condition, such as thyroid dysfunction.  To avert this, investigate the allergic presentation of the patient to address adrenal fatigue in its early stages.



Dr. Nancy Gahles is an integrative and holistic doctor in family practice since 1980. She is owner of Health & Harmony Wellness Center and Spirit of Love~The Rockaway Sangha in Belle Harbor, NY. Dr. Gahles specializes in stress and its role in the cause of dis-ease. Her work developing the Triumvirate Technique© is informed by her experience as a chiropractor, a Certified Classical Homeopath, Certified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) practitioner, Ordained Interfaith Minister and self-proclaimed Happiness Doctor. Dr. Gahles is a patient advocate and a political activist serving on the Board of Directors of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC). She is President Emerita of the National Center for Homeopathy and serves on the Advisory Council of Homeopaths Without Borders and the Integrative Health Symposium.

She is a published author of The Power of $elfCare: A Common Sense Guide to YOUR Wellness Solution  and TEDxTalk  and ebook: Health Investment Portfolios . Dr. Gahles is a member of the Association of Healthcare Journalists and Ethical Journalism.