Adrenal fatigue is a theory that links symptoms like tiredness and insomnia to overworked adrenal glands. Although adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical diagnosis, alternative wellness practitioners often recommend specific treatments to support the adrenal glands and “heal” adrenal fatigue, including adrenal cocktails.
Here’s what you need to know about adrenal fatigue and adrenal cocktails.
The adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They have two parts—the cortex and the medulla—that secrete hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that regulate essential processes like your sleep/wake cycle, inflammation, blood pressure, metabolism, stress response, and many other critical functions.
The adrenal glands are part of a collection of structures known as the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA axis), which is the body’s main stress response system. The adrenal glands produce hormones like cortisol in response to signals from the pituitary gland in the brain, which responds to signals sent from another part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
When the adrenal glands make too much or too little of certain hormones, it can lead to health conditions such as adrenal insufficiency and Cushing’s syndrome. These are recognized medical conditions that require proper diagnosis and care from licensed healthcare providers.
Adrenal fatigue refers to a theory that the adrenal glands can become overwhelmed by chronic stress, resulting in depleted adrenal functioning and symptoms like extreme fatigue and sleep issues. Even though adrenal fatigue is commonly promoted as a reason for these and other symptoms, it’s not a recognized condition by the medical community.
According to scientific research, there’s no hard evidence that adrenal fatigue exists, and experts argue that treatments given to people with suspected adrenal insufficiency, like corticosteroids, could harm long-term health. Also, there’s currently no standard definition of adrenal fatigue and no formal criteria used to diagnose adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal insufficiency is a rare medical condition where the adrenal glands fail to produce adequate amounts of hormones essential for life, like cortisol. This condition is caused by diseases of the adrenal glands like Addison’s disease as well as autoimmune diseases, infections, and genetic disorders.
Adrenal insufficiency usually develops slowly and, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening symptoms like seizures and coma. It requires treatment with hormone replacement medication.
Unlike adrenal fatigue, adrenal insufficiency is a verified medical condition with set standards for diagnosis and treatment.
Some people promote adrenal cocktails as a way to help “balance” hormones like cortisol and help people feel more energized.
Most adrenal cocktail recipes include coconut water, citrus juice such as lemon or orange juice, and salt. Other ingredients commonly used in adrenal cocktails include ginger, coconut milk, and cream of tartar, which is high in potassium.
The reason some people recommend adrenal cocktails is that they believe that this specific combination of ingredients helps “nourish” the adrenal glands and provide the nutrients the adrenal glands need to “heal” from adrenal fatigue. These cocktails are often recommended to people who are under high levels of stress or have symptoms like extreme fatigue and insomnia.
Even though a few of the ingredients in adrenal cocktails offer some health benefits, there’s no evidence that these drinks are helpful or necessary for the health of the adrenal glands. Like most health and wellness trends, the idea of the adrenal cocktail isn’t based on sound science.
While it’s true that your entire body depends on vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally, the nutrients found in adrenal cocktail recipes are found in many other foods. What’s more, all nutrients from any source are dispersed system-wide, meaning that the nutrients in adrenal cocktails won’t be used exclusively to support the adrenal glands.
If you feel that you’re constantly in a state of high stress or are experiencing symptoms often said to be related to adrenal fatigue, like insomnia, anxiety, and cold intolerance, an adrenal cocktail will not cure your symptoms. These and other symptoms often linked to adrenal fatigue can be a sign of serious underlying medical conditions, like hypothyroidism and diabetes, which require a medical diagnosis and proper medical care.
There’s really no risk involved in drinking an adrenal cocktail for healthy people. Most of the ingredients in adrenal cocktail recipes, such as citrus juice, are beneficial for health. However, this doesn’t mean you need to add adrenal cocktails to your diet.
You can get all of the nutrients found in adrenal cocktails by following a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, protein sources like beans and fish, and healthy fats like nuts and avocados.
Blood Sugar Regulation Issues
Additionally, the amount and type of juice and the salt used in adrenal cocktails could be problematic for some people, including people with high blood pressure and blood sugar regulation issues. Although adrenal cocktails are promoted as a way to support healthy blood sugar regulation, most recipes are high in carbohydrates from natural sugars and low in blood sugar-regulating nutrients like fiber and protein.
For example, a popular adrenal gland cocktail recipe includes a half cup of orange juice, a half cup of coconut water, and a quarter teaspoon of sea salt. This drink contains around 20 grams (g) of carbs, which is a significant amount for people with blood sugar regulation issues. Drinking an adrenal cocktail on its own without a source of protein or fiber will significantly impact blood glucose and could negatively impact long-term blood sugar regulation, since protein helps stabilize blood glucose levels.
High Blood Pressure Risk
Additionally, although the amount of salt in adrenal cocktail recipes is usually minimal and not high enough to affect the health of most people, some people are considered salt-sensitive, meaning that they’re more sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of salt more than others. If people with salt-sensitive high blood pressure consume high-salt foods or beverages with added salt, like adrenal cocktails, they may experience increases in blood pressure that can harm health over time.
Most people consume much more salt than their body needs on a daily basis, so adding even more salt to beverages like adrenal cocktails isn’t necessary for most people and will likely do more harm than good.
Also, research shows that a chronic high salt intake activates the HPA axis, which can lead to increased stress and contribute to poor metabolic and cognitive health. This means that adding salty drinks like adrenal cocktails to your diet may actually have a negative effect on adrenal health.
High in Potassium
Lastly, some adrenal cocktail recipes call for cream of tatar, a baking ingredient that’s high in potassium. Just one teaspoon of cream of tarter covers 11% of the Daily Value (DV) for potassium.
While drinking an adrenal cocktail that contains cream of tartar isn’t an issue for most people, those who need to limit potassium in their diet, such as those with certain stages of kidney disease, should limit their intake of high-potassium foods and unnecessary use of ingredients like cream of tartar.
If you’re experiencing symptoms like extreme fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, and insomnia, which are commonly associated with adrenal fatigue, it’s important to make an appointment with a healthcare provider. Assuming that you have adrenal fatigue and trying to treat it with adrenal supplements or adrenal cocktails can be dangerous, as this can delay proper diagnosis and medical care for underlying health conditions.
Even though adrenal cocktails aren’t harmful for most people, they’re not necessary for health. To keep your entire body healthy and your stress levels low, it’s much more helpful to follow a nutrient-dense diet, get plenty of restful sleep, manage stress, and make time for physical activity and hobbies you enjoy.
If you’re experiencing symptoms that are impacting your quality of life, visit your healthcare provider to undergo appropriate testing to rule out underlying medical conditions.
Most adrenal cocktail recipes are based on the following combination:
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ cup coconut water
- A pinch or quarter-teaspoon of sea salt
Some recipes call for additional ingredients like coconut cream, cream of tartar, lemon juice, ginger, and collagen.
If you’d like to try an adrenal cocktail, it’s best to enjoy it with a meal containing fiber and protein, which will help slow digestion and promote healthy blood sugar regulation.
An adrenal cocktail is a type of drink made of orange juice, coconut water, and sea salt commonly promoted as a way to nourish the adrenal glands and improve symptoms related to adrenal fatigue.
Not only is adrenal fatigue not a recognized medical condition, but there’s no evidence that this specific combination of ingredients does anything to support the health of your adrenal glands any more than a balanced meal would.
If you’re experiencing symptoms often linked to adrenal fatigue, like extreme tiredness, insomnia, and cravings for salty foods, it’s best to visit your healthcare provider to rule out medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.