The Gut-Adrenal Connection

In this post we discuss 3 questions:

  • What impact does your gut have on your adrenal glands?
  • Can hidden gut problems be a root cause of non-responsive adrenal fatigue?
  • What effect does probiotics have on cortisol levels?

If you need help with your gut or adrenals, click here

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Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi. This is Dr. Ruscio, and let’s discuss the connection between your gut health and your cortisol levels or your stress hormone levels.

Recently a randomized clinical trial in humans was published, looking at what would happen to the subjects’ cortisol levels if they were given a probiotic (1 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source). This study did find that after giving a probiotic to these human volunteers they saw a reduction in their cortisol levels. So what this tells us is that there’s a connection between your gut and your stress hormones or your adrenals.

Now, one of the things that I have found is one of the most commonly overlooked causes of adrenal stress is the gut. Oftentimes I have patients come in that are very curious about their adrenals, and they’ve been on adrenal supplements and they’ve done adrenal testing, and they’ve seen some improvement, but not what they’d ideally like to have or really kind of marginal adrenal improvement overall. And when we go through a more in-depth gut evaluation, we find something wrong in the gut, and by improving that, we see the adrenals finally able to function more normally.

So for me, I’ve started to look ever so increasingly at the adrenals as always malfunctioning secondary to something else, and in many cases, the gut. I think adrenal support is relatively straightforward, but finding and ameliorating the cause of the adrenal stress is where the real clinical win will hopefully occur, and that will be the make-or-break between someone recovering adrenal and stress hormone function or not.

This study, again, articulates part of that posit of mine, which is the importance of the gut in the adrenals because these subjects saw improvements in their cortisol levels after using a probiotic, likely because of the antiinflammatory and gut-healing, reparative effects that probiotics will help to garner.

So I guess, two things in close. One, probiotics can help with your cortisol levels, and two, if you have chronic adrenal fatigue or adrenal dysfunction that hasn’t responded to adrenal support, remember that there’s a fair likelihood that the underlying cause of that adrenal problem could be a problem in the gut because a problem in the gut can cause chronic stress. If you’re eating bad foods every time you eat, there’s a stress response. If you have an infection, all day that can be causing leaky gut, inflammation, and a stress response, and that, of course, will derange the ability of the adrenals to heal.

This is Dr. Ruscio, and I hope that helps. Thanks.

If you need help with your gut or adrenals, click here

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this?

Discussion

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36 thoughts on “The Gut-Adrenal Connection

  1. Thank you Ruscio,. My 39 year old son has a mysterious and rare auto immune disease with polyneuropathy, severe weight loss, weakness and pain. It’s been 16 months and we don’t have a diagnosis. It’s unfortunate that Kaiser hasn’t been able to figure this out with the plethora of testing he’s been through. Oh BTW he’s 5”9 and weighs 119. I am just reading about AIP and focus on the gut makes sense. I am looking for an easy way to begin his diet change. Thank you for your insight.

    1. I have found Dr. Susan Blum’s book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, to be very helpful in treating ANY autoimmune disease primarily with changes in diet. She even has four chapters full of wonderful recipes.

  2. Thank you Ruscio,. My 39 year old son has a mysterious and rare auto immune disease with polyneuropathy, severe weight loss, weakness and pain. It’s been 16 months and we don’t have a diagnosis. It’s unfortunate that Kaiser hasn’t been able to figure this out with the plethora of testing he’s been through. Oh BTW he’s 5”9 and weighs 119. I am just reading about AIP and focus on the gut makes sense. I am looking for an easy way to begin his diet change. Thank you for your insight.

    1. I have found Dr. Susan Blum’s book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, to be very helpful in treating ANY autoimmune disease primarily with changes in diet. She even has four chapters full of wonderful recipes.

  3. Any suggestions for individuals (particularly children) who do not respond well to even small amounts of probiotic support? Symptoms such as increased autistic behaviours (disengagement, wild prolonged tantrums, climbing into upper cupboards in search of carbohydrates/snack foods that have been out of the diet/home for a year or more, reduced language, increased self-stimulatory behaviours, night waking, red cheeks, foul or fruity breath). Different strains of probiotics have been tried without success….

    Thank you

    1. Yes, I have seen this in a small number of cases. They may have high levels of D-lactate. They may also have histamine sensitivity. Try no probiotics, no fermented foods and a low histamine diet. If this helps then these issues were likely present. Testing for gut infections or overgrowths is also a good idea. Feel free to contact my office if you need help.

  4. Any suggestions for individuals (particularly children) who do not respond well to even small amounts of probiotic support? Symptoms such as increased autistic behaviours (disengagement, wild prolonged tantrums, climbing into upper cupboards in search of carbohydrates/snack foods that have been out of the diet/home for a year or more, reduced language, increased self-stimulatory behaviours, night waking, red cheeks, foul or fruity breath). Different strains of probiotics have been tried without success….

    Thank you

    1. Yes, I have seen this in a small number of cases. They may have high levels of D-lactate. They may also have histamine sensitivity. Try no probiotics, no fermented foods and a low histamine diet. If this helps then these issues were likely present. Testing for gut infections or overgrowths is also a good idea. Feel free to contact my office if you need help.

  5. Im terribly sorry, I meant to add that my son has extremely high Estrogen and Progesterone levels from a saliva test. In fact the lab had said they’d never seen such high levels of Progesterone
    in a male before! The stool test also revealed a slightly raised BETA GLUCURONIDASE ENZYME which probably is high from the lack of microbiome in the gut. I’m guessing that his estrogen and progesterone levels are high due to the high beta glucuronidase enzyme. But I am hoping you might be able to offer your thoughts on this??

    After researching etc for 15 or so years, I do feel we are at last getting to the ROOT cause of my son’s fatigue, depression and 101 low cortisol symptoms. He was born 6 premature with Pneumonia on left lung and I had no Amniotic fluid at birth. I’m presuming that there would have been very little microbiome from my lack of amniotic fluid and any microbiome that was there, would have been wiped out with antibiotics at birth to treat the Pneumonia. Poor immune system throughout childhood, several respiratory tract infections, reactive/post prandial hypoglycemia and low energy. Low grade Asthma at 7yrs. Again, your thoughts on this hypotheses would would be most welcome.

    It’s looking like the problem has been in the gut from day one, quite literally. But I really do hope you can offer any thoughts you might have on this medical presentation. I’m almost ‘there’ but yet to pull it altogether!

    Best regards and huge thanks to you

    An exhausted and burnt out Mum!

  6. Thrilled to have stumbled across your website. My son now aged 23 yr has low cortisol output from a 24hr saliva stress test. Cortisol being high in the night but low in the am and throughout the day. Day is night, night is day regards sleep! Having tried both adrenal glandular and Hydrocortisone with and without thyroid (T3 and/or NDT) to NO change whatsoever in fatigue, sinus congestion, depression and social anxiety. Labelled with Chronic Fatigue syndrome at just 9 years old.

    We did a comprehensive stool test 5 months ago which revealed 2 Pathogens in gut (Streppcocc) hardly any Lacotbaccillus and Bifidobactetium and Candida overgrowth. We were told he has An Upper Fermenting Gut by aerobes arrived and anaerobes. In my opinion from a process of elimination past 15 or years, it looks highly plausible that this mess in my sons gut isn t allowing Hydrocortisone(HC) to work.

    In your opinion, is it looking likely that the adrenals are poorly functioning along with no response to HC, due to this Upper Fermenting Gut and poorly balanced Microbiome?????

    With enormous thanks to you. It has been a very long and lonely 15 yrs. My son has suffered terribly with depression and poor cognitive functioning/brain fog.

    Kind regards
    Karen Robertson
    SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM

  7. Im terribly sorry, I meant to add that my son has extremely high Estrogen and Progesterone levels from a saliva test. In fact the lab had said they’d never seen such high levels of Progesterone
    in a male before! The stool test also revealed a slightly raised BETA GLUCURONIDASE ENZYME which probably is high from the lack of microbiome in the gut. I’m guessing that his estrogen and progesterone levels are high due to the high beta glucuronidase enzyme. But I am hoping you might be able to offer your thoughts on this??

    After researching etc for 15 or so years, I do feel we are at last getting to the ROOT cause of my son’s fatigue, depression and 101 low cortisol symptoms. He was born 6 premature with Pneumonia on left lung and I had no Amniotic fluid at birth. I’m presuming that there would have been very little microbiome from my lack of amniotic fluid and any microbiome that was there, would have been wiped out with antibiotics at birth to treat the Pneumonia. Poor immune system throughout childhood, several respiratory tract infections, reactive/post prandial hypoglycemia and low energy. Low grade Asthma at 7yrs. Again, your thoughts on this hypotheses would would be most welcome.

    It’s looking like the problem has been in the gut from day one, quite literally. But I really do hope you can offer any thoughts you might have on this medical presentation. I’m almost ‘there’ but yet to pull it altogether!

    Best regards and huge thanks to you

    An exhausted and burnt out Mum!

  8. I have low evening cortisol and normal low the rest of the day. If probiotics lower cortisol then should I not take them? I need to raise my cortisol.

  9. I have low evening cortisol and normal low the rest of the day. If probiotics lower cortisol then should I not take them? I need to raise my cortisol.

  10. For someone who has suffered with chronic fatigue syndrome for years and had a relapse where adrenals are very tired…it all starts in my gut…can you recommend a good base probiotic to start with?

  11. For someone who has suffered with chronic fatigue syndrome for years and had a relapse where adrenals are very tired…it all starts in my gut…can you recommend a good base probiotic to start with?

  12. Can you take a probiotic at the same time you take your adrenal support supplement? I take my probiotics in the early morning with nothing else . TY.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      It’s not hugely important, but it’s preferable to take the probiotics on an empty stomach. Not sure if the adrenal support product you’re taking recommends a full or empty stomach, but I would follow the directions there. Good luck!

  13. Can you take a probiotic at the same time you take your adrenal support supplement? I take my probiotics in the early morning with nothing else . TY.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      It’s not hugely important, but it’s preferable to take the probiotics on an empty stomach. Not sure if the adrenal support product you’re taking recommends a full or empty stomach, but I would follow the directions there. Good luck!

  14. My son is taking Cortef 10 mg twice daily due to panhypopituitarism along with synthroid, DDAVP, Keppra, Vimpat, Miralax, & Nasonex. He also has acid reflux. He’s had several rounds of triple antibiotic therapy in the ICU for aspiration pneumonia. Is it safe/recommended for him to take probiotics? If yes, for how long? And when would be the optimal time to take them?

    1. Hi Danara,

      That’s definitely something you’ll need to discuss with his doctor. I’m sorry we can’t be of more help, but we can’t give personalized medical advice on this forum.

  15. My son is taking Cortef 10 mg twice daily due to panhypopituitarism along with synthroid, DDAVP, Keppra, Vimpat, Miralax, & Nasonex. He also has acid reflux. He’s had several rounds of triple antibiotic therapy in the ICU for aspiration pneumonia. Is it safe/recommended for him to take probiotics? If yes, for how long? And when would be the optimal time to take them?

    1. Hi Danara,

      That’s definitely something you’ll need to discuss with his doctor. I’m sorry we can’t be of more help, but we can’t give personalized medical advice on this forum.

  16. Thrilled to have stumbled across your website. My son now aged 23 yr has low cortisol output from a 24hr saliva stress test. Cortisol being high in the night but low in the am and throughout the day. Day is night, night is day regards sleep! Having tried both adrenal glandular and Hydrocortisone with and without thyroid (T3 and/or NDT) to NO change whatsoever in fatigue, sinus congestion, depression and social anxiety. Labelled with Chronic Fatigue syndrome at just 9 years old.

    We did a comprehensive stool test 5 months ago which revealed 2 Pathogens in gut (Streppcocc) hardly any Lacotbaccillus and Bifidobactetium and Candida overgrowth. We were told he has An Upper Fermenting Gut by aerobes arrived and anaerobes. In my opinion from a process of elimination past 15 or years, it looks highly plausible that this mess in my sons gut isn t allowing Hydrocortisone(HC) to work.

    In your opinion, is it looking likely that the adrenals are poorly functioning along with no response to HC, due to this Upper Fermenting Gut and poorly balanced Microbiome?????

    With enormous thanks to you. It has been a very long and lonely 15 yrs. My son has suffered terribly with depression and poor cognitive functioning/brain fog.

    Kind regards
    Karen Robertson
    SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM

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