Treating Adrenal Fatigue with DHEA and 5HTP


adrenalsOn top of the kidneys, there are pea-sized glands called the adrenals. They secrete the hormones necessary for us to cope with everyday stress. They help our bodies prepare for any form of threat and allow us to be resilient when the stress proves to be minimal.

Many people with fibromyalgia also suffer from adrenal fatigue.

People who suffer from fibromyalgia often find that these glands are stressed to the max and completely overworked.  They start to experience symptoms that are associated with adrenal fatigue like low energy, poor immune system function, brain fog (also known as fibro-fog), poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and various other stress-depleting symptoms.

Those with fibromyalgia find it incredibly difficult to handle any sort of stress, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional.  Those who are severely affected by adrenal fatigue will withdraw from social life and hibernate in their homes or bedrooms to avoid any sort of stress.

The more stress they are under, the worse it becomes.  It increases their anxiety level as well and causes them to have flare-ups of the fibromyalgia symptoms that interfere with daily life.  Unfortunately, this cycle is nonstop.  Because they spend so much time isolated and practically immobile due to symptoms, when a good day comes along, they spend it overdoing it and end up crashing.  They clean the house, run errands, visit friends, paint the playroom, go grocery shopping, etc., and this leads to a crash the next day.

These constant crashes are what happen when someone has adrenal fatigue.  Once the exhaustion of these glands comes, it is only a matter of time before the entire body starts to break down.  Getting and staying “stressed out” is the foundation and start of developing chronic illness and extremely common in fibromyalgia patients.

Repairing adrenal fatigue before it gets out of control.

Fortunately, there is a way to repair adrenal fatigue naturally before it gets out of control.  DHEA will help boost your stress-coping abilities and help you restore normal levels of those hormones.  It is over-the-counter and deemed safe for use in almost everyone, unless you have a sensitivity or allergy.

How DHEA affects adrenal fatigue.

The adrenal cortex (outer portion of the gland) normally produces adequate levels of DHEA, but when this gland is overworked, it under-produces.

In nearly every fibromyalgia case, DHEA is at dangerously low levels. Chronic stress without proper recuperation forces the adrenals to produce extra cortisol, the stress-coping hormone.  When this hormone is raised to abnormally high levels, the adrenals can no longer keep up with the body’s demand for more and more cortisol. This causes a major depletion of the hormone, so the body will try to counter this by releasing more DHEA. The same thing happens here. The levels get high, and without restoration, the glands become worn out and cannot keep up with the demand for more DHEA.

iStock_000009679686XSmallDHEA boosts:

  • Mental and physical energy
  • Tolerance and stamina to stress
  • Sex drive
  • Immune system
  • General well-being

Additionally, it helps raise:

  • Cortisol levels, which is the primary stress-coping hormone
  • Adrenal function
  • Cellular energy
  • Mental acuity
  • Mood
  • Overall stamina
  • Muscle strength

In addition to stress, age plays a role in our inability to hold onto DHEA.  These levels start to drop after the age of 30 and then by 70 years, they are at approximately 20% of peak levels. Between the two – chronic stress and age – the adrenal glands do not stand a chance.

The role of 5HTP in treating adrenal fatigue.

Tryptophan (5HTP) increases the production of serotonin, and DHEA is responsible for preventing the destruction of tryptophan; however, when DHEA is low, tryptophan is destroyed and serotonin levels drop.  This not only affects mood, but also plays a role in coping with stress and a variety of other body functions.

Serotonin is probably one of the most important hormones in the body.  It is the “feel-good” hormone that improves mood, reduces pain by increasing the pain threshold, and stimulates the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.  5HTP, which is the purest form of tryptophan, is what produces serotonin directly, without having to pass the blood-brain barrier as tryptophan does.

Additional benefits of DHEA and 5HTP for those with fibromyalgia.

Both 5HTP and DHEA are two the most effective natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety therapies, and they are much safer than the prescription drugs offered by conventional doctors.  There have been hundreds of studies that show low DHEA is an indicator of stress, aging, and age-related diseases like depression, neurosis, IBS, and peptic ulcer disease.

DHEA plays a role in immune system function, and decreased levels are linked to a decline in cell-mediated immunity and increased occurrence of cancer.

In addition to protecting tryptophan, DHEA also protects the thymus gland, which is the primary player in the immune system, so that makes DHEA a great immune booster.  This is one of my go-to supplements for patients who suffer from recurrent illnesses due to poor immune function.

Testing for DHEA Levels


To find out whether you have low DHEA levels, you can ask your doctor to test your blood for the hormone.  Normal levels are pretty big, so most doctors will tell you if your level is over 20 then you’re fine; however, don’t listen to that. In my 17 years of treating patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, optimal levels of DHEA are needed for good health, so being at the “low normal” range is not good enough. Optimal DHEA levels in women are above 250, and optimal levels in men should be closer to 350.

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5 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    Is it okay to take DHEA and 5 HTP at the same time? I tested low on DHEA and also would like to take 5 HTP for depression since I can’t tolerate SSRIs. Thank you in advance for your input!


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