How to Provide Cellular Energy to Prevent or Treat Adrenal Fatigue - dummies

How to Provide Cellular Energy to Prevent or Treat Adrenal Fatigue

By Richard Snyder, Wendy Jo Peterson

All your cells, including the cells of your adrenal glands, need energy to do their job. Vitamins are an important part of the equation, but they aren’t the whole answer. You should consider other supplements as well.

For your cells to perform optimally, your mitochondria (the power centers of the cell) need to be powered up. Here are a few supplements that can help in this regard:

Alpha lipoic acid

There’s no better antioxidant for the cell than alpha lipoic acid (ALA). By helping the cell regenerate glutathione, which is the most potent cell antioxidant, ALA helps fight oxidative stress and free-radical formation. It also helps the cell regenerate other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E. A stressed adrenal gland needs all the vitamin C it can get!

ALA also helps the body normalize blood glucose levels. If the blood glucose levels are higher than normal (as can happen with excess cortisol secretion associated with adrenal fatigue), ALA can help lower blood glucose.

An ALA supplement is a pill that you take orally, usually in divided doses twice a day. Start ALA at a lower dose, approximately 200 milligrams a day, and increasing the dose very slowly, because a side effect of ALA can be low sugar levels. Aim for at least 400 to 600 milligrams a day if possible.


Carnitine, a substance produced by the kidneys, is decreased in adrenal fatigue. With chronic illness, carnitine supplementation can help provide energy to the cells. Carnitine is usually taken in pill form, usually 1 to 2 grams in divided doses throughout the day.


D-ribose is one of the best supplements to help provide your cells with the energy they need to perform optimally. Ribose is a natural sugar and is one of the building blocks of adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP), which is the fundamental unit of energy transfer for the cell.

D-ribose supplements are a great option. Ribose is necessary for ATP to keep the adrenal cells functioning optimally. Here are three key points about D-ribose supplementation:

  • You can commonly get D-ribose in capsule or powdered form. A good starting dose is 2,500 milligrams per day, increasing gradually. A maximum total dose is usually 10,000 to 15,000 milligrams per day. Most people put the powder in their morning drink.

  • A potential side effect of D-ribose supplements is diarrhea, which is usually dose-dependent. That’s why you should start at a lower dose and increase slowly.

  • Although ribose is a natural sugar, it doesn’t tend to increase blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes, this supplement is okay to take.


Iodine is a mineral that’s necessary for normal cellular function. When people think of iodine deficiency, they commonly think of the thyroid gland. (An iodine deficiency produces a goiter, a swelling of the thyroid gland.) Guess what! The adrenal glands need iodine, too. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) likely requires iodine for optimal functioning.

Over time, low levels of iodine may affect the ability of the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. In the context of adrenal fatigue, low iodine levels may increase the risk of developing adrenal exhaustion earlier, as the adrenal glands aren’t able to meet the demands of a stressor.

You may be at more of a risk for iodine deficiency than you think. Environmental toxins, such as the chlorine and fluorine in water and bromine in many household products, can affect your body’s ability to absorb iodine. If you have adrenal fatigue, it’s a good idea to have your iodine levels checked and take supplements if needed.

Pyrroloquinoline quinone

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ for short) is an important catalyst for a number of chemical reactions in the body. PQQ supplements not only provide a boost to the mitochondria of the cells but also function as free-radical scavengers, eating up all the free radicals.

PQQ also protects the brain and boosts cognition. If you have brain fog connected with adrenal fatigue, PQQ should be part of your arsenal. In a lab-based study from the journal Neurochemical Research in 2013, PQQ was found to decrease the formation of glutamate, which is a potent neurotoxin.

Your body doesn’t make PQQ, so you need to consume it on a daily basis. Foods that are high in PQQ include beans and fruits and vegetables, such as green peppers, papaya, and yams. Green tea is also a great source of PQQ.

Different formulations of PQQ supplements are available. PQQ comes in a pill form that you can take once daily. Start at 10 milligrams a day. Another option is to take PQQ in combination with coenzyme Q10 once daily.

Ubiquinone(coenzyme Q10)

In chronic illness, especially adrenal fatigue, the levels of ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10) can be low. You need optimal levels of this enzyme not only to help provide energy to the mitochondria but also to help the cell deal with oxidative stress and the free radicals that form in the setting of inflammation and chronic illness. The main dietary source of ubiquinone is fish, namely salmon.

People with adrenal fatigue or any chronic condition should supplement with ubiquinone. Here are some general considerations when you use this supplement, which comes in a pill form:

  • It is a good idea to start at 50 milligrams twice a day and to start ubiquinone early to provide enough reserves before a person develops adrenal exhaustion.

  • If a patient is on medications that may cause ubiquinone depletion, they should start at doses of 100 milligrams twice a day. Examples of these meds include the statin class of medications (atorvastatin [Lipitor], for example) and beta blockers.

  • Ubiquinone can lower your blood pressure and blood glucose levels, so you need to follow those levels closely. In the setting of adrenal fatigue (especially in the latter stages), if your blood pressure or blood glucose levels are very low, your healthcare provider may discuss decreasing the dose or stopping it entirely.