Hormone Imbalance? Your Adrenal Glands May Be the Cause

Your ovaries, adrenal glands and thyroid depend on one another to function properly. I like to think of the ovarian adrenal thyroid axis (OAT) as a 3 legged stool. For that stool to remain sturdy, and well…functional, you need all three legs supporting it. If one of those legs (systems) starts to falter, the whole system can eventually topple.

If you have been experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance— fatigue, acne, PMS, anxiety or depression then you’d likely benefit from supporting all 3 legs of that stool. In my practice, I find that starting with the adrenals glands often proves to be most beneficial and foundational to supporting hormonal health.

Why is that?

Your adrenal glands, the two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, produce a hormone called cortisol in response to stress, among other things. When your body perceives there is a great deal of stress it pushes into higher cortisol production while also downregulating the mechanisms that lead to reproduction. Ever wonder why stress shuts down the libido?

Now I know this sounds really bad, but this is actually what your body should be doing. If you are in a stressful environment then your body is receiving a signal that now is not the best time to become pregnant. The answer? Shunt your progesterone to cortisol production.

Low Progesterone Symptoms:

Breast tenderness
Easy to cry
Heavy or short menstrual cycles

When your body is preferentially making cortisol, your progesterone levels dip and estrogen is left unchallenged. The result is a state of estrogen dominance.

Estrogen Dominance Symptoms:

Fibrocystic breasts
Hair loss
Heavy or irregular menses
Uterine fibroids
Hot flashes
Weight gain

5 Steps to Balancing Your Adrenals

Get Tested.

I recommend my patients have salivary hormone testing for cortisol, 17-hydroxyprogesterone and DHEA. This helps tailor treatment to fit the your needs and ensure you are addressing the correct imbalances. I use an Adrenal Stress Index test with my patients.

Feed Your Adrenals.

Vitamin C, B Vitamins and magnesium are often necessary to restore adrenal health and function. I recommend my patients take 150-500 mg of magnesium at night, a quality B complex and at least 1,000 mg of Vitamin C daily.

Use Adaptogenic Herbs.

Rhodiola, Eleutherococcus, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha and other adaptogenic herbs can help your adrenal glands rebalance themselves. Download your free guide to balancing your hormones.


I can’t stress this one enough. If you are not sleeping, you stand no chance at balancing your hormones. Your body relies on sleep to repair from the day. Skipping sleep causes confusion for your body and takes a major toll on hormones.


Find time in your schedule to relax. Take a deep breath and fill your heart and mind with all the reasons you have to be grateful. Taking time to relax signals your body to do the same.

Adrenal gland hormones they all are connected. Think of your adrenals as the foundation of your hormones. When you have a strong foundation, it is easier to support the others.

Be sure to check back in as we will be discussing the role of the thyroid in optimizing your sex hormones.

And don't forget to download your guide to the top 10 supplements I recommend for balancing your hormones. 

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.