Is Adrenal Fatigue Inherited?

Adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS) is the result of exposure to chronic stress. The adrenal glands release cortisol and other hormones during stress. Increased cortisol levels wear down the glands, causing a trickling effect of poor health.

Many of my patients ask the same questions – how did this happen to me?  Is it genetic?

I want to take a few minutes to address this question. First, let’s review the basics.

Is Adrenal Fatigue Inherited?

What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Simply put, adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS) is a disease caused by chronic, ongoing, high levels of stress.  It is a collection of symptoms that are difficult to treat independently, but lead to the adrenal glands becoming overworked and sluggish in their hormone and neurotransmitter production.

Almost every AFS sufferer is going to have a different set of symptoms; however, most will have the same core complaints, including:

  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Excess, regular, unexplained fatigue
  • Salty food cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Depression
  • Stimulant overuse
  • Weakened immunity

The most common of the above complaints is a difficulty getting up in the morning. It feels like lead is running through your veins, rather than blood. It feels like your eyelids are made of stone and everything down to your fingernails feels heavy.

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

AFS patients are generally under a great deal of stress. Their bodies increase its adrenaline and cortisol to maximum levels in order to deal with the stress, whether it is physical, emotional, or psychological.  The constant flow of these hormones disrupts the 24-hour biological clock.

At the most basic level, AFS is caused by burnout of these glands and their inability to produce enough hormones to cope with stress, which inevitably causes the body and mind to start slowing down.

Additional factors that can lead to AFS include:

  • Poor diet
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Environmental pollutants and chemicals
  • Chronic disease
  • Trauma


Making the Connection – Genes and Adrenal Fatigue

Okay, I don’t want to overwhelm you with a long, complicated scientific explanation, so I will do my best to keep it general.

The MTHFR gene has been linked to fatigue in a roundabout way. When we are under constant stress, both the adrenal glands and the MTHFR enzymes are affected. Furthermore, science shows us that people with MTHFR gene mutations do not get enough of the chemical methylfolate, which means their adrenaline levels are lower than usual because of the decreased methylation process. Methylation helps produce adrenaline and other hormones.

Another gene related to hormone and chemical production is COMT; low methylfolatehere leads to decreased epinephrine and increased norepinephrine.

I know this can be confusing.  My message here is that figuring out if adrenal fatigue is hereditary will take some puzzling out.  It would be worthwhile to speak to a specialist and have tests performed.  This can be a lengthy and costly process, but may be worthwhile if you are worried about starting a family, or if your child is currently showing signs of the syndrome.

How Do I Find Out if Genetics Is Part of My Adrenal Fatigue?

Several tests can help you determine underlying factors and help you discover if it is, in fact, part of your genetic makeup.  Tests to look at the following are most helpful:

  • Blood levels
  • Cellular function
  • Folate levels
  • Cortisol levels
  • Genetic mutations
  • Adrenaline levels
  • Organic acids
  • IgA and IgG food panel

Essentially, adrenal fatigue syndrome is a very difficult disease to diagnose because symptoms can be vague and fleeting; however, it is clear to doctors like me, who have treated hundreds of AFS patients, that every patient is different and will have a unique response to stress and adrenal fatigue.  While there is a vague link between genetics and adrenal fatigue syndrome, without extensive tests and an intelligent doctor, there is really no way to tell if genetics is playing a part in your condition.