The Adrenal Connection to Surviving Allergy Season

November 17, 2021
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

How I discovered the root cause of my own seasonal allergies

If you’re anything like me, as you’ve gotten older, you’ve become more sensitive to environmental triggers and all types of allergies. If you experience allergic responses ranging from watery eyes, sneezing, mold sensitivities, all the way up to asthma and bronchitis, know that you are certainly not alone.

When I started to notice more allergy symptoms, I had to do a deep dive into what was actually creating the problem in the first place. Due to unrelenting stress and my recurring history of copper overload, I came to the “aha” realization that it was my exhausted adrenal glands that were the root cause of my allergies and beyond. But why?

The Adrenal Connection

The adrenal glands are responsible for the release of histamine. Histamine is produced as part of a local immune response to pathogens. As a component of stomach acid, histamine helps to dilate blood vessels, which allows white blood cells to attack pathogens. However, too much histamine can trigger negative side effects like rashes, hives, flushed skin, throat swelling and a sudden drop in blood pressure.

And, here’s why the adrenals have a problem with that:
The adrenals also produce cortisol which is a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone. With that being said, it makes perfect sense that the more histamine that is released, the more cortisol the adrenals release to counteract the allergy responses. The harder the adrenals have to work to do this, the more fatigued they get, therefore, over time, less cortisol is being produced. This is how histamines wreak havoc on your allergy symptoms. As this cycle continues, your adrenals lose their function and your allergies become worse.

And that’s not all…

In addition to depleting zinc, excessive stress also weakens the functioning of our adrenal glands. These “stress glands” constantly respond to the stressors we encounter in our daily lives, producing hormones that help balance blood sugar. Since blood sugar is the fuel that virtually all body cells (especially brain cells) require for energy, the adrenals in effect make sure we have the right amount of fuel to meet our varying demands for energy.

When we run into stressful situations, we require more energy to cope, so the adrenals kick in with the extra get-up-and-go we need. Few of us appreciate how many stressors the adrenals respond to every day; they’re mighty work-horses. But, like everything else, they have a limited supply of energy. If we have an excessive stress load and can’t creatively cope with the stress we can’t avoid, the adrenals weaken, no longer producing adequate amounts of stress hormones. This is when copper overload can set in.

My longtime teacher Dr. Paul C. Eck, who studied tissue mineral status and their effects on health for 25 years, said weak adrenal gland function is the most important physiological cause of copper imbalance. Healthy adrenal activity is required to build proteins, including one called ceruloplasmin, which is the main copper-binding protein in the body. Ceruloplasmin is necessary to the proper transportation and utilization of copper. If the adrenals become weak from too much stress, the liver makes less ceruloplasmin, and unbound copper starts to gather in various tissues and organs.

Healthy adrenals also send signals to the liver to detoxify and excrete excess copper. If adrenal function is diminished, then copper retention rises. The weaker the adrenal glands become, the more metabolism slows, and the more copper tends to accumulate.

The connection between adrenal insufficiency and copper imbalance goes two ways. As I said earlier, copper excess or zinc deficiency also diminishes adrenal gland function. This means that the more stress we’re under, the more likely we are to develop copper excess or zinc deficiency that leads to adrenal insufficiency – and the more likely we are to develop adrenal insufficiency that leads to copper excess or copper-zinc imbalance! It’s not surprising, therefore, that individuals who have copper overload almost always have adrenal insufficiency.

Copper excess or zinc deficiency can cause adrenal insufficiency to escalate into a more advanced state called adrenal exhaustion or adrenal burnout, which is characterized by extreme fatigue. This is a situation I see all too often among the many health care providers I counsel. Unfortunately, adrenal burnout – like copper overload – goes unrecognized by most conventionally trained physicians.

The Misunderstood Condition of Adrenal Burnout

Traditional medicine recognizes only the most extreme form of adrenal burnout: Addison’s disease, a potentially life-threatening condition in which the adrenals make no cortisol hormones. However, there’s a wide spectrum of diminishing function between healthy adrenals and Addison’s disease. A person could feel horrible and have virtually no energy because of poor adrenal function and yet not show any abnormalities on the standard adrenal function test.

Many alternative-minded health professionals have been aware of the adrenal continuum for many years and now use more sophisticated tests to determine varying degrees of diminished adrenal activity. Tissue Mineral Analysis, for example, is one good way to determine subclinical adrenal insufficiency. Another test, called the Salivary Hormone Panel, measures salivary levels of the adrenal hormones dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol (as well as estrogens, progesterone and testosterone); low levels of these hormones indicate adrenal burnout. Both of these tests can be done through Uni Key Health.

The adrenals produce hormones that perform countless functions in the body in their effort to keep us healthy. When the adrenals become exhausted, hormone production diminishes and numerous symptoms can develop, including allergies and environmental sensitivities.

Common Symptoms of Adrenal Burnout Besides Allergies:

  • Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
  • Cravings for sweets die to the need for quick energy
  • Cravings for salt due to low sodium levels
  • Low blood pressure
  • Attraction to stimulants because of extreme fatigue
  • The feeling of being overwhelmed by stress
  • Low immune function
  • Symptoms of hypoglycemia or diabetes
  • Distaste for meat protein due to impaired digestion
  • Premenstrual symptoms or menopausal difficulties

The fatigue experienced by those with copper overload and adrenal burnout differs from simple fatigue. Many of us have experienced the kind of fatigue that results from being overworked or not getting enough sleep. This sensation goes away when we rest for a bit, get caught up in our sleep, or take a vacation.

But burnout, as the term suggests, is more than that: the adrenals literally are exhausted, so the body is tired all the time. This type of fatigue can’t be corrected by extra rest or a vacation. Because the adrenals are underfunctioning, they simply aren’t able to give the body the energy it needs to rise to the challenge of stressful situations like those during an allergic reaction.

My Top 4 Strategies for Adrenal Support

Here are some of the strategies I use to nourish and support my adrenals. Once you apply them as well, you will be on your way to getting rid of your allergies and inflammation once and for all:

  1. Rebuild with Adrenal Formula. First and foremost, I take UNI KEY’s Adrenal Formula (2 caplets, three times per day) which I helped create for my own adrenal needs. The unique ingredients in this formula synergistically work together to give your tired or burned-out adrenals the nutrients they need to rebuild and restore adrenal function.Besides adding crucial zinc that your adrenal glands need (and is in short supply when you are stressed), we added pantothenic acid. Here’s why: Pantothenic acid is the precursor to cortisol (the stress hormone). Pantothenic acid is essential to the production of many of the adrenal hormones; it also nourishes the adrenals, and a deficiency of this important B vitamin can cause atrophy of the glands. It is an essential component and a key player in the Adrenal Formula.
  2. Lights out by 10:00 pm. For me, this is easier said than done. But it is vital that we rest and nourish our adrenal glands by getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. Taking Mag-Key (400 mg) in the evening before bed has helped me sleep through the night.
  3. Find ways to minimize stress. Find ways to decompress when you start feeling overwhelmed. Go for a walk, get a massage, take a hot bath, read a good book, meditate, escape with a good movie or even watch a favorite TV show.

The bottom line is that healthy adrenal glands are important for everyone in our fast-moving world. And, they are especially important during allergy season to support your body and feel your best!

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Gilda

    Now I understand why I’ve had seasonal allergies this year. I’ve been under more stress.

  2. Linda

    So this is why I have cravings for sweets.

  3. Susan

    I’m going to try the Adrenal Formula you are suggesting. I am exhausted a lot of the time.

  4. Barbara Harris

    What do we do if we have a copper overload? Thanks


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