Supplements promoted to increase energy, reduce stress and other symptoms caused by “adrenal fatigue” may contain a variety of ingredients, including vitamins and minerals, herbs (such as ashwagandha, ginseng, holy basil, rhodiola, and schisandra), and/or dehydrated adrenal gland tissue from animals (typically from bovine source, i.e., cows). While some of these ingredients have individually been shown to reduce fatigue or symptoms of stress, there is currently little evidence that “adrenal support formulas” do the same or improve adrenal gland function. Additionally, an analysis of popular adrenal support supplements on the market found that all contained small amounts of thyroid and steroid hormones, which could potentially cause adverse effects or interfere with blood test results
Researchers purchased the 12 most popular dietary supplements for enhancing metabolism, promoting energy, easing so-called adrenal fatigue, or providing “adrenal support.” The adrenal gland makes hormones like cortisol, which helps regulate the metabolism and manage stress, and aldosterone, which controls blood pressure.
Lab tests of the supplements found they all contained thyroid hormone and most had at least one steroid hormone.
“Patients should be aware that any supplement that is sold as ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ ‘herbal,’ ‘plant-based,’ may not be safe. These words and similar ones give patients a false reassurance.”
Most Americans who take dietary supplements buy them online or in stores without consulting their doctor, and they often rely on product labels or promotional materials on websites to decide what to take.
Even more worrisome, roughly half of older adults take dietary supplements, often while take prescription medications that might interact badly with supplements and cause serious or even fatal side effects.
Taking too much thyroid hormone can lead to life-threating heart problems, bone damage, excessive weight loss, tremors and agitation.
Every supplement in the study contained a small amount of a thyroid hormone known as triiodothyronine (T3).
In addition, seven of the supplements contained at least one adrenal or steroid hormone. The most commonly detected hormone was pregnenolone, which was in five supplements.
People who accidentally take adrenal or steroid hormone may experience symptoms like weight gain, hair loss, depression, acne, and stretch marks as well as a potentially life-threating shutdown of the adrenal glands.
None of the products tested mentioned any thyroid or steroid hormones on their labels or on ingredient lists included with packaging materials, the study found.
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how hormones hidden in dietary supplements might cause health problems.
It’s also not clear what dose of these hormones, over what period of time, might lead to side effects.
“There is no question that if you take too much hormones they can have serious adverse effects.”
But the amounts in the supplements tested in the study might be too small to cause problems. Because the exact effect isn’t clear, patients should avoid these products.
“My recommendation is to stick to the vitamin and mineral supplements that a physician recommended.” If someone is feeling generally fatigued or low energy but doesn’t yet feel the need to see a physician, I would recommend trying to eat healthier, get additional exercise and get some extra sleep as the next best step rather than looking for a solution in a bottle of supplements.”