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Is Adrenal Fatigue Hereditary?

  • Adrenal Fatigue is hereditary because of the environment..... not DNA
  • It can come from the fathers or mothers side.

Do you have family members that also seem to suffer from adrenal fatigue?


Can you switch off stress related genes by consciously exposing yourself to a different environment?

Do your family members experience fatigue? Are they wired? Have insomnia?

Are you worried about passing this on to your children?

My entire family suffers from adrenal fatigue. You may learn a few things from my wired and tired family in the article
My Adrenal Fatigue Family.

After seeing the same symptoms over and over again in my family, I am convinced that hereditary influence in one of the main causes of adrenal fatigue. Let's explore why.

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There are various modes of inheritance. The good news is that you can reverse all modes of inheritance with conscious effort.

Rather than is the environment that triggers the tendency to be stuck in a state of stress.

It is actually chronic stress that is hereditary. However, this chronic stress eventually leads to adrenal fatigue.

adrenal fatigue hereditary

No Blame or Guilt

  • Although hereditary factors are powerful, you are in control of your destiny....and so are your children.
adrenal fatigue hereditary

With the information on this page, please do NOT blame your parents or feel guilty if you have children. Most doctors do not understand the effects of stress on the health of children. So how could you or your parents be expected to know.

Both guilt and blame will only increase your own stress. For the sake of your own adrenal fatigue treatment, you have to learn to let it go.

And, as we shall see, through the power of epigenetics, you can switch off genes by changing your environment.

Prenatal Cortisol Exposure

A 2012 Study reviewed cortisol levels of 125 mothers14. They measured cortisol levels in the amniotic sac (where the fetus develops) at 17.2 weeks of fetal development.

Infants were evaluated 17-months after birth. It was found that exposure to high levels of cortisol in the amniotic sac resulted in higher pre-stress cortisol levels in the infants14.

 The findings provide some of the strongest data in humans that HPA axis functioning in the child may be predicted from prenatal cortisol exposure14.

HPA refers to the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis. Dysfunction of the HPA axis is implicated in many illnesses:

  The HPA axis is involved in the neurobiology of mood disorders and functional illnesses, including anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, insomnia, post traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, major depressive disorder, burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and alcoholism21.

So...infants exposed to high levels of cortisol while in the womb show signs of chronic stress after birth. It is easy to see how prenatal cortisol exposure can be an eventual cause of adrenal fatigue.

The babies were basically born in fight or flight.

Prenatal Stress and Asthma

Now we'll cover some of impacts of prenatal stress. One Swedish study looked at 3.2 million pregnancies from 1973 to 200413. They looked at the impact of severe stress during pregnancy. As an easy way to evaluate if the mother was under severe stress during pregnancy, they looked for mothers who went through bereavement while pregnant.

This does not mean that bereavement is the only form of severe stress. It was just an easy, non-subjective way to determine if the mother was under stress.

Here are the results of the study:

  ...prenatal exposure to severe life events increases the risk of hospitalization for asthma in the offspring13.

This is actually what happened to me. I was hospitalized for asthma and had very bad eczema as a child.

Again...more hints that conditions in the womb can set you up to be stuck in a state of stress.

Behavioral Inheritance

  • Beliefs and behavior you are exposed to as a child can become your beliefs.

From the point of view of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue, are there behaviors that you picked up from your parents?

Did one of your parents have an inability to relax, always running around the house doing something? Were they aggressive, competitive, quick to anger, impatient, always in a hurry, did they drive fast?

Do you have a work ethic that places the needs of your employer above your own health? (I know I still struggle with this one).

The good news is that you can change traits and tendencies that you have inherited by observing parental behavior. Not easily, but it is possible.

First, you need to recognize that these beliefs and behaviors are not helpful for your adrenal fatigue recovery. Use mindfulness meditation to increase your ability to recognize when you are in one of these states.

Gradually, with practice, you will get better and better at catching yourself being angry, driving fast, or running around the house like a stressed squirrel.

Increased mindfulness can help you catch yourself when your mind is spiraling into any negative state.

For more details on how helpful meditation is, please see the article:
Meditation for Adrenal Fatigue .


  • You may have a certain gene that is responsible for a certain illness.
  • But it is the environment that determines if that gene gets activated (gene expression).
  • Negative genes can be turned off
  Specific genes are correlated with an organism's behavior and characteristics. But these genes are not activated until something triggers them. 5

More and more it is being recognized that it is the environment that is important for our development, and the development of illness.

Your DNA is not your destiny. Environment trumps DNA, and you can change many things about your environment.

  It is these epigenetic "marks" that tell your genes to switch on or off, to speak loudly or whisper. It is through epigenetic marks that environmental factors like diet, stress and prenatal nutrition can make an imprint on genes that is passed from one generation to the next. 6

As far as science goes, this concept is hot off the press. It flies in the face of the notion that your DNA is responsible for traits and certain illnesses.

Your DNA is not a locked program that determines what you will become6. You genes can be molded.

What epigenetics proves is that the your parents/grandparents environment is a major factor in the development of health or disease.

In one experiment, chickens (future parents) were exposed to stress in the form of unpredictable light and dark conditions. The domesticated White Leghorn chickens (future parents) exposed to this stress developed a reduced ability to solve a spatial learning task11.

Offspring of the stressed chickens were not exposed to the same stress as their parents. They were also raised without contact with their biological parents, which ruled out behavioral inheritance.

Yet, the offspring of the stressed chickens displayed the same behaviors of stress as the parents they never met. They had a reduced ability to solve spatial learning tasks. They were too busy being stuck in fight or flight.

The offspring of the stressed chickens were also more competitive and grew faster than offspring of non-stressed chickens.

It makes sense from a biological point of view. If you are being born into a stressful'd better come out swinging! This leads to an increased chance of short-term survival in a competitive environment, although at the expense of long-term health.

When they examined the genes of the stressed parents, they found at least 31 genes that were either activated or deactivated as compared to the non-stressed parents11. And the offspring of the stressed parents had these same genes switched.

  the same changes in hypothalamic gene expression profile caused by stress in the parents were also found in the offspring. In offspring of stressed White Leghorn chickens, at least 31 genes were up- or down-regulated in the hypothalamus and pituitary compared to offspring of non-stressed parents11.

So even though they had never seen their biological parents, they received the signal to switch on these genes that made them more competitive and prone to stress.

Epigenetics: Fathers and Grandfather Matter as Well

It's not just the conditions in the womb that matter. Fathers and grandfathers also pass on genetic imprints to their decedents.

A study completed by Swedish researchers used historical data from the early 1800's to the 1990's11. A particular county was very isolated. If harvests were poor, they didn't eat well. If harvests were good, they ate very well.

What they found was that if a boy had just one season of gorging due to a surplus of food, his grandchildren experienced a significant increase in the rate of diabetes .11

For boys that ate very little food right before puberty, their sons would have lower than normal heart disease rates11.

So if a father has experienced chronic stress (like the stressed chickens), he can pass on activated stress genes to his offspring. It is not only the mother who can pass on adrenal fatigue.

Can You Switch Genes On and Off Yourself?

Are you a victim of what you grandparents and parents were exposed to?.....or can you switch off bad genes and turn on good genes?

Although the epigenetic influence of your parents and grandparents is powerful, there is evidence that you can turn genes on and off by yourself. After all, that's what your parents did!

If you improve your environment, you can affect which genes are activated and deactivated. Part of that improved environment includes eliminating the stressors noted in the Sources of Stress article.

The type of food you eat, toxins you are exposed to, physical stress, even your thoughts and emotions can influence which genes are activated17.

Research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, at Massachusetts General Hospital, looked at the effect of meditation on stress related genes18.

They found that long term meditators had 1000 stress related genes turned off compared to non-practitioners. A second phase of the study found that individuals who had been practicing for only 8 weeks were able to turn off 433 stress related genes 15,19.

As Dr Mercola notes:

  So having a "cancer program" in your DNA does not automatically mean you're destined to get cancer. Far from it. This genetic information does not ever have to be expressed...

What this all means is that you are not controlled by your genetic makeup. Instead, your genetic readout (which genes are turned "on" and which are turned "off") is primarily determined by your thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions!17

So mindfulness of your emotions is extremely important for your health and longevity. This sheds new light on the classic Buddhist quote:

  Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned

Symbolic Inheritance

  • This is how entire cultures develop certain personality traits.

Symbolic Inheritance is similar to Behavioral Inheritance. It's why Swedes and Canadians are so damn friendly and accommodating (in general).

It is also why Americans are such hard workers, competitive and strive to excel. Americans are incredibly productive.

However, workers in the USA rank #1 for not taking vacation. As of 2012, the average American vacation was 4.3 days long!9. Only 14% of Americans will take a vacation longer than 7 days9.

This cultural drive is very likely the reason that stress related illnesses are so prevalent in the USA. 18% of the US population suffers from anxiety disorder10.

Once you realize how unhealthy this cultural inheritance is for you, you can work to balance your life. If you are struggling to recover from adrenal fatigue, you will need to work on this.

Once again, mindfulness meditation is a great tool to teach how to watch your actions, thoughts and emotions, which is an essential skill for changing behavior.

Before you can change a behavior, you need to become skilled at noticing when you are engaging in it. Meditation is the main way you can become skilled in noticing your emotions and thoughts.

Toxins during Pregnancy

If your mother was exposed to years of chronic stress, she likely accumulated toxins. Our bodies do not remove toxins well when exposed to stress.

The article Copper and Adrenal Fatigue explains why copper accumulates with chronic stress. But the reasons apply to any toxin.

The infant of a stressed mother will likely be exposed to a higher than normal level of toxins.

A 2011 study noted that prenatal exposure to toxic heavy metals results in measurable neurobehavioral changes in infants24.

And .... exposure to heavy metals has been shown to have epigenetics effects 23,25 (ie it alters genes).

  The research also shows that relatively low to moderate exposure to Arsenic is associated with epigenetic effects23

Plus, if your mother was loaded with toxins (from chronic stress) while you were in the womb, you were likely born loaded with toxins. As an infant, I had eczema and psoriasis so bad my skin would bleed.

Can you do anything about it?

Some people with Adrenal Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue have good success by working on detoxification. It is not a speedy protocol. But there are no quick fixes ... at least not long lasting ones.

This article: Heavy Metal Detoxification Trends shows my own journey. As I improve, more and more heavy metals are coming out of storage.

There are a few ways to get rids of heavy metals, each with pros and cons. I am using a protocol called Nutritional Balancing .


There is a lot of evidence that stress before conception turns on (activates) pro-stress genes in offspring. Either the mother or father can pass on activated genes.

During development, the fetus is exposed to the environment the mother is exposed to, which includes nutrition, stress/emotions and toxins. If this environment is one comprised of a lot of stress, it will increase infant cortisol levels.

If parents continue to act in a stressful manner, it is likely their children will pick up these traits through behavioral inheritance.

Taken together, it is not hard to see that chronic stress and therefore adrenal fatigue is highly hereditary.

In my very large family, there are many people suffering from different levels of adrenal fatigue. Even relatives that had fairly low stress lives display adrenal fatigue symptoms.

I truly believe that hereditary factors are the main cause of adrenal fatigue.

The good news is that you can turn off stress related genes yourself. However, it does take a lot of work and understanding. Meditation, Yoga, mineral balancing, detoxification, spiritual development all have a roll to play in reducing stress.

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1. A Father's Stress May Affect His Unborn Children
2. Inheritance Systems
3. Role of trace elements zinc, copper and magnesium during pregnancy and its outcome
4. Aspects of trace element interactions during development.
5. Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D.. The Biology of Belief
6. Why Your DNA Isn't Your Destiny
5. Epigenetics
6. "Epigenetics" Means What We Eat, How We Live and Love, Alters How Our Genes Behave
8. Role of trace elements zinc, copper and magnesium during pregnancy and its outcome
9. USA #1: In NOT Taking Vacations
10. Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Facts and Statistics.
11. Transmission of Stress-Induced Learning Impairment and Associated Brain Gene Expression from Parents to Offspring in Chickens
12. Why Fathers Really Matter
13. Prenatal stress and risk of asthma hospitalization in the offspring: a Swedish population-based study
14. Prenatal cortisol exposure predicts infant cortisol response to acute stress
15. Can meditation change your genes? Researchers say Yes
16. Can Meditation Change Your Brain And Affect Your Genes?
17. Falling for This Myth Could Give You Cancer
19. Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response.
20. Transposable Elements: Targets for Early Nutritional Effects on Epigenetic Gene Regulation c
21. Hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis
22. Investigating Epigenetic Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Toxic Metals in Newborns: Challenges and Benefits.
23. Arsenic-Associated Changes to the Epigenome: What Are the Functional Consequences?
24. Prenatal exposure to multiple toxic heavy metals and neonatal neurobehavioral development in Shanghai, China.
25. Cadmium and its epigenetic effects

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