Copper Toxicity and Adrenal Fatigue

Copper and Adrenal Fatigue (AF) are deeply intertwined. Even a slight imbalance in the copper to zinc ratio can set up a positive feedback loop between copper, stress and AF.

Using technical, scientific language:

Zinc is required for the production of adrenal cortical hormones. Therefore, if zinc levels are too low, or copper levels too high, the production of these hormones decreases – and quite rapidly!

Copper is needed for our body to form ATP (aka energy). However, in order to do so, it has to bind to either metallothionein or ceruloplasmin. These two substance though, are only produced when our adrenals send a signal to our liver to do so. When our adrenals aren’t working properly (in the case of AF), they get a little bit slack (slackness depending on your stage of AF) and don’t do their job. Consequently, instead of being used by the body, copper accumulates in the blood and/or tissue.

But copper stimulates our nervous system and brain function increasing the response of our fight-or-flight mode. As we become more sensitive to stress we lose zinc quickly and our adrenal glands become even more depleted. But as our adrenal glands become more depleted less copper is utilised, perpetuating the problem!!

Furthermore, excess copper impacts the functioning of our liver causing it to not be able to produce the copper binding substances. When these aren’t produced, we have trouble forming ATP and fatigue entails.

If that got a bit confusing, here is a diagram to show the feedback loop between copper toxicity and adrenal fatigue.

Copper Toxicity and Adrenal Fatigue



AF – What causes it?

Adrenal fatigue is caused by any stress (internal or external) that taxes the body’s adrenals. The main sources of stress, and therefore the main causes of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Death of a Loved One
  • Financial Pressures
  • Chronic or Acute Infection
  • Emotional and Psychological Stress
  • Caffeine (especially when used as a stimulant when tired)
  • Poor Diet (high in sugar and grains)
  • Wound Healing
  • Inadequate sleep and staying up late despite being tired
  • Smoking
  • Over-Exertion and Perfectionism

Whilst a number of these contributing factors are out of our control, lifestyle (including diet, exercise, sleep and emotional stress management) is an extremely important component of Adrenal Fatigue recovery.