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How the "Start Low Go Slow" Approach Is Essential for Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue recovery can be a difficult journey. When you have this disorder, any attempt you make to improve your health can backfire, causing additional stress and worsening your condition. This is where the "start low go slow" approach comes in handy. It advocates small changes that build over time and also helps you sustain the changes and improve your health gradually. This approach can apply to any lifestyle changes you want to make, from your diet to your exercise routine. When done correctly, this strategy can be essential to recovery from several chronic conditions, including adrenal fatigue.

What is the "Start Low Go Slow" Approach?

An image of a few people hooked on their mobile phonesThe "start low go slow" approach was first administered to elderly patients. Older patients often experience negative reactions during treatment for their health issues. This is more obvious with medication regimes. Aggressive doses that are meant to correct a health condition can cause severe side effects in this age group. This can result in poor health or symptoms that are worse than the original health problem.

With the "start low go slow" approach, any necessary health changes start with low doses or mild interventions. For example, if you need medication, you would start with the lowest dose possible and increase it over time. This gives your body the chance to adjust to the medication and helps minimize the chances of side effects.

This strategy obviously shouldn't be used in life-threatening or very serious situations, but in less severe situations, this approach can be:

  • Safe
  • Gentle
  • Effective
  • Easy to sustain over time
  • Less likely to cause side effects

Younger individuals who believe they are otherwise healthy often discount this approach, but if you have AFS this may be the most effective method for recovery.

The Start Low Go Slow Approach to AFS

Your body is designed to cope with short-term stress using the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. The NEM stress response is activated during stressful situations and causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which enables you to cope with the stressful situation. The NEM stress response is designed to turn on and off in response to short-term stressors, but in the modern world, where stress is often long-term, the NEM stress response can become overworked.

Overworking the NEM stress response can cause a variety of problems, especially in the adrenal glands. When the body's demand for cortisol is too high over a long period, these glands can become fatigued and begin to fail if the situation isn’t alleviated. This can result in imbalances and poor health in every functional circuit of the body, causing a mix of negative symptoms in the entire body. If the situation continues, you may even experience adrenal crashes, where your body shuts down and you find yourself bedridden. This is the beginning of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

AFS isn’t widely recognized by the medical establishment. This is why so many sufferers struggle to find help with this disorder. Conventional approaches tend to address the symptoms with medications rather than the underlying problem more holistically. Unfortunately, these conventional approaches can be harsh and cause side effects, which will only result in additional stress for the adrenal glands, thereby worsening the underlying disorder. This is where the "start low go slow" approach can be very beneficial.

The Benefits of Going Slow for AFS

AFS leaves you so unwell that your body becomes very sensitive to lifestyle changes or medications that are meant to improve your condition. These types of changes, which are meant to improve your condition and alleviate your AFS, may instead cause serious, debilitating side effects when you’re in this state.

The "start low go slow" approach is intended to help you avoid this situation by making gentle changes the body can tolerate. This can help alleviate life-threatening symptoms or problems without additional stress or side effects. This approach is also more individual. It can be more easily tailored to your situation, lifestyle, and condition, which may make it more effective.

So, if you need medication or other lifestyle changes to alleviate issues like blood pressure or blood sugar levels, then talk to your doctor. You should never try to change your medication doses without expert help as this can be very dangerous. Instead, ask your doctor whether starting with a low dose and building it up over time would be right for your condition.

Where to Start Slow

An image of three road signs with the words stop, so, and slowWith the help of your doctor, you can use the "start low go slow" approach when making any changes to benefit your AFS. This can include:


People with AFS often experience symptoms such as high blood pressure, fluctuating sugar levels, or malfunctioning thyroid function, due to circuit malfunctions and general poor health. If you go to your doctor with these issues, they often offer medication. However, medications for these issues can be very harsh and may cause additional stress and problems with your AFS, particularly if you start with high doses.

However, it's also important that you don't ignore these problems as they can cause long-term severe health problems. Instead, talk to your doctor about starting with low doses of the medication you need and build it up over time, if necessary. At the same time, it is important to lower stress levels to improve AFS so that medication is ultimately unnecessary.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are essential to the AFS recovery process. AFS is caused by stress, which can occur because of emotional issues, bad relationships, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle issues. Replacing these lifestyle habits with healthier ones is an essential part of AFS recovery.

However, making big changes to your lifestyle can also worsen your AFS. For instance, exercising when your body is compromised due to AFS will only cause stress and worsen your condition. However, if you work with a medical professional familiar with AFS, you may be able to use the "start low go slow" approach to make these lifestyle changes. This will allow you to make small changes to improve your lifestyle and build on these changes over time. This approach is not only gentler on your body, but it’s also a more effective way to build healthier habits.

Improving Nutrition

Your nutritional intake is an essential part of AFS recovery. Often, people with AFS have poor diets, which causes additional strain. When your diet is poor, your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function properly. This may cause individual circuit imbalances or decrease the health of the organs and systems within the individual circuits. It can also cause stress, as your body struggles to function correctly without the nutrients it needs. Finally, a poor diet may also contribute to any other health condition you have or slow your healing. Any of these situations will worsen your AFS.

Improving your diet isn’t easy when you have AFS. While making very small changes is the safest bet, as with other changes, your sensitive body may suffer adverse effects to major dietary changes. That’s why many people with AFS turn to supplements.

Supplement Wisely

However, supplements can also cause side effects, sensitivities or paradoxical effects when your body is oversensitive as a result of AFS. One of the best ways to avoid this is by talking to your doctor about using the "start low go slow" approach to supplements.

One way to do this is with what’s known as micro and pico dosing. This type of supplement dosing delivers very small amounts of nutrients, much smaller than you’d find in a typical supplement regime. Pico doses contain the least amount of nutrients, and may be very helpful if your body is extremely sensitive and cannot tolerate any changes. If your body is healthier and less sensitive, you may try micro doses of supplements.

If you have AFS and are considering starting with small doses of supplements, then talk to a healthcare professional who understands adrenal fatigue. They will can help you design a dietary and nutritional plan that will benefit your condition without causing additional damage.

The Takeaway

An image of a man sitting down and looking out to the seaIf you’re struggling to improve the health of your body and reduce adrenal fatigue, then you may need a gentler approach. The "start low go slow" approach introduces healthy changes slowly, increasing them once your body has adjusted, thereby helping to minimize side effects and stress. You can adopt this approach by:

  1. Talking to your doctor about lower doses of medications for AFS symptoms or other health conditions you may have.
  2. Introducing lifestyle changes slowly, such as choosing low-impact exercise in small amounts at first.
  3. Taking small doses of supplements to see how your body tolerates them before building the doses over time.

If you want help with your adrenal recovery or just need advice on your health, click here for our Ask the Doctor system, or call +1 (626) 571-1234 for a free initial consultation.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

The start low go slow approach to adrenal fatigue is the safest and often the most effective path to recovery. It involves using supplements in very low doses to improve your nutritional intake gradually over time without causing stressful side effects.

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