The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized endocrine glands that sit on top of each kidney. But don’t let their size fool you. These powerful little pyramid-shaped organs not only rapidly prepare your body to spring into action when under threat or in a stressful situation, they also produce many other hormones essential for life.
Unfortunately the adrenals are also the first endocrine function to breakdown during prolonged or intense periods of stress, contributing to Adrenal Fatigue, which will affect up to 80% of Americans at some point in their life.
Though adrenal fatigue is largely caused by stress, it can also be caused by many other factors, like the accumulation of toxins (including environmental toxins, but also toxic emotions like anger, guilt, or fear), hidden infections, hormone imbalance, and/or nutritional deficiencies.
Top Signs of Adrenal Fatigue:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning, even after a sound sleep.
- Inability to fall asleep or falling asleep but waking up throughout the night.
- Fatigue throughout the day and/or a tendency to be more of a “night owl”.
- Overuse of stimulants like sugar/carbohydrates.
- A weakened immune system, having frequent illnesses, or taking a longer time than usual to recover from illness, infections, or trauma.
If any of these sound familiar, here are few easy steps you can take to mitigate some of the damage and start to feel better!
- Stay Hydrated – Drink plenty of good quality spring water. Dehydration is something that should always be addressed, but when you are already suffering from adrenal exhaustion, it is no joke. Take hydration a step further by adding a little sea salt and lemon to your water since many people with adrenal fatigue have mineral and electrolyte deficiencies as well. Drink herbal teas like Tulsi, Gynostemma, or Chamomile, which are calming and adaptogenic teas – or organic vegetable broth when you want something warm.
- Food Combining – Include a healthy fat, protein, and carbohydrate source with every meal. This combination helps provide a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
- Taste the Rainbow – The bulk of your diet should include a wide variety of brightly-colored vegetables to ensure you’re getting the maximum benefit from them. Different vegetables provide different essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a high amount of fiber. It is also a good idea to vary how you prepare vegetables (raw or lightly steamed), because different nutrients are made available through different cooking methods.
- Eat Small Meals Frequently Throughout the Day – Do this to support healthy blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and crashes:
- Don’t skip breakfast – Bodies need fuel after fasting throughout the night. Be sure to have your first meal before 10am to support your blood sugar supply.
- Eat an early lunch – Bodies quickly use up morning nourishment and are ready for more fuel by 12pm, so plan for an early lunch.
- Eat a nutritious snack – Do this sometime between 2pm – 3pm because most people experience a bit of an energy dip between 3pm – 4pm.
- Eat an Early Dinner – Your evening meal should be eaten between 5pm – 6pm.
- Have a Pre-bed Snack – A few bites of a high quality snack, like a few soaked nuts, before bed can help support healthy tryptophan levels conductive for restful sleep, as well as keep that blood sugar stabilized so you’re less likely to wake up a few hours later.
Foods to Eat
Sea Vegetables and Seaweed – Sea veggies and Seaweed are easily digested, high in iodine, and contain an amazing array of essential trace nutrients and proteins that are highly beneficial in the adrenal recovery process and not found in sources on land.
Pink Himalayan Rock Salt or Icelandic Flake Salt – People with adrenal fatigue will often crave salty foods as a natural response to low aldosterone. Low aldosterone can negatively impact low blood pressure, electrolyte imbalance, and cell dehydration, involving almost all physiological reactions in the body. Increasing your sea salt intake is one way to help support restored balance. However, be sure you are eating a high quality sea salt or pink himalayan salt to ensure reaping the benefits of the many valuable trace minerals that are not found in table salt.
Protein – You need protein to rebuild enzymes. Getting enough is also a good way to keep your energy levels high without causing spikes in your blood sugar. Healthy choices include organic pastured eggs, good quality organic plant-based protein powders (NEVER Soy), lentils, nuts and seeds, sprouted whole grains like quinoa and wild rice, and wild fatty fish (like wild-caught Salmon).
Fermented Foods and Drinks – Items like sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir are rich in minerals and provide a healthy boost of good bacteria to support digestion and nutrient absorption.
Healthy fats – Getting enough fat will encourage steady blood sugar levels, keep you feeling satiated, and improve your moods. This supports normal adrenal function, rather than stressing the adrenals to create blowouts of hormones trying to correct erratic blood sugar levels. Consider foods like avocado, olives, coconut oil, nuts (walnuts, almonds) and seeds (pumpkin, chia, flax), and organic pastured ghee. Eating fat is also a great energy source. Make sure your fats are always from organic, natural, whole food sources.
Lots of Leafy Greens – Add in more green leafy foods like spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, collards, and fresh herbs. Leafy greens are high in Magnesium, Vitamin C, Iron, Chlorophyll, and fiber, which all support balance both mentally and physically in the body. Sugar cravings are often curbed by adding in more greens as well!
Cruciferous Veggies – Include veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, radishes, and brussel sprouts in your daily diet. High acidity is a common issue for people dealing with adrenal fatigue and cruciferous veggies are an important component when healing because they support healthy ph levels in the body.
Fruits are great sources of phytonutrients, but also contain fructose and potassium, which aren’t as vital when recovering from adrenal fatigue, so consume these in moderation.
Foods to Avoid
Sugar – Avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar stresses the adrenals and disrupts insulin function. Plus the sugar crash that follows a blood sugar spike leads to more sugar cravings. Avoiding candy, pastries, and refined sugars may be obvious, but there are many hidden sugar sources as well, such as in dried fruits, condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce, and salad dressing. Stick with organic whole foods so you know what you are eating, and if you must buy anything in a can, bottle, or package, be sure to read the ingredients. Stick with Stevia, Xylitol, and small amounts of Raw Honey to sweeten when needed.
Alcohol – Many people rely on alcohol to help them “relax”. While it’s true that a small glass of quality wine may make some feel relaxed and temporarily reduce cortisol production, long term use is terrible because it compromises the immune system, disrupts sleep cycles, can increase inflammation, and in many cases disrupts blood sugar levels. It also weakens our will power and one small glass often leads to 2-3, which is an inappropriate amount of sugar to tax the pancreas and liver with. Ultimately, alcohol stimulates the production of the same hormones as when you are under stress and does more harm than good when you are trying to heal. It’s best to remove it from your diet completely when dealing with adrenal fatigue.
Caffeine – All stimulants produce the “stress” hormones adrenaline and cortisol, but don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to give up your daily cup of coffee. Small amounts of coffee may actually be beneficial since it contains massive amounts of antioxidants and moderate intake supports healthy insulin and estrogen levels.
Tip: Dark Roast coffees tend to have less caffeine than Light Roasts.
Processed & Refined Foods – Processed foods contain many harmful chemicals and unnatural preservatives that are hard for the body to digest. They tax the body’s energy and interfere with the digestion cycle. We’ve already discussed the negative effects of sugar, but it is important to reiterate the need to completely eliminate refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, and bread because these are total sugar bombs. The high concentration of processed carbs and sugars in these foods spike blood sugar levels to addictive levels, contribute to extreme glucose drops, and can lead to hypoglycemic symptoms. These foods are bad for everyone ANY time, but are particularly bad if you suffer from adrenal fatigue. Avoid them entirely.
Deep Fried Foods – Heated Trans fats and oils are unhealthy and stressful for the body – ALWAYS – So this is another NO NO. Most deep-fried foods are fried in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. When you eat foods containing these unhealthy oils that contain toxic free radicals, they can cause oxidative tissue damage throughout the body, as well as disrupt normal fatty acid metabolism, and use up enzymes that would normally be used to support other bodily functions (like creating high quality cell membranes and nerve myelin – important stuff).
High Glycemic Fruits – Limit consumption in the morning, and while you are healing avoid these fruits altogether as they are high in potassium, which can exacerbate the sodium-potassium imbalance often found with adrenal fatigue.
These fruits include: Grapefruits, bananas, oranges, raisins, dried dates, and figs
Your dietary choices are crucial.
Integrating high quality healing foods that support adrenal health, and reducing or avoiding any that could exacerbate adrenal-depletion symptoms are hands-down the most effective steps you can take toward recovering from adrenal fatigue!