Do you find you have difficulty getting up in the morning?
Do you wake feeling unrested?
Do you find you have a general lack of energy?
Do everyday tasks require more effort?
Has your sex drive decreased?
Feel light-headed or dizzy when standing up too quickly?
Are your thoughts fuzzy, unfocused?
Have you gained excess weight, particularly around the waist line?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing a modern-day phenomena triggered by our fast-paced lifestyle called adrenal fatigue. An Adrenal Stress Test administered by a holistic health care practitioner, such as a naturopathic doctor, will confirm if the symptoms are indeed adrenal fatigue. The good news is, adrenal fatigue can be treated naturally, through changes to diet, lifestyle, and with the help of supportive supplements.
The two adrenal glands are located above each kidney and are each no bigger than a walnut and weight less than a grape. The adrenal glands are the “glands of stress” in that they help your body cope with both emotional and physical stresses. These tiny glands are centrally located in the body because they have significant impact on every tissue, organ and gland, and also the way you think and feel. The adrenal glands secrete important hormones critical to proper utilization of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) in the body, normal blood sugar regulation, and proper cardiovascular and digestive function. Essentially, your resiliency, energy, and endurance all depend on the proper function of the adrenal glands. Pretty important!
The body is designed to handle short, finite bouts of stress – like responding quickly when driving to avoid an accident. This is normal. The body is not designed to function optimally under long, extended periods of stress – or the load of multiple stressors combined – that create an imbalance of the hormone cortisol in the body. This chronic stress taxes the adrenals and eventually the amount of stress exceeds the body’s ability to compensate and recover from that stress. At first the cortisol levels are too high, and eventually become too low as the body becomes resistant to its effects. Adrenal fatigue is the result.
A combination of dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and supportive supplements can help you recover from adrenal fatigue and restore your body to normal function.
Nutrition for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery
Balance Blood Sugar
Perhaps the most important nutritional treatment for adrenal fatigue is balancing blood sugar. Since the adrenal glands help regulate normal blood sugar balance, adrenal fatigue can leave you in a state of blood sugar imbalance. You may experience blood sugar crashes where your blood sugar dips, and you feel cranky, shaky, anxious, or experience other mood swings. There are several specific things you can do to properly manage your blood sugar while you recover from adrenal fatigue:
• Eat within one hour of waking and start the day with a high-protein breakfast
• Eat every 2 – 3 hours
• Do not skip meals and be prepared throughout the day with snacks that include protein
• Do not consume carbohydrates alone, but rather pair them with a healthy fat and/or protein
• Increase your fiber intake
• Avoid fruit juices, refined sugars, and grains
• Avoid all plant oils including canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, grapes oil, and hemp oil
A winning blood sugar balancing meal includes a high-quality protein, a healthy fat, and a low glycemic load carbohydrate. So, what does that look like?
Organic, grass-fed/finished meat
Organic, pastured eggs
Wild-caught, cold-water fish
Organic, un-denatured whey protein from grass-fed animals
Grass-fed butter & meat
Omega-3 fatty acids from eggs, cold-water fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts
Low Glycemic Load Carbohydrates
Leafy green vegetables
Additional Nutritional Recommendations
• Use a high-quality salt like Celtic, Himalayan, or Real Salt. Adrenal fatigue depletes salt levels in the body because it reduces the salt-monitoring hormone, aldosterone. When aldosterone levels drop, blood pressure can also drop, resulting in dizziness. This is why most people with adrenal fatigue crave salt. Using mineral-rich salts like these will help replenish the depleted glands.
• Consume healthy sources of cholesterol. The body cannot produces hormones without cholesterol. Adrenal fatigue is a state of low levels of the hormone cortisol, so the addition of healthy sources of cholesterol from organic, pastured eggs; organic, grass-fed meats; and tropical oils supports the body’s natural hormone production.
• Think before you drink. As a general rule of thumb, you should drink half your body weight in ounces every day. However, when recovering from adrenal fatigue, too much fluid can reduce thyroid function – the partner to the adrenal glands. Additionally, too much water further dilutes the low sodium content in the blood, exacerbating dizziness.
• Avoid caffeine. Caffeine should be avoided completely during times of recovery. Caffeine is a stimulant that can further upset the delicate balance of adrenal function in the body.
• Test for food allergies/intolerances. Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances can be a hidden stressor on the body, which further aggravates and prolongs adrenal fatigue. A comprehensive Food Sensitivity and Intolerance Test can be administered by your holistic health care practitioner and a proper nutritional protocol can be implemented.
• Sleep. Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Start a regular evening routine to prepare yourself for sleep. Start by turning off electronic devices like phones, computers, televisions, etc. at least 30 minutes prior to bed, and preferably 1 hour before bed. Listen to music, stretch, turn the lights down and do this every night until you get into a consistent routine of relaxation. Try to get to bed before 10PM and stay in bed until 9AM as often as possible, even if it’s just on the weekends. This is helpful for restoring the adrenals.
• Nap. In addition to a good night’s sleep, take short naps throughout the day, just 15-30 minutes to refresh the body.
• Slow down. Adrenal fatigue is the result of a fast-paced, stressful, and strenuous lifestyle. While you are healing from adrenal fatigue, slow down in all areas of your life. Set boundaries for yourself and learn to say no. Stop the intense cardiovascular exercise that spikes cortisol and focus on mindful exercise like yoga, Pilates, and short, slow walks.
In Part 2 of this series, we'll discuss supportive herbs and supplements for adrenal fatigue.
If you suspect you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, contact us at 303.688.6698 to schedule your Adrenal Stress Test.