Are you struggling to regain your normal energy levels, feeling tired and worn-out, unable to concentrate or perhaps lacking in motivation?
These are some of the symptoms that may indicate the hormonal output from your adrenal glands has been disrupted resulting in adrenal fatigue, a prevalent condition in recent times, especially in the Western world, which often goes unrecognised by the medical profession.
Adrenal Fatigue & Nutrition
Although each one of us is uniquely different and what works for one doesn’t for another, there are, none-the-less, several nutritional strategies that could help you to manage your symptoms.
There are a couple of things you need to take on board from the outset.
- You should be avoiding foods that will make you feel worse.
- You should make a conscious effort to eat the foods that will help you to recover. Think of food as your first line of defence for recovery.
Eating nutritious whole foods, while avoiding foods which you are sensitive or intolerant to and eating at the right times are just some of the things you need to think about. However, this is a complex health condition so here are some basic things you need to know.
What types of protein, fat and carbohydrates should we or should we not be eating?
Let’s begin with the carbs.
Eating less sugar is a must and great way to start. Too much sugar causes a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, inevitably followed by a sugar crash which leads to sugar cravings or a need for stimulants like caffeine, to address the fall in energy. This causes additional work for our already depleted adrenals, which perpetuates the cycle. Sugar is bad news.
So, you need to ditch added sugar, fast food, soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate and white flour based foods, in other words all those sugar laden foods. Instead, aim to get your carbs from unrefined wholesome sources like vegetables, beans, quinoa and whole-wheat pasta, bread and rice.
You also need to know that fruit isn’t always a good choice either as it can be high in sugar. It should be eaten in moderation and is best avoided first thing in the morning to help prevent a spike in blood sugar. Fruit juices and dried fruits should be avoided at all costs as they are especially very high in sugar. Good fruit choices include apples, pears and berries (strawberries, raspberries & blueberries for example).
Eating enough good quality protein will also help to stabilise energy and blood sugar. Eat meat, free range/organic poultry, wild fish, organic eggs and dairy. If possible, buy organic meat as it has a better nutrient quality. Try to avoid processed meats and cheeses because they have been linked to ill-health. We already suffer enough, so we don’t want to add to our burden!
We have been told for years that a low-fat diet is good for health. Hold that thought, nothing could be further from the truth. Fat is vital for our health and for producing those adrenal hormones we so desperately need. But it must come from the right sources.
Consider using olive oil and coconut oil. Eat avocado’s, nuts, seeds and of course oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel and sardines. You can whip up a quick healthy snack with a small handful of nuts, which by the way contain protein as well, and add an apple or perhaps some berries. Or how about spreading avocado onto a couple of oatcakes and top with tomatoes? The possibilities are endless.
Be aware however, there are fats that we must avoid. We need to get into the habit of reading labels; this is a pain I know, especially when we are rushed, but take my word, it’s for the best in the long-run.
Hydrogenated oils are chemically altered into a solid spread (a butter alternative) or added to other processed foods, which is unnatural and potentially detrimental to health. Deep fried in vegetable oils, junk and fast foods belong in the same boat. Don’t eat them!
Let’s explore a little more
It may prove beneficial to eat little and often, rather than 3 meals a day, as this will help to reduce food cravings and crashes in blood sugar. Also, combine protein, fat and carbohydrate with each meal/snack to provide a steady source of energy over a longer period, this will put less stress on your adrenals.
Do you skip breakfast, have a sarnie and a pack of crisps for lunch and tuck into a large dinner at night? If you do it is a great recipe to make you feel worse.
Absolutely do not skip breakfast. The importance of this meal cannot be overstated as your body needs the fuel this meal provides. Try a vegetable omelette or perhaps a healthy nutrient dense smoothie. Smoothies are increasingly popular and easy to make, just throw the ingredients into a blender and whizz until the desired consistency. How about this, there is some fruit I know, but only a small amount with lots of protein and fat:
- 1tbsp protein powder (Pulsin is a good choice)
- 1tbsp green powder (such as wheat grass or spirulina)
- ½ avocado
- ½ frozen banana
- Handful blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1tbsp coconut oil
- Small tub full fat natural yogurt
- ½ pint organic milk
- Filtered water as desired, for consistency
Another delicious option is poached egg(s) on avocado toast:
- 1 organic egg
- 1 slice wholemeal bread
- 1/4 Avocado
- 1 tbsp. shaved parmesan cheese
- Fresh herbs of choice for topping
- Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper for topping
- Quartered cherry tomatoes or wilted spinach for serving
Poach the egg to your liking
While the egg is cooking, toast the bread and mash the avocado onto toast. When the egg is cooked place on top of the toast. Sprinkle with parmesan, S&P and fresh herbs. Serve with cherry tomatoes or wilted spinach.
If you find you are craving salt, don’t worry as this can be quite normal. Our bodies may be fighting to maintain a salt water balance, so unless you are unfortunate enough to be suffering with both adrenal fatigue and high blood pressure, add a moderate amount of good quality sea salt (Cornish is full of minerals) or Himalayan salt, which contain valuable nutrients, to your food.
Vegetables – Include a minimum of 6 portions of different coloured vegetables every day with your meals. These wonderful plant foods are packed with an array of nutrients that your adrenals are crying out for. By eating lots of different types and colours of veggies, we are giving our bodies the best tools for fighting ill-health. This is because different colours and in fact, different varieties within colour groups contain a diverse range and quantity of specific minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and so much more. The list is endless, but green leafy veg like broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach are great sources of B vitamins and magnesium, which our adrenal glands love. Remember, variety is the spice of life!
Vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements
There are many different vitamins and minerals that play a vital role in the healing process and fighting the effects of fatigue. Dietary supplementation may have a role as we cannot always obtain optimum nutrients from food alone. However, before embarking on the road to food supplementation, I strongly advise that you seek professional advice. This is because, some supplements may interact with medication you may be taking. Also, please remember that supplements are not all equal, so if you are buying off the shelf willy-nilly, there is a chance that you could be wasting your money.
Some of the important micro-nutrients that might be supportive and have a therapeutic effect could include:
Vitamin C which is probably the most important of these nutrients as it is essential for adrenal hormone production and is required in high concentrations. Good food sources of vitamin C include salad greens, bell peppers, broccoli and fresh berries.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is also vital for hormone production and good food sources include fish, meat, poultry, legumes, wholegrains and leafy green veg.
Magnesium has been described as the ‘spark plug’ for the adrenals. It is an essential component in the hormone cascade, working synergistically with vitamin C and B5. Food sources include green leafy veg, nuts and seeds.
My final message is don’t eat on the go. Sit down to eat, try to relax, think pleasant thoughts (music, friends, lovely surroundings) eat slowly and chew your food well before swallowing.