7 years ago at the tender age of 28 I had end stage adrenal exhaustion, IBS, multiple parasite and bacterial infections and a whole host of other niggling symptoms.
At that time I could barely get through the day without caffeine and a tonne of sugar. I would wake up in the morning puffy eyed feeling almost drugged. I felt physically weak, just the thought of walking made me feel tired so there was no hope of working out in the gym! My mood was consistently low, I felt as if I were wearing a mask, smiling on the outside whilst inside every little thing felt like a huge effort. The me I knew was buried under layer upon layer of smothering lethargy, which left me feeling old before my time.
Adrenal exhaustion can occur when the adrenal glands are being stressed day in and day out by emotional worry and fear, a lack of sleep, too much sugar and caffeine in the diet, carbohydrate heavy processed foods and a rush rush, squeeze-as-much-into-the-day-as-possible kind of lifestyle.
Ultimately the adrenal glands are responsible for managing all kinds of stress, be it money worries, chronic back pain or food allergies.
What most people are not aware of is that the adrenal glands are not able to keep up to keep up with this kind of heightened demand for the chronic long term stress hormone cortisol indefinitely. Eventually they become exhausted and simply need to rest!
Now this is not safe for our physiology as we have to be able to make our stress hormones to get us out of a real life or death impending danger. So the thyroid (our regulator of metabolism) steps in and slows down metabolism in order to make less energy go further. Adrenal exhaustion in this way can frequently masquerade as an under active thyroid (Hypothyroidism).
Know that by the time you are losing your hair, experiencing insomnia, waking feeling exhausted and struggling to get your backside off the sofa, your adrenal glands (two walnut sized glands which sit atop the kidneys and make your stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline) are already wiped out.
Using the principles I now share with my clients, I turned my health around. I can’t say it was quick, but it worked. Even better than that, I now have the tools and the knowledge to know if/when I am heading back in that direction again so I can make conscious decisions to prevent a repeat performance.
Here are seven of my nutrition tips to help you heal your adrenal glands. Start with one at a time. Your tolerance to change will be low when you have adrenal fatigue and trying to implement too much change all at once will only drive your adrenals into a further deepening level of exhaustion. For tips on how to support your lifestyle further visit the blog page here entitled Dr. Quiet!
7 Nutrition Tips for Nourishing Your Adrenals
1. Eat On Time
Blood sugar handling issues go hand-in-hand with Adrenal Fatigue. So do your best to have your breakfast within an hour of waking and then eat small meals throughout the day. Ideally leaving no more than around 3 hours between each meal will go a long way to restabilising your blood sugar.
2. Include Sea Salt
Sea Salt actually helps to calm and nourish the adrenal glands due to its high mineral content. I like to add a pinch to my glass of water and use it in all my cooking. Go for the grey sea salt for top quality.
3. Curb Your Carbs
Grain based foods such as bread, pasta, rice, cous cous, crackers, cereal and cakes all break down into simple sugars in the body, exacerbating blood sugar handling issues. Know that every time your blood sugar spikes after a high grain/sugar food, a subsequent crash will follow. This is hugely stressful for your body and thus your adrenal glands will try to moderate this through the release of stress hormones!
4. Cut Caffeine
Caffeine is highly stressful and toxic to the adrenal glands, causing a release of adrenaline. Negative symptoms you may experience after drinking coffee would include: racing heart beat, sweating, jittery feeling, increased speech rate, difficulty sitting still, heart palpitations. You can slow the rate at which caffeine from coffee and tea hit the blood stream by adding heavy cream or butter. This has become known as a Bullet Proof Coffee. Note that this does not stop the reaction but merely tempers the symptoms that you feel. Ultimately you want to avoid all caffeine if you have adrenal fatigue, but to begin with, start by reducing your caffeine to the first part of the day and drink after a heavy protein/fat based meal. There is a very good reason why many NSAIDS also contain caffeine. It acts a catalyst to drive the pain medication into the blood stream quicker.
5. Swap Processed Sugar
Much like processed grains, sugar also drives the adrenal glands into exhaustion when consumed in excess. Consider swapping sugar for natural fruits, coconut sugar and raw organic honey. Limit the quantity you have these and keep them to the first part of the day if you are struggling with insomnia/broken sleep.
6. Increase Saturated Fat
You may not be aware that cholesterol is the precursor for all hormone responses in the body. When we are experiencing any kind of stress (Emotional, Physical, Chemical, Thermal, Electromagnetic or Nutritional) our hormone cascade gets filtered into just one pathway – our stress hormone pathway as our body deems this essential. That means that our digestion, detoxification, reproduction and repair all become impaired. To nourish that stress hormone pathway we actually need increased amounts of dietary cholesterol. The only way to obtain this is through animal produce. Good quality butter (see Jo Rushton’s article: “Butter: Friend or Foe”) raw organic dairy, red meat and eggs.
7. Balance Your Ratios
Getting clear on your specific fat, protein and carbohydrate needs based on your unique body make up is key in stabilising blood sugar and healing the adrenal glands. Start ensuring that you have some kind of animal based fat and protein at every meal paired with organic vegetables from a mixture of root vegetables and seasonal greens. If you want to find out your specific needs in detail you can look into the work of Metabolic Typing.
(Photo courtesy of Mic445 under Creative Commons. License.)
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