Diet hacks to heal your adrenals
Thanks to our high octane open-all-hours lifestyle, adrenal problems have reached epidemic proportions. But what does it mean to be adrenally fatigued and how can you deal with it?
Adrenal Fatigue: The basics
Sitting just above your kidneys are a small, grape-sized, triangle gland called the adrenals. Their purpose is to counter this one thing that each of us encounters everyday - stress. Emotional stress, physical stress, infection - your adrenals work hard to ward of the effects of these on your body. How do they do this? By producing several hormones, one of which you will be familiar with - cortisol.
In everyday life, if we become stressed our age-old "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in and the adrenal glands start churning out cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones to help the different parts of your body adapt and cope with the situation. For example if you were being chased by a tiger, the hormones released by the adrenal glands would activate more blood flow to the muscles, increase heart rate, blood pressure and mental acuity so you are all set to prepare yourself for any life-threatening occurrence.
Today our bodies are still programmed to survive emergency situations, but the stress now isn’t the same as stress so many years ago and your body can’t tell whether your stress is from being chased by a wild animal or having a looming deadline. It only knows you're under attack, so it responds as it knows how - by producing the stress hormone, cortisol, to give you the boost you need to run or fight. Barraged as we are by low-level stressors at almost all hours of the day, your body and hormones can't keep up the pace and eventually this leads to an imbalance in these stress hormones.
ADRENAL FATIGUE: THE symptoms
The difficult things with diagnosing adrenal fatigue is the fact that the symptoms are common and non-specific, meaning they can be found in many diseases. However some of the severe symptoms that go with impaired adrenal function are:
Achy inflammation - this happens when your anti-inflammatory hormones are low and your entire body is achy.
Brain fog - finding it hard to focus, not remembering why you entered a room, reading a book but not absorbing it.
Inability to sleep - feeling exhausted by 9 o’clock and then not being able to fall asleep or perhaps even waking up in the middle of the night wide awake. This symptom may also manifest when you get tired in the day, especially an hour after lunch, and you get the urge for a nap.
Low tolerance - when people get on your nerves easily and you’re edgy.
Breathing issues - you have laboured breathing when you go up the stairs and your legs feel heavy or when you can’t get enough air at night.
Sinus issues - when your sinuses get congested and you get allergy problems.
Other symptoms also include low libido and dizziness when standing up too fast.
How can you eat to beat adrenal fatigue?
When it comes to food, you get out what you put in. Eating the right foods can have a significant bearing on your overall well-being, whilst poor-quality food is stressful for your body. By eliminating these four foods from your regular routine, you’ll lower your risk for adrenal fatigue and reduce sleeping difficulties, inflammation and body aches.
Ditch the sugars
Since inflammation is one of the main causes of internal stress, it’s best to cut out inflammatory foods like sugar, which takes a massive toll on your body. Aside from handling stress, cortisol also helps you maintain your blood sugar levels and control your body’s inflammatory response. Sugars spike your blood sugar, depleting your cortisol production until it is unable to effectively control your blood levels or handle stress effectively.
Skip the caffeine
Sadly, the very thing most people rely on to help fight fatigue and brain fog is also one of the culprits for making it worse. Caffine stimulates your adrenal glands into producing cortisol and adrenaline, which does temporarily kick you into gear, but it's an artificial stress stimulator - instantly putting you into fight or flight mode. If you’re relying on caffeine for a quick energy fix, it’s likely your whole nervous system is on constant red alert and your glands will burn out.
Get your fats
The human brain is nearly 60 percent fat. Studies have shown that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that enable your brain to function optimally. Fat also provides the most energy per gram than the other macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates). Healthy fats such as avocado, coconut, olive oil, nuts, and grass-fed animal fats have no impact on your blood sugar, allowing you to sustain your blood sugar throughout the day. By using healthy fats to replace some of the carbohydrates in your diet you can help reduce the stress on your adrenals.
Choose your carbs carefully
Processed carbohydrates and refined sugars dominate most of our dietary choices. This has led to the coining of the term "obesogenic society" and a health crisis of weight troubles and other problems, including adrenal fatigue. Processed carbohydrates such as bagels, white bread and many cereals have been altered to provide virtually no nutritional value. But they still convert to sugar as your body processes them. Even gluten-free versions of foods such as pizza can spike your blood sugar as much as actual sugar as any contain refined flours and have a high glycemic load. This spiking and diping of your blood sugar keeps your hormone production at elevated levels and exacerbates your adrenal response further. You then crave more processed foods and this cycle can lead to a long list of chronic conditions and illnesses.