If you've been suffering from adrenal fatigue for some time chances are you have some anxiety when it comes to eating. It's confusing, right? People say go gluten free, vegan, stop eating sugar, go Paleo. There is so much advice out there and often it's conflicting. I am going to take the overwhelm out of the equation and explain what foods to eat and what foods to avoid on an adrenal fatigue diet. And I also am going to tell you how to avoid a very common mistake that many adrenal fatigue sufferers make that further exhausts the adrenals, making it impossible to heal.
There is a reason why there is so much conflicting advice out there. It's because healing from this condition is not a one-size-fits all kind of thing. What works for some, does not work for all.
We recommend you get professional support to follow a diet that is customized to your body and your lifestyle. I'm going to give you a big DIY tip on how to do this and a special gift, just for you so you can apply it to your life right away, so stay tuned.
Foods that Nourish The Adrenals
1. Foods High in Protein and Fats
Fats and proteins break down slowly, so they provide fuel for hours after they are eaten. Carbohydrates break down quickly, so they can contribute to a blood sugar spike and crash, especially simple carbohydrates like breads, pastas, and sweets. And since blood sugar balance is a big part of adrenal fatigue, proteins and fats are helpful to keep blood sugar levels stable which results in more balanced cortisol and epinephrine levels.
2. Eat Nutrient-Dense, Whole Foods
Not getting enough nutrients is a common issue for adrenal fatigue sufferers. Often times this is due to poor nutrient absorption. Poor nutrient absorption could the result of years of or chronic poor digestion and/or other obstacles like leaky gut, parasites, candida overgrowth, etc.
The more nutrient dense foods you eat the better chance your body has at absorbing all the nutrients you need for healing. Great examples of nutrient-dense foods are fresh, plant foods.
3. Eat Fresh, Local Foods (Preferably Organic & Non-GMO Foods)
Choosing high-quality meats, poultry, dairy (grass-fed, pastured-raised), fruits and vegetables helps you avoid preservatives, added hormones, artificial colors, dyes, and chemicals. These foreign and unnatural substances are harder to process and therefore puts more stress on the body. Eat organic and ideally locally grown (very fresh) foods for maximum nutrient density.
4. Incorporate Good Salt Into Your Diet
If you don't have high blood pressure (which is less likely with adrenal fatigue) it's okay to give into your cravings for salty foods. Make sure you're choosing the right kind of salt. (Learn more about good salt and how to incorporate it into your diet HERE). Your salt cravings are most likely related to low levels of a steroid hormone called aldosterone. This hormone is produced by the adrenal glands and has a central role in regulating blood pressure. When cortisol goes up, aldosterone goes down.
5. Choose Low-Glycemic Fruits
Blood sugar balance is an issue for many adrenal fatigue sufferers, so go light on fruits especially in the morning. When you do eat fruits think berries, green apples, kiwi, cantaloupe and stone fruits like peaches and plums. Avoid bananas, grapes, dried fruit and oranges. 6. Eat Whole Grains If you eat grains, allow whole grains to be the main source of your carbohydrates. This doesn't just mean whole wheat pasta noodles or whole wheat bread. Eat the whole grain. For example, rolled oats or steel cut oats, quinoa, millet and brown or wild rice.
Foods That Exhaust The Adrenals
1. Processed Foods
Avoid processed foods as best you can, typically these are foods that come in a box, bag or package. Why because they contain less nutrients than whole foods as typically have lots of preservatives and additives that can stress the body and the adrenal glands.
Avoid stimulants like coffee which create artificial energy followed by a "crash". Keep sugar and alcohol to a minimum. These substances tax the adrenals. Learn how to incorporate coffee alternatives.
3. Foods Your Body is Sensitive/Allergic or Intolerant To
It is important that you eliminate these foods as soon as possible. When you eat these foods it triggers an allergic reaction because your immune system recognizes the food as a foreign substance or allergen. This creates an inflammatory response. The adrenals play an important role in allergic reactions. The adrenals produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is in charge of reducing inflammation. When the adrenals are fatigued, it is more difficult to produce the additional amounts of cortisol necessary to counteract the inflammatory response. This becomes a vicious cycle because the more histamines are released because your tired adrenals can't keep up the harder it is for them to produce more cortisol. That is why many people with adrenal fatigue have more allergies or their allergies seem to get worse. These inflammatory molecules can also cause fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, mood swings, sleep problems and cognitive difficulties. Not sure what foods you're sensitive to? Do a little trial and error. This will help you identify food sensitivities or allergies. (This is the tip I promised to share with you about how you can eat an adrenal fatigue diet that is more customized to you)
Keep a log for 1 week of what you eat and how you feel. (Keep reading because I give you a tracking tool below to make this super EASY.)
Look for things like:
- How long does my energy last after eating a meal?
- Do I have digestive distress?
- Do I feel hungry even after I’ve just eaten?
Your body is a great messenger system, we just need to make sure we are listening. This is a great start. And no pun intended here, but Trust Your Gut. You know your body better than anyone. If you suspect you have a sensitivity to something, explore it. Wondering, how and where to start eliminating? Start with one food group at a time so you can be sure it's really an issue. If you suspect you're allergic to multiple food groups start with the one you believe you are most sensitive to. Start eliminating that food from your diet as soon as you can. Get support from an expert to find great alternatives, so it doesn't have to feel so overwhelming. Stay with this plan of elimination for 4-6 weeks. Note any changes in your digestion, mood, energy level, skin, etc. And please remember this is only temporary. Most of my patients can go back to eating these foods with no issues after they have healed their adrenal fatigue. So now you know what to eat and what NOT to eat on an adrenal fatigue diet. Just one more thing...
Just as important as WHAT you eat is, WHEN you eat
When you're busy, stressed out and lacking energy it's easy to skip or delay meals. This is not a good idea with adrenal fatigue.
Skipping or delaying meals does the following:
1. Slows down your metabolism, giving your body the message that it needs to conserve energy by storing calories as fat
2. Causes your blood sugar to drop. This puts stress on your adrenal glands because they have to release more cortisol and adrenaline to maintain the body's normal functioning. The adrenals are also in charge of maintaining your blood sugar levels.
3. And finally, when you fast for several hours, it does NOT allow your body to produce glucose which is the primary source of energy for your brain and your nervous system. When you eat, the body breaks down your food and produces glucose. So when you don’t eat, the glucose in your brain decreases, which means less energy. This lack of glucose impairs your concentration, focus, mood and memory.
Now we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What is your biggest struggle with an adrenal fatigue diet? Or share your best advice. This is a healing community and Your comment could support others on their healing journey. So take a moment to drop us a line below.
Dr. Holly German & Angela