In my previous blog I mentioned the Hypothalamic-Pituitary -Adrenal (HPA) axis that controls how the body handles and responds to stress. Overstimulation of the HPA axis over a long period of time may lead to nutrient deficiencies especially magnesium, chromium, B vitamins (especially B5), Vitamin C and the amino acid L-tyrosine, all of which are needed for the adrenal hormone cascade. It can also lower thyroid and immune function as well as blood sugar balance issues, and if the body is unable to adapt to the stress, exhaustion and adrenal fatigue will eventually kick in.
How to support the exhausted adrenals
Unfortunately in the run up to exhaustion most people have been fuelling themselves with stimulants to help keep up that false sense of energy. Have you ever had that “wired but tired” feeling? Wired by stimulants but yet tired all the time. The common stimulants include caffeine, cigarettes and foods high in added sugar. I remember drinking 5 cups of coffee a day to keep myself going and craving a daily bar of chocolate to get my sugar hit! Little did I know at that time that this was only making things worse and accelerating my body into adrenal fatigue.
Fuelling your body to recovery
It goes without saying that a good well balanced diet is important but it’s also important to remember that we are all biochemically different and that your nutrient needs will not be the same as others. Your nutrient needs depend on your age, gender, health history, environment (e.g. living in a polluted city v’s country, stress levels at home/work). Learning to tune in and listen to your body is also important, and we need down time to do this. If you are rushing around, constantly busy or stressed then this will be a struggle. I will talk more about the lifestyle habits to focus on in my next blog, for now I’ll share some nutrition tips.
Nutrition tips to boost your energy
- Combine good quality protein (red meat, fish, lentils, eggs) and oils (nuts and seeds) with unrefined carbohydrates (whole grains) at most meals. If you feel you cannot tolerate even wholegrains then talk to a Nutritional Therapist who can provide support to help heal your digestive system. Having protein at every meal slows down the rate at which the stomach empties its food into the next part of the digestive tract, so slowing the passage of the carbohydrates with it and slowing the release of sugar into the blood stream. As soon as you add a protein (animal or vegetable) to a carbohydrate you change it into a slow-releasing carbohydrate helping you to stay fuller for longer.
- Use cold pressed oils on your raw salads – olive, walnut, flax
- Increase vegetables (alkaline foods) aiming for 5-6 servings of veggies per day
- People with adrenal fatigue often have salt cravings and can feel light headed or dizzy with possibly low blood pressure. Try adding a good quality salt e.g. sea salt, celtic salt, himalayan salt or sea salt with kelp powder to your food or water. Add 1/8 to ¼ tsp to a 6oz glass of water. As your adrenals improve your desire for salt will go down so you can then reduce it. If you have any heart issues e.g. high blood pressure then it’s important to avoid this.
- Eat in a relaxed manner and chew your food thoroughly. Chewing food releases digestive enzymes that help breakdown food and increases nutrient absorption.
- Eat small regular meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels, mood, decrease tiredness and fatigue, decrease cravings and decrease fat storage.
- Avoid chocolate if you feel your blood sugar levels are dropping – have a handful of nuts instead or liquorice bars from your local health store. Liquorice supports the adrenals and you’ll sometimes find it in herbal remedies that support adrenal function.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, foods high in sugar as they stimulate the adrenal glands that sit just above your kidneys. People with weak adrenal glands often crave coffee and sugar in particular, as well as salt. Sugar and caffeine stimulate the adrenal glands. It’s as if you adrenal glands are two horses towing a wagon load of bricks up a mountain. Sugar or caffeine is the whip you use to get the horses to keep trying. What they really need to get to the top of the mountain is nourishment and a rest period. Your adrenals need to rest to recover.
- Foods with the following nutrients are particularly good for the adrenal glands: magnesium, Vitamin C, and the B vitamins especially B5 – all found in wholegrains, nuts, fruit and veg.
Disclaimer: The advice given in this article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should always consult your General Practitioner or primary healthcare provider if you require medical attention or have symptoms which are causing concern.