“What are the best natural ways to help my body with adrenal fatigue?” – Tired of Feeling Tired
TOFT, adrenal fatigue is a subject close to home. As I’ve written on my website, I struggled with adrenal fatigue myself and it took years for my body to recover from it. It’s a long, slow process that requires diligence and patience, but recovery is certainly possible. Many people who have adrenal fatigue may struggle with other health issues simultaneously, but for the sake of this article, I’ll assume we’re working with just this one health issue.
For those unfamiliar with adrenal fatigue, let’s go over some of the basics before I answer TOFT’s question. Adrenal fatigue is a condition that occurs when the body, after a long enough period of stress or even after an infection, starts showing signs of wear and tear. The body is meant to deal with stress in short spurts, like when you’re running from a predator. But if you think about the stress we experience daily (the jolt of your alarm clock, the jerk cutting you off in traffic, the panic as you think you just accidentally deleted an important report at work, your boss/partner/kids yelling at you), you can see that most of us are in survival mode all day long. Here’s what happens:
- You live the standard, American lifestyle that usually includes too much stress, not enough rest, unhealthy foods, and a reliance on stimulants like caffeine, sugar or nicotine just to get you through the day.
- These stimulants, like stress and caffeine/sugar, cause your body to go into fight-or-flight mode. Because your body is convinced it’s under attack, a whole cascade of actions take place in your body. This includes your adrenal glands (triangle-shaped glands that sit atop your kidneys) pumping you full of cortisol. Cortisol also helps your body recover from all the things that happen in your body during a survival flight.
- Without allowing your body to recover from stress and replace its cortisol supply, you can experience many unpleasant symptoms like hair loss, weight gain or loss, loss of libido, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive distress, reproductive issues (including an inability to conceive or carry), thyroid issues and skin problems.
Now, on to answering TOFT’s question! While the existence of adrenal fatigue is debated within the medical community (it’s not been scientifically proven to exist), many doctors and practitioners swear by the same symptoms and effectiveness of healing protocols. (If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue, talk to your doctor or find one that specializes in adrenal problems.) Here are some ways to get your diet to support your healing!
Lay off the stimulants
It should come as no surprise that any kind of stimulant we consume jolts our adrenals. This includes anything caffeinated (coffee, tea, energy drinks or soda), sugar (what we commonly understand as sugar like sweets, and also simple carbs like bread, pasta or cereal), or drugs like nicotine or uppers. The more you can avoid these, the better off you’ll be. If you crave that coffee in the morning (and yes, decaf still contains caffeine), try Teeccino.
Get those greens going
Any kind of leafy greens are great for your adrenals. You’ve got kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard and collard greens, to name a few. Expand your salad repertoire, try some fun new side dishes or hell, just throw a handful of greens into a smoothie (that’s what I do). You can pack a couple cups of greens into any fruit smoothie and you won’t even taste it (spinach and kale have the most mild flavor).
Whole grains only
Try to avoid any processed grain. If you must eat bread, eat bread that’s made from whole grains and doesn’t contain the word “enriched” in the ingredients (a sign that the natural nutrients in the grains have been processed and refined out, then had less, lower-quality nutrient added back in). Eat brown rice instead of white. Try oatmeal or granola instead of cereal. Cook some millet, wild rice or quinoa for some whole-grain side dishes.
Increase your protein intake
Upping the amounts of protein you get will help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Try getting a protein source with each meal, whether it’s peanut butter in your oatmeal or chicken, beans or cheese on your salads. You can throw in some non-animal protein sources by snacking on nuts and seeds, and always remember you can toss hemp seeds into or on top of nearly any meal.
Learn to love fat
Healthy fats are critical to our body’s recovery! Avocado, olive and coconut oil, nuts and seeds – it’s all good! Try not to lean on fatty or processed meats and remember that wild-caught salmon has excellent healthy fats in it. Ghee is another option that’s becoming increasingly popular, too. Drizzle some flax oil on your salad, throw half an avocado into a smoothie or munch on some nuts or seeds to give your body some love!
TOFT, I hope this helps you get some direction, and remember you can always contact me if you’d like help planning meals or simplifying food choices.
If you’ve got experience with adrenal fatigue and have found some other ways that helped you, comment about it below!