Exactly What To Eat (And What To Avoid) To Eliminate Stress And Support Your Adrenals
Adrenal fatigue is something affecting more and more people today, and a large part of the reason is due to the chaos most of us live each day. In modern-day society, we are expected to work highly demanding jobs while balancing everything else we have going on in life. Unfortunately, this lifestyle leaves us barely any time to take care of ourselves.
Chronic levels of stress and not enough downtime is a recipe for adrenal fatigue and the longer the chronic stress is present in your life, the greater the chance your adrenal glands will become taxed.
While supporting your adrenal glands involves taking a look at stress reduction, sleep quality, and other lifestyle factors, diet is a huge factor. What you eat on a daily basis is either going to enhance your adrenal function or burn them out even further.
One of the easiest ways you can nourish your adrenal glands today is by taking a look at your diet. By adding in some adrenal superfoods that are rich in healthy fat and foods that support healthy cholesterol levels and promote optimal B-vitamin intake, you can say goodbye to chronic fatigue, brain fog, and burnout.
Start to implement these foods into your day-to-day life to feel more vibrant, refreshed, and energized:
1. High-quality proteins.
Getting enough protein in your diet is essential for combating adrenal fatigue. High-quality protein sources will help balance energy levels without spiking your blood sugar. Blood sugar regulation is an important part of supporting your adrenals. When you are dealing with adrenal fatigue, your body's cortisol balance is out of whack. When your body is not able to regulate cortisol properly, your ability to control your blood sugar becomes faulty as well. The two are completely intertwined. When your adrenal hormones are lower, your body has a harder time balancing your blood sugar throughout the day, and those who are constantly dealing with low blood sugar also often suffer from adrenal fatigue. This is why it’s so important to do everything in your power to manage your blood sugar levels through dietary measures. When it comes to animal products, I emphasize grass-fed animal products because they are free from hormones, antibiotics, and steroids commonly found in conventionally raised animal products. I recommend that my patients consume some sort of high-quality protein source with each meal. Pairing this with a healthy fat and a quality complex carbohydrate will help to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
Avocados are great because they are an excellent source of healthy fat. I cannot stress enough how important getting enough fat in your diet is when you are suffering from adrenal fatigue—it helps balance hormone levels and keep blood sugar stable. As discussed above, blood sugar regulation is a key part of supporting your adrenals, and both the healthy fat and fiber content of avocados can help you do so. About a third of an avocado contains 3 grams of dietary fiber and lots of healthy fat to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, keeping your blood sugar level and less likely to spike. Try snacking on one-third of a sliced avocado with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt once per day as a replacement for a high-carbohydrate snack.
3. Sea salt.
Many of my patients with adrenal fatigue will have hypotension (low blood pressure), which can cause you to feel lightheaded upon standing or waking up in the morning. Those with adrenal fatigue may also find that they crave salty foods such as chips and pretzels. Oftentimes, this can be due to low aldosterone levels, which is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenals and plays an integral role in regulating blood pressure. Not having enough aldosterone in the body can also cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can cause your sodium levels to become out of balance. Because of this, I recommend that my patients with adrenal fatigue add some high-quality sea salt to their diets—I even recommend starting your day with an eighth of a teaspoon in water. Keep in mind that those with hypertension, heart disease, or kidney disease should always consult with a medical professional before adding extra salt to their diet.
4. Organic vegetables.
We all know that vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet, but they can also help nourish the adrenal glands due to their anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin and mineral content. Adding anti-inflammatory foods into your adrenal-fatigue-supporting diet is important because chronic inflammation can only further exacerbate adrenal symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, pain, and even anxiety and depression. I recommend starting with nonstarchy vegetables to help avoid any blood sugar spikes—foods like asparagus, carrots, celery, and dark leafy greens are excellent. In my practice, I recommend that my patients include a vegetable with each meal. This makes getting these veggies into your diet a bit easier, and you can even add them to snacks, too, by adding things like leafy greens to smoothies. If you work vegetables into each meal, you will be sure to provide your body with powerful anti-inflammatory properties at each meal.
5. Fatty cold-water fish.
Fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to combat inflammation, which, as noted above, is an integral part of healing from adrenal fatigue and reducing certain symptoms. Focus on wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel.
One of the most important parts of eating to support adrenal health is to eat real food. Why? Because eating whole and natural foods will help your body combat inflammation, better manage glucose levels, and sustain energy. All three are incredibly important factors in supporting your adrenal health. Ditch the processed and sugary foods and stick to the real options such as the foods on this list. Here are a couple of other tips to help you get started:
- Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking to help stabilize your blood sugar.
- Eat a high-protein snack in between meals. Ideally, you will want to eat every two to three hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Cut out white sugar and white flour from your diet. This will help to eliminate foods that cause sudden blood sugar spikes.
- Eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar, which we want less of to help balance blood sugar. Caffeine can put your body into fight-or-flight mode, which is the last thing you want when dealing with adrenal fatigue. Caffeine sends signals telling the adrenals to pump out more adrenaline as well as cortisol1, which will cause even further chaos for your adrenal glands.
- Don’t limit your healthy fat intake. Healthy fats are important for energy, which you need more of when your adrenals are burned out, and they can help stabilize blood sugar by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.
- Don’t limit your salt intake; just focus on sea salt. Remember that sea salt is rich in minerals to support adrenal health whereas table salt is stripped of its nutritional value.
- Eliminate foods you may be sensitive to. Cutting these foods out of your diet will help to reduce inflammation. We want as little inflammation as possible to help reduce symptoms and heal from the inside out.
6. Organ meats.
Although not as popularly consumed as other animal products, organ meats such as liver are packed full of nutritional value. Liver is high in B-vitamins, which are important for energy support, and liver is one of nature’s multivitamins! Liver also contains cholesterol, which is surprisingly an important component of an adrenal-supporting diet. Our body cells are made up of cholesterol, and the hormones produced by the adrenal glands are synthesized from cholesterol. A diet lacking in enough dietary cholesterol can cause hormonal and adrenal issues. I recommend patients try to incorporate one organ meat dish into their diet per week. I also encourage patients who do not like the flavor start by coating the organ meat such as liver in some coconut flour and frying it in coconut oil for a crispier and more appealing taste. This is usually a great way to introduce organ meats into your diet.
These are the top foods for fighting inflammation. Plus, this diet will keep your blood sugar balanced all day long (so good for those adrenals!).
Becky Campbell, D.C., DNM, PSc.D is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine, earned her doctorate in chiropractic at Life University, and has a doctorate of pastoral medicine. She is also the author of The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan: Disarming the 7 Hidden Triggers That are Keeping You Sick.
She was initially introduced to functional medicine as a patient after struggling with many of the issues her own patients struggle with today. She has made it her mission to help patients all around the world with her virtual practice. Campbell specializes in Hashimoto’s disease, and she hopes to help others regain their life as functional medicine helped her regain hers.