In our high-stress world, it’s not surprising that many people experience moodiness, fatigue and mental exhaustion on an almost daily basis. Most people attribute these symptoms to simply being overworked or personal stressors. Although these may contribute to the issue, it is more likely that they are suffering from adrenal dysfunction.
Experts estimate that nearly 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal insufficiency resulting in various symptoms. With so many suffering from adrenal deficits, it is important to be well informed of the condition and practical methods to reduce its symptoms and promote recovery.
An Introduction to the Adrenals
The adrenal glands regulate and produce over 150 different hormones. Some of the most commonly recognized of these include cortisol, estrogen, progesterone and adrenaline.
Cortisol is perhaps the most significant regarding stress response. When the body perceives a threat, cortisol levels increase. This triggers a state of heightened energy and focus.
As part of the natural stress response, the body diverts energy from non-critical systems involving immunity, energy storage and inflammatory response. Critical systems such as the heart and brain are given priority. In times of true danger, this is an acceptable short-term response. However, it is possible to trigger a reaction with imagined threats and stressors. If the adrenals remain at an elevated state for too long, it will eventually exhaust itself resulting in intense fatigue, mental fog and inhibited immunity.
Causes of Crashes and Contributors to Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is generally the result of long-term stress that exhausts the adrenals of stress hormones. Any further emotional or physical triggers can induce an adrenal crash.
In some cases, the body is simply not getting the nutrients it needs to produce the appropriate hormones. Alternatively, consumption of certain foods can contribute to adrenal exhaustion.
There are many other events that can trigger adrenal fatigue including:
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Chronic conditions
- Hormone imbalance
- Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep
- Long lasting emotional stress
- Major life event such as death of a loved one, divorce or loss of job
- Physical trauma or surgery
- Respiratory illnesses
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue symptoms can take many different forms. Generally, they develop over a long period of time as the adrenal glands are taxed. Unfortunately, these symptoms can be easily overlooked or ignored by many people because they often begin relatively mild and progress slowly.
Depending on the degree of adrenal exhaustion a person can suffer mild or intense versions of the following symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Craving sugary or salty foods
- Digestive issues
- Easily exhausted from mild exertion
- Fatigue that is not resolved through rest
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Loss of appetite
- Low blood pressure or dizziness when standing
- Low libido
- Muscle weakness
- Poor response to stress
- Recurring infections
- Swollen ankles that worsen during the evening
People may exhibit symptoms at differing levels of intensity depending on multiple factors. Various condition contributors such as hormone imbalance and suboptimal diet can vary significantly between individuals resulting in unique symptom experience. One method for alleviating symptom intensity is through an adrenal diet.
Alleviating Adrenal Symptoms Through Dieting
Diet is a critical component of maintaining a healthy stress response and assisting in the restoration of adrenal function. An adrenal-supporting diet should contain high-protein foods, plenty of vegetables and whole grains. Ideally, the body gets the energy it needs through food rather than relying on adrenal activation and the burning of stored calories. There are several substances that inhibit adrenal health and others that provide support.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods contribute to adrenal fatigue and should be reduced or eliminated from your diet. Consuming large amounts of caffeine or ingesting it on a regular basis is almost certain to exhaust the adrenals. Duke University Medical Center released a study that showed caffeine may amplify sympathetic adrenal-medullary responses, which elevates the body’s reaction to stressful events. Because of its negative influence on stress response, limiting or completely removing caffeine is a good place to start a restorative adrenal diet.
Sugar is another problem substance that increases the risk of adrenal fatigue. Foods or products that induce blood sugar spikes make it difficult for the adrenals to respond properly and regulate hormones. Avoiding substances such as white sugar and flour, alcohol, soda, artificial sweeteners and processed foods is a good way to reduce food-related adrenal stress.
Maintaining regular and stable blood sugar also helps avoid adrenal spikes. Starting the day with breakfast and eating smaller balanced meals throughout the day can help maintain proper blood sugar and cortisol levels.
Foods to Enjoy
In addition to limiting intake of promoting products, there are many helpful substances that can be incorporated into an adrenal diet that helps support restoration and regulation. Generally, adrenal-supporting foods help maintain blood sugar, energy levels and frequently contain high levels of vitamin B12 and magnesium.
Healthy fats are an important component of an adrenal diet. A study published in March 2014 showed that consumption of certain fats and oils promoted better adrenal balance and regulation. Consuming foods such as olives, olive oil, raw dairy products, grass-fed butter and organic meats provide the healthy fats necessary to support adrenal function.
Coconut in its various forms (oil, milk and meat) is also a powerful food that supports adrenal function by providing anti-stress and antioxidant benefits.
Vegetables contain a bounty of vitamins and minerals needed for adrenal hormone regulation and production. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard are known for their nutrient density and providing many nutrients needed for healthy adrenal function. Seaweed contains iodine, which is the building block for many hormones that can aid in adrenal regulation. Eating more of these foods provide the nutrients the adrenal glands need to function at its best.
Bouncing Back from the Brink of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue impacts a wide range of systems in the body. Its effect can be seen through the many physical and emotional symptoms that develop.
Treating adrenal fatigue requires a comprehensive and specialized approach. However, diet can be hugely beneficial in alleviating symptoms. Reducing or eliminating intake of harmful substances while incorporating healthier foods into a diet can relieve a great deal of adrenal stress.
Support the restoration of your adrenals and relieve symptoms of fatigue by implementing an adrenal diet.