Your adrenals are small glands with a big job: manufacturing hormones that regulate your body’s natural stress response. When stress builds up in your life, these glands can become overwhelmed, causing fatigue, headaches, weakened immunity, sleep disorders and food cravings. Weakened adrenals can also lead to high blood sugar levels, weight gain and inflammation, raising your risk for conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in high-quality whole foods can help prevent these risks.
Timing Your Meals
The website of James Wilson, an adrenal health expert and author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome,” recommends paying close attention to both when and what you eat. If you’re stressed and tired, your tendency might be to skip breakfast, then fall back on coffee or sweets to perk you up later. Avoid dips in your blood sugar by eating regularly timed meals. Have breakfast before 9 a.m., lunch before noon and a light dinner between 5 and 6 p.m., advises Marcelle Pick, a nurse practitioner with WomentoWomen.com. Enjoy a midafternoon snack to get you through until dinner, and another small, nutritious snack, like an apple with almond butter, before bedtime.
Best Proteins and Fats
Make sure you get a blend of high-quality macronutrients at every meal, says Wilson. Protein-rich foods help you stay full so you aren’t reaching for sweets between meals. Good choices include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, beans and legumes and soy products, such as tofu and tempeh. Better choices for fats include fish, olives, nuts, seeds and avocados.
When you have adrenal fatigue, stick with fresh fruits and vegetables -- preferably organic -- and avoid refined carbs that will cause your blood sugar to spike and plummet, like commercial baked goods, chips and candy. In addition to the filling fiber in fruits and vegetables, these foods also supply ample amounts of vitamin C. People who maintain high levels of vitamin C rebound better from stressful situations than those with low serum vitamin C, reports “Psychology Today.” Among the best sources of vitamin C are kiwi, berries, cantaloupe, mango, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and bell peppers. Wilson recommends going lightly on fruit in the morning and choosing organically grown varieties. Avoid fruits high in both fructose and potassium, he says, such as bananas, oranges, grapefruit and dried fruit, because they can further harm exhausted adrenal glands.
When you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, it may be the one time when giving in to a craving for salty foods is actually beneficial to your system. Pick explains that low levels of the hormone aldosterone may cause electrolyte imbalances that can be addressed by adding salt to your foods. She also says that lightheadedness in the morning may be a sign of low blood pressure, which can be corrected with moderate sodium intake. Unless you have hypertension or other medical reasons to limit sodium, Wilson recommends adding sea or Celtic salt to your dishes in moderation.
- University of Southern California, Department of Surgery: What Is the Adrenal Gland?
- Women to Women: Eating to Support Your Adrenal Glands
- AdrenalFatigue.org: Food Recommendations for Adrenal Fatigue
- Robb Wolf: The Real Deal on Adrenal Fatigue
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight Management and Satiety
- Psychology Today: Vitamin C: Stress Buster
- MedlinePlus: Vitamin C
- University of Michigan Integrative Health: Healthy Fats