Adrenal fatigue occurs when prolonged stress tires out and reduces the function of the adrenal glands, which are directly responsible for the mobilization of energy and the regulation of your body's metabolism. Those suffering from adrenal fatigue often experience unexplained fatigue, salty and sweet cravings, prolonged healing times, and spikes of anxiety says naturopathic physician, James L. Wilson, author of "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome." In recovering from adrenal fatigue, the diet plays an integral role.
The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys directly below your last rib and are about the size of a grape. Under acute stress, the adrenal glands play a central role in the fight-or-flight response by producing adrenaline. In most animals, this response lasts only long enough to allow the animal to distance himself from the threat, but humans have a unique ability to continue to produce stress hormones even when the threat is gone, says Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford-based stress researcher.
Over longer periods, the adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol, which has been associated with increased fat storage and weakening of the immune system. Unless the stress is removed in a short period of time, the adrenal glands may fail to keep up with the challenge and result in fatigue.
Insulin and Carbohydrates
Insulin is a hormone produced by your body in response to the types of food you eat. Generally, foods with more refined carbohydrates and sugars result in a larger insulin surge. In adrenal fatigue, blood sugar is already low, so increasing insulin reeks even more havoc on the body. Dr. Wilson suggests that those suffering from adrenal fatigue eat foods that are rich in whole grain carbohydrates and avoid high-glycemic and processed foods. Avoid eating large quantities of grains of any kind in isolation and include lean protein sources and health fats to further blunt the insulin swings.
Adrenal fatigue results in an overactive immune system that responds violently to foods that normally create no problems. Wilson suggests that sufferers of adrenal fatigue limit their consumption of gluten-containing foods like wheat, barley, and rye as it is a common food allergy. Additionally, Wilson encourages only moderate consumption of dairy products and corn based foods as they are highly irritating to the immune system of adrenal fatigue sufferers.
Nuts, Seeds, and Oils
Adrenal fatigue sufferers must limit their processed carbohydrate consumption, but should replace those calories with some nuts, seeds, and essential oils to provide energy without causing wild changes in blood sugar and more symptoms. Eat plenty of olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cashews, filberts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. Wilson suggests, too, the addition of a fish oil supplement to battle inflammation associated with adrenal fatigue syndrome and also to improve blood sugar levels.
Adrenal fatigue sufferers can benefit from the many vital nutrients within fruits and vegetables, but should choose foods that have less impact on blood sugar levels. Wilson suggests that nearly any vegetable, particularly green vegetables, can be eaten on an adrenal repair diet, but potatoes and yams in the early stages of the diet. Fruits are encouraged, except bananas, raisins, dates, figs, oranges, and grapefruit as they produce a much greater change in blood sugar.
- "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome"; James L. Wilson, ND; 2002
- "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers"; Robert Sapolsky, PhD; 2004