A Simple Dietary Plan for Adrenal Fatigue
This is, without a doubt, the most difficult article for me to write. I mean, who am I to offer up a dietary plan for anyone to follow? I haven’t even gone gluten-free! In fact, I basically refuse to have a gluten sensitivity. Plus I eat potatoes and dairy products.
But in all seriousness, I know that SO MANY PEOPLE have food allergies and sensitivities–more than ever before in history. I don’t have the answers to these difficulties, so I do not intend to give advice regarding how to deal with food allergies. You need to do your own research, and learn how your body responds to certain foods. What I do plan to discuss in this article are the basics that MOST nutritionists agree on as well as explaining some of what I PERSONALLY am doing and why.
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a doctor. I am just a researcher who wants to share with you the INFORMATION that I have found. I hope that it can be of some benefit to you as you make choices about your health. But you really should heed the advice of your physician if it contradicts anything I say here.
Eat regularly timed meals
Starvation=stress. Stress=elevated adrenaline and cortisol.
I know that your adrenal dysfunction may have caused unwanted weight-gain. But starving yourself thin just WILL NOT WORK. You know this. But maybe you get busy and forget to eat. Or maybe you’ve heard of the success of intermittent fasting and want to try this method to lose some weight. However, in our compromised condition, this will most likely backfire as cortisol levels increase in order to keep energy levels elevated.
On the other hand, we can actually use a well-thought-out dietary plan to help re-organize our cortisol function. By coordinating our meals with our circadian rhythm, we can restore proper functioning of our adrenals. As we mentioned here, cortisol is supposed to be highest in the morning, and eating a meal that contains all three macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) is important for keeping the cortisol levels steady.
The remainder of the meals need to be spaced evenly throughout the day, with lunch being fairly early (11:30–12), an afternoon snack between 2–3 (before the natural cortisol dip around 4), and an early dinner (between 5:30–6). If you enjoy late evening snacking, combining protein with a high-quality fat can stabilize blood sugar and help you sleep more soundly.
Add these nutritious foods to your diet
1. Himalayan Salt
Unrefined salt is incredibly important for thyroid/adrenal function. It contains 84 trace minerals and is one of the most nutritious foods you can consume. Pink salt is incredibly high in magnesium, making it extremely important for those who suffer body aches or headaches. Always salt food to taste, and try adding it to breakfast foods to start your day off with minerals that give you energy.
Here it’s important to get the best protein you can. This means as close to its natural state as possible. Lunch meats and hot dogs are not going to be the best choice since your already-stressed body will be even more taxed removing all the undesirable additives that aren’t really meant to go into your body.
Obviously, you should do the best you can with the resources you’ve been blessed with. Not everyone can afford grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. But you can do your homework to find meats, dairy, and eggs that haven’t been treated with growth hormones. If you live near a Sprouts, they often have great sales on their chicken and ground beef which are both free of the hormones. Costco and Braum’s both sell hormone-free milk.
3. Coconut oil
Coconut oil can make you feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. When I first started feeling bad but didn’t know it had anything to do with my adrenals, I ran across the concept of Bulletproof Coffee. I didn’t really do it right according to the proprietary recipe. All I did was add a tablespoon each of butter (not grass-fed) and coconut oil to my decaf coffee. The improvement I felt in my nerves was almost instant. If my nerves could have been described as feeling like shredded, damaged hair with split ends, then the coconut oil felt like a hot oil treatment pack for my nerves.
Coconut oil brings with it a great many benefits, many of which are extremely helpful in restoring adrenal function. Among other things, coconut oil:
- Increases metabolism (increased body temps)
- Boosts energy
- Regulates blood sugar
- Neutralizes toxins in the liver
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- Boosts the immune system
Fruits and Veggies
Vitamin C. Such an important nutrient for battling adrenal fatigue. And it’s found in abundance in fruits and vegetables. Try to have at least 2 servings with each meal. As with proteins, these need to be as close to ‘whole foods’ as possible.
A special caution needs to be given with regards to fruits. The lower the glycemic-load, the better. This means juices are really not all that optimal for adrenal fatigue sufferers. The very act of having to chew a piece of fruit slows down the sugar dump into your blood stream, and the added fiber keeps the sugar in check during digestion. Further, fruits lower in sugar, such as berries or melons, are a better choice while trying to heal your adrenal glands. Remember every time your blood sugar spikes, this stimulates a surge of adrenaline.
Veggies also need to be handled with care. Most vegetables are generally better for you when eaten raw. However, some vegetables, such as carrots or spinach, need to be cooked and served with fat in order to make the nutrients available to your body. And raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) are hard on those with adrenal fatigue due to goitrogenic compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to take in iodine. Always cook these vegetables before eating them as long as you’re still in a state of poor health.
Here’s where things get sticky and where I will tread lightly. Many sites I perused in my quest to feel better said to absolutely abolish a host of foods from an adrenal healing dietary plan. Caffeine, alcohol, gluten, soy, dairy, etc. That would certainly be a way to cover a lot of ground quickly. Likely, many people suffer from some type of food sensitivity. If your health situation is severe, this may be the way to go. You should, of course, check with your doctor as to the advisability of pursuing ANY overarching diet restrictions.
On the other hand, if you can determine that most of your problem is related to sleep or stress, you should reconsider making major changes to your dietary plan all at once. Doing so could actually trigger higher levels of stress, releasing more cortisol, and keeping you in an unhealthy cycle.
The whole point that I wish to make here is that there is simply not one perfect way for everyone to eat. Those who choose to eliminate certain foods often walk a lonely path. If this is you, be clear with family and friends what you do and do not eat. Ask for their support, and you will likely get it. Those who choose not to eliminate these foods still need to make sure they eat a mostly whole-food diet. Processed foods aren’t good for ANYONE, and they can easily make a bad situation worse.
My personal protocol
One of the clues that I was suffering from adrenal fatigue in addition to FATIGUE was that I began putting weight on around my belly, which is both unusual and disturbing for my body type. Well, but it makes sense. It’s related to cortisol, which I already realized was an issue. Besides disrupting sleep cycles, disorganized cortisol sets off a complex chain reaction with our metabolism. During a stress response, cortisol causes our cells to use up all their energy for the anticipated “fight/flight” that never actually happens. The depleted cells then demand more food, signaling to our brain that we are hungry even though we did not actually burn any calories.
Suffice it to say, I want to lose some of this unwanted fat. But calorie reduction is not good for my body currently. So what I’m planning to try is carb-cycling. I’m sure many of you have heard of Trim Healthy Mama. It’s a dietary plan described in a gigantic book of the same name. The book has tons of information, but what this idea really boils down to is carb-cycling. The premise is that giving your body two choices of fuel to burn at the same meal (fat and carbs) means that your body never burns any of your stored fat. Typically, you should allow 3 hours to elapse between consuming carbs or fats so that your body will switch itself on to begin burning your own body fat.
My dietary plan
Here’s how this looks for me. As I mentioned earlier, I need all 3 macronutrients to start off my day. So my first meal will have a protein, carb, and fat. When I wake up at 6, I have my lemon-water, and maybe a cup of tea. Then, I eat my first meal (a high-protein meal replacement shake) at 6:30. The children will make breakfast for themselves later, and, depending on what they make, I may eat that at 9:30. All of my meals from 9:30 until 3:00 will be a carb-protein combination. I don’t feel good when I don’t get carbs. But my evening meal & snack will be low-carb to help my blood sugar stabilize prior to bed. One good reason for clustering my carb meals is that my days don’t always allow for exactly 3 hours between meals. If I have to eat 2 meals that are less than 3 hours apart, it won’t be detrimental to the carb-cycling for them to contain the same fuel source.
A word about potatoes. For one of my snacks every day, I eat a boiled potato with Himalayan salt and salsa. I know the paleo gurus talk about the superiority of the sweet potato over the white potato. But consider. How do we usually consume white potatoes? Sliced and fried in oil. Roasted at high temps in a delicate oil. Baked and slathered with butter, cheese, and sour cream. What do all of these preparations have in common? Fat + Carbs. And most likely, free radicals from the mishandling of oil. However, studies show that the resistant starch in boiled potatoes can curb appetites and heal gut linings. Seems like a super-food for adrenal fatigue sufferers.
Enjoy your food
In the realm of whole foods, there is so much good to eat. It may seem hard, at first, to give up the processed foods you’ve become accustomed to. And you’re not going to hear me tell you to never again enjoy a rich dessert or your favorite Starbucks beverage. The point is to give your body the excellent fuel it needs to begin healing and to do so regularly. Remember, God gave us food, and He gave us the creativity to come up with myriad ways to prepare it. Receive with gratitude as wide a variety of foods as your body will allow, and enjoy them fully.
If you haven’t already, please sign up for the Adrenal Recovery Challenge. In this week’s newsletter, I plan to share with you some of my menu planning and grocery shopping tips that help me save money on good, healthy food. Leave me a comment sharing your food struggles or triumphs. And don’t forget to invite your friends to join you on the Adrenal Recovery Challenge by sharing and following me on Facebook, Twitter, etc. They can jump in at any time. Have a wonderful week!