Good’s nutrition columnist Ben Warren shares his expert tips on restoring your adrenal health.
Physiologically, you’ve only got one response to stress, and that’s the release of stress hormones. Your body cannot differentiate different sources of stress so it doesn’t matter if it’s a physical stressor (such as an injury or excessive exercise) or an emotional stressor – your body will respond in the same way by releasing stress hormones, primarily cortisol.
Your stress hormones are made mainly in your adrenal glands. Prolonged stress can drive something called ‘adrenal fatigue’. Adrenal fatigue is where, over time, your adrenal glands are no longer able to effectively make essential hormones needed to function optimally – primarily cortisol.
Cortisol, the daytime hormone, helps modulate your immune system, anti-inflammatory responses, nervous system, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and gives you energy. When you can no longer produce the right ratios of cortisol and other hormones, you experience adrenal fatigue.
Stress-related adrenal fatigue is so common that an estimated 80 per cent of people in the Western world suffer from it at some time in their lives. At the BePure Clinic we find that most people we speak to are dealing with some level of adrenal fatigue. Here, we look at signs your adrenal glands may need support, what causes adrenal fatigue and how to recover and regain your energy.
Five signs your adrenal glands may be fatigued:
- Are you tired for no reason even after a good night’s sleep?
- Sensitive to sunlight and need sunglasses?
- Do you constantly have afternoon lows, especially around 3pm?
- Crave salty or sweet snacks?
- Not get hungry in the morning until 10am?
If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, your adrenal glands and body may need some support and repair.
What causes adrenal fatigue? There are many reasons why people suffer from adrenal fatigue: being a parent; having a busy job; always being on the go; pressure to perform in sport, study or career; nutritional deficiencies; re-living past events or emotions over and over again; an injury or accident. For some people, even when the ‘stress’ stops, the fatigue can persist (for years in some cases).
It is not natural to feel tired and worn out! But don’t worry, there are lots of things you can do to get past this and feel good again.
How to recover and regain your energy When dealing with adrenal fatigue we have to look at a person holistically – addressing diet, lifestyle, thoughts and emotions.
Adequate sleep Try to be in bed before 10pm and if you feel like you need a rest during the day, listen to your body and take a nap.
Stress-related adrenal fatigue is so common that an estimated 80 per cent of people in the Western world suffer from it at some time in their lives
Avoid caffeine A constant caffeine intake can produce effects in the body similar to being on high alert or threatened by a stressful situation. I recommend no more than one coffee a day – ideally, opt for decaf.
Eat clean Try to eat a whole food diet.
Eat to stabilise your blood sugar levels At a very basic level, the key to stabilising your blood sugar levels is to eat the right amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates at every meal to suit your unique genetic and environmental needs. Start by ensuring you eat some protein at every meal.
If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, remember that intermittent fasting, like skipping breakfast, is not a good idea.
Include the following foods in your diet: Organ meats, leafy greens on a daily basis, slow cooked meats in broth (which are warming and offer the salty taste you may be craving). More good salty options are olives, sardines and capers. Specific nutritional supplements can be very beneficial to rebuild adrenal function faster.
A final note: once you restore your adrenal health, you need to maintain lower stress levels and a healthy lifestyle, or you risk working your adrenals to the point of exhaustion once again.