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Healing the Adrenals with Food

Aug 12, 2020

Are you feeling stressed-out, worn-out and overwhelmed? If so, chances are your poor little adrenal glands aren't doing so well!

Adrenal Glands

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys, and they secrete your stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. When your body and/or your mind is under stress or inflamed for a long period of time, your stress hormones can go out of whack, and eventually start to deplete. When this happens, your brain is no longer communicating to your adrenal glands effectively, which can leave you in a chronic (and not very nice feeling!) state of fight or flight. Over time this can lead to symptoms such as anxiety and depression, fatigue, low-immunity, female hormone issues, gut issues, chronic pain and insomnia. 

The four major causes of adrenal fatigue are emotional stress, dietary stress, pain, and hidden inflammation (i.e. inflammation coming from somewhere in the body, such as the gut or the detox pathways). 

We take a holistic approach to treating your stress hormones, using functional medicine testing, mindset coaching, nutrition & lifestyle modifications & nutraceutical supplementation, where needed. In this blog post we want to focus on how food can stress out the adrenals, and how you can use nutrition to heal your stress hormones back to a state of calm....Yesss please!


Two Main FOOD Fundamentals for Healing the Adrenals

There are two main fundamentals when it comes to healing your adrenal glands with food:

  1. Stabilise blood sugar levels which will help to stabilise cortisol.

  2. Reduce inflammatory foods to take stress off the adrenals, and of course, increase whole foods.


Stabilising Blood Sugar Levels

Stress changes the way we eat. Most people under stress tend to eat foods that convert to sugar quickly in the bloodstream, including sweets and starches. This quick fuel can keep us going in emergencies, but too frequently becomes our fuel of choice for non-emergency times as well.

While we are under stress, predictable physiological changes occur in which the mechanisms, which control blood sugar levels are taxed. If blood sugar levels go too high or too low, cortisol (your stress hormone) will rise. This can cause and exacerbate adrenal fatigue, if blood sugar imbalances are happening chronically. Our food plan for adrenal fatigue is designed to counteract this trend and improve your body’s functioning while under stress by maintaining blood sugar levels.

The goal is to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day so that you avoid the highs and lows that can add to your stress levels. If you eat properly you can maintain your blood sugar and maintain even energy and mood throughout the day.

A few key points for stabilising blood sugar levels:

1. Avoid sugar and other refined high-carbohydrate foods.

2. Limit higher-glycemic fruits (i.e. bananas, dried fruit, grapes, pineapple) and starchy vegetables (i.e. potato, corn). You don't have to completely avoid these foods, but just limit the amount you're having per serve. Some people will need to also experiment to see how grains affect blood sugar levels, in terms of the amount and when in the day they eat them.

3. Each meal should contain a balanced amount of fats, protein and carbs. If in adrenal fatigue, it is recommended to not go too low carb (i.e. keep to around 100g carb a day - this may differ for each individual).

4. Eat regularly, at least breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you're particularly low in vitality and struggling with blood sugar crashes, you will want to eat snacks as well. Aim to eat every 2 - 4 hours.

5. Avoid/limit caffeine and alcohol as they both effect blood sugar levels and cortisol levels. 


Reducing Inflammatory Foods & Increase Wholefoods

Inflammatory foods are always going to put stress on the adrenal glands. Any food that inflames the gut, will cause a cortisol response. When healing the adrenals, you will want to avoid common inflammatory foods. These include:

1. Processed and refined foods, such as trans-fats, additives, preservatives, refined sugars. These are foreign to the body, and will cause inflammation. Think about them as eating plastic! Yuck!

2. Artificial sweeteners (i.e. Equal, Aspartame). These chemicals disrupt brain chemistry and blood sugar, and many have reported side-effects, including neurological symptoms.

3. Alcohol (hello you, popping up again!). Alcohol puts a big burden on the liver, which can lead to poor detoxification and toxin-overload.

4. Wheat and gluten-containing products. Many people have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, and it can cause inflammation in the gut, which can then stress the adrenals. For at least 3-months, gluten is recommended to avoid. You can always challenge it later to see if it affects you individually.

5. Avoid soy. Like wheat, many soy products are GMO and adulterated with roundup. Many people also have a sensitivity to soy. Soy should be eliminated for a time to see if it affects you negatively.

6. Dairy. If you're not sure if dairy inflames you, we recommend having at least 2-weeks off all dairy products, then reintroduce the products in one at a time to assess if dairy causes reactions.

So what should you eat? Lots and lots of vegetables, meat and eggs (unless you are vegan/vegetarian), gluten-free grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits. If you can purchase organic, that is always best. You will also want to get plenty of water into your body. If you have a browse in our blog, you will find lots of Adrenal-Friendly recipes to help you on your journey to healing your adrenals :)

p.s. If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue and this nutritional advice isn't quite addressing your symptoms, please reach out to us! It is likely that you may also need supplementation & mindset support to recorrect your adrenal glands. We would always test your adrenals first before treating, as sometimes the adrenal glands are fine, but it is actually your, say, neurotransmitters or your mitochondria that are causing your symptoms.


Author: Filipa Bellette, Functional Medicine Practitioner & Clinical Nutritionist

Chris & Filly Functional Medicine

If you would like more information about our functional medicine system and to see if this is something that could help you, click this link to Apply For Free Discovery Call.

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