Most people adopt the “just deal with it” attitude when it comes to coping with adrenal fatigue. Every single person can experience the condition, known as hypoadrenia, to a certain extent, especially when a series of stressful events occur. Even the little annoyances of modern day life can build up stress hormones and put unnecessary wear and tear on the adrenals. Given that health care professionals often overlook adrenal issues, how can someone identify when the adrenal glands are not functioning optimally?
The adrenals have a major influence on the body, and symptoms of adrenal fatigue can often mimic those of other disorders. While it is understood that weight gain, brain fog, insulin resistance, and extreme fatigue are common symptoms of adrenal fatigue, these symptoms don’t always confirm that someone is experiencing adrenal fatigue.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Introduced as a new condition by Dr. James L. Wilson in 1998, adrenal fatigue is stimulated by chronic stress. When the adrenal glands are constantly over-stimulated, cortisol (the stress hormone) is constantly released into the blood, leading to insulin resistance, an associated symptom of the condition. People who experience adrenal fatigue typically have low levels of DHEA, the “parent hormone” that helps to create necessary hormones in the body. In a nutshell, adrenal fatigue puts the body in a constant fight or flight state, depleting adrenal stores. Hormones become imbalanced as a result and people commonly experience:
- Slow metabolism
- Insulin resistance
- Fat preserving
- Feeling unusually fatigued all the time
- Extreme dizziness every time you stand up
- Brain fog
- Loss of libido
- Hair loss (especially around the outer eyebrow)
- Heightened cravings
- Rapid weight gain (especially around the abdomen)
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?
Because the symptoms can be indicative of other conditions, many people have a hard time acknowledging the validity of adrenal fatigue. Since it is a relatively new condition, not a lot of scientific research has been conducted to fully understand it as a whole. It is also hard to diagnose adrenal fatigue because high cortisol levels, which are associated with the condition, are chalked up to be “inside the normal range.” Additionally, adrenal fatigue has to be addressed and remedied via diet and lifestyle adjustments, which doctors don’t interpret as legitimate medicine. We know that food is medicine and are here to present you with the healing foods for those with adrenal fatigue.
High cortisol levels must be met with magnesium-rich foods in order to support adrenal health. Working to relax muscles, improve sleep, and calm nerves, magnesium is a highly beneficial nutrient for those who experience adrenal fatigue. Start consuming avocados, almonds, Brazil nuts, bananas, pumpkin seeds, bananas, and leafy greens to increase your magnesium intake.
People with adrenal fatigue tend to be dehydrated, but they can also dilute the circulating electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride) if they drink too much water. Drinking plain water can alter the balance of potassium and sodium, so it is wise to add ¼ or ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt to most glasses of water. This salt contains trace minerals that initiate chemical reactions in the body. Himalayan salt will most likely make your body feel better, especially if it is extremely fatigued. You’ll have to adjust the amount of salt you add to water based on your body’s response. Too much salt will make you nauseous, so start with ¼ teaspoon in 8-12 ounces of water and go from there.
Available in extract form, licorice root helps to increase the DHEA count in the body. It is meant for people with lower cortisol levels, because it may increase cortisol levels in certain cases. Licorice root has been associated with some side effects, though, so be cautious about the quality of the licorice root you purchase. Do not take it for more than four weeks at a time, and do not take it if you are pregnant or if you have heart, kidney, or liver problems.
People with adrenal fatigue commonly have partially blocked detoxification pathways. This means that they cannot efficiently eliminate toxins, leading to more strain on the adrenal glands. In order to help open up detoxification pathways, consume cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Do not interpret this to mean that it is acceptable to load up your plate with pasta, breads, and French fries. The starchy vegetables we are talking about include carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beets, plantains (technically a fruit) and spaghetti squash. Working to balance blood sugar levels, starchy vegetables help to promote calmness by keeping your adrenals in tune with the body’s natural rhythms. Eat these types of foods at dinner to help improve your sleep.
Note that one should avoid certain foods to maintain healthy adrenal glands. Those with adrenal fatigue are encouraged to avoid:
- Sugar and sweeteners
- Hydrogenated oils (soybean, corn, and canola oils)
- Processed meats
- Carbohydrates or gluten
- Dairy products