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The MSN Healthcare Health Blog offers news and analysis on weight loss, fatigue, personal health, and health news. It includes contributions from Dr. Mark Neumann and others. Click now.


11 Best Foods for Adrenal Fatigue + Adrenal Fatigue Diet Plan

Mark Neumann

Best Foods for Adrenal Fatigue.jpg

If you find yourself feeling burnt out, anxious, and achy more often than you’d like to admit, then you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

We live in a society that values hard work, but this can often translate to a lack of sleep and a reliance on substances like caffeine. When we’re exhausted, we also tend to reach for sugary foods to keep us going. Chronic fatigue may be more common than the average person realizes. In fact, over 1 million people in the United States suffer from extreme cases of chronic fatigue. This feeling of being exhausted or “burnt out” may be caused by adrenal fatigue, which can occur as a result of chronic stress and adrenal insufficiency.  

The adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys, release a number of important hormones. They are also in charge of producing cortisol, which is a stress-related hormone that plays a part in regulating energy and blood sugar. It usually rises in the morning when you wake and slowly goes down throughout the day. When you’re feeling stressed out, the adrenal glands release cortisol, which responds to a slower immune system and a change in blood pressure. However, chronic stress or anxiety can over-work your adrenal glands so that they may not be able to produce enough cortisol. This phenomenon is called adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal fatigue is thought of as a milder form of adrenal insufficiency.

Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Include:

●     Chronic fatigue

●     Nervousness

●     Digestive issues

●     Body aches

●     Light-headedness

●     Low blood pressure

●     Weight gain or loss

●     Hair loss

In more severe cases of Adrenal Insufficiency, you may experience:

●     Depression

●     Nausea

●     Vomiting

●     Diarrhea

●     Low blood pressure

●     Hyperpigmentation 

What is the Adrenal Fatigue Diet? Adrenal Fatigue Diet Plan

Your diet is the first line of defense against adrenal fatigue. The adrenal fatigue diet is a natural approach to lessening the stress on the adrenal glands. You may experience adrenal fatigue when your adrenal glands cease to function properly. The adrenal fatigue diet is a food-based strategy that promotes proper functionality of the adrenal glands, increases healthy nutrients in the body, improves stress levels, and promotes a healthy blood pressure. The goal of the adrenal fatigue diet is to naturally increase your energy levels so your body doesn’t burn stored nutrients. The adrenal fatigue diet is an attractive solution because it does not require a trip to the doctor or naturopath, will likely not cost more than your current diet, and will benefit your overall health in a number of other ways.  

This diet is similar to many whole-food diets as it recommends consuming high-protein foods, vegetables, and whole grains that are gluten free. As doctors continue to research adrenal fatigue, the adrenal diet continues to be tested. However, eating a healthier diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle has been proven to make you feel better both physically and mentally.  

An adrenal fatigue diet involves two basic principles. First, avoid any foods that will worsen your adrenal fatigue. Second, try to eat foods that will help your recovery. This also means eating at the rights time, consuming nutritious whole foods, and avoiding any foods that you have intolerances or sensitivities to.

The key elements of an Adrenal Fatigue diet are:

●     Identifying food sensitivities and intolerances

●     Eating at the right times of day

●     Eating nutritious whole foods

●     Enjoying fermented foods like kimchi

●     Eating less sugar (including natural sugars)

●     Cutting out caffeine

●     Eating more protein and fat

●     Staying hydrated

●     Avoiding processed foods 

Identify Food Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances

Many people may not realize that they have food sensitivities or intolerances. It’s important to find out what your allergies may be, because food sensitivities can prevent the body from absorbing the nutrients it needs, which makes us feel weakened and tired. By impacting digestion, sensitivities can promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria in our gut, weakening our immune system even further. Sensitivities and intolerances can also promote inflammation, which triggers a release of histamine (along with sneezing and coughing), and can impact the sleep/wake cycle.   

Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances interfere with the gut’s functionality by preventing the gut from digesting and excreting food properly. For this reason, diarrhea, constipation and other gut problems are often the first signs of an intolerance.  

If you’re unsure what foods are bothering you, you can try eliminating one food at a time until you have identified the culprit. Be sure to give yourself at least one week between each elimination.  

To help strengthen your gut, take supplements like Probiotics and Glutamine, an amino acid that is used as fuel for your intestinal walls. Glutamine helps repair and regenerate the intestinal lining. Demulcent herbs like licorice or slippery elm may also help with food sensitivities by coating the intestinal lining to protect it from irritants.

Probiotics can help improve your digestion while also helping your body absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. Taking a probiotic can help with gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Eat at the right times

Many Americans follow an unhealthy eating schedule. We skip breakfast as we rush to work, have a sandwich (or pizza) for lunch, and then a big meal for dinner in the evening. You’ve probably heard someone say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – this is especially true if you have adrenal fatigue.  

By morning time, most of us have been fasting for around 12 hours, which means that it’s time to fuel our bodies. However many common breakfasts will not give you the right kind of fuel to keep you going to lunchtime. Instead of sugary cereals or waffles and syrup, opt for a high quality source of protein with some high quality carbohydrates. For example, try a smoothie with berries, avocado, greens, and protein powder.  

People who suffer from adrenal fatigue also often have a hard time maintaining optimal blood sugar levels. To help keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day, try to eat several small meals throughout the day.

Foods to avoid

First and foremost, those who suffer from adrenal fatigue need to cut out sugar – or at least eat much less. When you eat sugar in excess, you are overworking your adrenal glands. Overeating sugar can also cause crashes following the spike in blood sugar, which will lead to cravings for more sugar or stimulants like coffee. By cutting out foods containing high sugar levels, you should also be cutting out most processed foods. It’s important to try to eat as many whole foods as you can.  

Beware that fast food and sugary snacks are not the only culprits for excess sugar. Ketchup, granola, sports drinks, and fruit juices are all also high in sugar. Be sure to also avoid dairy and foods containing gluten. Many people with chronic health challenges have unrecognized gluten and/or dairy sensitivities. Instead, try to get your carbohydrates from vegetables, beans, and whole grains like quinoa and wild rice. If you’re looking for a treat, opt for low sugar fruits like blackberries and strawberries.

What to eat

One way to keep your energy levels high without causing spikes to your blood pressure is to get enough protein! Good sources of protein include tempeh, beans, legumes, nuts, protein powder and organic, free-range meat. To add healthy fats to your diet, add avocado to your smoothie, and eat nuts and seeds as a snack or on a salad. Getting enough fat is important because your body needs it to carry out essential functions and it’s a great source of energy.  

Not only is paying attention to your diet essential, but so is paying attention to your liquid consumption. Staying well hydrated is important no matter what, but if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue then it becomes exponentially more important. If you’re not much of a water drinker, try adding a freshly squeezed lemon for a boost of flavor. 

The 11 Best Foods for Adrenal Fatigue

Adding high-quality healing foods to your diet that support adrenal health, and reducing or avoiding those that may exacerbate adrenal-depletion symptoms are the most effective ways you can start recovering from adrenal fatigue.  

1.      Organic Green Vegetables

Although you should be “eating your greens”, don’t forget about the other colors! The wider the variety and colors of vegetables you eat, the better. Vegetables contain crucial nutrients that support health. They also help decrease inflammation and insulin demand while balancing out blood sugar levels. Chronic inflammation will further exacerbate adrenal fatigue symptoms like brain fog, pain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. For this reason, eating vegetables leads to less strain on the adrenals.  

Leafy green veggies like swiss chard and spinach are high in magnesium which helps regulate and optimize interactions in the brain-adrenal axis. Sulfur-rich vegetables including onions, garlic, and asparagus contains B vitamin folate. Having low levels of folate has been tied to neurotransmitter impairment which can contribute to brain-hormonal issues. These non-starchy vegetables can help avoid blood sugar spikes.  

Try to include at least one serving of vegetables with every meal. For breakfast, try adding greens to your smoothie! A good protein powder can mask the taste. By working vegetables into every meal, you will provide your body with the anti-inflammatory properties it needs to fight adrenal fatigue.

You can also add a great greens powder to your smoothies in the morning or water.  Click here to check price and purchase on Amazon our recommended greens powder

2.      Organic Cruciferous Vegetables

Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower are probably the vegetables your mom had to bribe you to eat, but for good reason! They’re considered cruciferous vegetables and are ideal for increasing the detoxification pathways of the body. People who have adrenal fatigue tend to have hindered detoxification pathways that do not clear toxins as efficiently as they should. This puts further strain on the adrenal glands.  

Cruciferous vegetables boost the liver’s ability to detoxify, which decreases the pressure on adrenal glands to produce more stress hormones. People who are dealing with adrenal fatigue also often have issues with high acidity. Cruciferous vegetables help fight this by supporting healthy pH levels in the body.

3.      Organic Beans

Making sure that you’re getting enough protein is essential for fighting adrenal fatigue. High-quality proteins, like beans, will help keep you feeling full and keep your energy levels balanced without spiking your blood sugar. Beans are also high in fiber, which has been linked with deeper, more restorative sleep. Fiber can also prevent blood sugar spikes.

4.      Whole, Sprouted Grains

There are many kinds of whole grains, including:

●     Oatmeal

●     Wild rice

●     Popcorn

●     Quinoa

●     Millet

●     Brown rice

●     Whole rye

●     Buckwheat

●     Wheat berry

●     Bulgur

●     Barley

●     Freekeh

●     Sorghum 

If you’re a grain lover, opt for sprouted grains. Although they are technically not “gluten free”, they contain less gluten, making them more easily digested. Be sure to avoid consuming refined, processed, and unsprouted kinds of wheat, which trigger inflammation. Your best bet is to completely avoid gluten-containing grains altogether. Instead, opt for steel cut oats, quinoa, and brown or wild rice. In addition to this, gluten free grains (and other grains) should always be consumed only in moderation.

5.      Organic Avocado

Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fat. Healthy fat can help balance your hormone levels and keep your blood sugar stable. One-third of an avocado contains approximately 3 grams of dietary fiber.  Its healthy fat content can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, which helps to maintain your blood sugar level making it less likely to spike. The popular fruit also contains potassium, which naturally works to lower blood pressure. Avocados also contain B vitamins and monounsaturated fats that boost brain health and neurotransmitter production. Throw them into soothies, salads, or onto avocado gluten-free toast!

6.      Organic, Raw Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are high in selenium and magnesium, both of which are essential for optimal hormone health and thyroid hormone conversion. Pumpkin seeds, for example, are high in magnesium as well as zinc, vitamin E, B vitamins, and omega-6 fatty acids. You can have them as a snack, in a salad or even try them in your smoothie! Chia and flax can be a great addition to your breakfast bowl.

7.      Wild-caught Fatty Fish

Omega-rich foods, like wild-caught salmon, herring, or mackerel, may help decrease inflammation, which is vital for brain and hormonal health. Sardines are also a kind of wild fish that are relatively small, meaning they’re lower on the food chain and less likely to contain toxins. Fatty fish is rich in omega-3s, and these are essential for everything from skin, hair, and eye health to heart and brain health as well.

8.      Organic, Lean Meats

If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, you may want to add organic, lean meats to your diet, like turkey. You have probably noticed that you slip into a “food coma” after eating a large Thanksgiving meal featuring turkey. This is because turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan which has a calming effect. Tryptophan increases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes you feel calm and able to deal with anxiety. 

When looking for meat at the grocery store, try to find grass-fed animal products that are free from hormones, antibiotics, and steroids common to conventionally raised animal products. Also be sure to avoid processed foods such as deli meats and packaged lunch meats.

9.      Legumes

Legumes bear fruit that grows in pods; for example, peas, lentils, alfalfa, and soybeans. They are high in fiber and in protein to keep you feeling energized and keep your blood sugar levels stable. However, these should be consumed in moderation due to their high lectin content. Try using a pressure cooker to cook them, which reduces this lectin load.

10.    Organic Healthy Fats such as Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, and Avocado Oil

Vegetable oils like canola, soybean, and corn oil are inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation. Instead, try to only cook with “good fats” such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. Coconut oil is great to cook with because it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which can help improve brain function. 

11.    Fermented Foods and Drinks With Probiotics

Fermented foods such as tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and kefir are rich in minerals and are great for your digestive health and immune system. They support digestion and nutrient absorption by providing your gut with a healthy boost of good bacteria. Due to their rise in popularity, you should be able to find foods like tempeh, kombucha, and kimchi at your local grocery store.

The 6 worst foods for Adrenal Fatigue are:

1.      Sugary Snacks

If you have adrenal fatigue, you’ll want to avoid sugar as much as possible. Sugar will stress your adrenal glands and disrupt your insulin functioning. The crash from a sugar high and blood sugar spike will just lead to more sugar cravings. There are the obvious foods you should avoid such as pastries, candy, and refined sugars but there are other sugar-filled foods that you may not be aware of including dried fruits, barbecue sauce, and salad dressing. Always check the label to make sure you know what you’re eating.

2.      Fast Food

When you eat processed foods, your blood sugar rises which causes your adrenals to kick in and balance out your blood sugar. Fast foods are also commonly deep-fried in unhealthy oils that contain toxic free radicals which cause a myriad of damage to the body. These free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, disrupt normal fatty acid metabolism, and use enzymes that would normally support other important bodily functions.

3.      Processed Meats

Processed foods, including processed meats like luncheon meat, bacon, and breakfast sausages, contain a slew of harmful chemicals and unnatural preservatives which can stress the adrenal glands. These are difficult for the body to digest, take a toll on the body’s energy, and interfere with normal digestion. These foods also tend to contain fewer nutrients than whole foods. It’s better to opt for whole food alternatives for your sandwiches and breakfasts.

4.      Refined Grains

To properly recover from adrenal fatigue, you will need to completely eliminate refined carbohydrates including white pasta and bread from your diet. These foods are both high in sugar and processed carbs, which cause spikes to your blood sugar levels. They also contribute to extreme glucose drops and can lead to hypoglycemic symptoms including shakiness, irritability, and anxiety.

5.      Alcohol

Many people claim that alcohol can help them relax, however using alcohol can have long-term side effects. A glass or two may make some feel relaxed, relying on alcohol long-term will compromise the immune system, disrupt sleep cycles, increase inflammation, and disrupt blood sugar levels.  

Alcohol also stimulates the production of the same hormones as when you are under stress. This ultimately does more harm than good when trying to heal from adrenal fatigue. Many people may not realize that alcohol also contains a fair amount of sugar, which taxes the pancreas, liver, and adrenal glands. The best solution is to cut out alcohol completely.

6.      Coffee

This may be the hardest one for most people; the idea of giving up that morning cup of coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda might be intimidating. Caffeine is a stimulant that causes your adrenals to produce adrenaline and cortisol in a similar fashion to “fight or flight” responses. Over time, your adrenals become depleted and therefore less and less able to respond. This is why people who have adrenal fatigue may say that coffee doesn’t affect them. This is due to the fact that repeated stimulation has caused their adrenals to be so depleted that they are unable to respond.  

If you do cut out caffeine, you will likely experience short-term withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, they don’t usually last beyond a week. After eliminating coffee, most people with adrenal fatigue notice more even, consistent energy levels throughout the day. They also notice less crashes associated with caffeine and sugar intake. Instead of caffeinated coffee, try organic decaf coffee or herbal tea. 

Drastically changing your diet may seem like a huge task to take on, however there are plenty of online resources designed to help you transition. For recipe inspiration and ideas, check out this list of 19 Recipes to Help with Adrenal Fatigue. [1] 

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