The adrenal glands are two small glands, each about the size of a large grape. They are on top of the kidneys and their purpose is to help the body cope with stress and help it to survive.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue is a stress-related condition that is manifest by symptoms like

  • exhaustion
  • a weakened immune response
  • poor sleep quality
  • cravings for specific foods

A Few Signs Your Adrenals Need Help

  • Noticeable levels of fatigue each day
  • Consuming more and more coffee just to get through the day
  • It is becoming difficult to maintain any kind of reasonable energy level throughout the day.
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning – you wake up extremely tired and exhausted even after getting a long sleep.
  • Craving for salty food
  • Higher energy levels in the evening (in a healthy person, cortisol reaches its highest level early in the morning before declining gradually throughout the day. However, some Adrenal Fatigue sufferers experience spikes in cortisol in the late afternoon and evening, often leading to insomnia).
  • Continued overuse and reliance on stimulants, such as caffeine
  • A weak immune system
  • Inability to handle stress

So what does this mean for Adrenal Fatigue sufferers?

It depends on which stage of the condition you have reached. In the early stages, consistently high levels of cortisol suppresses your immune response and leaves you vulnerable to infection. In the later stages of Adrenal Fatigue, low levels of cortisol can lead to chronic inflammation, allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Your diet is the first step towards dealing with Adrenal Fatigue

Your body depends on a huge variety of nutrients to function properly – and those suffering from adrenal fatigue are often depleted in nutrients due to the effect that chronic stress has taken on their cells.

An adequate supply of nutrients is essential for a healthy state of mind. Diets that are high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat have been associated with more severe levels of adrenal fatigue.

Studies have shown that B-group vitamins, zinc, magnesium, healthy fats and seafood can decrease risk of stress-related disorders and mental health problems.

  • Low-GI Foods
    • A food’s glycemic index (GI) is a calculation of how much each gram of carbohydrate raises your blood glucose level. The glycemic load is an estimation of how much a certain food will raise your blood glucose level after you eat it. High GI foods (GI>70 on the glucose scale) are simple sugars that cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. Low GI foods (GI<55) are usually ‘complex’ carbs that are digested slowly and therefore have less of an effect on blood glucose levels. This means they provide sustained energy for a longer period of time. Low GI foods can include wholegrains, beans and lentils plus some low GI fruits.
  • Heathy Fats
    • Fats are the body’s main source of stored energy and act as precursors for other substances made by the body. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) include linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids. These are not made in the body, and so must be obtained from food.
    • The best sources of healthy fat include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Hydration
    • Fluids are needed to carry nutrients to the cells, aid digestion and help the kidneys to flush toxins from the body. Fluids also aid the formation of ‘digestive juices’ in the stomach, so we can absorb nutrients from food. Water also regulates our body temperature and metabolism. A good target to aim for (allowing for environment, exercise and activity levels and assuming no underlying health or kidney issues) is around 2-3 litres a day.
  • Eat at the right times
    • Blood sugar levels play an important role in the maintenance of energy levels. Keeping your blood sugar levels steady means eating small, regular meals with a low glycemic index. Regular snacks are also a good idea. This will help in managing the dip in cortisol that can occur in the mid-late afternoon.
  • Mind-body exercises
    • Meditation – Taking ‘time out’ to relax and consciously meditate is important, even if it is only fr 5 or 10 minutes a day. Mediation helps us to cope with the day to day stresses, and can actively contribute to improved physical, mental and emotional health.
  • B Vitamins
    • B vitamins work together in helping the body create energy from the food you eat, while also supporting brain function and healthy skin, hair and muscles. They are all vital for a healthy metabolism and energy production. 

Get Better Sleep

  • Addressing sleep problems should be a priority in recovering from adrenal fatigue. Poor sleep takes a huge toll on the body, and your cortisol levels may take weeks to adjust back to a more normal cycle. Establishing regualr sleep patterns is important, as is taking time to try to de-stress before going to bed – this includes meditation, yoga, natural sedatives, regular daily exercise and – most of all – avoiding caffeine at least 8 hours before going to sleep.

What’s Next?

Treating Adrenal Fatigue is not as simple as just taking a pill each morning. It probably took a long time to get yourself into this position, so it will take some time to recover. Recovering from adrenal fatigue may take months. The most important thing is giving yourself time to do it.