Battling stress on a daily basis can be difficult and problematic, as it continues to hinder our productivity and efficiency. This becomes even more challenging to handle when your hormones are the main culprit that go on to disturb your bodily functions. Your adrenals, in particular, are responsible for releasing hormones which are vital for maintaining blood pressure and sugar, sex hormones, and cortisol or epinepherine.
Moreover, our bodies naturally respond to danger or threats—be it physically, emotionally, or mentally. So when your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis find it hard to keep up and frequently fluctuates, it may lead to adrenal fatigue.
Warning Signs of Adrenal Fatigue
Our adrenals are two thumb-sized organs that sit atop of our kidneys. They may be small in size but their effect can be terrible when they fail to deliver their functions properly due to extreme stress. It is important to stay aware of the following warning signs and symptoms:
- Autoimmune disease
- ‘Tired and wired’ feeling (usually due to high levels of cortisol, which can lead to insomnia)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Difficulty to focus or brain fog
- Insulin resistance which may increase risk of developing diabetes
- Excessive cravings for certain sugary and salty foods
- Getting enough sleep yet still feel tired or exhausted
- Finds it difficult to get up in the morning
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Moody, irritable
- Skin problems
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Low sex drive or loss of libido
- Thinning of hair or hair loss
- Low blood pressure
The list of sign and symptoms may seem endless but fret not! There are natural ways and treatments that can remedy our adrenal problems.
Top Foods to Watch Out for to Avoid Adrenal Fatigue
- Sugar – Consuming foods that are high in sugar cause a fluctuation in your blood sugar levels and as a response, your adrenals release cortisol to get your sugar levels back to normal. Over time, your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which is responsible for the stress response, can get tired which could then result in adrenal fatigue. Therefore, it is very important to avoid eating foods with too much sugar!
- Soy – Soy removes iodine that your thyroid glands need to produce hormones and once it gets overworked, it also causes your adrenals to overwork. leading to adrenal fatigue.
- Dairy – Indulging in dairy products, especially for a person who has lactose intolerance or casein intolerance, can increase stress, which leads to higher levels of inflammation.
- Alcohol – Alcohol consumption imbalances your blood sugar levels and lowers your cortisol production. Over time, after continuous alcohol intake, it can lead to a weakened immune system, disrupted sleeping patterns, and cause inflammation.
- Gluten – similarly to dairy, it is crucial to know your body and your food sensitivities. Gluten affects your cortisol levels, which can lead to unstable blood sugar levels and inflammation in your digestive tract. This imbalances your adrenal glands and may predispose one to adrenal fatigue.
- Caffeine – caffeine is a natural stimulant for your adrenal glands, activating your fight or flight response, and also elevating your cortisol levels. This might give you a boost of energy, especially in the first few hours after consuming it. We all love coffee! However, once the caffeine wears off, you will probably just get back to feeling more tired than ever. Moreover, caffeine does not truly wake you up, but instead tricks your body into thinking it is more awake than it is.
Leaving caffeine permanently might be more difficult than you can imagine, especially for people who have made it part of their morning routine. But don’t worry! Just take one step at a time, and gradually reducing your coffee intake. There are also various substitutes for coffee, which do affect your cortisol levels, such as Matcha Powder. Other alternatives are nettle tea, which is also good for cleansing, whilst giving you a good boost in the morning. Tulsi tea, also known as holy basil is also really effective, it can reduce stressors and is rich in antioxidants.
Diet tips for Adrenal Healing
- Choose a high-protein and low-carb diet for breakfast. Carbohydrates lower the cortisol production levels. Since cortisol is especially high in the morning, it is important to keep it balanced, in order, to stay alert and awake. Having enough protein can help with this, to keep your energy levels high, without spiking your blood sugar levels the way carbohydrates do. Therefore, a combination of high-protein and low-carb is excellent for breakfast and can help in balancing your cortisols. Please do avoid processed carbs like breads, pastas, and sweets, however.
- Eat every 3 to 4 hours for blood sugar level regulation. Eating foods that are rich in protein, fiber and carbohydrates can maintain your cortisol and blood sugar levels. Snacking on fruits and a few almonds can also help with this.
- Have more carbs for dinner. Carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash are just a few of the helpful foods to decrease the level of cortisol, especially at night to prep you for a good rest. Even a spoonful of honey at bedtime can help.
- Know your food sensitivities. There is no one but YOU who can truly understand what your body needs the most. Identify which particular foods worsen your condition and discipline yourself to gradually cut it off from your diet. Food sensitivity testing is also useful to pinpoint any issues.
Herbal Supplements for your Adrenals
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – Ashwagandha, also referred to as Indian ginseng, is able to boost your immune system, stimulate the thyroid and can help alleviate stress related symptoms. In fact, I personally incorporated this herb in my Stress Master, as this wildcrafted and organic supplement is mainly designed for adrenal fatigue, handling stress, high cortisol, irritability, and anxiety. Additionally, this herb can be combined with Korean or Panax ginseng as these herbs compliments each other.
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra and G. uralensis) – Also an adaptogen, which is traditionally used to address adrenal insufficiency and ulcer. It contains Glycyrrhizin, which is one of its main components. Moreover, it also has triterpenoid saponins, that help balance cortisol levels. However, it is important to monitor the amount of licorice consumption, since it may affect the kidney and can cause high blood pressure. Nonetheless, it promises to show improvement in blood glucose control, fat modulation, iron absorption, aid for a cough, hormonal balance, inflammation, and gut healing.
- Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) – this herb has been used for centuries to treat adrenal fatigue and other conditions, such as: anemia, depression, menstrual problems, etc. This is, due to the fact, that it is high in useful proteins in the form of: fiber, lipid, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and much more. Maca Root, also helps to nourish the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, and balances our adrenals. That is why you will find Maca Root in my Hormone Master, along with other beneficial herbs, such as: ashwagandha, astragalus and others.
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) – aside from serving as a cure for adrenal fatigue, Ginkgo can enhance the blood circulation and helps in balancing the nervous system. Traditionally, in China, Ginkgo, has been used for thousands of years to alleviate lung problems, asthma, and for libido. Moreover, it can also increase mental alertness, improve memory, and eliminate brain fog.
- Golden Root (Rhodiola rosea) – Rhodiola is an adaptogen that effectively increases energy and stamina, especially at times of stress. It gives a calming effect on our body due to its capability to reduce cortisol levels, burn fat, and is also good for your memory. Other factors that it can be helpful for are muscle tension, poor circulation, and depression. My Stress Master supplement also contains rhodiola as one of its ingredients together with ashwagandha.
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – Also known as Siberian ginseng, this herb particularly helps in supporting our cognition, alertness, immune system, and most importantly in adapting to stress. Moreover, it is also good for increasing energy and stamina. Eleuthero can be found in my Thyroid Master.
- Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) – Traditional Chinese medicine widely uses Rehmannia. It is good for the the liver, kidney, and adrenal glands, as it provides Vitamins A, B, and C to overcome fatigue. Moreover, it has shown good signs to lessen inflammation in hypothyroidism.
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) – this herb is used as a tonic for adrenal support in Chinese medicine. It effectively supports individuals who often feel tired and struggle throughout the day. Moreover, it can also balance hormones, blood flow, and blood pressure. As I have mentioned earlier, my Hormone Master also contains Astragalus, as one of its main components and focuses on stopping the accumulation of xenoestrogens, or ‘bad’ estrogen, to regain hormonal balance.
Take note: It is still important to be guided by your trusted healthcare provider to understand which foods and supplements are suitable for you on a personal level.