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Eating Right For Your Adrenal Glands, Part 2: Timing Your Meals and Snacks


November 28, 2011 | Published by

First and foremost: Timing your meals and snacks

One thing I often tell my patients is to never allow themselves to skip meals or to get too hungry. Low blood sugar by itself places a major stress on your body and can really tax your adrenal glands. You may not realize that your body is in constant need of energy, even as you sleep.

Cortisol serves as a kind of moderator in making sure your blood sugar stays adequate between meals, especially during the night. It does so by signaling the liver to release glycogen (stored sugar) when there is no food in your system. Long periods without food make the adrenal glands work harder, requiring them to release more cortisol to keep your body functioning normally. This is why people with compromised energy levels fair better by eating smaller meals more regularly.

Eating three nutritious meals and two to three snacks that are spread throughout the day is an excellent way to balance your blood sugar and lessen the burden on your adrenal glands. When you eat can also make a difference in preserving, supporting, and restoring your adrenals. Cortisol has a natural cycle that works with your circadian rhythm. Normally, it begins to rise around 6:00 AM and reaches its highest peak around 8:00 AM. Throughout the day, cortisol gradually declines, with small peaks at meal times in preparation for night time rest. As you can see in the graph below, cortisol has a natural cycle that works with your circadian rhythm.

circadian rhythm of cortisol

But I’m not hungry in the morning…

As you’ve probably heard, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what if you don’t feel hungry in the morning? It could be for the following reasons:
• Corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which has appetite-dulling effects, begins to enter the bloodstream at a fast rate first thing in the morning.
• Decreased liver function, which can accompany adrenal dysfunction or a heavy toxic burden, can also dampen morning hunger. This can be compounded if your bowel function is not optimal.
Even if you don’t feel hungry, having a nutritious breakfast within an hour of rising — preferably including a protein — can provide energetic benefits to your metabolism and cortisol levels that last throughout the day. You will have a smoother energy cycle throughout the day if you eat breakfast.
Here are some other simple ways to gently support your body’s natural cortisol cycle:
• If possible, eat breakfast by 8:00 AM or within an hour of getting up (the earlier the better) to restore blood sugar levels after using glycogen stores at night.
• Try to eat lunch between 11:00 AM and 12:00 noon. Your morning meal can be used up quickly.
• Eat a nutritious snack between 2:00 and 3:00 PM to get you through the natural dip in cortisol around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. This could be a few high quality nuts like Brazil nuts or almonds, or a rice cracker with avocado, there are many options here. Get some good cookbooks out of your library and be creative!
• Make an effort to eat dinner around 5:00 or 6:00 PM, and make this your lightest meal of the day.
Supporting your body’s natural rhythms by timing meals and preventing dramatic dips in blood sugar not only minimizes cortisol output and frees up your adrenals to perform their secondary functions, but also gives you more sustained energy throughout the day. Life becomes much more enjoyable when we have the energy we need.

Eating regular meals and snacks supports your adrenal glands by:

• Optimizing and ‘smoothing out’ daytime cortisol levels
• Preventing the highs and lows of cortisol – your energy levels will be more consistent
• Helping to maintain night time cortisol levels, ensuring a more restful, restorative and satisfying sleep

It is ideal to work with this natural cortisol cycle to avoid dramatic ups and downs as throughout the day. To do this, it helps to get the majority of your food in earlier in the day, preferably up until lunchtime, and to eat an early dinner (by 5:00 or 6:00 PM). If it’s difficult to eat early, try to make your evening meal the lightest one of the day to prevent a surge of cortisol from increasing your night-time metabolic rate and disrupting your ability to fall or stay asleep. Many of my patients tell me that they have developed a tendency to overeat in the evening. This “night-eating” habit is due to the appetite-stimulating effects of residual cortisol, and unfortunately it only further disturbs your hormone axis.

Eating Right For Your Adrenal Glands, Part 1

Eating Right For Your Adrenal Glands, Part 3

Eating Right For Your Adrenal Glands, Part 4

About the Author

dr eric bakkerEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos:  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:

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  • Gerald Pagel says:

    Thanks for the educational information. Could you give us a hint of what to do for restless leg? It keeps me awake for hours at night. I have snack at 8:30 or so before bed along with some extra calcium, magnesium and B’s. Is there anything else I should be doing?

    • Jean says:

      I have suffered from restless leg for 30 years. I have found a simple healthy way to keep it at bay for me. Drink plenty of water. For me, now the only time it acts up is if I neglect to drink enough water in a day. Then I have my husband massge my shins and calfs with a vibrating massager. Maybe the water is a fluke for me… but I suggest you track your water intake and see if it helps. Also, I don’t drink any caffeinated drinks.

      • Trish says:

        I was looking into this, and found some information on the web that seems to ring true.

        The advice was not to have any type of carbs and then going directly to bed. Meaning if you’re having a late night snack and are lying down shortly thereafter make sure it’s not a carbohydrate snack,

        I thought about my recent RLS type attacks and this seems to hold true for me. Last night I ate dinner and didn’t lie down until bedtime which was hours after dinner. I didn’t have a nighttime snack, and there was no RLS last night. There was both nights previously, and both those nights I either ate dinner and lay down for the night, or I had a carb snack prior to retiring.

        Like the water/hydration connection above, perhaps try the no carb before bedtime connection and see if it works for you.


    • Load up on topical applied magnesium for your restless leg.

  • It was interesting reading about how you how you eat effects the performance of your adrenal glands. Thank you for posting information on this.

  • Dr. Bakker says:

    Sorry about the lateness of my replies. With regards to restless legs Gerald, try Super Adrenal Stress Formula – 1 caplet three times daily with meals. I have found that Dr. Wilson’s B Complex is superior to any I have used. You may also like to try Thyro Balance, sometimes iodine can have a good effect on RLS. Get your B12 levels checked and make sure you try a digestive enzyme tablet, all good advice.

  • I have Adrenal Fatigie,also allergic to many foods. Taking hormones since I’ve had a hysterectomy. I am now having extreme hot flashes any idea’s. This only started when I went on compounded hormones.

  • Matt says:

    Do you have any literature citations for the effects of eating late?

  • Adalberto Sato Michels says:

    Do you have any updated articles taking into consideration the recent findings of the benefits of intermittent fasting?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Adalberto,

      We currently do not have articles on intermittent fasting, but will be including it as a topic for future blogs. Thank you for writing and the recommendation!

  • M says:

    This article doesn’t address the most common issue I’ve listened to people with adrenal issues talk about: and that I have. Your article’s comment about “not being hungry in the morning” is the OPPOSITE of what those of us with severe adrenal problems experience. We crash within an hour of waking up if we don’t eat right away: we are strongly drawn to food first thing in the morning, especially easy to digest foods, to prop up our blood sugar: low cortisol exacerbates low blood sugar, and those of us with late stage adrenal problems have LOW cortisol first thing in the morning, we are not like the chart that is all over the Internet that depicts what a healthy person’s cortisol levels are in the morning.

    Please write an article for people with severe adrenal insufficiency, not one for mainstream people with a slight problem.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hello and thanks for writing. The article does mention not feeling hungry in the morning, but perhaps that section should be renamed “IF you don’t feel hungry in the morning.” Otherwise this article, and most of our articles, are written for those all along the adrenal fatigue spectrum. We do appreciate your feedback and know how difficult dealing with such a condition is, and we encourage you to recommend any topic you feel we may have missed on our blog.

  • Catalina Barreto Sanchez says:

    Please could you help me to understand how coffee impact cortisol levels and blood presure? There is any implications in my cortisol production or regulation if I drink coffee before 8-9am? I usually weak up between 5 or 6 am. Many Thanks for your help.

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