Eating Right For Your Adrenal Glands, Part 1
November 23, 2011 | Published by Dr. Eric Bakker
A Healthy Life Depends on Healthy Adrenal Function
As the great balancer of about 50 hormones in the body, the adrenal glands have a broad impact on your health and energy. The adrenals are primarily responsible for activating your stress (“fight or flight”) response, shifting energy away from restorative processes like digestion and toward the organs of action — your heart and skeletal muscles — by pumping adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream.
The adrenal glands also synthesize numerous other hormones, including the ‘androgens’ and their precursors (such as testosterone and DHEA, as well as estrogens and progesterone) and this is why it is more important than ever to support your adrenal glands as you approach menopause, a time when our bodies come to rely more heavily upon the regulation of hormones. This is often a time in your life when the kids are older and you tend to slow down a little. You may even be feeling a bit jaded and ‘worn out’ at this stage after embracing the stresses of your life during the past 20 years.
When you suffer from adrenal fatigue, one of the best places to start is by paying closer attention to food choices. From my own experience and that of my patients, I know just how difficult it is to make sound nutritional choices when we’re going through periods of stress — and I’m talking not just about what you eat, but when and how you actually eat it. Not only are our minds pre-occupied with the stress at hand, but our bodies are telling us they desperately need support, so we may inadvertently reach for foods that provide quick energy like sweet snacks, a quick coffee, convenience foods like potato chips, donuts or sweets like chocolate bars. Particularly at the end of a stressful day, overeating, drinking alcohol or making poor food choices can be so easy to do.
It can feel overwhelming to think about changing your eating patterns from a ‘quick fix’ to making more sensible choices, but believe me — small, incremental changes can really support better adrenal gland function and your day-long energy reserves. You will find that you don’t have to drag yourself through the long afternoon or dread your alarm clock every morning. Let’s look at some options for supporting your adrenals nutritionally, so that you can enjoy quality sustained energy all day long, and get a fantastic night’s sleep as well. The difference can be quite amazing.
It is crucial for you to understand that diet and lifestyle play a critical role in adrenal support. When your adrenal glands respond to stress the metabolism of your cells speeds up, burning many times the number of nutrients normally required. Dr. James Wilson, in his book Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, mentions that a person with adrenal fatigue is often lacking sufficient essential nutrients they need to meet the increased demands their cells experience under stress, and they are best supplied by way of a healthy diet. Chapter 13 of the book outlines that “good quality foods are the best source of these nutrients; there is no substitute,” but also that “nutritional supplements described in Chapter 15 can increase your ability to heal and speed recovery, but without a foundation of nutritious food intake, you will not progress much.”
Aside from the life-critical job the adrenals play in activating your stress response and supplementing healthy hormonal balance as we age, the hormone cortisol itself has a powerful hand in so many other regulatory processes across all your systems: protecting the body from stress by regulating blood pressure, normalizing your blood sugar levels, helping to regulate the immune and inflammatory responses, and influencing mood, memory, and clarity of thought.
Maybe this helps explain why, when your adrenal reserves are depleted, you might feel a little crazy, and your sleeping and eating habits seem a little crazy, too! With persistent stress, we become increasingly less grounded, which can also increase stress, and the constant demand for stress hormones means the adrenals become depleted and ultimately exhausted. Will your food choices make or break your adrenal function? Not exactly — stress is the number-one major offender when it comes to adrenal depletion. Good nutrition and well-timed meals and snacks can significantly relieve the strain on your adrenal glands.
Think about your car. You try to buy good quality fuel, oil, have your regular 6-monthly mechanical checks, and even insure your vehicle. You know that by maintaining your vehicle it will be reliable and give you good long-term service, you’ll get better gas mileage, your car will respond better when road conditions are adverse, and your vehicle will last longer too. The same goes for adrenal function: By you selecting high-quality foods, building a strong nutrient base, and paying attention to when and how you eat all make for more efficient and healthy adrenal function, and better health all around. Just as neglecting to maintain and service your car may not immediately compromise your safety or your car’s efficiency, your adrenals can take a lot of strain before you begin to see the effects on your body.
About the Author
Eric 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: candidacrusher.com. You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org Dr. Bakker’s Blog: www.ericbakker.com
Categorised in: Nutrition