Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid for Adrenal Fatigue
July 25, 2018 | Published by Dr. James L. Wilson
You probably agree that even in the best of times you need food to survive and be healthy. Adrenal fatigue is definitely not the best of times and so the food choices you make become even more important to your survival and health.
Foods to Eat
If you suffer from adrenal fatigue you will do best combining fat, protein and starchy carbohydrates (such as whole grains) at every meal and at every snack. Fats, proteins, and starchy carbohydrates eaten together provide a steady source of energy over a longer period of time because they are converted into glucose at different rates. Combining these three as energy sources puts less strain on every part of your body, including your adrenals.
Good quality protein available from meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy and various plant sources is essential to adrenal recovery. Proteins have more food value and are easier to digest when eaten lightly cooked or raw. The amino acids are delivered intact (and therefore more usable) in uncooked or lightly cooked food rather than in the denatured (irreversibly changed) form produced by high heat or long cooking.
However, it is always necessary to fully cook poultry and pork to avoid potential microbial danger and to make sure that raw fish, shellfish and beef are free from contamination. If you can be sure of the safety of the source, then sushi, sashimi and ceviche are excellent sources of protein. Raw or lightly cooked eggs and goat milk or goat cheese also provide protein that is exceptionally easy for your body to assimilate.
Proteins from vegetable sources are also fine if they are combined correctly to provide all the amino acids you need. Legumes must be eaten with whole grains, seeds or nuts to make a complete protein. However, it is my experience that vegetarians suffering moderate to severe adrenal fatigue have tremendous difficulty recovering on a strictly vegan diet. If you are a vegetarian and you have adrenal fatigue, you will do much better if you modify your diet to include eggs, miso, sea vegetables, yogurt, as well as combining your grains with beans, seeds and nuts at every meal.
Dairy foods are excellent sources of protein for some, but many people are unable to digest certain fractions of dairy food either because of an allergy to milk protein (casein) or an absence of the enzyme needed to break down milk sugar (lactose). If you know that you are sensitive to dairy foods, do not include them.
Carbohydrates are prevalent in a very broad class of foods that includes grains, vegetables and fruits, but not all carbohydrates are alike. Carbohydrates can be divided into three useful categories: sweet or sugary; starchy; and non-starchy. These categories generally correspond to fruits, grains, and vegetables, respectively.
Starchy carbohydrates are found mainly in grains and certain root vegetables. The grains can be divided into two subgroups: refined and unrefined, which reflect the amount of processing they have been subjected to. Unrefined grains (whole grains) are minimally processed and still contain their nutrient portions as well as their starchy portion.
Your body metabolizes energy from them more slowly, which means that you get more sustained energy as well as nutrients from them. Good sources of unrefined carbohydrates are brown rice, whole wheat, buckwheat, unpearled barley, whole oats, unhulled millet, quinoa, and amaranth.
Cook and eat them pretty much the way they come from nature, simply washed and steamed in a covered pot with a little salt and the appropriate amount of water (usually twice as much water as grain). One note of caution – most people with adrenal fatigue do not do well having cereal grains (even those made from whole grains) in the morning.
Every day you should include 6-8 servings of a wide variety of vegetables in your meals, especially the naturally highly-colored ones (bright green, red, orange, yellow, purple). In addition to carbohydrates and proteins, vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a high amount of fiber. Make sure you have at least three highly colored vegetables with each of your noon and evening meals. Vegetables can be steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, deep-fried, baked, boiled, grilled, blanched or eaten raw.
It is actually better to use a variety of techniques to prepare vegetables because different nutrients are made available through different cooking methods. For example, nutrients like vitamin C and folic acid are vulnerable to heat and do not survive cooking. However, other vitamins such as the carotenoids (vitamin A related substances) and some of the minerals become more available if the vegetables are cooked before being eaten.
People with adrenal fatigue and blood sugar problems should go lightly on fruits, especially in the morning. But if you exercise early in the day, it may be possible for you to handle a small amount of fruit for breakfast. Exercise elevates cortisol and aldosterone levels, which in turn raise sodium levels in your blood, allowing for greater tolerance to the effects of fruit.
However, be very careful of fruit consumption and if you notice that you become more tired, thick headed or start to experience other symptoms of either low blood sugar or low adrenals, then eliminate fruit in the morning. Any fruit that you do eat should be organically grown. Many people who suffer from adrenal fatigue are sensitive to chemicals in foods.
Here are some recommended fruits for those with adrenal fatigue: papaya, mango, plums, pears, kiwi, apples, and cherries. Fruits to avoid would be bananas, raisins, dates, figs, oranges, and grapefruit.
Fats and Oils
People with adrenal fatigue often crave fats and oils, partly because foods high in fats make them feel better for longer than low fat or sweet foods. Some fats also contain cholesterol needed by the adrenal glands to make the steroid hormones essential for adrenal activity throughout your body. Ideally, fats should not make up more than 20-25% of your total daily calories but it is very important that they are the right kind of fats.
The common belief is that saturated fats are bad, polyunsaturates are good, monosaturates are best. The truth is that each has its uses. The oils least damaged by heating include: coconut, palm, palm kernel, cocoa butter, butter, refined peanut, refined avocado, high oleic sunflower, high oleic safflower, sesame oil and olive oil, in that order. Saturated fats withstand heat the best, and so do not become rancid or toxic as easily as other fats when heated.
Use saturated fats for cooking (baking, broiling, sautéing, frying), but use the minimum amount needed to do the job and do not reuse them. You can recognize saturated fats by their ability to remain solid at room temperature. Butter, animal fat, palm and palm kernel oil, and coconut butter are common sources of saturated fats.
Essential Fatty Acids
There are 2 types of essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic and linoleic. Alpha-linolenic acid belongs to the Omega 3 group of fatty acids and linoleic acid belongs to the Omega 6 group. Both groups of essential fatty acids are extremely important to your health.
The following seeds and nuts are good sources of essential fatty acids, as long as they are purchased fresh and stored properly.
Seeds (raw only)
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
Nuts (raw only)
- Brazil Nuts
- Coconuts (fresh)
Foods to Avoid
It is hard to say which is more important when you have adrenal fatigue – what to eat or what not to eat! Eating the wrong foods or combination of foods can throw you off for hours and even days, so do not even try to sneak something by; it is just not worth the price you have to pay. Pick the foods that are recommended and stick with them. The further you deviate from them, the more problems you are likely to have and the more difficult it will be to balance your body chemistry.
Sugar and White Flour Products
Ironically, foods made with these ingredients such as doughnuts, rolls, pies, cakes, cookies, crackers, candy bars, and soft drinks are the ones that many people suffering from adrenal fatigue crave. This is because when you have adrenal fatigue you also usually have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and foods made from refined flour and/or sugar quickly raise your blood sugar. Unfortunately, they raise your blood sugar so high and so fast that too much insulin is released in response. This excess insulin then causes your blood sugar levels to crash, leading to hypoglycemic symptoms and more cravings.
Furthermore, sugar and white flour are entirely naked calories, the metabolism of which drains an already depleted body of the vitamins and minerals it needs to heal or to maintain itself. Furthermore, because of their disruptive effects on your body’s metabolism, these substances can also produce cravings and compulsive behavior, and become addictive. It may be difficult at first, but avoid these foods at all costs.
Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats are oils that have been altered chemically to have certain properties (like remaining solid at room temperature) that have nothing to do with your health. Three common examples are vegetable shortening, margarine and the oil in commercial peanut butters. These adulterated fats are used in almost all commercially prepared food items found in grocery stores and in many restaurant foods.
Read the labels on everything that you buy. You may be surprised to see just how many of the foods you eat contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or fats. Any time you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or fats, put that food back on the shelf and do not buy it.
Deep Fried Foods
Most deep fried foods are fried in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. These fats are kept at high temperatures and are often reused. As the oil is heated above a certain temperature or reheated, it breaks down, forming toxic free radicals and becoming rancid. This means that eating deep fried food causes not only the same problems as hydrogenated fats but also the additional problems created by toxic free radicals.
Fast Foods and Junk Foods
There are numerous problems with typical fast food and junk food. They all contain white flour, sugar, hydrogenated fats, or all three. Often their ingredients are poor quality with little nutrient value, and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives are used to make up for this. What nutrients they do have are frequently lost while they are kept hot or stored for long periods of time. You do not need these “foods,” they only create havoc with your biochemistry, make you fat, and leave you feeling wrecked after the insulin rush is over.
Foods that Trigger Allergies or Sensitivities
It is important to completely eliminate all foods and food substances that trigger allergies or sensitivities. Unless there is an anaphylactic reaction or some sort of visible reaction like hives, most people are not aware that their symptoms may be a reaction to a food they are sensitive to. Read our blog on food allergies and sensitivities for help on identifying these foods.
Foods you crave are often foods that contain substances you are addicted to for reasons that may involve food sensitivities and/or hypoglycemia. Eating these foods places more stress on your adrenals and so you should avoid them.
People with adrenal fatigue often crave caffeine or cola beverages because of the stimulatory effect of the caffeine. The difficulty with this is that caffeine also over-stimulates the adrenals, which leads to further fatiguing when the caffeine wears off. Therefore, many people with adrenal fatigue get through the day by kicking their adrenals with several cups of coffee and beverages containing caffeine or by combining caffeine, sweets, and chocolate (which contains caffeine and a caffeine-like substance). Although this makes them feel better temporarily, this regimen will eventually exhaust the adrenals even more, leading them into further difficulties. Therefore, avoid caffeine containing foods and beverages.
Categorised in: Adrenal Fatigue