With our stressful modern life, adrenal exhaustion is on the rise, giving way to symptoms ranging from poor sleep, increased anxiety, and dramatically lowered energy. Most healthcare professionals overlook a key aspect of the problem; that adrenal issues are an upstream problem, meaning that there are toxic elements or other challenges causing adrenal dysfunction. The many things we do to support the adrenals may make us feel a bit better at the moment, but it doesn’t make us well. Today we will explore what defines adrenal fatigue and how an adrenal fatigue diet is a key part of healing our adrenals. I will share with you the principles of such a diet and some key supplements to help you heal.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
The term itself was introduced in 1998 by naturopath and chiropractor Dr. James L. Wilson. Wilson suggested that chronic stress was overstimulating the adrenal glands, releasing chronically high cortisol levels into the blood, eventually leading to insulin resistance (and its associated problem).
Chronic stress and lifestyle factors affect the body’s ability to repair and recover from a said stressor, putting our adrenal system on overdrive. Although our body is incredibly resilient and capable of incredible feats, the underlying low levels of chronic (physical, mental, or emotional) stress continuously “fill our bucket” until it eventually overflows.
Unlike other endocrine disorders, adrenal fatigue is not caused by any physical, measurable damage to the adrenal glands, making it impossible to diagnose officially. Because of this, many people are turned away by their doctors, who cannot perform any test to diagnose adrenal fatigue. Moreover, the treatment protocol to heal adrenal fatigue relies on adjusting diet and lifestyle, which is not the modus operandi of traditional allopathic medicine.
According to modern medicine, there is either a totally healthy endocrine system, a total endocrine failure (Cushing’s syndrome), or an adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease). Adrenal fatigue places endocrine disorders on more of a spectrum, which is a useful way to look at health in general.
Potential causes of adrenal fatigue include:
- Prolonged stress
- Poor diet
- Lack of or poor quality sleep
- Negative or overthinking
- Food allergies/ sensitivities
- Emotional Trauma
- Reliance on stimulants (caffeine, like coffee or energy drinks)
You may also be experiencing fatigue related to another cause. Take the why am I so tired quiz to learn about other causes of fatigue.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Due to the wide range of impact that our adrenals have on many functions of the body, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue vary wildly and are often mistaken for other disorders. And indeed, simply feeling fatigued does not necessarily mean that you are dealing with adrenal fatigue! However, exhibiting a combination of these symptoms suggests that you are at least well on your way to developing adrenal fatigue, so there is no harm in embarking on a preventative diet.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Extreme Fatigue
- Brain Fog
- Weight Gain
- Insulin Resistance
- Decreased Libido (Sex Drive)
- Muscle or Bone Loss
- Hormone Imbalance
- Hair Loss
- Skin Ailments
- Chronic Fatigue
- Weakened Stress Response
- Light Sleep
- Cravings (Sweet and Salty)
What is an Adrenal Fatigue Diet?
Healing from adrenal fatigue requires a multi-therapeutic approach, and food (your diet) is a major part of this approach. The adrenal fatigue diet mirrors many other healing diets. It essentially helps the adrenals by nourishing them and avoiding foods that will add an additional burden to your system.
Foods for Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal healing foods are minimally processed, real, whole foods that are preferably organic. An adrenal-healing diet comprises mostly high-quality fats (like saturated and unsaturated fats), high-quality pasture-raised animal protein, and plenty of vegetables.
Regarding your fats, it’s important to remember that not all fats are created equal. You want to stick to fats that are as minimally processed as possible because fats have a heat-sensitive makeup, and overheating or processing them can quickly turn a healthy fat rancid (toxic).
Adrenal-supporting foods include:
- Cottage cheese
- Grass-fed beef
- Raw (unroasted) nuts
- Wild fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, salmon)
- Full-fat plain yogurt
- Mustard greens
- Snow peas
- Snap beans
- Turnip greens
- Lima bean
Foods to Avoid on an Adrenal Fatigue Diet
You want to avoid any hard-to-digest foods that trigger an inflammatory or allergic response inside the body. This list should be no surprise to you, for these foods don’t play a part in any modern healing diet. These foods cause a significant insulin response and/ or tax the adrenal system.
With foods like beef, it’s important to choose pasture-raised, grass-fed beef (instead of grain-fed) because the quality of the beef is a direct response to the animal’s lifestyle and diet. Grain-fed cows yield beef that is high in inflammatory omega-6 fats, not to mention the genetically modified factor if their grain is GMO (and it usually is).
Foods to avoid on an adrenal fatigue diet include:
- Caffeine (chemically produced coffee, energy drinks), especially afternoon
- Sugar and sweeteners (especially refined sugar and anything artificial)
- Poor quality meats (highly processed or factory farmed/ grain-fed)
- Bad fats (highly processed, PUFAs, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or any fat taken to smoke point)
- Refined grains and flours (wheat, bread, pasta, cookies, pastries)
- Large fish (high in mercury)
- Frozen Pizza
- Genetically modified foods (GMOs)
Adrenal Fatigue Diet Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal for healing adrenal fatigue because it is your body’s first nutrition, impacting your blood sugar and, ultimately, your hormones for the entire day. Your breakfast should be high in good fats and include moderate-quality protein and very few carbs (no simple sugars).
Examples of adrenal fatigue diet breakfast include:
- Pasture-raised omelet with 3 organic eggs, spinach, shredded chicken, and cultured cottage cheese;
- A smoothie made with full-fat coconut cream, raspberries, avocado, and collagen powder;
- Two poached eggs, turkey bacon, avocado, full-fat sour cream, and chives.
Other Adrenal Fatigue Solutions
Adrenal fatigue is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted healing approach. Diet alone did not cause the problem, and although it plays a huge role in healing the endocrine system, it’s important to examine and address the bigger picture. As we have explored, adrenal fatigue is caused by chronic stress, and one major stressor of modern life is our exposure to toxins and an ever-increasing toxic load.
Common sources of toxins include:
- Environmental sources
- Moldy homes
- Toxic body care products (soaps, shampoos, conditioners, body wash, deodorant)
- Amalgam fillings (with mercury)
- Heavy metals passed down from your mother while you were in utero
When combined with the added perceived mental/ emotional stressor, our “stress bucket” overflows, and our adrenals take the hit. To heal, we must remove the sources of stress and detox from the accumulation of toxins stored in the body. Doing so safely and efficiently is why I devised my True Cellular Detox protocol. This methodology upregulates your body’s natural ability to detox and utilizes powerful binders to safely pull and remove toxins.
Natural Adrenal Fatigue Supplements
Many supplements on the market can help reduce cortisol levels, improve your stress response, and upregulate your body’s detox mechanisms. It’s important to invest in high-quality, reputable products you can trust. My personal favorite natural adrenal fatigue supplements include:
- Seriphos: a combination of elemental magnesium, elemental calcium, and elemental phosphorus that synergize to promote a more balanced and healthy stress response.
- Ga – Adrenal helps to rebuild the adrenals; it was formulated to directly target and support our adrenal glands, which correlate with our stress response.
- Gb – Pituitary supports our five brain glands which act as ‘command central’ for our endocrine system and regulate hormonal processes. This formulation helps improve mental clarity, regulate glucose metabolism, and support a positive mood
- Gf – Thyroid supports the thyroid glands’ abilities as a master control gland in producing normal, healthy metabolism. Often useful in thyroid imbalanced responses, Gf assists the major metabolic actions of the endocrine systems
Vitamin C Flushes
Eighty percent of our body’s Vitamin C is stored in the adrenals, so when our adrenals get taxed, our Vitamin C is low. If you take 3,000-5,000 mg of Vitamin C and get diarrhea, that may be a sign that your levels of Vitamin C stored in the adrenals are normal. And in fact, from time to time, we suggest Vitamin C flushes to cleanse out toxins.
Taking very high doses and never reaching the diarrhea saturation point is a sign of adrenal fatigue. Some patients have taken as much as 100 grams of Vitamin C and never reacted, a classic sign of adrenal fatigue. This alone is not a flawless way to diagnose all cases of adrenal exhaustion, but it is one useful test you can do at home.
Many people with adrenal fatigue and/or exhaustion are constipated. One should have at least 2-3 bowel movements a day. If you have only 1 BM every few days, or worse, you only have a few BMs in a week, you are severely constipated. Vitamin C is a great way to facilitate bowel movements. So, even though their body may lack enough stored Vitamin C, if folks are having a harder time passing stools, Vitamin C may help move the bowels.
Summary and Next Steps
Adrenal fatigue is a broad diagnosis related to the exhaustion of adrenal glands as a result of long-term chronic levels of stress. Stress comes in many forms and can be physical, emotional, or environmental. To heal from adrenal fatigue, taking a multi-therapeutic approach that includes an adrenal healing diet, removing harmful inflammatory foods, removing exposure to toxins, and embarking on a cellular healing detox is important. Learn more from Dr. Pompa on how to detoxify your body.