We ask a lot of our adrenal glands. We ask those hormone-pumping powerhouses atop the kidneys to sustain us through too much work, too little sleep, and chronic stress. We often reward the triangle-shaped dynamic duo with gallons of caffeine and poor nutrition.
Nutritional and medical experts say the adrenals may need some TLC when we wake up tired, unable to concentrate, experience abdominal weight gain, decreased immunity, and increased irritability and overall exhaustion.
Eating soon after waking and having five or six small meals a day instead of three is one way to restore the adrenal glands. Another is to make better choices about what we eat. Here's a look at the foods that will help restore the adrenal glands.
Although most medical professionals tell their patients to avoid salt, some believe that it actually helps. One nurse practitioner stated: "People with adrenal fatigue often crave salt, and medical professionals have told people with adrenal fatigue symptoms to honor the craving." (But talk to your physician first before increasing your own salt intake.) Salt can increase blood pressure, but people with burned-out adrenals often experience low blood pressure and feel lightheaded when standing up quickly. Iodized sea salt sprinkled in moderation can help restore adrenal gland health.
Include protein at every meal and with every snack. Eggs, beef, pork, and poultry should be the primary sources---followed by nuts and seeds. Protein will help lessen the harmful cravings for sugar and caffeine that people with adrenal fatigue often experience.
Choose complex carbohydrates such as corn, brown rice, oatmeal, organic corn chips, or brown rice cakes. Complex carbohydrates create a steady stream of energy all day, while foods made from white sugar and white flour can lead to an energy dip.
Use butter, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and coconut oil instead of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Cholesterol, which is found in butter, is needed for the production of adrenal hormones. In 2001 Jesse Lynn Hanley wrote in "Tired of Being Tired" that a low-fat diet further taxes the adrenals by making them think the body is experiencing famine.
Strive to eat 6 to 8 servings of any vegetable, especially the more colorful ones like peppers. But some fruits are better to eat than others for improving adrenal health, depending on their fructose content.
Kiwi, plums, pears, mango, and cherries are considered healthy choices. Bananas, dates, figs, oranges, raisins, and grapefruit should be eaten less often.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid caffeine. People with adrenal fatigue often drink more coffee and soda to provide a lift during the day. Caffeine can overstimulate some already weary adrenals. Green tea is a better choice.
Avoid refined sugar and flour. Donuts, white bread, pasta, cookies, and cakes are often craved by people whose energy is zapped precisely because they provide a quick energy burst. The energy dips soon after, leaving people feeling worse.