In my experience as a clinical nutritional therapist, there is a modern epidemic of adrenal fatigue particularly among women who are nearing the menopause. These are the ‘have-it-all generation’ who are often holding down full-time challenging jobs while juggling childcare and caring for elderly parents, as well as struggling to pay mortgages, school fees and hold together relationships.
When the adrenal gland, which produces the fight or flight hormone cortisol, is super stimulated for a long period of time because of mental, nutritional or physical stress, it begins to falter. This means that it can produce too few hormones, cortisol and DHEA, leading to a wide variety of symptoms including tiredness and fatigue, brain fog and depression, high blood fats, heart disease and chronic endocrinological imbalance. Excessive cortisol production from erratic blood glucose control, irregular eating and stress increases visceral fat around the organs in the abdomen, that contributes to cardiovascular disease and chronic adrenal failure.
In an ideal world, women in this position should reduce their stress levels, but this can be difficult, especially if they have multiple responsibilities. As a clinical nutritionist, I work with people who want to address adrenal fatigue through dietary changes, implementing high-lean protein, combined with complex carbohydrates, eating five small meals per day, to reduce over-stimulation of the adrenal glands.
Crucially, it is important to balance blood sugar, which can be put out of kilter as a result of adrenal fatigue because of the crucial role that cortisol plays in blood sugar regulation. I always advise my clients who suffer from adrenal fatigue to avoid quick-release carbohydrates like white refined flour, pasta and sugar, and instead opt for slow-release whole grains. Changing from white pasta to wholemeal pasta can make a huge difference, ensuring all carbohydrates are low GL (low glycaemic). I use diagnostic saliva testing to ascertain a patient’s adrenal health. Once I have the results, I can work more intrinsically to heal and aid recovery of the adrenal glands.
Caffeine, which stimulates the production of cortisol, is also to be avoided since it plays extra stress on the already overworked adrenal glands.
Although you must avoid foods that make your adrenal fatigue worse, you must also load up on foods that will aid your recovery. I encourage people to eat fresh whole food and avoid refined, processed or GMO foods. It is vital to eat protein, complex carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids as part of a healthy balanced diet since these foods can keep energy levels stable without creating sugar spikes. Avocado is an excellent source of fat from whole, raw food, as is unrefined organic coconut oil.
Drinking plenty of water allows the body to heal itself and can be drunk with lemon wedges or even a sprinkle of Himalayan salt – often lacking in someone with adrenal fatigue. Magnesium is a vital mineral to support adrenal health, often lacking in females of menopausal age, Most importantly, adrenal fatigue sufferers should eat little and often throughout the day, helping to reduce food cravings and avoid blood sugar crashes.