Treatment of adrenal fatigue is best approached holistically. Changes are required not only on a physical level (diet and lifestyle), but emotionally/psychologically and energetically also.
Energetically adrenal fatigue may be due to giving your power away to others or to beliefs and situations which creates stress. Saying yes to people or situations when you really want to say no. Doing things that do not feel right is also giving away power. Every time power is given away vital kidney energy is used up which is needed to fuel the adrenals. This pattern is commonly seen in mothers who sacrifice their own needs for the sake of the children or family in order to be a “good mother”. Or in men who work long and hard hours in order to provide for their family. Others may find they are doing things that they know are not good for them such as the foods they eat, consuming too much alcohol, smoking and using drugs, not getting enough rest, relaxation and sleep. All of these create additional stress on the adrenal glands.⁶
Overcoming adrenal fatigue is not an overnight process. It takes commitment to changing the patterns that have created it and time for the adrenal glands to recover. Estimated time frames for recovery are:
Dietary Considerations - What to eat and avoid
Dietary considerations and adjustments play a vital role in the successful treatment of adrenal fatigue.
The food that is eaten should be of a high quality, fresh, whole foods. Organic is best to avoid toxicity.
Eat at frequent, regular intervals (e.g. 5-6 small meals daily), including protein with each meal. The primary diet should be high in raw foods with a low glycaemic index (GI). A person with adrenal fatigue will have an immediate need for sugar when hunger strikes. It is important that there is a good balance of protein and good fat, as well as carbohydrates to sustain energy levels until the next meal.
DO NOT skip breakfast. Even if there is no urge to eat a small, nutritious snack, like eggs and nuts, is better than nothing. The best time to eat breakfast is before 10:00am in the morning because between 6:00 and 8:00am cortisol levels rise rapidly, peaking at around 8:00am and while your cortisol levels are higher, you may not feel like eating. In addition, the low liver function that often accompanies low adrenal function also suppresses early morning hunger.
Lunch is best eaten between 11.00 – 11.30am and a nutritious snack between 2.00 – 3.00pm will help with the cortisol dip that occurs between 3.0 – 4.00pm. Preferably the evening meal should be eaten around 5.00 – 6.00pm. Just before bedtime a very small, low GI, nutritious snack should be eaten. An example is cottage cheese or nuts if there is a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night. Or nuts or eggs if there is difficulty falling asleep. Low GI is very important to avoid a sharp rise in blood glucose level and increased insulin output. ²
Over time, insulin secretion becomes dysfunctional, resulting in a hypoglycaemic state in the middle of the night. These symptoms are characterized by nightmares, anxiety, and night sweats. When this occurs, the body will have to activate the adrenals to put out more cortisol in order to raise the blood sugar back to its normal level. This will eventually put an excessive burden onto the already fatigued adrenal gland if carried on year after year. ²
People with advanced adrenal fatigue usually have low cortisol and low sodium (salt) levels (due to inadequate aldosterone production). In some cases high levels of salt (preferably a good quality sea salt) may be needed to be added to the diet. Some people may need to start each morning with a full glass of water and half a teaspoon to one teaspoon of sea salt. If blood pressure increases, or signs of oedema occur and nausea develops, stop the salt and see a qualified health practitioner.
Foods to include in the diet are:
What not to consume is possibly more important that what to eat when treating adrenal fatigue.
Eliminate the following altogether:
Lifestyle changes are essential for overcoming adrenal fatigue. Often there are lifestyle factors that have induced the condition, so a change to these patterns will be required
Try to be in bed between 9-10pm and get at least 8 hours sleep every night. This is when the adrenal glands have the chance to rest and repair.
Adrenal fatigue is caused by stress, whether a major acute stress or chronic long term stress. It is important to identify stress and find ways to either reduce it to manageable levels or eliminate it altogether. Removing negative situations or people from your life, sleep, smile, do something fun each day, laugh, eat regularly and well, use supplements, relax (mediation, bath). See below
Gentle forms of exercise are best to maintain physical and mental health and wellbeing without causing additional stress on the body e.g. walking, yoga, tai chi
Eat nutritiously and cut out all caffeine and refined sugar
Stop smoking a soon as possible as it places unnecessary stress of the body
A guideline for stress reduction is Dr James Wilson’s D-E-S-T-R-E-S-S method.
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