Adrenal fatigue might be the underlying cause of many symptoms such as unexplained changes in weight, salt and sugar cravings, fatigue, infertility, thyroid imbalances and many more. But what’s the main cause of adrenal fatigue? Stress.
Unfortunately, the way we live and work these days is stressful. We have work emails constantly at our fingertips with smart phones, we work long hours and have long commutes, we sleep poorly at night, and we over train. Combine these life stressors with dietary stressors like excessive caffeine and a poor diet (processed foods, refined carbs, sugary foods, and convenience foods) and the stress is magnified.
One of the biggest contributors to adrenal fatigue is dietary stress in the form of sugar. Sugary foods cause wide swings in blood sugar and the adrenal glands scramble to deal with excess sugar in our bodies. Day in and day out, the adrenals are forced to adapt to blood sugar swings. Combined with other life stresses, it all contributes to adrenal fatigue.
In addition to managing life’s everyday stressors, eating a well-balanced diet can help prevent, manage, and treat adrenal fatigue. Establishing a regular routine with meals and snacks by planning ahead can help alleviate additional stress, and even dietary stress on the adrenals themselves.
Take some extra time on Sunday and sit down and work on planning meals and snacks out for the week. After two to four weeks, simply repeat your menus and grocery lists and spend your extra time working on addressing other life stressors. Add variety by throwing in a new recipe or snack every now and then, or keep it simple during weeks of high stress.
When planning meals and snacks, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always include protein with breakfast.
Protein with breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar after an overnight fast. This prevents the blood sugar rollercoaster that leads to afternoon caffeine and night time sugar cravings. Eggs, plain Greek yogurt, beans, nuts, seeds, smoothies with added protein, and leftovers from dinner are all good options.
- Plan to have fruit when you tend to crave sweets.
Whether it’s the afternoon, after meals, or in the evening try to satisfy the craving with nutritious fruit (berries, apples, citrus, etc.) instead of sugar. Be sure to combine fruit with a protein (nuts, seeds, or plain Greek yogurt).
- Avoid foods you know you are allergic or intolerant to.
Consider getting a food sensitivity test or doing an elimination diet under the supervision of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in order to identify food sensitivities. Eliminating these foods will help reduce inflammation and additional stress on your immune and digestive systems.
- Follow a Mediterranean type diet.
Rich in vegetables and fruits, olive oil, potatoes, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds; moderate in fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and red wine; and limited in red meat and sugar. This type of diet provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, and omega-3s, all of which help reduce inflammation and help the body function properly—ultimately reducing stress.
Establishing a routine with diet, stress reduction, relaxation, moderate exercise with regular rest days, and sleep all promote proper adrenal function. Don’t wait until next Monday, think about how you can start working on these things TODAY.