Adrenal fatigue is an increasingly common condition in which your adrenal glands, no bigger than a walnut, become overworked as a result of high cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time. Your adrenal glands sit atop your kidneys and play a crucial role in hormone production and function. They are responsible for producing sex hormones, corticosteroids that support the sleep/wake cycle and suppress inflammation, and secreting the neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. When we experience stress, the brain is hardwired to signal the adrenal glands to release hormones.
After periods of chronic stress, the body starts to deplete the materials that are used to make these essential hormones and after an extended period of time, it becomes more difficult for your body to keep up with the level of sex hormones and neurotransmitters needed. This is the process known as ‘adrenal fatigue.’ The basis of adrenal fatigue is stress but the consequences can include chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, weight gain and depression.
Adrenal fatigue can also be caused by poor diet. The “Standard American Diet,” laden with processed sugar and refined carbohydrates, is the perfect storm for destroying your adrenal glands. Under periods of stress, the immune response in your gut decreases as a result of elevated cortisol, damaging the tissue lining your stomach, decreasing the good bacteria and increasing the susceptibility to bad bacteria. Chronic inflammation and poor thyroid function can also play a role in adrenal dysfunction.
While adrenal fatigue is often multifactorial, including the following foods in your diet can play an influential role in supporting the health of one of your body’s most critical control systems.
- Fermented foods are full of probiotics, good bacteria that support gut health and boost immunity. Fermented foods include miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh
- Pumpkin seeds include high does of B vitamins, required in the chemical reactions that build hormones, omega-6 fatty acids and minerals like zinc and magnesium.
- Grass fed meat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for building healthy cell membranes and supporting hormone function.
- Ghee or clarified butter is a healthy source of cholesterol, a key building block for the adrenal glands. Choose organic and grass fed whenever possible.
Diet and lifestyle changes that support adrenal health can help relieve chronic pain, improve mood, normalize blood sugar levels and improve your overall quality of life.