Finding the right balance of foods for adrenal fatigue was a helpful part of my recovery. Because of adrenal fatigue, I had severe hypoglycemia which meant I needed to eat every two hours. And I was drawn to foods which gave me a boost, including sugar and caffeine. Understanding how foods affect my body helps me to keep my adrenals feeling strong.
According to AdrenalFatigue.org, when your adrenals respond to stress your cell metabolism speeds up, burning many nutrients. With adrenal fatigue, the cells have used up much of the body’s stored nutrients, creating a nutritional void. Good quality food is the best source for replenishing these nutrients.
When to Eat
Eating frequently is helpful for the balance between adrenals and blood sugar. Basically, if you feel hungry, it’s too late. Your blood sugars are starting to drop and the adrenals are being stressed. Here is a quick guide for when to eat to support adrenals:
- In the morning, eating soon after waking is important for people with adrenal fatigue. For me, and others with adrenal fatigue, eating before 10:00 AM can make a big difference in our energy.
- For lunch, eating before noon, ideally between 11-11:30 AM is best
- Between 2-3 PM eat a nutritious snack to sustain your body during the afternoon. Typically, cortisol dips between 3-4 PM. If you wait until 3:30 PM for a snack, most likely you will crave sugar or caffeine!
- For dinner, eating between 5 and 6 PM is best
- Late evening before bed, a small service of good fat and protein can help with sleep
What to Eat and Drink
For those of us experiencing adrenal fatigue, a good meal and snack combines fat, protein and complex carbohydrates (vegetables). This combination helps provide a steady stream of energy throughout the day. Sugary snacks or highly processed foods convert too quickly, and do not provide lasting energy. They can also cause sugar crashes, or hypoglycemia.
In most cases of adrenal fatigue, good salt is beneficial. Interestingly, cravings for salt can be an indicated of adrenal weakness. Unless you are one of the rare people with adrenal fatigue and high blood pressure, add some salt to your food 1. Sea salt or Celtic salts are preferred because they have more beneficial nutrients (and they taste good).
Good quality protein such as grass fed beef, fish, free range chicken, omega-3 eggs, dairy from grass fed cows (and/or raw mild) and various plant sources (legumes, nuts and seeds) are beneficial in supporting adrenals. Try to avoid processed proteins such as packaged lunch meats and processed cheeses. Proteins generally have more nutritional value and are easier to digest when eaten lightly cooked or raw.
Vegetables are an important part of supporting adrenals. With each meal aim for 2 vegetable servings of a wide variety of vegetables, especially those that are naturally highly colored (bright green, red, orange, yellow or purple). Vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a high amount of fiber. It is a good idea to vary how you prepare vegetables, because different nutrients are made available through different cooking methods. Personally, my body has much more energy eating raw, rather than cooked, vegetables.
Dr. Wilson notes that people with adrenal fatigue and blood sugar problems should go lightly on fruits, especially in the morning. Personally, with struggling adrenals, if I ate fruit in the morning I felt pretty nauseous and ill by lunchtime. With stronger adrenals I can eat a little fruit in the morning if accompanied by protein and a little fat.
According to Dr. Wilson, fruits contain a significant amount of fructose and potassium, which is a detrimental combination for those with exhausted adrenals. However, Wilson says it is preferable that any fruit that you do eat is organically grown. Hey, we do the best we can. Below is a short list of fruits people with adrenal fatigue tend to do well with, and ones to avoid or notice if they make you feel bad:
- Grapes (a few)
Fruits that might make you feel bad:
Here are some easy guidelines which are simply and make loads of sense!
- Eat a wide variety of whole, natural, unprocessed foods
- Combine a healthy fat, protein and carbohydrate source with every meal
- Eat lots of vegetables, especially the brightly colored ones. Raw is even better
- Salt your food to a pleasant taste using good salt like Real Salt or Himalayan Salt
- Eat mainly whole grains (avoiding gluten)
- Combine grains with legumes (beans), or legumes with seeds or nuts to form a complete protein
- Avoid fruit in the morning
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fresh essential oils (cold pressed olive, grape seed, safflower, flax, etc.) into grains, vegetables and meats daily. Or try avocado with meals.
- James L. Wilson, "Adrenal Fatigue" ↩