I saw a headline the other day that said: “15 Amazing Health Benefits of Wine”. Wow! Wouldn’t we all love to keep reading that one?
The more reasoned truth is that while there may be some health benefits to a glass of wine, alcohol can also be problematic at certain times in your healing journey.
This is something that I want to make sure my patients and readers understand– and not just about the wine! Diet matters all the time, but it takes on an even greater importance when your body is going through something like adrenal fatigue.
When you’re experiencing adrenal dysfunction, what you eat can make a huge difference… and not just for the worst. In fact, food can act as an incredible tool to encourage healing.
Today, let’s go through some of the best (and worst) foods for adrenal health. And don’t worry– I won’t say that you can never drink wine again!
How Food Impacts Adrenal Health
It’s so important for women to understand that their adrenal glands can have a huge impact on the way they feel. And so many conventional doctors won’t even mention it at all, until you reach an advanced state of dysfunction!
I think that’s a shame. Why should you have to be so severely impacted you can’t function at all in order to get help? Especially when we know so much about what the adrenals do, and how to support them.
What’s the best way to keep your body functioning at its best? Eat healthy foods full of the essential nutrients your body needs. Food is, after all, the best medicine we have!
Although there are those who scoff at the idea of food as medicine, let’s think about it for a minute. Medicine is what people take to make them feel better. I’ve helped so many women change their diets and discover that symptoms which plagued them for years have disappeared. That sounds like medicine to me!
A diet filled with whole, organic foods can help support your body and prevent any number of illnesses. Some foods are especially helpful in healing overtaxed adrenal glands. Others are best avoided to keep those adrenals healthy in the first place!
Before I share these lists with you, get some fundamental understanding of why adrenal health is so important in the first place.
What Are My Adrenal Glands and How Do They Impact My Health?
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. These triangular shaped glands are small, but have large responsibilities. They produce essential hormones that impact many of your body’s functions, including metabolism and regulating the stress response.
Some of the hormones produced by the adrenals are essential to survival – you can’t live without them! Learn more about adrenal gland function, and everything these glands do for your health.
When the hormones produced by your adrenal glands are out of balance, your health can suffer. Low levels can cause chronic fatigue, weight loss, muscle weakness, lack of appetite and abdominal pain, irritability, joint pain, irregular periods, and low blood pressure.
When levels are too high, you can see many of the same symptoms, including muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, irritability and irregular menstrual cycles. Other symptoms of overactive adrenal glands include obesity in the upper body, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess hair growth in women.
Related article: How to Restore Adrenal Health Naturally
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe what happens when your adrenals can’t keep hormones balanced. The term has caused a fair amount of controversy in recent years, with many conventional practitioners denying that it’s even a real condition.
Maybe adrenal fatigue isn’t the best thing to call it. One of the big arguments has been that the adrenals don’t “get tired and stop working.” In fact, the opposite is often true – they’re pumping out too much cortisol, keeping levels constantly elevated, which results in the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.
I think it’s silly to debate the name and ignore the condition. Whatever we call it, the problem is that the hormones are not balanced, and women are feeling lousy. Ignoring imbalances because hormone levels technically fall in the “normal” range is a huge disservice to these women. And it disregards the reality that every woman is an individual, who may have greater sensitivity to slight shifts in hormone levels.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to heal your adrenal glands if they aren’t functioning as they should. The first step is paying attention to what you are eating!
Related article: Foods for Adrenal Fatigue – Eating to Support Your Adrenal Glands
Eating and Avoiding Foods for Adrenals
The foods that work best to combat adrenal fatigue are similar to any well-balanced diet, but lower in certain kinds of potentially inflammatory carbohydrates. Whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, protein and healthy fats are all important, organic when possible.
I’ve put together this list of five foods that are particularly good for supporting your adrenals. Then, I’ll share five things it’s best to avoid – especially when you need to heal.
5 Foods That Boost Adrenal Health
1. Pumpkin (and Other) Seeds
Seeds are chock full of minerals, particularly magnesium, which can help you sleep, thus reducing stress. As I’ve said many times, stress reduction is a key element in keeping your adrenal glands healthy. Seeds are also high in B vitamins, vitamin E, and omega-6 fatty acids.
Recent research suggests that pumpkin seeds may be able to improve chronic stress related adrenal dysfunction with the help of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
2. Sea Salt
Salt has a bit of a bad reputation, and I think that’s unfortunate! While processed foods with excessive sodium aren’t good for you (for a whole lot of reasons), high-quality sea salt can help you rid toxins from your body. Toxins like mercury, lead, and arsenic can be stored in fat, increasing inflammation and taxing the adrenal glands.
People with adrenal fatigue may find themselves craving salty foods. This could be your body’s response to low levels of aldosterone, which is key to regulating blood pressure. Adding a dash of sea salt to your food might be just the thing you need!
Of course, anyone with hypertension, kidney disease, or heart disease shouldn’t consume extra salt without talking to their doctor first.
3. Organ Meats
If you like liver, here’s some great news — organ meats are fantastic for fighting fatigue! They contain high levels of zinc and vitamin D, along with B vitamins, saturated fat, cholesterol, and omega-3 and omega-6 fats. All of these are essential for healthy cell membranes. Remember Organic only.
4. Sardines (and Other Fatty Fish)
Sardines are great because, as a small fish lower down the food chain, they are far less likely to be contaminated with toxins that will make your adrenal problems worse, not better. And research has shown that they can help to balance hormones and improve oxidative stress. Fatty fish in general is a great addition to your diet because of the omega-3 fatty acids they contain. So if you don’t like sardines, opt for wild-caught salmon, mackerel or tuna.
5. Vegetables (Just Avoid the Starchy Ones)
Vegetables are so important, I can’t choose just one for this list. The more variety you get in the vegetables you choose, the more nutrients you’ll get. And those nutrients can keep your blood sugar regulated, reduce inflammation, and nourish your adrenal glands.
Starchy vegetables will impact your blood sugar levels, so stick to other options – like carrots, celery, and dark leafy greens. Have at least one serving of vegetables at each meal, and try to add them to snacks as well. Leafy greens are great in smoothies!
5 Things to Avoid When Healing from Adrenal Fatigue
Don’t undo all your hard work by forgetting to be attentive to foods best avoided when your adrenals are already strained. Personally, I think these things should be consumed in moderation – if at all – all the time. But it’s especially important when you are healing.
1. Added Sugar
When you’re eating a lot of added sugars, it’s tough to keep your blood sugar regulated. The constant spikes and drops put a lot of stress on the adrenals as they work to keep hormones regulated. Sugars are also inflammatory, and the “bad” bacteria in your gut uses sugar as fuel to multiply.
It can be difficult to avoid added sugars since they seem to be in everything – and are called by so many different names. Read labels closely, and know what you are looking for.
2. White Flour
Products made with refined flour offer little in the way of actual nutrition. They also break down quickly into sugars, and then you end up with the same issues that eating sugar creates. And so many white flour products contain added sugars as well, so you’re getting a double whammy! If you can’t give up bread or baked goods, whole wheat and other whole grain choices are best.
3. Processed Foods
Heavily processed foods are usually high in refined carbs and added sugars – and we just talked about what those do to your adrenals. Add to that the fact that half of the ingredients on processed food labels are impossible to pronounce, and there’s a lot of good reasons to stick to the fresh whole foods on the outside edges of the grocery store!
It’s so hard to hear that you should skip the coffee if you’re feeling exhausted. So many women have depended on coffee to keep them going for far too long! The problem with too much coffee is that it can increase your cortisol production. Since the adrenals are responsible for making cortisol, this makes them work even more – the exact opposite of what you want when you’re trying to heal!
If the thought of eliminating coffee altogether is too hard, stick to just one (small) cup in the morning. Then switch to herbal tea, water, or seltzer. There are a lot of great natural energy boosters – try exercise, inhaling peppermint oil, or eating chia seeds. And don’t forget to stay well hydrated!
First no coffee, now I’m telling you to skip the wine too? I know it may seem extreme, but the goal here is to help you heal. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not saying you should never have a drink again, but when you’re dealing with severe symptoms, it’s important to eliminate anything that could be stressing your adrenal glands.
Often people use alcohol to relax. The problem is that you may very well be impacting your cortisol levels, leading to more inflammation, poor sleep, and a weakened immune system.
Also, when you drink alcohol, you’re pulling your liver off the job of getting rid of excess hormones (like adrenaline) circulating in your system to work on metabolizing the alcohol. And then there’s the blood sugar spikes, since there’s a lot of sugar in alcohol – especially when you mix it with soda.
Give Your Body a Little Boost for Best Healing
Even in the best of circumstances, it’s hard to give your body all the nutrients it needs in the food you eat alone. Industrial farming practices have diminished the nutrients present in the food you get from most supermarkets.
If you’re battling hormonal imbalances and nutrient deficiencies, you might need a little help. I recommend that everyone take a high-quality multivitamin and EPA/DHA support. For severe symptoms, you might also need something to help you sleep, or a supplement to help balance cortisol levels. I have a number of health programs designed specifically to support your adrenal health based on your specific needs.
If You’re Suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, Food is Your Best Tool for Healing
Food can both taste great and help you heal if you know what vitamins and minerals your body might need. The foods we consume can impact energy levels, sleep, your stress response, and inflammation. When you change your diet, you can change the way you feel.
If you’ve been eating poorly for a long time, it will take time to notice the changes. But once you know which foods to avoid, and which you should be eating plenty of, you’re on the right path. Then it’s up to you to follow it long term. I think you’ll find that you feel so good, you won’t want to eat any other way!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD