Good nutritional choices are definitely key for maintaining good health and good energy, and the right nutrition choices can help sad, tired adrenals bounce back. Cortisol, one of the main adrenal hormones, has many different roles in the body, including regulating immune function, assisting detoxification, and regulating blood sugar. Where insulin does more of the minute-by-minute regulation of blood sugar, cortisol plays more of a role in the longer-term control and balance.
It makes sense that when you have chronic stress on the body, which puts the adrenals under stress, that blood sugar regulation becomes more of a challenge because of the role cortisol plays in it. At the same time, poor nutrition is a stress on the body. So it’s a double-edged sword.
There are a few key points in nutrition for adrenal health:
1. Eat every 2-3 hours. The longer you go in between meals and snacks, the harder cortisol has to work to keep blood sugar balanced. You do not have to eat large amounts of food each time, but the consistency of caloric intake is what makes the difference. If you are busy with kids, work – life in general – running around all day forgetting to eat or not having time to eat, you’re creating a stressful situation for your adrenals.
2. Eat high quality, lean proteins. Sugars and carbohydrates bounce blood sugar around more than proteins. Proteins are more stabilizing and are easier on the adrenals. Proteins also promote the release of glucagon, which is insulin’s opposing hormone. Glucagon further promotes blood sugar control (and weight loss), so that is a double bonus. The snacks and meals don’t have to be all protein, just make sure there is some protein every time you eat. Good sources include fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, raw nuts and seeds, and protein smoothies.
3. Eat organic, unprocessed foods. Since cortisol plays a role in regulating detoxification, reducing toxins coming into the body relieves extra strain on those systems. Eating non-organic food brings pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and heavy metals into the system, all of which cortisol will have to play a role in having to detox and clear.
4. Avoid excess caffeine. I’m not completely anti-caffeine and I think one coffee in the morning is fine, or some green tea even better (but I’m a coffee girl so that’s my preference!). The problem comes when caffeine is depended on just to get through the day. Although caffeine might give a sense of energy boost, in the long run it actually depletes energy as it taxes the adrenals. It is a false sense of energy. I have spoken to countless people who’ve given up coffee and felt way more energized as a result (after the first few horrible days, of course!). A few drops of lemon and/ or peppermint oil can provide a good alternative pick-me-up. You may not pickle your adrenals from one lovely latte in the morning, but if you’re chugging cups of coffee all day just to keep going, that’s not going to be good long term.
These are just a few examples of how nutrition can impact the adrenals, but to me they are the key ones. So enjoy lots of high protein, organic meals and snacks at regular intervals, and your adrenal glands will thank you!