What to know about your adrenals!
The basics: where are your adrenal glands, and what do they do?
The adrenal glands are small triangular shaped glands that sit on top of each kidney and work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system commonly referred to as the HPA Axis. The role of adrenal glands in your body is to produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and stress response. One of the hormones that the adrenal glands produce that you’re probably familiar with is cortisol. Cortisol had a wide range of functions but is commonly known because of its role in helping the body respond to stress. Add in adrenaline
What happens when you overwork your adrenals?
Your adrenals help you respond to stress by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which temporarily work to increase your heart rate and blood pressure and alter the metabolism of nutrients by releasing insulin so that sugar is taken up from the bloodstream into your cells. However, when you are undergoing high levels of stress for an extended period of time, the adrenal glands become overstimulated, resulting in dysregulated cortisol levels – often they’re too high, but sometimes too low. This phenomenon is referred to as adrenal fatigue, which can leave you feeling lousy.
Note that stress is not just the pressure from work. The body is sensitive and will get stressed out with poor diet, physical activity, sleep, and relationships, as well as environmental toxins and gut and thyroid imbalances, just to name a few!
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
The most prominent symptom people complain of with adrenal fatigue is feeling tired all of the time.
Other symptoms include:
- Changes in mood and irritability
- Brain fog
- Weight Gain
- Muscle Loss
- Decreased Immune System (getting sick more often)
- Hair loss
- Poor Sleep
- Decreased Sex Drive
- Food cravings ( specifically for sweet and salty foods)
Foods that help support your adrenals
Believe it or not, what you eat has an impact on your adrenals (hint: what you eat has an impact on every cell in your body!). Eating a nutrient-dense diet can definitely help support your cell health, but there are specific foods that are great for your adrenal health.
8 of my adrenal-healthy foods are:
- Eggs (high-quality protein, Vitamin B-6, iron, choline)
- Beans ( protein, fiber, iron)
- Sweet Potato (Vitamin A and B-6)
- Leafy Greens (rich in polyphenols)
- Turmeric (contains Curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory)
- Walnuts (healthy fat, Vitamin B-6, magnesium)
- Chia Seeds (healthy fat, iron, magnesium, fiber)
- Avocado (healthy fat, rich in B-Vitamins and other polyphenols)
These foods help balance and support your blood sugar so you can have stable energy and reduce stress on your adrenals. In working with an integrative medicine practitioner, they may also recommend adrenal-supporting supplements and herbs.
On the other hand, there are foods you should reduce or avoid entirely when dealing with adrenal fatigue. These foods include caffeine, heavily processed foods (think: lots of chemicals, poor quality oils, and added sugars), high sugar foods, and alcohol. These foods put increased stress on the adrenals and often lead to the release of more cortisol.
Lifestyle changes to support your adrenals
Your lifestyle directly impacts your adrenal health. While some people will require a complete lifestyle change to feel better, others can start by making small simple changes that over-time will help your adrenals recover leaving you feeling better.
Below are six tips to get you started:
- Sleep at least 7-9 hours a night ( if you’re sleep-deprived, aim for 9)
- Eat balanced meals and regularly
- Engage in low-intensity exercise daily and reserve high-intensity exercise for 1-2 days a week
- Block out 30 minutes each day to do something you love
- Minimize stress by engaging in practices like meditation, yoga, and journaling (seriously!)
- Seek out professional help to address your physical and mental wellbeing
Adrenal fatigue occurs due to chronic stress leaving you feeling exhausted, sluggish, and just not yourself. Your diet and lifestyle are large contributors to adrenal fatigue. When addressed, you can make a huge impact on your overall wellbeing, but taking the time to figure out what is causing your adrenal fatigue is critical.