Adrenal Fatigue Diet Plan
Adrenal fatigue is so prevalent and so destructive. The good news is, the foods for adrenal fatigue are easy to introduce to your diet and are all fully alkaline foods too. Today, I’ll give you some simple steps that will form the basis of your adrenal fatigue plan.
Listen, no matter what your goal – weight loss, more energy, better digestion, better mood, mental energy, balanced thyroid, insulin, and more – your adrenals are absolutely essential.
And a HUGE percentage of people are living (getting by) day to day with chronic adrenal fatigue.
Today I will show you why up to 90% of people have adrenal fatigue, and the specific foods for adrenal fatigue that you can use to fix it.
I can promise you this: when your adrenals are fatigued (which it is very likely they are), you will NOT be able to lose weight, and you will continue to gain weight (read on)…
You will NOT be able to fix your physical or mental fatigue…
You will NOT be able to restore your thyroid health…
You will NOT be able to soothe and heal your digestion…
I want to make it clear – it is highly likely you have some degree of adrenal fatigue. If you’re living a regular life in the developed world, adrenal fatigue to some degree is almost certain.
The most common symptoms of adrenal fatigue are: weight gain and an inability to lose weight, depression, poor sleep, suppressed immunity, and chronic fatigue.
How and Why Are So Many People Living With Adrenal Fatigue (and why is nobody talking about it)…?
Your adrenals are responsible for a huge number of different functions. These little kidney-shaped glands form part of your endocrine system that is responsible for producing and regulating the myriad of hormones that, essentially, control your body’s functioning.
Your adrenals produce hormones that regulate your blood pressure, metabolism, immune system AND stress response. Very important.
When they are out of balance, the result can lead to conditions including Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, Conn’s syndrome, Congenital adrenal hyperplasia – and this is just scratching the surface of the knock-on effects from these conditions.
And there are just a couple of those functions that are causing the vast majority of adrenal fatigue for the vast majority of people.
Chased by a Bear…or Traffic on the School Run?
We have evolved with a few in-built rebalancing tools in our bodies. You’re on my alkaline diet site so you know that one I will mention (always, my fave) is our pH buffering capacity. Our body has evolved with a small capacity to neutralize acid and maintain our blood pH at close to 7.365.
But that evolutionary development was before we invented soda, pizza, and pretzel-wrapped hot dogs (apparently that’s a thing).
Back in our ancestral paleolithic days, the pH buffering capacity was strong enough to buffer the acidity that came from our daily bodily functioning. We weren’t guzzling down strong acid-forming foods and drinks all day – so it gets overloaded and basically our body breaks (see more on the science of the alkaline diet/acid overload here).
And when it comes to your adrenals…
Remember, the adrenals are responsible for regulating cortisol production. And in those good old days, cortisol, our stress hormone and ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone was produced in times of actual, real stress and danger.
Chased by a bear…
Not cut off in traffic…
Now I’m being facetious here a little, we don’t only get stressed by someone moving our cheese. We face a totally different life now of real stress. Financial, relationships, family, health, loss, bereavement, relocation, job…covid-19…
We are bombarded by events that our brain can see as stressful and trigger that production of cortisol, via our poor, overworked adrenals.
And just like how the liver is responsible for SO MANY important roles every day, but the bombardment of sugar and toxins leaves it only having the capacity for processing this – and all its other tasks get forgotten, so it is with the adrenals.
The adrenals get overwhelmed with regulating cortisol, and they have to drop (downregulate) all of their other jobs and processes.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels fatigue the adrenals quickly.
If you experience a stressful life or frequent stressful events, you are likely to have some degree of adrenal fatigue.
And then there is pH…of course!
Do not skip this bit – this is so important.
So, if that wasn’t enough (because I’d say most of us have a fair amount of stress in our lives right now), your diet dramatically impacts your cortisol production and therefore your adrenal health.
I’m going to keep this really simple:
And every time you consume a strongly acid-forming food or drink your blood pH drops…and then it takes time, and a lot of stress, for your body to buffer it back up to it’s safe level.
But as we’ve discussed before – the ‘safe pH level’ that your body will get you back to is NOT the optimal pH level (approx 7.365).
It is so stressful to the body to raise blood pH, so it only gets you to a pH level where it is ‘safe’ – around pH 7.25 (i.e. a level where you won’t die). This is called diet-induced acidosis, or net-dietary acid load.
And in this ‘safe’ level of pH, your body is STILL producing cortisol. When you exist in this state of diet-induced acidosis your body is CONSTANTLY in fight or flight mode, constantly producing excess cortisol!
So the short story is, if you’ve been eating anything like the standard Western diet then your adrenals will definitely be fatigued.
“If you’re eating an acidic diet, your adrenals will be constantly producing cortisol!
And then…if that wasn’t enough…
And then there is your hypothalamus and pituitary glands, the bedfellows of the adrenals that form the HPA-axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenals) – and anything you do, or that happens, to unbalance the H or the P will also unbalance and stress the A.
Oh, and sleep.
If your sleep is not great, that also heavily stresses the adrenals. Good luck parents. I have 3 kids under 9 years. Not the best sleep for me. I work on this constantly.
A complex problem, with a simple solution…
It can seem overwhelming. But as I always say, the body is complex, it’s problems are complex, but the solutions can be so, so simple.
And that’s what I’m all about – keeping it simple, and the most effective, efficient steps that will do the heaviest lifting for you 🙂
I so strongly recommend you follow these steps, no matter what your goal. In my best-selling Alkaline Reset Cleanse book, I show how each of the Five Master Systems (endocrine (inc. adrenals), pH balancing system, digestive, immune, and detoxification) are so interconnected – when one falls out of balance it affects the others. And that is definitely the case with the adrenals.
No matter what your goal or health challenge, if you have adrenal fatigue it is negatively impacting it. It’s making it harder and making it worse.
So let’s get into the solution…
Foods for Adrenal Fatigue & Your Plan (To Reach All Of Your Other Goals Along the Way)
Your adrenals are delicate. They are easily stressed and fatigued.
But we CAN easily make changes to help them to heal, repair and recover.
It can take a long time to properly heal adrenal fatigue, a really long time.
But there are definitely some things we can do to speed the process dramatically.
I’ll show you how.
And as ever, you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to do it all at once, and you can take it one step at a time, day-by-day.
So let’s do it:
7 Steps & Foods for Adrenal Fatigue: The Adrenal Fatigue Diet Plan
Healing the adrenal glands fully is a case of both the foods you put IN and those you take out (or at least minimize). There is also an extra magic ingredient too that we’ll cover in a moment.
The diet for adrenal fatigue is mostly plant-based, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, with my coaching, you don’t have to be meat-free to be alkaline. You just want to make the majority of the foods you eat alkaline-forming.
Foods to Avoid for Adrenal Fatigue
Caffeine can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it hard for your adrenals to recover. If you must drink coffee or a caffeinated beverage, then have a limited amount in the morning before noon.
Sugar, alongside gluten, is probably THE most acid-forming, inflammatory, oxidative-stress-causing food on Earth. It ticks every box for adrenal fatigue, stressing practically every area of the endocrine system, the immune system, the digestive system – it’s just to be avoided. If you are a member of the Alkaline Base Camp, remember you get access to my full $499 Quit Sugar Success Program inside the membership. Not a member? Click here to get on the wait list.
As per sugar above! Acid-forming, inflammatory, immune-supressing, blood-sugar-unbalancing…wheat, spelt, rye, barley – these are NOT health foods. Instead look to buckwheat, chia, oats, quinoa, etc. Keep it GF baby!
PS. again if you are a member of the Alkaline Base Camp, remember you also get access to my full “Get the Gluten-Out” training inside the membership. Not a member? Click here to get on the wait list.
These are a disgrace. Saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose are all carcinogenic, highly acidic, highly inflammatory and straight-up adrenal fatiguing foods. Avoid at ALL costs.
Vegetable oils like soybean, canola, and corn oil are highly inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation. Try to only use good fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil, etc. See more on fats & oils here.
This is somewhat of a catch-all as processed, packaged foods tend to include all of the above! In particular they almost always include sugar and/or sweeteners, gluten, and unhealthy trans/hydrogenated fats. Steer clear, keep it fresh.
And then there is…
Foods for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery & Support to Include
Coconut in general, but especially coconut oil is so beneficial for the entire endocrine system, but especially the adrenals because it supports the function of the entire HPA axis, helps balance metabolism, blood sugar, encourages fat burning for energy – and so takes the pressure off of the adrenals. Aim for 1tbsp per day.
Healthy omega 3 from wild-caught oily fish, nuts, seeds, chia, leafy greens, flaxseed etc – omega 3 is critical for your adrenal function too. Healthy fats fight inflammation and support brain health (which is where the H, and the P in the HPA axis lives – the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands). Lots of healthy fats will soothe and heal the adrenal glands. Aim for the equivalent of 3tbsp per day.
Aim for lots of greens: kale, spinach, lettuce, watercress, Chinese greens, chard, these are all the most nutrient-dense foods on Earth. Containing a rich array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and specific brain-boosting compounds, leafy greens are a must. Aim for 5-7 serves per day, when possible (see my tips on this here). When we’re looking at the foods for adrenal fatigue, leafy greens are the most important.
Bell Pepper, Carrot, Beets…the color means adrenal-boosting antioxidants. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.
The curcumin in turmeric is a strong antioxidant that seems to protect the brain from lipid peroxidation and nitric-oxide-based radicals, thus protecting one of the sources of the oxidative stress that contributes to adrenal burnout. Any diet plan for the adrenals should be focused on anti-inflammatory foods and they don’t come much more anti-inflammatory than turmeric!
Higher-sugar fruits (and dried fruit, fruit juice etc) are higher in fructose and can contribute to inflammation. But the lower-sugar fruits, particularly blueberries, which are incredibly high in brain boosting nutrients, but very low in sugar are a powerful weapon in your adrenal fatigue plan. Have a serve per day, in recipes such as my Alkaline Oats, Chia Pots, in the Alka-Keto Dessert…or just fresh!
Broccoli is the most potent source of an essential compound known as sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to inhibit the HPA area of the brain when it is overstimulated – protecting you from adrenal fatigue. It also lowers the inflammatory response to stress. The results are lowered corticosterone transmission and reduced anxiety in chronic stress cases. Sulforaphane could be a realistic treatment for adrenal fatigue, chronic stress, depression and anxiety. It is also powerfully anti-inflammatory, supports glutathione production (the master antioxidant) and is protective of the immune system. It’s a powerful all-rounder for the adrenals.
Similar to with the omgea 3 and coconut oil above, remember: many hormones come from cholesterol and fat, and so the fats in avo’s help the production of these hormones in fighting off adrenal fatigue. Avocado, like broccoli, is a great source of glutathione which helps ward off inflammation and stress in the body, relieving the pressure on the adrenals to produce those stress hormones.
Adaptogens are not common in our diet, but they are powerful foods for adrenal fatigue. Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, ginseng, tulsi are all proven to support adrenal function and to help heal the adrenals from fatigue and burnout. They are all available as a supplement, or in alkaline herbal teas.
Hydration is also important, with the goal being to drink 100-120oz of filtered water daily to help the body to stay hydrated, to support kidney and liver function, to help flush out toxins, and support cognition.
Ultimately, a simple way to look at this is to follow my alkaline diet of limiting acid-forming foods, and increasing alkaline-forming foods. This will nourish your body and prevent the adrenal stress caused by your blood pH constantly being pushed below the optimal pH 7.365.
Note About Intermittent Fasting / Keto & Adrenal Fatigue:
If you have adrenal fatigue or burnout, it’s not recommended to start intermittent fasting (IF). IF requires you to have a reasonably balanced metabolism in order to switch to burning fat for fuel instead of sugar, but the more out-of-whack your cortisol is, the more unbalanced your metabolism will be, and so therefore IF will simply be ineffective (and it will be very hard to get into nutritional ketosis).
The closer your adrenal glands are to working optimally, the more effective keto and IF will be.
There are a few simple supplements that could also be included in your adrenal fatigue plan. You don’t need to use them all, and the focus should always first be on foods for adrenal fatigue. These, however, can give you a faster boost, alongside dietary changes, where there is insufficient levels in your body:
- Adaptogenic herbs: as mentioned above, these are super-useful for adrenal fatigue, but not too common in our diet. Ashwagandha, rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and tulsi/holy basil have been shown to lower cortisol levels and mediate stress responses within the body.
- Omega 3 (EPA/DHA): There are a large number of benefits of supplementing with omega 3, including reversing a number of adrenal fatigue-related conditions, such as diabetes, mental fatigue, depression, arthritis, immune system function, skin issues, and gaining weight.
- Magnesium: one of the most alkaline minerals, Magnesium is one of the necessary nutrients for fighting adrenal burnout.
- B vitamins: Research has shown that vitamin B5 and B12 deficiency may be associated with stress on the adrenal cortex.
- Vitamin C: this powerful antioxidant is known as a “de-stressing” nutrient. Studies show that it appears to minimize the effects of stress on the adrenals as well as reduce the time necessary to bounce back from stressful events.
- Vitamin D: has been getting a ton of press from me lately for its immune-boosting function (particularly important with covid-19), and in this function, it helps alleviate the stress on the adrenals. However, the benefit of vitamin D goes well beyond that and is a research guide in itself. Please consider including this very affordable, yet powerful supplement.
Selenium: At least one animal study finds that selenium deficiency can negatively impact adrenal function.
Making it Happen: Your Adrenal Fatigue Diet Plan
Be warned, healing your adrenals can take time.
This ultimately comes down to two key things:
- Reducing acid-forming, stress and inflammation-inducing foods while ramping up healing, adrenal-supporting, nourishing, alkaline foods
- Supporting your body’s stress response through mindfulness
But again, healing the adrenals can take time. How long? Well, that’s down to the individual, and what your symptoms of adrenal fatigue are.
I know for certain: if weight loss is your goal, and the excess weight is due to adrenal fatigue (the body being in constant fight-or-flight), then it will take a while. Your adrenals will need to recover before your body will let go of the weight, and until it does, it will keep adding more weight.
Formal Tests for Adrenal Fatigue:
Finally, I want to cover this, as tests for adrenal fatigue can be confusing. While I feel like anyone who has been eating an acidic diet is highly likely to have some degree of adrenal fatigue, it is also worth having this tested if you are concerned.
If you are seeing a doctor or specialist, it is essential you are working with someone who has an intimate knowledge of adrenal fatigue and endocrine function. The tests are rarely conclusive and you need to use the results as another indicator rather than a definitive yes, or no.
The most common test a doctor will order is a blood test, but these are not helpful. A 24-hour salivary panel may be able to show abnormal cortisol patterns, including a lack or overload of the stress response, and this can then show whether further testing is needed.
As mentioned at the top of this guide – if the adrenals are off, the thyroid can be also. As such, endocrinologists often test thyroid function in conjunction with cortisol levels.
Other tests that may be used to diagnose adrenal fatigue include:
- ACTH Challenge
- TSH test (thyroid stimulating hormone)
- Free T3 (FT3)
- Total Thyroxine (TT4)
- Cortisol/DHEA ratio
- 17-HP/Cortisol ratio
- Neurotransmitter testing
Again, it’s essential to be working with an endocrinologist, not a general doctor on this.