If you are aiming for an effective adrenal fatigue diet to help you recover, it is so important to avoid these six common foods. When you have adrenal fatigue, the food that you eat can be either incredibly healing or very harmful.
If you live an extremely high-stress life, fueled by tons of coffee, lattes, and espresso, you are a prime candidate for adrenal fatigue. In our fast-paced, technologically-intimidating world, it’s no wonder that adrenal fatigue has become so widespread.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue (also known as adrenal insufficiency) is a disorder caused by the exhaustion of our adrenaline-supplying adrenal glands. Our body interprets stress as danger and starts flooding our body with adrenaline for fight or flight situations until we completely deplete our adrenal stores.
In search for more adrenaline, our body begins stealing energy from our hormones like DHEA, progesterone, and cortisol. This cortisol imbalance sets off a cascade of issues like…
- a rise in insulin
- signals the body to begin storing fat for energy
- slows the metabolism
- preserves fat (in case you are starving and in danger)
So, if you seem to be gaining weight out of nowhere and yet you haven’t changed your diet or exercise regime, adrenal fatigue might be the culprit.
What Are The Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
- Low energy levels- feeling unusually fatigued all the time, often described as “my bones feel like lead.” (the hallmark of adrenal fatigue)
- An increasing inability/lack of desire to get out of bed and feelings of dread of rising in the mornings (this is a big one)
- Great dizziness when standing up after sitting
- Hair loss, especially around the outer eyebrow (common with thyroid disorders, too)
- Heightened cravings for salt and sugary foods
- Fast weight gain, especially around the abdomen
- Low blood pressure
- Brain Fog
- Lowered immune system function
- Loss of Libido
- Food allergies and heightened allergic responses
The Importance of Replenishment and Rest
One of the most important things you need to know about adrenal fatigue is that you need to rest and take it easy on yourself in order to restore a healthy stress response and optimal adrenal gland function. In fact, treat your body like you are recovering from running a marathon, because those ultimate marathon runners often end up with adrenal fatigue after those stressful events . . . and end up in the same place you are. Simply over-exercising can make adrenal fatigue worse too.
Although the right diet and supplements help to support adrenal health, it’s equally important to address stress levels with lifestyle changes. Consider implementing rest, meditation, more quality sleep, low-impact exercise (like yoga, walking, and swimming), and affirmations to correct hormonal imbalances.
The Importance of A Healthy Diet for Adrenal Fatigue
How we eat is drastically important for healing and protecting the adrenal glands. So, if you are suffering from constant tiredness, work on improving poor diet choices and strive for an adrenal fatigue diet plan that is full of healthy whole food nutrients. Below are some of the best foods to support healthy adrenal function:
- Grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, organic turkey and eggs for good protein
- Wild caught fatty fish like salmon and other sustainable seafood
- Lots of organic vegetables. Esspecially leafy greens choc full of vitamins and minerals
- Healthy fats including good cooking oils, avocados and coconut (avoid these fats)
- Healthy starches like sweet potatoes, plantains and butternut squash
- Sea salt or Himalayan pink salt (try to avoid table salt)
You don’t want to go too low on carbs either since this can actually make adrenal fatigue worse. You need to avoid anything that creates any kind of “roller-coaster-y” effects in the body.
Which Foods Make Adrenal Fatigue Worse?
The worst enemies of adrenal fatigue, like the foods below, will spike blood sugar and further deplete you of very precious hormones, ones that work to keep you happy and energetic.
When we eat sugar, our body signals the adrenals and pancreas to begin churning out more insulin and cortisol to process sugars. Long-term use of sugar contributes to low levels of key hormones, like estrogen and cortisol (this is why adrenal fatigue causes the low libido). This further demand upon the stressed-out adrenal glands inhibits recovery from adrenal fatigue at every turn, leaving you even more exhausted.
Eating junk food with sugar, like candy, cakes, cookies, pies, and sugary drinks spikes your blood sugar levels, which helps to keep you in that chronic stress state that brings you into adrenal fatigue.
Keep in mind that heavily processed grains like white flour can act similarly to sugar when processed by your body.
You may want to think twice before using artificial sweeteners since they have been linked to certain health issues. Avoiding sugar might sound depressing for sugar lovers, but you cannot signal the body to begin healing until you do! Period.
Soybeans are in our diet everywhere unless we take great steps to avoid it. Soy can block iodine absorption in our bodies (this is the source of salt cravings so common with adrenal fatigue!). And women need iodine to avoid thyroid disorders of all kinds.
Soy is also a phytoestrogen (a compound that mimics real estrogen), and we need our real estrogen badly with adrenal fatigue. But soy begins competing with our natural estrogen, reducing its effects within our body. The result? Depression, weight gain, and a slowed metabolism (like with menopause).
If you have adrenal fatigue, it’s best to avoid any foods that you might be allergic or sensitive to and do not know it. Adrenal fatigue can aggravate and worsen food allergies, causing great stress in the body that leads to chronic fatigue. Plus, dairy contributes to part of that swollen middle you get with adrenal fatigue (some of that is also inflammation).
Even if you are not lactose intolerant, you might be casein intolerant. Casein is a protein very similar in molecular structure to gluten, and most people who are gluten intolerant are casein intolerant too.
Alcohol is rich in simple carbs and is a quick stimulant that people with adrenal fatigue often crave. It is also one you should avoid, like the plague. Alcohol is what is called a “naked carbohydrate.” It sets off a blood sugar rollercoaster that will worsen adrenal fatigue.
Alcohol’s harsh demands on the adrenal glands ultimately exhaust the system. Like sugar feasts and caffeine-filled drinks, alcohol might temporarily mask the symptoms of adrenal fatigue but ultimately lead to worse ones.
If you really want to heal from adrenal fatigue, you first have to unearth all the causes that could be contributing to and exacerbating this disorder. If gluten intolerance is one of the causes behind your adrenal fatigue (and food sensitivities are just another form of stress on the system), you need to address this if you can even hope to get better. That means ditching wheat-based bread, pasta, and baked goods.
Gluten intolerance, like adrenal fatigue, causes symptoms of inflammation, weight gain, and the draining fatigue you are experiencing.
An undetected gluten sensitivity will send you into the late stages of adrenal fatigue if left unaddressed. Elimination diets are key to unearthing all disorders that are stressing your system and contributing to your adrenal fatigue in order to recover. Before you load up on whole grains, make sure wheat is not an underlying issue.
Although corn is not officially on this list, foods with processed corn may also contribute to similar issues as gluten, like inflammation, allergies, and fatigue.
Consider eliminating gluten and using alternative gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa, oats, or buckwheat.
I left the hardest one for last. Part of the reason we can throw ourselves into the late stages of adrenal fatigue is that we’ve been using caffeine and other stimulants to get through the day.
But each cup of coffee or energy drink tells our adrenals to release our stress hormones again—further aggravating the very problem we are trying to heal.
In fact, it is the most counterproductive behavior we can engage in, sadly.
Unfortunately, with adrenal fatigue, we are so starved for energy that we use stimulants like coffee to get us through the day. But the truth of the matter is, your symptoms will get worse, and you will drive yourself deeper into imbalance if you keep using caffeine to get you through the day.
Even though it will be really tough to stop drinking coffee in order to heal from adrenal fatigue, it really is the best thing for your body. It doesn’t mean you can never have coffee again, but hold off until you’ve healed. Even though herbal tea isn’t the same as coffee, there are many types that support the adrenal glands like holy basil, ashwaganda, and chamomile.
More Adrenal Fatigue Resources:
- Ketogenic Diet: Why It’s Risky for People with Adrenal Fatigue
- AVOID This Type of Exercise If You Have Adrenal Fatigue
- 6 Best Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
- 6 Best Foods for Adrenal Fatigue
This article was originally posted in November of 2016, but has been republished in September of 2023 to include new information and edits.