Better Nutrition

Fend off adrenal fatigue

When you're stressed to the max, your adrenal glands suffer the most. Natural therapies can come to the rescue

- By Michael T. Murray, ND

If you've ever been suddenly frightened, you know what an adrenaline surge feels like. This is a natural defense mechanism controlled by the adrenal glands. Unfortunat­ely, chronic stress can trigger an abnormal adrenal response— either defi cient or excessive hormone release. Often, the adrenals become “exhausted” as a result of the constant demands placed upon them. Symptoms include chronic fatigue and feeling “stressed out,” as well as reduced resistance to allergies and infections.

Stress and Adrenal Health

One of the best ways to support the adrenal glands is to deal with stress more eff ectively. Exercise and relaxation techniques are vital components of a healthy stress- management program.

Regular exercise leads to an increased ability to cope with stress and reduces the risk of stress- related diseases. Relaxation techniques counteract the negative impact of stress on the body by inducing its opposite reaction. Although you can relax by sleeping or reading a book, relaxation techniques are designed specifi cally to produce the “relaxation response.”

There are several helpful relaxation techniques, including meditation, prayer, self- hypnosis, and biofeedbac­k. You may have to try a few methods fi rst to fi nd one that works for you. The important thing is to set aside at least 5– 10 minutes each day to perform a relaxation technique.

Healing Foods for the Adrenals

A low- glycemic diet is the foundation of healthy adrenal glands. This includes avoiding refi ned sugars, especially those found in pastries, doughnuts, sodas, and other processed foods. These sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstrea­m, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and upsetting blood sugar control. It's also important to limit carbohydra­tes and starches, including pasta and bread, to very small portions.

Fluctuatio­ns in blood sugar place unnecessar­y strain on adrenal function and are a common cause of excess cortisol production ( a hallmark of adrenal fatigue). Elevated cortisol is not only associated with increased stress, but also sugar cravings and weight gain. And too much cortisol is linked to suboptimal immune system function, depression, muscle mass loss, osteoporos­is, and brain atrophy, too.

When it comes to healthy adrenals, it's also important to eat foods that are rich in potassium and to avoid those high in sodium. Most Americans have a potassium- to- sodium ( K: Na) ratio of less than 1: 2— this means, most people ingest twice as much sodium as potassium. Nutrition researcher­s and experts recommend a ratio

The important thing is to set aside at least 5– 10 minutes each day to perform a relaxation technique, such as prayer or meditation.

of greater than 5: 1 to maintain health— and this may even be low.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can produce a K: Na ratio greater than 50: 1, as most fruits and vegetables have a K: Na ratio of at least 100: 1. Here are the average K: Na ratios for fi ve fresh fruits and vegetables high in potassium:

Apples— 90: 1 Bananas— 440: 1 Carrots— 75: 1 Oranges— 260: 1 Potatoes— 110: 1

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