Adrenal fatigue is something that affects more than 75% of my clients. Given the pace most of us keep up in our daily lives, that’s actually not all that surprising. What is surprising though, is that most of them come to me for help with completely different issues….they aren’t even aware their adrenals are in trouble.
Adrenal fatigue comes from stress, mental or physical. It can be caused by one major stressful event, or a build-up over time and can lead to eventual exhaustion, if left untreated. Everyone is different which means we each have our own proverbial “breaking point”, caused from varying sources of stress. Regardless of what kind of stress brings it on, once fatigued, you need to take very targeted steps in order to heal your adrenals. Obviously, lifestyle changes and learning to manage and mitigate stress play a huge role in healing, but nutrition is another key component. What and how we eat can cause significant stress in the body, so it’s important to have a specific nutritional plan of action for healing.
The first step in that plan? Blood sugar balance.
Blood sugar (or blood glucose level) is the concentration of glucose in the blood. It’s carried throughout the body and delivered via the blood to the cells to use for energy. When we eat, the carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which raises the blood sugar level in the body and triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps the cells “open up” to receive the glucose, thereby lowering the blood glucose level.
Insulin is what the body uses to keep blood sugar levels balanced. The stress generated by everyday life (let alone when you’re forced to deal with something catastrophic) upsets both blood sugar levels and also the effectiveness of insulin at this balancing act. The Go! Go! Go! nature of everyday life these days often puts fueling our body on the back burner and leads to missed meals. This can be problematic because when we do eat, we tend to grab quick, high glycemic options like chips, cookies, or a chocolate bar which results in a quick spike. Blood sugar spikes cause the body to store fat, so it’s no surprise that weight gain (even to the point of obesity) is one result of blood sugar imbalance. On the other hand, blood sugar lows trigger the body to burn muscle and hold onto fat. In this case, the result can be low energy, fatigue, brain fog, and cravings.
This blood sugar roller coaster is especially harmful for someone dealing with adrenal fatigue/exhaustion. It causes stress reactions in the body, forcing the already exhausted adrenals to pump out cortisol to combat the stress. In addition to that, with each spike, the pancreas will pump out insulin – eventually, the cells will get tired of insulin “knocking at the door” and start ignoring it.
Hello, insulin resistance! Bad News!
Some signs to watch for regarding blood sugar imbalance include:
- brain fog (hard-pressed to find many women who aren’t feeling this!)
- feeling “hangry”
- weight gain and trouble losing it
- constant sugar cravings
- mood swings
- sleep disturbances
- always thirst and frequent urination
- sleep problems
- long time to heal cuts and bruises
How To Quickly Balance Blood Sugar
You need to balance blood sugar levels before you can heal your adrenals. Lifestyle changes alone will not cut it. As with so many of the natural things we can do to heal ourselves, the steps to take in order to achieve this balance are actually pretty simple. Here are some key things to focus on to quickly stabilize your blood sugar in your body:
Eat Breakfast! One of the most important things to do is eat a breakfast with protein and fat – everyday. It amazes me how many people still go out the door without breakfast…mostly because there’s no way I’d be able to get through a morning without breaky, but also because we’ve been hearing our entire lives how important it is for all ages to eat breakfast! Starting your day with a nutrient-dense breakfast that includes protein and fat (and avoiding sugar!) will fuel your body for several hours and blood glucose more stable throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is 30 within 30 – 30 g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up.
Eat small amounts of protein every 2-3 hours. Eating protein-rich snacks like nuts, seeds, a protein smoothie, or some coconut yogurt every few hours is a key component of stabilizing blood sugar, particularly for folks who have been on the blood sugar roller coaster for a while. We need to gently and gradually get the cells back to “opening up” for glucose in order to get lower those blood sugar levels. If you go too long without eating something, your blood sugar will drop and you’re more likely to grab something quick to satisfy you (like, a Snickers!), which will cause a spike. We want to avoid those spikes and drops – eating small protein-rich snacks throughout the day will do that. Once you’ve been able to even out blood sugar levels and start to notice improvements in the symptoms you’re experiencing, you can likely go a little longer between snacks and meals.
Don’t eat sugar without protein, fiber, or fat. Whenever you eat something with a high sugar content (or high on the glycemic index), try to remember to couple it with some protein, fiber, or fat. These nutrients will slow down how quickly the sugar affects your blood glucose, giving less of a spike. For example, if you eat a banana, add some nut/seed butter with it…delish!
Walk after eating. Taking a short, 10-20 minute stroll after eating is an effective way to slow how quickly your blood sugar levels increase and help you effectively digest your meal. As an added bonus, getting outside for a walk is a great stress-management tool, which is so beneficial for your adrenal health.
- Include healthy fat with every meal. Healthy fats provide a great bang for your buck. They help you to feel full longer, avoid blood sugar spikes and provide an excellent source of energy. Hemp, flax, or coconut oil are my top recommendations for healthy fat choices – organic, of course!
- Add apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice to meals. Adding something acidic to a meal will slow how fast your food is converted into blood sugar – by up to four times! An easy way to incorporate these in your meal is in a salad dressing – my go-to is 1 tbsp ACV, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp olive oil (that takes care of your healthy fat, too!). Add all to a small jar, shake and pour liberally over a salad for a delicious dressing that helps to stabilize blood sugar.
- Sprinkle flax seed over food. Freshly ground flax seed (buy whole seeds and grind yourself) is loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well has healthy Omega 3 fatty acids – awesome for brain health, stress, and inflammation. As with ACV/lemon, adding flax seed to meals will slow the conversion of your food in to blood sugar.
To help get you started with the breakfast step, here’s a yummy breakfast recipe to try:
CONSISTENCY IS KEY!