How to Take Care of Your Adrenals
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •June 20, 2023
Many of us know how it feels to be stressed or overworked. However, not many of us realize what this stress does to our bodies on a physical level. Over-extended periods of stress can overburden our bodies, creating a situation that’s not so easy to bounce back from.
The adrenal glands are the organs that sit just above the kidneys that regulate stress and energy patterns. Cortisol is normally released by the adrenals in a 24-hour daily cycle with a burst in the morning to help us wake up and its lowest levels in the evening so we may sleep. This is called our circadian rhythm. As an individual feels mental or physical stress, the adrenals secrete cortisol and other hormones to prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response. But with prolonged stress, they become unbalanced and either release too much cortisol and stress chemicals or they burn out so that cortisol is not released properly. This is referred to as “adrenal fatigue.”
Routine, balance and rest in life are the most important treatments for repairing the adrenals and maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. Our best energy is early in the day when cortisol is high. It’s natural to have lower energy in the evening. The key is to honor this and go with the flow instead of against it.
REST & RECOVER
- Go to bed and wake at the same time every night and morning, even weekends. Wake between 5-7am. In bed between 8-10pm
- Get outside in the sunlight every day, early morning before 10am is the best time.
- Minimize light exposure at night and sleep in a completely dark room. Keep your bedroom cool.
- Take a break and get some restorative rest for 10-20 minutes between 12-2pm (it’s natural for our energy and cortisol to drop during this time so honor it). Taking a break midday will help support energy and another rise in cortisol in the later afternoon.
- Relaxing activities after dinner such as meditation, walking, yoga, reading, pleasant conversation, a cup of tea and quiet time.
- No computers after dinner! (I know this one is so hard)
- Exercise early in the day, most optimal time is first thing in the morning, so the earlier the better. 2nd best is any time before Noon and 3rd best is between 2-6pm. Worst time is in the evening except for walking (which is good to do anytime)
- Listen to your body and adjust exercise as needed. If in an early response to stress it may feel great to go for a run or other vigorous workout. If in a more chronic state of stress you may need to choose something more balancing and less intense like yoga or walking. You should not feel exhausted after your exercise. If you have a lot of fatigue and you are getting sick often your body may be telling you to slow down and replenish with sleep and less intense exercise.
MIND & SELF-CARE
What are your triggers? Stress can be disguised or felt as grief, fear, anger or hurt. Also consider environmental factors such as visual and aural overstimulation. Work with your stress and find a way to process it effectively.
Reflect on your life – what things are taxing your mind and body? Take an honest reflection to look at what IS working for you and what is NOT working for you? In general, most of us need to slow down and set an easier more relaxed pace. Most of us need to take a pause and slow down our thoughts and minds on a daily basis. Perhaps this means you will spend 20 minutes per day, doing NOTHING, in meditation or just sitting in nature and observing.
- Eat three balanced meals a day at approximately same time each day (within a half hour. So if lunch is set for Noon, eat between 11:30 and 12:30).
- Eat within 1-2 hours of waking.
- Avoid eating late at night, ideally finish eating 3 hours before bedtime.
- Include protein with each meal and don’t shy away from the good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, butter, seeds, nut butters).
- Eat dark, leafy greens such as collards, kale, chard or spinach every day.
- Do not be afraid of salt. Use sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, or kelp powder to taste.
- Drink half your weight in ounces of filtered WATER every day.
LIMIT: these foods tax our adrenals
- Sugar and refined (white) carbohydrates
- Fruit juices with the following ingredients: fructose, glucose, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin
- Processed foods
- Hydrogenated fats
- Limit CAFFEINE and Alcohol. The goal is 1 cup of coffee per day or less and 3 or fewer alcoholic drinks per week.
- Food intolerances/sensitivities
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.