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Our diet plays a huge role in preventing disease and promoting health and it is especially important when fighting off Adrenal Fatigue (or any other health condition for that matter). There are foods that can do you more harm than good and of course, foods that can dramatically speed up your recovery process. So, what are the adrenal fatigue diet do’s and dont’s? We have included a great overview for you below, so let’s just dive right in!
The best way to eat should always be based on your personal health (and goals), you should always ask yourself if you wish (or need) to eat to prevent a health condition for which you are at high risk, to manage an existing health condition, or to reverse a health condition. If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue (and stress), it is highly recommended to avoid following foods and drinks that are known to amplify stress:
(A traditional, ancestral diet such as the Paleo, Primal and WAPF Diet are perfect in support of a healthy adrenal function, but will have a very positive impact on anyone’s health)
For about 2.5 million years, our early ancestors, foraged, hunted or fished for their meals. Their primary diet consisted out of meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots and seeds. Then about 10,000 years ago, the Agricultural Revolution led to an increase in reliable food supplies and an explosion of human populations. Now less time was needed for hunting and foraging, allowing for the development of advanced cultures, but there is evidence that human height and health declined as a result of the changes that the Agricultural Revolution brought about in our ancestors’ diets.
Another revolution that brought significant changes to our diets and changed the composition of our energy foods, started in the late 18th century and is known as the Industrial Revolution. Energy from proteine rose, fiber-free fats and sugars became a big source of calories, while energy from starches fell. In addition to lower fiber content, refined white flower products were also stripped from vitamins and other micronutrients. The use of machinery allowed the production of margarine and vegetable oils and man-made trans-fats were introduced into our diets, which cause clogging of arteries, type 2 diabetes, increase the risk of heart disease and other serious health problems.
So, as you can see, for the larger part humans have spent as hunter-gatherers and our bodies adapted to that lifestyle over thousands of years. Then with the advent of agriculture and domestication of animals we started eating foods such as grain, legumes, and dairy products. The Industrial Revoltion introduced sugars, fibre-free fats, refined white flower products, margarine and vegetable oils in a large scale into our diets.
On his Whole Health Blog, Dr. Stephan Guyenet wrote that “In 1822, we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda (360 ml) every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours.”
On average, Americans are eating about 20 teaspoons of added sugar per day (or 320 calories) according to a report from the 2005–10 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) database.. This amounts to 64 pounds (29 kg) per year.
Average daily consumption for men: 335 calories, women: 230 calories, boys: 362 calories, girls: 282 calories.
Ps. Note that sugars supply just one nutrient: pure carbohydrate (no vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other important nutrients).
Two other big changes to our modern diet took place in the 1970s and 80s. The first change started in the US in the 1970s under Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz – agricultural policies were increasingly loosened (with the introduction of a subsidy system, a guaranteed liveable income for corn farmers) which encouraged producers to mass produce corn (and soybeans), by gradually abolishing production limits.
By the mid 1970s, there was a surplus of corn; a scientific innovation then led to the mass development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a highly sweet syrup, produced from surplus corn, that was also extremely cheap, easy to produce and highly addicting. HFCS were created in the 1950s, further developed in the 1960s, processed in the 1970s for industrial production and introduced into many processed foods from 1975-1985. You can find HFCS currently in almost every processed food including (but not limited to): ketchup, tomato sauce, bread, peanut butter, soda, fast food, cereal, salad dressing, yogurt, sauces.
HFCS has greatly increased calories and portion sizes in the Standard American Diet due to the fact that we eat more empty calories everyday and at the same time those empty calories from HFCS don’t fill us up. Research indicates that on average Americans today consume about 27 kilo (60 pounds) of HFCS per person per year and it is not uncommon if an American now derives 11% of his daily caloric intake from HFCS.
The second big change to our diets was because of a health issue that received great attention in the mid 1970s: heart disease. Scientists hypothesized that either fat, by raising cholesterol, or sugar by raising triglycerides, was to blame for cardiovascular disease. A few studies found that fat was to blame….
People suddenly shunned cheese, milk and cream and shortly new products arrived on the shelves such as low-fat yoghurts, spreads, butter, cheese, even desserts and biscuits. All with the fat taken out and largely replaced with sugar (when you take the fat out the food, it tastes like cardboard, so you need to replace it with something and that something was sugar). Now we know that the consumption of sugars, rather than fats, is mainly responsible for the increase in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and the obesity epidemic. Adult obesity rates have doubled since 1980 and childhood obesity rates have more than tripled!
Long story short, basically our diets have changed massively while our genetics have not.
Now transferring this to the Paleo Diet /Primal /WAPF Diet. Both these traditional diets are based on the foods that our ancient ancestors ate, there are a few differences though. They are both a better and healthier alternative to the Standard American Diet. It all comes down to a matter of personal taste and preference to determine which one is the right one for you:
Aims to mimic the sort of diets our paleolithic ancestors ate and eschews all grains, legumes, and dairy. They also avoid all processed foods, including modern refined vegetable oils and refined sugar. These diets are very similar to the WAPF Diet with a few exceptions, such as the removal of grains from the diet and dairy is a controversial food – some argue that a little dairy is fine while some exclude dairy altogether from their diets.
This Diet Might Be Right For You If . . .
You want to eat a healthier diet, but don’t do well on dairy (lactose intolerant) or grains (gluten sensitive/intolerant), you have celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or you prefer not to eat these products for other reasons.
The WAPF Diet also tries to mimic the foods that our ancestors ate before the advent of agriculture but also stresses the importance of a diet rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K-2 from animal foods raised on pasture or caught in the wild, this includes foods such as bone broth, fermented foods, and organ meats. Grains can be eaten, as long as they are traditionally prepared (to combat antinutrients such as phytic acid) as is the case with nuts, seeds, and legumes. Dairy should be made from pasture-raised cows and preferably raw.
This Diet Might Be Right For You If . . .
Want to eat a healthier diet and acknowledge the importance of a diet rich in fat soluble vitamins, or you like dairy and grains to be part of your diet because of personal taste.
You may think these diets are complicated or tedious to follow, but it is actually quite simple: eat (unprocessed) real foods. Unprocessed, real foods should be part of any Adrenal Fatigue diet.
For an indication on portions, 55– 65% of your calories should come from animals, 35–45% from plant based foods. Keep your protein intake moderate somewhere in between 19- 35%, carbohydrate intake in between 22- 40%, and fat intake in between 28- 58%.
As a sidenote, these numbers are just to give you a rough idea and to get you started. Counting calories is something that our ancestors probably did not do and we should not do either. If you start eating according to the adrenal diet guidelines on this page and you understand the principles, there is no need to count calories anymore. You simply eat when hungry and don’t eat when not hungry.
PROTEINS. Proteins assist with growth and repair of the body. Proteins are found in animal products like meat, fish, cheese, milk and eggs. Vegetable sources include pulses and nuts.
Meats and eggs can be eaten as often as you like. They are high in protein and very filling. Meats and eggs also offer a significant source of healthy fats. That being said, you should attempt to only eat these products from animals that have been pasture raised and were fed primarily grass. Absolutely steer as far from animal products that have been pumped with: preservatives and flavor enhancers, in particular those full of added nitrates which are highly toxic.
Game meats, organ meats, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, and eggs from: emu, quail, ducks and chicken are all wonderful choices.
Fish, Fish Eggs, and Shellfish (remember to be conscious of mercury levels)
Fish products are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, and a great choice for an ancestral diet. Smaller fish are particularly high in Omega-3.
Seeds and Nuts (peanuts are legumes)
Unless you are overweight, eat as many nuts as you like. They are a great source of protein and vitamins. If you are obese, or simply trying to lose weight, attempt decreasing or limiting nut intake to less than two ounces per day. Seeds, nuts and legumes need to be soaked, fermented, sprouted or cooked to reduce the toxic antinutrients phytates and lectin. Peanuts are legumes and not a part of a Paleo Diet (WAPF Diet: legumes such as peanuts need to be soaked, fermented, sprouted or cooked prior to eating ).
CARBOHYDRATES. Carbohydrates are crucial for two particular functions in your body; energy and digestion. Most types of carbohydrates are starches and sugars that break down into glucose (the simplest form of carbohydrate) and is your body’s primary source of energy. Fiber, another type of carbohydrate, is essential to proper digestion, but does not break down into glucose. Most foods in your diet provide some carbohydrates, but processed foods are often lacking in fiber. Paleo Diet: most complex carbohydrates come from (green) vegetables. WAPF Diet: most complex carbohydrates come from (green) vegetables, starchy vegetables, (sweet) potatoes, whole grains, beans, lentils and peas.
Vegetables: Paleo Diet: Raw, non-starchy vegetables are the way to go, so load up on them. They are best received by the body when they are raw or steamed. Starchy vegetables, like corn, yams and potatoes act like carbohydrates in the body and need to be avoided. WAPF Diet: Both non-starchy vegetables and starchy vegetables can be included in the diet. Starchy vegetables should be well cooked and consumed with a fat, like butter.
Local organic veggies are the best option. The reason local is best, is actually due to the amount of time spent “on the road”. The greater amount of time that passes between crops being pulled and put into your mouth, the more nutrients are lost. Vegetables from the sea are especially good in your diet. Think along the lines of seaweeds such as, Kombus, and Wakame. Algae are also good for you.
Fruits: Follow the same guidelines for fruits, as you do for vegetables. However, if you are overweight, do not eat large amounts of fruit. The fruits will cause your blood sugar level to rise, increasing the insulin in the body. It’s alsno not recommended to eat high potassium fruits when fighting Adrenal Fatigue as your body already has too much potassium in its system.
NO Simple Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can be either simple or complex and both types eventually turn into glucose. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and can be naturally occurring (such as sugars in fruit, dairy, vegetables and legumes) or added to foods (such as sucrose and dextrose). During digestion these simple carbs are quickly metabolized from sugar into glucose and released into your bloodstream for energy. Complex carbohydrates (starches from yams, potatoes, corn etc.) undergo numerous conversions before they are finally converted into glucose providing a more sustained level of energy. Complex carbohydrates also allow the body to feel fuller and to feel full more quickly because they take longer to break down and they require less insulin to be released, requiring less work from the adrenal glands. Simple carbohydrates are for instance:
FATS. One of the biggest misconceptions and hardest things for most is to understand the fact that fats do not make you fat. Healthy fats are crucial for building healthy cells, fats are needed to create hormones!, help the body use vitamins and many other things are literally fueled by animal fats. Healthy fats, such as avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee and olive oil are great additions and are filling, satisfying foods that supply your brain and body with crucial energy. You should really eliminate fats that you don’t need and that is any vegetable oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega-6. Examples of the “bad fats” include corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil.
Paleo Diet: Very small amounts of olive oil and coconut oil allowed. Stay away from industrial vegetable oils.
WAPF Diet: Olive oil and coconut oil are great, but very important to also include liberal amounts of animal fats. Stay away from industrial vegetable oils.
If you want to eat in lign with the Paleo Diet, absolutely all grains should be avoided. This includes flour products, pastas, rice, bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, and more. If the product is a grain carb, do not eat it. WAPF Diet: allowed and recommended as many healthy primitive and traditional peoples included grains in their diets, but grains need to be properly prepared to neutralize anti-nutrients and improve digestibility prior to consumption
Paleo Diet: Milk, cheeses, yogurt, and even protein powders are not allowed. WAPF Diet: Raw dairy products should be consumed (including soured or lacto-fermented dairy).
Beans and Legumes
Paleo Diet: Not allowed, because of the anti nutrients. This also includes foods such as: peanuts, soy, lentils, black beans and white beans. The exceptions to this rule are snap peas and green beans. WAPF Diet: are part of a healthy diet, but need proper preparation to neutralize anti-nutrients. Soy foods are not allowed because of phytoestrogens, high levels of phytic acid and they are potent antithyroid agents.
Refined Sweeteners and Sugar
Fruit sugars, not juices, are fine. However, attempt not to overdo it. Avoid white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame and other sweeteners.
Refined and Iodized Salts
Natural salts, particularly Celtic sea salt (or Himalayan salt) is very beneficial to include in your diet and contains numerous minerals that are important to many biological processes. But this does not hold true for the average table salt, that’s a big NO. If you are fighting Adrenal Fatigue, eat salty foods when craving salt. Craving salt when you have adrenal issues is a sign of weak adrenal glands. Ofcourse if you don’t crave salt or salty foods, there is no need to eat extra of it.
Completely Eliminate all Caffeine and (reduce) Alcohol Intake
Caffeine and alcohol are both hard on adrenal function. Caffeine, when fighting fatigue, provides “fake” energy, which makes healthy adrenal function difficult. These fake energy sources speed everything up, which causes the adrenal glands to work harder.
Alcohol is another form of simple carbs. Alcohol may be one of the most difficult substances for some people to just stop using, but for the sake of adrenal function, it is best not to ingest alcohol. Should you really like your occasional drink, wine or unpasteurized are the best alternatives (as long as you use it in moderation).
Avoid Diet Foods and Low Fat
Diet foods or those foods that are labeled fat free are horrible for anyone’s diet, and especially for those who fight daily with healthy adrenal function and fatigue. Artificial sweeteners and fake fats will cause weight gain and take a toll on your metabolism. Stay away from these fake foods with empty calories.
Fats are not bad for anyone’s diet, unless they are the bad fats such as, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats. The total fats in fatty foods are good for your health and for adrenal function. Olive oil, real organic butter, ghee and coconut oil are actually very good for your body. Fats are responsible for hormone growth. Decreasing and/or eliminating fatty foods from your body will decrease the necessary hormones for a healthy adrenal function, which will lead to Adrenal Fatigue.
Pay close attention to your diet when fighting Adrenal Fatigue. It can be the one thing preventing you from increasing a healthy adrenal function on a daily basis.
Factory Farmed Meats
When animals grow in factory mills that raise the animals for mass meat consumption, the meats are often full of preservatives. The animals are also not fed correctly, which leads to poor nutrition for us when we consume their meat. Always attempt to eat naturally pasture raised animals. This includes when consuming their eggs and if you are eating dairy products.
You’ve probably heard that too much salt raises your blood pressure and is bad for you. That idea is also known as the “salt hypothesis.” The false reasoning behind it goes as follows: since salt intake is related to blood pressure, and since cardiovascular risk is also related to blood pressure, then, surely, salt intake levels are dangerous because they are related to cardiovascular risk.
The truth of the matter is that whether or not salt is bad for you really depends on what type of salt you are talking about. Just like organic grass fed beef is better than grain fed beef and that organic produce is better than regular produce, table salt is nowhere near as good as natural salt.
Unrefined natural salt is not harmful in moderate amounts. In fact it contains minerals needed by the body to function properly and has many benefits:
Table salt is definitely something you should use in moderation at a minimum and completely eliminate from your diet at best. Table salt is chemically produced and does not just contain sodium chloride, but also several additives (to make it more free-flowing), such as Ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate. Aluminium intake may lead to neurological disorders and talc is a known carcinogen.
Choosing The Right Salt
Table salt typically consists 97.5 percent sodium chloride and 2.5 percent man made chemicals, this is not good for the body. However natural salts like Celtic and Himalayan (see below) are full of minerals and nutrients (84 nutritional elements) that are found naturally in our bodies that are vital to us. There are two really good salts that you can start out with and then you can experiment with other salts to suit your needs and tastes.
Celtic Salt – this sea salt is naturally harvested in Brittany, France, near the Celtic sea. The geographical orientation of the Atlantic and the climactic conditions of the region play an important part in the unique mix of sea minerals and the quality of salt that is extracted. Celtic sea salt supplies all 82 trace minerals needed by the human body for optimal health and longevity.
Himalayan Pink Salt – this salt actually does not have as strong a salt taste as table salt. You may even notice after switching to this salt that table salt will have a very bitter taste to you because of how different this salt tastes. It actually comes from the Himalayan Mountains and is so full of nutrients that you will notice a big difference in your body when you switch from table salt.
These are just a few options, you may find a natural salt that has a flavor that you like better and that is fine. The key is to move away from table salt and increase your intake of salt with natural salts.
How often do we hear that we should be avoiding salt in our diets? That isn’t necessarily the case if you’re suffering the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue. This may be the one time in your life when you will actually be encouraged to give in to your temptation to indulge in some healthy salts. When suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, salty foods can prove beneficial. Regularly drinking a glass of water with a pinch of sea salt can make a big difference for Adrenal Fatigue.
Marcelle Pick gives the following explanation for this: the adrenal glands not only produce cortisol, but also manufacture the hormone aldosterone. Low levels of this hormone can create an imbalance in the body’s electrolyte load. One way to correct this imbalance is by increasing the salt content in the foods of your diet.
Pick also explains that low blood pressure in the mornings can be indicated by a sensation of lightheadedness upon arising or when changing positions, like sitting to rising. This annoying sensation can be generally corrected with a moderate increase in the sodium content of your diet. Pick is not suggesting that you should immediately go for the salt shaker and start dousing your morning egg.
If you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) or have other medical reasons for limiting your sodium intake, then it is suggested that you seek the advice of your medical doctor before making an adjustment to your daily salt intake. Those who do decide to increase their sodium intake, Pick says, should consider adding a moderate amount of Celtic (or Himalayan) salt to their dishes. Choose a sodium product that is better for you than the average table salt.
Remember to allow yourself moments in which you let yourself enjoy your favorite foods in moderation without feeling guilty or deprived, but only IF you feel the need. Negating intake of foods that you enjoy and following a set of rigid unsustainable rules to lose fat or stay healty can ultimately lead to falling away from a well balanced diet. However, if you allow yourself to indulge every now and then, you are much more likely to succeed. A relaxed long-term perspective works best and then it doesn’t matter if you occasionally treat yourself.
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