4 Crucial Steps to Support Your Adrenals
In the fast paced, caffeine-fueled, sugar-shocked culture we live in today, our adrenals are taking one of the biggest hits.
Your adrenals are the two triangular-shaped, 3”-long glands that sit on top of your kidneys (ad- “to” + renal “kidney”). You can find them by putting your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers in back. Slide your hands up until your pinky finger touches the bottom of your ribcage. They are right around there.
Here are some signs of adrenals that aren’t in the best shape:
– Feeling tired or exhausted
– Having a hard time coping with stress or pressure
– Becoming less productive at work
– Weight gain around the middle (spare tire)
– Getting headaches
– Decreased sex drive
– For women, PMS symptoms
– Having a “shorter fuse” (people and things annoy you more easily)
– Starting to feel more fearful or anxious
– Craving salt/salty foods
– Needing stimulants in the morning to get going (like coffee) or using these to drive yourself during the day
The list goes on.
These little glands are integral in a tremendous amount of body processes, so fatigued adrenals can show up as many different symptoms.
The main things that will stress out your adrenals are:
– Excess body fat
– Chronic physical pain
– Undetected food allergies
– A stressfully overloaded schedule
– Negative emotions, including chronic fear
– Chronic infections (ex: recurring yeast infections or gingivitis)
Most people I work with regularly have some (or all) of the culprits that stress the adrenals, and many people I see have at least a few signs of adrenal fatigue.
So what can we do about this?
Here is the 4-step plan I use in my practice to support adrenal health:
1. Avoid adrenal stimulators
This includes concentrated sugars, coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, nicotine, allergenic foods, artificial sweeteners, partially hydrogenated fats and inadequate sleep. Overtraining (e.g. marathons) can also be a stressor for the adrenals if they aren’t being supported with appropriate nutrition and lifestyle measures.
This is one of the hardest steps, but an absolutely crucial one for truly making progress in supporting the adrenals. Without this step fully in, results will be minimal.
2. Stabilize blood sugar levels
Avoiding the above adrenal stimulators will go a long way in helping to stabilize blood sugar levels, but there are some additional steps we can take here as well, such as:
a) Not skipping breakfast (or any meals for that matter).
This one is perhaps a little controversial, as there are some schools of thought that encourage breakfast and/or skipping. And if someone’s adrenals are in tip-top shape, that might be fine. But for someone with compromised adrenal function, this one is a killer.
Reason being, your adrenals play a big role in maintaining your body’s blood sugar levels. If you go too long without eating, you are constantly drawing on the strength of your adrenals to carry you through, taxing them all the while.
Have you ever been a little shaky or lightheaded between meals? That’s a sure sign you have gone beyond what your body can handle and you’re now tapping into your adrenaline (from your adrenals) to pull through. This is not something you want.
b) Snacking on low-glycemic foods
“Low-glycemic” simply means a food that isn’t going to make your blood sugar spike. We want foods that will gently raise our insulin levels if at all.
Examples of low-glycemic snacks are things like nuts and seeds, avocado, vegetables dipped in hummus or nut butters, hard-boiled eggs and olives.
Examples of high-glycemic snacks are things like refined crackers, croissants, cookies, chips, candy and sweet fruits (like pineapple and grapes).
3. Exercise Regularly
For many people, aerobic exercise is ideal for supporting the adrenals. It taps into the fat burning system of the body and increases the body’s ability to handle blood sugar. However, for those whose adrenals are really having a hard time, gentle aerobics and yoga may be better choices.
4. Manage Your Stress
Chronic stress (physical and emotional) wreaks havoc on the adrenals. If you have a lot of stress in your life, whether it’s from a demanding job, unhappy relationship, financial struggles or something else, it’s crucial you find a way that works for you to manage that stress. While finding a more ideal job, better relationship or bigger source of income would be ideal, this isn’t always feasible and can take time even when someone is trying to improve an issue.
This one is less black-and-white and more about what works for you. Some of the more common stress management techniques include yoga, exercise, spiritual practice and deep breathing. I’ve accumulated quite a few in my arsenal that work well for me. Taking regular walks, and making sure I’m looking outward at my environment rather than staying in my head while doing so, is one that I find particularly effective. I am also a huge fan of Epsom salt baths.
Have a favorite way of taking care of yourself? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to share it with me below.