Here are my top 10 tips for nurturing your adrenals :
(if you’re thinking “WHAT are adrenals?” read this first)
1. Eat enough protein
Protein foods are made of amino acids, the ‘building blocks’ of life. You need these guys to stay in one piece. During busy patches and periods of stress it’s not uncommon to crave carbohydrate-dense food (hello, sugar!) at the expense of protein. Avoid that habit by keeping a wide range of high quality protein in your diet.
Examples of protein foods include good quality meat, poultry, eggs, fish, cultured dairy (e.g. natural yoghurt, cheese), legumes, tempeh, nuts, and seeds.
BTW when discussing the consumption of animal products, I feel strongly about choosing free-range, organic and non-grain-fed produce. In my opinion it’s the best choice for both individual and environmental health.
2. Also eat fat
Fat is an important source of energy for the body and plays a key role in nervous system function. A lot of people still feel worried about eating too much fat, but really, don’t be – fat doesn’t make you fat.
How can you up the fats in your diet? Here’s how: nuts (and nut butters), seeds (and seed butters), olive oil, coconut oil (and milk and cream), cold water fish (e.g. mackeral, salmon, tuna, sardines), eggs, avocado, grass-fed meats, organic butter, natural yoghurt… that’s a lot of options!
3. Get good sleep
Those hours spent watching the blanket show each night are also the ones our body uses to recover and repair from the events of the day. So, it stands to reason, the better your sleep the better you’ll heal.
The average ‘ideal’ amount of sleep for an adult is 7-9 hours / night, but you may need slightly more or less depending on your situation. Find some more information on how to get into the habit of good sleep here.
4. Move every day
Regular exercise keeps you fit and healthy. It is also one of the best ways to regulate up’n’down stress hormones. For this to be effective however, you need to be moving regularly, every day if you can.
While some people feel great doing high-intensity heart-thumping face-grimacing exercise, it’s preferable to focus on sustained, flowing, resistance-based movement when you’re stressed or rundown. This type of exercise is highly beneficial – and will still get your heart rate up – without inducing a cortisol spike (as intense exercise can) that’ll feed back into the stress cycle.
Some suggestions include: walking (bushwalking is even better), light jogging, cycling, dancing, swimming, surfing, yoga, weights training, pilates, and Qigong.
5. Be aware of your breath
Breathing, we all do it. Guess what? How you do it can impact your health. Who knew!
Mindfulness and meditation practices will almost always incorporate some breath awareness, as this helps to calm and focus our mind – a good skill in times of stress.
A lot of people, without realising, will breathe with short shallow breaths – particularly when stressed. This puts us into a mildly hypoxic state, which promotes inflammation and an inevitable cascade of health complaints. By learning how to breathe properly, and practicing this skill, much of that can be avoided.
6. Adrenal tonics
Adrenal herbs, as the name suggests, assist the adrenal glands to work more effectively. They are a tonic for the nervous system and help to restore normal physiological function.
Adrenal herbs, such as Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are absolute gold during, or following, a period of prolonged stress and subsequent fatigue.
7. Adaptogenic herbs
Adaptogenic herbs increase the body’s nonspecific adaptation response to stress. They reduce your inflammatory response, balance immune function and help to stabilise the hormone fluctuation commonly association with stress and fatigue. They essentially act as a whole body tonic.
Some adaptogens I like to use include Withania (Withania somnifera), Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula)and Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus). These will usually be combined in a liquid mix with other herbs that are specific to the individual.
8. Vitamin C
Vitamin C usually gets lumped in with snotty noses, coughs and colds (for which, I completely agree, it’s excellent). However, this nutrient is involved in much more than that. Us humans, unlike other animals, don’t synthesis our own vitamin C and tend to excrete extra-large amounts of it when we’re under pressure.
A decent supplemental dose will usually be in the vicinity of 1000 – 5000mg / day, but it’s important to adjust the dose according to each individual. I usually recommend dividing the dose, to encourage optimal absorption, rather than taking a large hit at once.
You will also find vitamin C in fruit and veg, especially broccoli, citrus fruits, kiwis, blackcurrants, mango, pineapple, guava and strawberries.
9. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzme Q10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant and key player in energy production. Fun fact, CoQ10 is also know as ubiquinone – as in ubiquitous: being, or seeming to be, everywhere at once. In other words, it’s used in and by all the bits of the body.
People with chronic health conditions or long-term stress are usually depleted of CoQ10 and significantly benefit from supplementation.
Magnesium, good old magnesium, we sweat this by the bucket load during times of stress. Physiologically, magnesium plays a role in the tension and relaxation of smooth muscle; it is also a co-factor in energy production and glucose regulation. Most of us could do with a dose.
You know those eye-twitches that annoyingly appear during the middle of an interview, or the jittery legs that you don’t even realise you have until someone points it out? Magnesium.
You will find magnesium in a number of food sources, especially eggs, cacao, almonds, cashews, kelp, wheatgerm and buckwheat.
So there you go: my top 10. There’s plenty more you can do for stress and fatigue, but that’s probably enough to get you going. Now, go forth and nurture!