Our columnist asks whether adrenal fatigue could be adding to your stress and anxiety
Last year was an unprecidented year – one that challenged even the calmest among us and brought home to us the reality that to protect our health we have to feed our health. So, what can you do to support your body in times of stress? The first step is to understand how your adrenal glands work.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and secrete important hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). These hormones help you to buffer stress and adapt to everyday life demands by determining the stress response. This stress can be anything from a diet high in stimulants, exposure to environmental noise and pollutants, a demanding job or life, a lack of sleep, excessive worrying or feeling powerless or trapped in a situation.
However, if the exposure to stress becomes chronic, the adrenals can no longer keep up with the demand, and can cause you to feel anxious and nervous. Complaints of insomnia, fatigue, depression, irritability and digestive difficulties are also common. A diet rich in protein, essential fats, slow-releasing carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are especially supportive when we are over-stimulated or anxious.
Try to consume high-protein foods with every meal and snack. Protein slows down the breakdown of foods and absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. The types of foods highest in protein are eggs, meat, fish, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds.
The B vitamins are essential for energy production and the normal functioning of the nervous system, and vitamin B5 in particular, for production of the glucocorticoid hormones (such as cortisol) in the adrenals. Good sources include whole grains, eggs, beans and lentils, plus a wide range of vegetables, fish and meats. Taking a B vitamin complex can be very supportive. The Wild Nutrition B Complex Plus also includes vitamin C, magnesium and the herb ashwagandha, shown to support healthy cortisol regulation.
Magnesium is essential for energy production and for optimal functioning of the adrenal hormones, and it’s quickly used up when we are stressed. The best sources are nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds or hemp protein powder), buckwheat groats or flour, greens such as spinach and kale, or fish and seafood. If sleep is an issue, then taking an additional 80mg of Food-Grown Magnesium at night can be a great support.
Vitamin C is another nutrient that is vital for the manufacture of adrenal hormones. Fruits and vegetables are the best source, but contrary to popular belief, oranges do not have the highest levels – better sources include peppers, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress and red cabbage. Go easy on the fruit, as it can be high in sugar – no more than two pieces per day is best for most people.
Henrietta Norton is an established nutritional therapist, women’s health expert and founder of award-winning supplement brand Wild Nutrition
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