Stress can be hard to avoid, it’s a part of everyday life. It is how our body deals with stress that is important. Stress in small doses can actually be helpful, it can help you perform well under pressure and keep you motivated. It’s when stress is constant and prolonged that you run the risk of becoming adrenally fatigued or burnt out. When your adrenals start functioning sub-optimally it can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing, and will affect your ability to recover from emotional, mental and physical stresses.
During times of chronic stress, the adrenal glands become overworked from having to constantly produce cortisol. High circulating cortisol levels are commonly seen in early stages of adrenal fatigue. Overtime the adrenals become fatigued and start under-functioning, and then they stop producing adequate amounts of cortisol needed cope with stressful situations. Low cortisol levels, especially in the morning are characteristic of the later stages of adrenal fatigue. This leaves individuals feeling fatigued, run-down and overwhelmed.
Characteristic symptoms of adrenal fatigue include persistent fatigue which doesn’t improve with rest, difficulty getting to sleep, waking unrefreshed and having to rely on caffeine to get you going in the morning, digestive issues, brain fog with memory loss and poor concentration, cravings for sugar and salt, menstrual problems, hair loss and weight gain (particularly around the middle).
Here are some of the best adrenal tonic herbs, foods and nutrients that will help prevent burnout, providing you with adrenal support and replenishing energy levels and immune function, to bring your body back into balance and good health.
ADRENAL NOURISHING FOODS: Enjoying the following nutrient dense, adrenal nourishing foods will help support your adrenal function and health, including avocado (avocado oil), brassica vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, cabbage), dark green leafy vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, wild Atlantic salmon, cold pressed coconut oil, raw nuts and seeds (nut butters, tahini, macadamia oils), seaweed, Celtic or Himalayan sea salt, fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, yoghurt, kavas), and bone broths.
MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS: Medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps, lion’s mane, turkey tail, reishi, chaga and shitake, are also known as adaptogenic mushrooms as they have the ability to boost your resistance to emotional and physical stress. Medicinal mushrooms can help balance cortisol levels, improve energy levels and endurance, and can support healthy immune and cognitive function. Medicinal mushrooms can be taken in capsule form or consumed as a powder in hot chocolates, smoothies or protein balls. You will find a selection of these medicinal mushrooms in our Bodhi Organic Hot ChocolaTEA, along with other adatogenic herbs.
MACA ROOT: Maca is a root vegetable native to Peru which has been used for thousands of years as a nutritious food staple. This Perivan superfood is considered an adaptogen as it works wonders for improving energy levels and helping you cope with the stressful demands of modern life. Maca contains B vitamins and magnesium, which are essential for producing energy and helping the body cope with stress. It’s also a good vegetarian source of B12, necessary for healthy functioning nerves. Maca powder has a light, nutty flavour, which mixes well in smoothies, protein balls, or sprinkled over breakfast cereal.
REDUCE YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE: Often individuals with adrenal fatigue will report that they can’t function without their morning cup of coffee. Too much caffeine over-stimulates the nervous system and further depletes the adrenals. Caffeine stimulates your ‘fight or flight’ response which stimulates the production of cortisol. Caffeine will give a temporary boost in energy and make you feel more alert but it can also contribute to anxiety and insomnia. Caffeine inhibits the neurotransmitter GABA which can make you feel more anxious. Swap your morning coffee for a soothing caffeine-free herbal tea like chamomile, licorice, lemon balm and holy basil. If you make the switch to decaffeinated coffee make sure its water, not chemically, filtered. You will find these calming botanicals in our SereniTEA (CALM) and TranquiliTEA (SLEEP).
B VITAMINS: B vitamins are an important group of nutrients vital for maintaining good health and emotional wellbeing. B vitamins are needed for proper nervous system function and for the production of energy from food. B vitamins are considered one of the most important ‘anti-stress’ nutrients, which makes it beneficial for treating anxiety and depression. B vitamins are also important for boosting energy levels. Deficiencies in B vitamins can cause mood changes, depression, insomnia, anxiety and fatigue. Niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6) and folic acid (B9) all work alongside tryptophan to produce serotonin. Eating a diet rich in B vitamins and supplementing with a good multi B-complex vitamin daily is recommended. The best sources of B vitamins include legumes, wholegrains, raw nuts and seeds, dark green leafy veggies, organic eggs and chicken, and grass-fed red meat. A diet high in refined grains and processed foods will be lacking these important mood enhancing B vitamins.
MAGNESIUM: Magnesium is an essential mineral vital for good health and vitality. Magnesium is required for many cellular functions in the body, particularly for energy production. Magnesium is considered the ‘anti-stress’ nutrient as it helps calm and support the nervous system making it beneficial for anxious and worn out individuals. Magnesium is also useful for people who have difficulty sleeping. Magnesium deficiencies are associated with fatigue, weakness, twitching and muscle cramps, and a predisposition to anxiety and insomnia. Magnesium occurs abundantly in whole foods, so people who consume large amounts of processed refined foods will risk becoming deficient in this important mineral. The best dietary sources of magnesium include tofu, legumes, nuts, quinoa and other seeds, whole grains, wheat bran, and dark green leafy vegetables. Recommended dosage is 600-1000 mg of elemental magnesium daily.
ADAPTOGENIC HERBS: Adaptogenic herbs or adaptogens are herbs that support the body’s ability to cope with physical and emotional stress. Adaptogens have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a tonic to support energy levels and improve longevity and good health. Adaptogenic herbs are used to strengthen the body’s immune response and increase the body’s overall vitally. Some of the best adaptogenic herbs herbalist and naturopaths use to support adrenal function and prevent adrenal fatigue are Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn), Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Brahmi (Bacopa monniera), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Panax ginseng (Chinese ginseng). You will find these adrenal tonic herbs in our Bodhi VitaliTEA (ADAPTOGENIC) and PositiviTEA (MOOD).
VITAMIN C: Vitamin C is crucial for adrenal gland function and for the production of adrenal hormones. During times of stress the adrenals require considerably more vitamin C to function properly. Vitamin C is also an important immune boosting nutrient. Supplementing with vitamin C daily is recommended along with including vitamin C rich foods in the diet such as berries, citrus fruits, mango, papaya, paw paw, tomatoes, guava, kiwi fruit, dark green leafy veggies, kale and broccoli.
SLEEP: Getting adequate sleep is of utmost importance as this is when the body repairs and rejuvenates itself. The sleep before midnight is particularly important. Poor adrenal function and stress can negatively affect your sleep and the circadian pattern of cortisol produced by the adrenals. Cortisol levels are typically highest around 8am and then they continue to drop throughout the day. Cortisol is at its lowest usually between midnight and 4 am. If cortisol levels are too high or too low during the night this can disrupt your sleep. People with adrenal fatigue can experience lower than normal cortisol levels during the night which can result in a drop in blood sugar levels early in the morning. Your brain needs a constant supply of glucose to function properly. If blood sugar levels drop too low an internal alarm goes off in your body to wake you up to eat something. If a person is often waking between 1 – 3 am this is a sign that they may have issues with poor adrenal function, and low cortisol and blood sugar levels during the night.
MEDITATION: Meditation is an excellent way to relax the mind and body. When you meditate it produces alpha brain waves that help promote calmness and relaxation. Regular meditation can support the immune system and reduce high cortisol levels and help prevent burn out.
Article written by Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.