While it’s important to get checked by your healthcare professional and discuss possible medical treatment options — and potential underlying conditions — related to adrenal fatigue, the fact is, lifestyle choices play a big part in managing symptoms.
Just as a consistent exercise and mindfulness practice can help with issues like fatigue and anxiety, what you eat can also affect those major components of the condition, according to dietitian Erin Kenney, RD, LDN, author of “Rewire Your Gut.”
“Your adrenal glands need the right kind of fuel in order to function normally,” she says. “Having a deficiency in key nutrients like magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids is common, based on the quality of today’s soil and the standard American diet.”
That deficiency can be especially challenging for those with adrenal fatigue, she says, so focusing on foods high in those components can help. Here are some top examples:
Because of low consumption of vegetables and other magnesium-rich foods, it’s estimated that up to 30% of people in the U.S. may have at least some deficiency in the mineral, but one study notes it may be much more. Those researchers noted that due to the consumption of highly processed foods, the prevalence of chronic diseases, medication usage and the decrease in magnesium in the soil, we may be at the point of a public health crisis.
Symptoms of low magnesium can range from mild to severe and include muscle cramps, numbness and heart issues. They can also mimic some adrenal fatigue issues like weakness, loss of appetite and fatigue.
You can get magnesium in supplement form, but food-based sources give you the benefit of other vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. One great starting point is pumpkin seeds, suggests Kenney.
“These are a rich source of magnesium, which helps to regulate and optimize communication in the brain-adrenal axis, and is crucial for recovery from adrenal fatigue,” she says. “They’re also a rich source of zinc, which can help promote an adequate stress response and act as an antioxidant to protect cells, including immune cells, from free-radical damage.”
All fruits are helpful for adding more fiber into the diet, which improves digestion and gut health — good for everyone, but particularly great for keeping energy levels strong during adrenal fatigue — but kiwis have unique properties that make them an excellent go-to snack.
One study found kiwi contains a compound that enhances the digestion of most protein, which is another way to keep gut health and energy on track. Kenney says just two small kiwis contain more than 100% of your daily value for vitamin C.
“Your adrenal and pituitary glands control stress hormones in the body and contain some of the highest levels of vitamin C,” she notes. Since the body doesn’t produce vitamin C naturally, and doesn’t store it, that means you have to obtain it from foods consistently. Kiwis and other vitamin C-packed foods like tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, broccoli and citrus fruits, can all have a beneficial effect on stress.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease inflammation throughout the body and reduce oxidative stress. Kenney says that may play a role in alleviating the effects of adrenal fatigue.
Another benefit is omega-3’s can help boost your immune system, another boon for your adrenal glands. Along with salmon, omega-3 choices like sardines, herring and mackerel contain a component of the fatty acids called DHA that appear to enhance the activity of white blood cells, says dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of “2 Day Diabetes Diet.”
Plus, she adds, it doesn’t take weeks of eating these foods to see results. One study found immune-boosting effects happened within one week of regular consumption.
As you incorporate more of these foods into your diet, it’s helpful to start knocking out less-than-useful options, Palinski-Wade says, such as highly processed foods, caffeine and sugar, which can all create spikes in energy in the short term, often followed by a speedier crash.
Another helpful tip: Log your foods and pay attention to patterns, suggests Kenney. As you deal with adrenal fatigue, you can refer to your log to see if what you’re eating plays a part in alleviating symptoms.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.