Sufferers of adrenal fatigue come to recognise the feelings of low blood sugar. Most will periodically experience the low energy, dizziness, furious carb cravings and shaking that often accompany hypoglycaemic episodes. This occurs when the adrenals, unable to maintain their normal function, cannot adequately maintain healthy glucose levels in the bloodstream between meals. The irony is that the emergency state that occurs hits these walnut-sized glands hard, purpetuating the adrenal fatigue.
Stabilizing blood sugar levels is a key to avoiding this ongoing cycle. Anyone with any experience of adrenal fatigue will advise that regular meals – each consisting proteins, fats and slow-release carbs – can help in this regard, and they are right. However, some carbohydrates sources may harm while others may help.
Wholegrain carbohydrates, like wholewheat, oats, rye and brown rice, stand out as regular recommendations for sufferers of adrenal fatigute. Unlike white flour products or sugary foods, they release their energy slowly into the bloodstream, reducing the ensuing insulin release and therefore the likelihood of any dips in blood sugar. However, the digestive problems some people suffer from eating grains means that their use should be carefully considered. While the exact set of symptoms in adrenal fatigue varies from one person to the next, poor digestion is a regular feature as the impaired regulation of both adrenaline and cortisol can cause a variety of changes in the digestive tract, from a loss of beneficial bacteria to constipation and a drop in protective sIgA antibodies. Some wholegrains may become problematic in this environment.
Gluten is a specific protein found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. It has been previously thought that these foods are easily digested in all persons except those with Coeliac disease, which involves the inability to tolerate gluten. However, newer evidence suggests that all individuals may be sensitive to gluten to some extent; the issue is more a case of how sensitive an individual is rather than if they are, with symptoms appearing above a particular threshold. This threshold is lowered in any person with poor digestive health. This covers most adrenal fatigue sufferers.
It is worthwhile pointing out that a major difference exists between the gluten found within wheat and the other gluten grains. The gluten in wheat is primarily a substance called gliadin, whereas this concentration of gliadin is not found in oats, rye and barley. The gliadin in wheat appears to be significantly more problematic that the other gluten proteins in the different grains. This explains why some Coeliacs cannot tolerate bread or pasta, but can eat porridge without problems.
The implications for individuals with adrenal fatigue appear to be that some can consume all wholegrains without problems; done within the confine of an appropriate diet plan, they are unlikely to experience any ill effects from a moderate amount of unrefined starch. However, just as many need to avoid gluten-containing foods, especially wheat; at my clinic, I generally stick to a blanket recommendation for all individuals to avoid wheat. For those with more sensitive digestion, vegetables are a beneficial source of the carbohydrates required. Fruits should be used with caution as the sugar content can cause reactive hypoglycaemic reactions.
Vegetables can be considered a safe bet for all individuals, including those with adrenal imbalance. They represent a reliable source of minerals and phytonutrients, but it should be pointed out that a high-plant diet is a high-potassium diet. Whilst this is generally a positive thing for most, adrenal fatigue often disrupts the salt:potassium ratio; as a result, a high potassium load can cause a ‘crash’. The answer is not to avoid vegetables, but to ensure that eat meal is seasoned with sea salt. This sea salt should be used liberally during adrenal fatigue.
As with many aspects of treatment, the use of wholegrain carbohydrates may need to be tailored to the individual concerned. Complex carbohydrates can be a welcome addition into the meal plans in adrenal fatigue sufferers, but understanding the likely issues with digestion and addressing this remains an important consideration for efficient recovery.