Adrenal Fatigue: Part 2

Yesterday I talked about adrenal fatigue: what it is, what the symptoms are, and why it happens. Today, let’s look at some of the solutions.

The best way to approach this is to look at the stressors in our lives. Stress can include having a demanding job that soaks up too much of our time; feeling financially burdened because we have a family to support; emotional stress from our family life or personal issues; stress on our bodies due to poor diet or lack of adequate sleep; physical stress from training for races or other activities; and more. We all experience some level of stress. The difference is in how we approach this stress. I believe some level of stress is actually good – it helps motivation levels and keeps someone going. However, when we overreact to stress our body takes a toll, and we can start to show signs of adrenal fatigue.

Some stress is beyond our control, so let’s focus on the thing we can control: our diet. Diet is a great way to balance your adrenals and get your body in the best shape it can be to deal with the other stressors in life.

Since cortisol helps us to regulate our blood sugar, keeping blood sugar in balance will in turn keep cortisol levels more balanced. I’ve talked before about blood sugar and insulin resistance. Eating more protein at breakfast is the first step in balancing blood sugar. For someone whose blood sugar is out of whack, a fruit and yogurt parfait will just not cut it in the morning. Instead, they should be eating things like eggs, vegetables, nuts, and even a little meat or fish. In addition, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are important. If someone with adrenal fatigue gets too hungry, more stress is put on the adrenals and they’ll experience increased symptoms. Snacks should be composed of whole foods and should include a fruit or vegetable as well as some protein and a little healthy fat. Examples: apples with almond butter; veggies with hummus; whole grain crackers topped with pesto; or berries and nuts with plain yogurt.

Since eating will give your cortisol levels a boost, it’s best to eat your biggest meal in the morning and a smaller meal in the evening. This will not only get you going in the morning, but will prevent unwanted energy bursts late at night that keep you from falling asleep when you get into bed. I often tell people not to be afraid to make breakfast their biggest meal of the day. It really sets the tone for your day and can be a powerful tool in weight loss, balancing hormones, increasing energy levels, and more.

Finally, someone who is experiencing some level of adrenal fatigue will find it very helpful to eliminate or reduce nutritional stressors such as caffeine, alcohol, refined or processed sugars and fats, and other processed foods. People with adrenal fatigue often have food sensitivities, especially to dairy or gluten, so eliminating these for a few weeks to see if there is a difference is often recommended. I know these things are difficult, so taking it slowly is a good idea. Focusing on whole foods, especially fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, can really make a difference for people!

I know this is just a brief overview, but hopefully it gives you some idea of the direction you need to take and (more importantly) why you need to make the changes. I think it’s empowering to understand what is going on inside your body and make a conscious decision to make changes, rather than just follow a doctor’s or nutritionist’s orders without really understanding the “why”. The more people can educate themselves, the easier it will be for them to make decisions that are supportive of health and balance. I have seen the above nutritional recommendations make amazing changes for individuals, so I know that they work!

Have a great weekend!


Adrenal Fatigue

We talked briefly about adrenal fatigue in class this week. I’ve been learning bits and pieces about adrenal fatigue throughout the past year, and it’s something that, in my opinion, many people experience. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, but I want to give you an overview of what adrenal fatigue is and what some of the symptoms are. I believe that if you have it, you should know how to recognize it and how to go about dealing with it.

Adrenal fatigue occurs when we experience chronic stress. Under stress, our adrenals increase production of the hormone cortisol. When the hormone is released, certain receptors on our cells need to process the cortisol. However, when we have prolonged periods of stress, our receptors experience “burnout” and fail to respond to the cortisol. This leads to fatigue and exhaustion. Besides chronic stress, other items that can lead to adrenal fatigue include too much caffeine, sleep deprivation, severe trauma, some prescription medications, and prolonged physical exercise.

Some symptoms of adrenal fatigue include the following: difficulty waking up and becoming alert and energized in the morning; afternoon “crash” between 2:00 and 4:00 pm; energy burst in the early evening, and possibly again later at night (some people refer to this as their “second wind”); cravings for foods high in salts, sugar, or fats; sensitivity to cold or always feeling chilled; mild depression; mood swings; feeling rundown; lack of ability to deal with stress; prolonged sickness or inability to kick a cold or cough; decreased sex drive; increased food allergies or sensitivities. Obviously there are different degrees of adrenal fatigue, and if you are experiencing one or two of the above symptoms that does not necessarily mean you have adrenal fatigue. However, if you are experiencing a few of them, you may want to find out how you can better support your adrenals.

When left untreated, adrenal fatigue can lead to many different health problems. It is something that will drain your energy and weaken your bodily systems, to the point that they are not functioning properly and are more susceptible to disease.

Someone with health adrenals will have a daily energy curve that is something like this: medium energy in the morning that slowly rises to its peak level; a slight dip around lunchtime but then an increase right after lunch; a gradual decrease in early evening until bedtime. This person will wake up easily and fall asleep easily, because their body is balanced.

Someone with adrenal fatigue will have a daily energy curve that looks more like this: very low energy in the morning; huge energy spike after morning coffee and breakfast, but then huge dip right before lunch; slight spike after lunch but then another huge dip; gradual decrease until bedtime; possible spikes right before bed or while that person is trying to sleep. This person has a hard time getting going in the morning and tends to be more of a night owl or sleep more restlessly.

Does this sound like you in any way? If so, check back tomorrow for some tips on how to deal with adrenal fatigue.

Recipe: Sweet Beets

Just a quick recipe today for those who grow beets in their gardens; have gotten beets in their CSA box; or just want to eat more beets!

We got mini beets in our CSA box on Monday – only about 6 of them. Ed isn’t crazy about beets, so I figured I’d just eat them myself for lunch or dinner one day. But when I prepared them last night, I decided to serve them for dinner to see what he thought. The sauce I used is something I made up myself, and I added the green onions because they also were in our CSA box. I apologize for not having any photos of the final product – in all honesty, I didn’t think they’d turn out to be anything special, and certainly not anything blogworthy. But when Ed (who, let me remind you, hates beets) said he liked the beet salad and cleaned his plate, I decided I should blog it! Unfortunately, at this point, all the beets were eaten so photos were not a possibility.

It’s fast, easy, and kids may even like this.

Sweet Beets

Beets (I used 6 mini beets because that’s all I had, but when I do it again I’ll probably use 2-3 regular beets)

Raw honey


Ginger (fresh or ground - fresh will be tastier)

Soy sauce

Green onions

Steam (or roast) and peel beets. Cube into bite-size pieces, or smaller if you’re using the mini beets.

In a small saucepan, heat butter and raw honey until melted. I used about 1 tsp of each because I didn’t have many beets, but I’d use more if I had bigger beets. Add ginger and soy sauce (to taste) until well combined, then pour over cubed beets. Top with chopped green onions. Serve hot or cold.

Again, sorry for not having photos but I swear this is yummy! Oh, and don't forget to sautee the beet greens with eggs for breakfast the next morning!


Salad Dressing in a Jar

It’s definitely salad season – at least for those of us who are getting loads of lettuce in our CSA box each week. We’ve been resourceful and made things like spinach garbanzo bean dip and vegetable soup, but the best use of all of that farm-fresh lettuce is simply a fresh salad. Salads for breakfast have even become normal at our house in the past few weeks!

I usually keep it simple – fresh lettuce, possibly a chopped heirloom tomato or shaved carrot, and some homemade salad dressing. Today, I just want to gently remind you how easy and delicious homemade salad dressing can be. I know that buying salad dressing at the grocery store seems much more convenient, but salad dressings made at home have fewer ingredients, including fewer preservatives and artificial flavors. Plus, you get to use your own fresh ingredients and don’t have to worry about rancid oils or altered fats.

The recipe for a homemade salad dressing is fairly simple. Just remember: fat, acid, flavor. Olive oil is most often used as the fat, but any good oil will work. As an acid, I like balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or freshly-squeezed lemon juice. The “flavor” category is sort of a catch-all – sea salt & pepper; dried or fresh herbs; raw honey; crushed blueberries; dijon mustard; an egg yolk; crushed garlic; mashed avocado; and more! The great thing about homemade dressing is that you can experiment with whatever ingredients you have at home, and come up with something that is delicious. I’m not going to spend any more time on the recipe, because there is no right or wrong way to do it. As long as you are using fresh, whole foods, the dressing will work.

Above: A salad dressing I made recently in an old dijon mustard jar.

Now comes the easy part – pour everything into a jar, tightly close the jar, and shake. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m the opposite of a pack rat. Throwing things away is very therapeutic for me, and I cannot stand it when things accumulate in my house. However, I rarely throw away jars! I find them extremely useful in the kitchen, whether it be for storing grains, dried beans, nuts or seeds, packing a lunch (they make great “tupperware”), or making a salad dressing. You can have the fanciest food processor around, and I’d still recommend using a simple jar for salad dressing. That way you can make the dressing, use what you need, and store it in the jar in the fridge for the next salad.

So, treat yourself to some really good olive oil (we bought some meyer lemon olive oil last weekend in Steamboat that I’m very excited about) and start saving your jars. Homemade salad dressing is one of the easiest ways to be healthy!



Last week in the Denver Post, there was an article about the increasing popularity of frozen yogurt (also called frogurt or fro-yo). Denver went from having one fro-yo place to about eight fro-yo places practically overnight! They have become social gathering places for teenagers; after-dinner destinations for families or couples; and snack stops for moms and kids during the day. People love fro-yo because it’s not ice cream, but rather something they consider lighter, healthier, and guilt-free.

Frozen yogurt originally gained popularity in the 70s and 80s, first being introduced as just the original, tart frozen plain yogurt, and then later with added flavors, sugars and toppings galore. Now it has turned into not just a treat, but an “experience.” Most shops have exotic flavors such as cake batter or pomegranate, and as many toppings as you’d find at a salad bar.

Let’s do a nutritional comparison of frozen yogurt and ice cream. The typical ingredients in frozen yogurt are actually quite similar to the ingredients in most ice creams: milk, sweetener, colorings, and flavorings. The biggest difference is that fro-yo includes yogurt cultures, whereas ice cream includes cream. Both, however, are known to contain things like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors. They actually end up being very similar in calories because of all the sugars and sweeteners. Ice cream is higher in fat than fro-yo, but fro-yo can have just as much or even more sugars. From a digestion standpoint, those who are lactose-intolerant or have a dairy allergy may find that fro-yo is easier to digest, because of the active cultures found in the yogurt.

Some places offer the plain fro-yo flavor and claim that there are no added sugars, and any sweetness you taste is simply from the lactose sugars in the milk. From a nutritional standpoint, this is the preferred choice. The flavored fro-yo will often contain such high amounts of sugars and artificial colors and flavors, that you’d be better off eating real ice cream. I’d be especially wary of those labeled “sugar-free,” because they definitely use fake sugars that can disrupt metabolism and cause unwanted side effects such as headaches or increased sugar cravings.

Then we move onto toppings. Most places have a variety, including anything from fresh kiwi to Captain Crunch cereal. I don’t think I need to spend too much energy here – you guys know that the fruit is the way to go! Adding things like gummy bears or Fruity Pebbles to your fro-yo can instantly double (or more) the sugars, carbs, and calories of your “healthy” treat.

The last thing I want to touch on is the process. Most places now let you self-serve, which is genius on their part. When it comes to dessert, peoples’ eyes tend to be bigger than their stomachs. The shop will typically provide either one or two sizes of containers, let you fill up with your choice of ice cream and toppings, and then charge you by the ounce (I’ve seen anywhere from $0.32 to $0.54 per ounce). Some people may have the self-control to order a small dish of fro-yo or ice cream if the person behind the counter is waiting on them, but when they get to prepare it themselves, they may go overboard.

So, to sum it up, here is my recipe for a healthy fro-yo experience:

1 small serving of plain frozen yogurt

Generous serving of the freshest-looking fruit toppings

One last thing: if you enjoy ice cream more than frozen yogurt, I recommend having a small serving of ice cream every once in a while and skipping the fro-yo altogether. With cravings, people tend to do better if they satisfy them rather than attempt to fake themselves out by choosing a “healthier” version. Both frozen yogurt and ice cream are fairly high in empty calories, so choose the one you prefer and enjoy it in moderation.