For dieters with adrenal dysfunction, the relationship between stress reduction and weight loss is a crucial one. Nested on top of the kidneys, the adrenal glands secrete the hormones that control metabolism and allow your body to respond to illness, danger or conflict. When the adrenal glands are overactive or underactive due to stress or damage, the metabolism becomes unstable, making it hard to maintain a healthy body weight. The key to losing weight with adrenal dysfunction is to strive for a healthy balance in your diet, work and personal life.
Adrenal hormones help the body maintain homeostasis, or a state of balance in its many functions. Under constant stress, the adrenal glands continue to secrete the hormone cortisol, which controls the hunger response and triggers your liver to release stored energy in the form of glucose. Once you’ve used the extra energy to survive the stressful situation, the extra glucose is converted into fat, which collects in the abdominal area (adding weight and compromising your cardiovascular health).
You can relieve stress on the adrenal glands by reducing stress and conflict in your life. Work for balance in your job, family and personal relationships. Focus on daily moderate exercise like walking, swimming, t’ai chi or yoga. Reduce the number of commitments at your job or at home, and make your health a priority.
Eat for Energy
When your blood sugar drops, cortisol stimulates the hunger response, reminding you that it’s time to refuel. With excess amounts of cortisol circulating in your system, you may have increased cravings for high-calorie foods like sugar and fats. To keep the cravings at bay, divide your daily nourishment into small meals that will hold off hunger without compromising your diet.
Choose complex carbohydrates, like whole grain breads, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. Combine carbs with lean proteins like fish, chicken, or beans, and foods that contain polyunsaturated fats, like nuts and seeds. Steer clear of refined sugar and flour, which are broken down quickly in your digestive system and enter your bloodstream as glucose, causing fluctuations in your blood sugar and contributing to insulin resistance. Avoid fast foods or snacks prepared with hydrogenated oil.
Because cortisol levels are at their peak in the morning, try to eat your largest meal after waking to prevent hunger, and your lightest meal at night. Eating for sustained energy will help you meet your diet and fitness goals.
Limit or avoid chemicals that tax the adrenal glands, such as caffeine and nicotine. Whenever possible, substitute water, green tea or vegetable juices for coffee or soft drinks. The artificial stimulation in caffeine will leave you even more tired in the long run and interfere with sleep. Getting six to eight hours of sleep per night will help your body react productively to stress and make it easier to lose weight.
Supplement Your Diet
Increase your intake of vitamins that support adrenal function. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and promotes tissue repair. The B vitamins support healthy brain function and help you handle stress. Vitamin D acts as a natural antidepressant and helps to stabilize mood. Eat a variety of brightly colored, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to support your adrenal glands. Herbal supplements like Siberian ginseng, astragalus and echinacea may also enhance adrenal function while you’re dieting.
Before adding herbal supplements to your diet, consult your healthcare provider about possible medication interactions.