Healthy Decisions for the Love of Health

Adrenal Glands -Adrenal Exhaustion and the Sugar Connection


The adrenal glands, located above the kidney, often become 'exhausted' as a result of the constant demands placed upon them. An individual with adrenal exhaustion will usually suffer from chronic fatigue, may complain of feeling stressed-out or anxious, and will typically have a reduced resistance to allergies and infection.

When adrenal function is impaired or weak, a person may suffer from low blood sugar, low blood pressure, low body temperature, and a total feeling of exhaustion. When stress is prolonged the organs begin to weaken and other health related problems can set in such as hypoglycemia.


Nutritional Deficiencies are a common cause. When under stress, the need for nutrients is much greater. Carbohydrates, when excessive in the diet, stress the adrenals. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies. Inadequate or poor quality water affects oxygenation of the tissues.

Most diets are low in nutrients required by the adrenals. These include B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C and E, manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium and other and other trace elements. The reasons for this begin with how food is grown. Most food is grown on depleted soils. Processing and refining further deplete nutrients. Habits like eating in the car or while on the run further diminish the value derived from food. Also, allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy products can damage the intestines and reduce the absorption of nutrients. Toxic metals and chemicals often play a large role in adrenal burnout. Everyone is exposed to thousands of chemicals in the air, the water and the food. Other sources are dental materials and skin contact with chemicals. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications add to the body’s toxic load.

Toxins may also be generated within the body due to impaired digestion. When food is not properly digested, it either ferments or rots in the intestines, producing many harmful substances that are absorbed into the body. Chronic infections, of dental and other origin, also contribute to the toxic load. In most people, the organs of elimination do not function at an optimal level. As a result, toxic substances slowly build up in the body, leading to adrenal burnout and many other health conditions.

Stimulants damage the adrenal glands. They whip the adrenals. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are among the most common stimulants. Less obvious stimulants include anger, rage, arguing, hatred, loud music, the news and movies full of suspense. Vigorous exercise, sexual preoccupations and other thrills may also act as stimulants.
Stimulant use, however, can also be a result of adrenal burnout. Stimulants are attractive to one in burnout to provide temporary energy. This is an appeal of the drug culture, both legal and recreational.

Unhealthy responses to stress are another cause of adrenal burnout. These include habits of worrying, or becoming angry or afraid. Don’t worry, be happy is a great prescription for adrenal burnout. This applies particularly to high-strung, nervous individuals and those with very active minds, as they are especially prone to adrenal burnout.

Some of the common causes that contribute to adrenal exhaustion are continued stress, poor diet, over-consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, overuse of caffeine, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and vitamin B and C deficiencies. Unfortunately, the body reacts the same way to both real and imagined threats. For instance, unrelieved worrying about losing your job can cause the same over-taxing of the adrenals and the resultant suppression of the immune system as actually losing your job.


If a person succumbs easily to allergies and infections, feels constantly drained and exhausted, suffers from low blood sugar and blood pressure, then the culprit may well be weak adrenals. For instance, most of the asthma sprays contain adrenal-like hormones that mimic cortisol in the body.



Eating Pattern.  When our cortisol levels are at its peak from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., we may have no appetite. Many people skip breakfast because "they are not hungry". This is because our bodies need sugar to run on. Furthermore, our body's energy requirement does not change during this period. Even a small snack is better than nothing at all and will provide the needed energy even though there is no urge to eat.

Skipping breakfast is not a good idea. If you are low on sugar, the adrenals are instructed to secrete cortisol because cortisol activates gluconeogenesis to increase blood sugar level and allow the body to function. It is therefore important to have a healthy breakfast soon after waking and not later than 10 a.m. This will prevent the body being put in a position to play "catch-up" for the rest of the day.

The best time for lunch is from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sometimes, a nutritious snack between 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. will be needed to sustain our bodies through the dip in cortisol levels that occurs between 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Evening meals should be around 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Supper, if needed, should be in small quantities and low in glycemic to avoid the steep rise in blood sugar commonly seen in high-glycemic index snacks such as cakes. These snacks will cause the blood sugar to rise and a corresponding increase in insulin output.

Over time, insulin secretion becomes dysfunctional, resulting in a hypoglycemic state in the middle of the night. These symptoms are characterized by nightmares, anxiety, and night sweats. When this occurs, the body will have to activate the adrenals to put out more cortisol in order to raise the blood sugar back to its normal level. This will eventually put an excessive burden onto the already fatigued adrenal gland if carried on year after year.


A poor or unfitting diet is one of the key and leading causes of adrenal fatigue. Without a diet that is bio-chemically and metabolically compatible with the needs of a damaged adrenal gland, complete recovery is simply not possible.



Glucose is a simple sugar found in food. It is an essential nutrient that provides energy for the proper functioning of the body cells. After meals, food is digested in the stomach and is broken down into glucose and other nutrients. The glucose is absorbed by the intestinal cells, carried by the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. However, glucose cannot enter the cells alone. It needs assistance from insulin in order to penetrate the cell walls. Insulin therefore acts as a regulator of glucose transport and metabolism in the body.


Insulin is called the "hunger hormone". As the blood sugar level increases after a meal, the corresponding insulin level rises with the eventual lowering of the blood sugar level and glucose is transported from the blood into the cell for energy. As energy is produced by the cell, blood glucose level slowly is lowered, the insulin release from the pancreas is turned off. As energy continue to be generated, the blood sugar level continues to drop. When it drops below a certain level, hunger is felt. This often occurs a few hours after the meal. This drop in blood sugar triggers the adrenals to make more cortisol. The cortisol increases the blood sugar by converting protein and fat into its component parts. With this, the blood sugar rises to provide a continuous supply of energy for our use between meals. Cortisol therefore works hand in hand with insulin to provide a steady blood sugar level 24 hours a day and keep blood glucose levels in a tightly controlled range.


When the adrenal gland is in a state of exhaustion, the amount of cortisol production drops below the normal level, and the amount of sugar available to the cells is reduced. With less sugar, less energy is available to the body, and fatigue is experienced. As the sugar level drops below a critical point, dizziness and lightheadedness can be experienced. These are common symptoms of low blood sugar (also called hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar is most likely experienced between meals at 10am-12pm, as well as 3-4pm.


To make things worse, the body’s automatic response when more sugar is needed during a stress response is to make more insulin in an attempt to move the sugar into the cell from the blood stream to create more energy. Insulin opens up the cell membrane to push the glucose in, resulting in further reduction in blood glucose. This worsens the already existing hypoglycemic state.


Those with adrenal fatigue often report symptoms such as dizziness and weakness, as the blood sugar level drops below a comfortable level for the body to function normally. To overcome this, the quick fix solution is to take food that is high in refined sugar such as donut or sweets, or drinks that is stimulatory to get the adrenal to put out more cortisol, such as coffee or cola drinks. This gives the person a boost of energy. However, this hypoglycemic symptom relief only lasts for about 1-2 hours. Inevitably, it is followed by a crash to an even lower blood level. Those suffering from adrenal fatigue are constantly on a roller coaster ride in terms of their blood sugar level throughout the day. The sugar level tends to increase after each quick fix, but drops after a few hours. By the end of the day, the body is totally exhausted.


A diet that maintains a constant sugar level in the blood is a critical consideration in adrenal fatigue recovery. This can be done by taking a variety of low-glycaemic index food that releases sugar slowly to sustain the body during and between meals. Starchy carbohydrates that are converted quickly into glucose (such as pasta and bread) should be limited. Soda drinks should be totally avoided.



The amount of salt in the body is highly dependant and regulated by a chemical called aldosterone. This chemical is manufactured in the adrenal cortex under the direction of another hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone). ACTH is produced by the anterior pituitary gland. ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete a wide variety of hormones including aldosterone as well as cortisol. Like cortisol, aldosterone follows a diurnal pattern of secretion, peaking at 8 a.m. , and at its lowest betwee12-4am. Aldosterone is a very specific compound that is responsible to maintain the concentration of sodium and potassium in the cell as well as outside the cell. This in turn has a direct effect on the amount of fluid in the body.

Aldosterone therefore plays a significant role in regulation of blood pressure.

It is important to note that in our body, sodium and water goes hand in hand. Where sodium goes, water follows. As the concentration of aldosterone rises in the body, the concentration of sodium and water rises, more fluid is retained in the body, and blood pressure rises. Conversely, when the level of aldosterone lowers, the amount of sodium and water in the body is reduced. The blood pressure goes down.

Unlike cortisol, aldosterone does not have its own negative feedback loop when there are excessive amounts. If the aldosterone level is too high, aldosterone receptor sites will be down regulated and its sensitivity to aldosterone is reduced. In the early phases of adrenal fatigue, the amount of cortisol and aldosterone increases in our body due to the ACTH stimulatory effect from stress. As a result, the sodium and water is retained in the body with a feeling of being bloated. The baro-receptors ( receptors that are sensitive to pressure) of the blood vessels are triggered and blood vessels goes into a relaxation mode automatically and this is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. This auto-regulation helps to maintain a stable blood pressure at a time when the total fluid volume increases due to high level of aldosterone triggered by stress. With stress, the adrenal glands also secrete another hormone called epinephrine. This hormone constricts the blood vessels and increases blood pressure in order to ensure that our brain have adequate blood flow and oxygen to help us deal with impending danger. The sum reaction of aldosterone, epinephrine, and the autonomic relaxation response are some of the key factors that ultimately decide the final blood pressure at any point in time. During the early stages of adrenal fatigue, the resulting blood pressure is often normal if all bodily function is well balanced. If the body is unable to overcome the aldosterone and epinephrine response, then the blood pressure is elevated. It is common to find many under stress experiencing an increase in blood pressure.

As adrenal fatigue progresses to more advance stages, the amount of aldosterone production reduces. Sodium and water retention is compromised. As the fluid volume is reduced, low blood pressure ensues. Cells get dehydrated and become sodium deficient.

As advanced adrenal fatigue advances clients will report a low blood pressure as well as a salt craving. The low blood pressure is due to the reduced fluid in the body. Salt craving is because the body is in an absolute deficiency of sodium. Both are due to the lack of aldosterone. In order to compensate for this, potassium is leaked out of the cells so that the sodium to potassium ratio remains constant. The loss of potassium is less then that of sodium, and as a result the potassium to sodium ratio is increased. This imbalance causes another set of problems.

Those suffering from adrenal fatigue often have a low body fluid volume accompanied by a salt craving due to absolute deficiency in sodium as well as a normal to high potassium level. While lost fluids should be replaced, it has to be done carefully. When the fluid is replaced without adequate sodium, the amount of sodium in the body actually gets diluted, therefore resulting in an even lower sodium level. This is called dilutional hyponatremia, a dangerous condition that can be deadly. It is therefore important to add salt liberally to fluids that are taken in by anybody suffering form adrenal fatigue.


Commercially available electrolyte replacement drinks such as Gatorade are designed for people who have normal adrenal and excessive loss of potassium during exercise. These drinks are designed to be high in potassium and low in sodium. They can be taken in as fluid replacement if adrenal fatigue is very mild. Sufferers of advanced adrenal fatigue usually have a low cortisol and sodium level. They should take filtered drinking water with ˝-1 teaspoon of salt on a regular basis, especially in the morning.

Only a small number of people with adrenal fatigue have concurrent high blood pressure. Those that fall into this category should check their blood pressure carefully during fluid replacement.


Celtic sea salt is better than table salt in that it contains additional trace minerals as well. A good fluid cocktail for adrenal fatigue sufferers is vegetable juice diluted with water and sprinkled with sea salt and kelp powder. Kelp contains about 90 mg of potassium and over 200 mg of sodium per serving and is easily absorbed.


Hydration of a person in adrenal fatigue should take about 24-48 hrs. The drinks should be taken 2-4 times a day in intermittent dosages. Coffee, alcohol, and tea (with the exception of herbal tea) should be avoided.


Carbohydrate, Protein and Fats

It is important for adrenal fatigue patients to balance the amount of protein, fat, and well as carbohydrates. As compared to a normal person, the adrenal fatigue person has an immediate need for sugar when hunger strikes. At the same time, they also need good protein as well as good fat to have sustained energy until the next meal comes.


The primary diet should be high in raw food and that is low in glycemic index. Fruit juices should be avoided. Whole fruits should be limited, especially melons, which are high in sugar and causes sugar spikes soon after food enters the body. Good quality protein from meat, fish, and eggs are recommended. These provide a steady source of energy to carry the body through between meals.


Vegetarians who have adrenal fatigue have a much higher challenge. Legumes (beans) must be eaten with whole grains, seeds, or nuts to make a complete protein. It is important for vegetarians to add eggs, miso, as well as combining beans, seeds, and nuts with a small amount of whole grain. About 50-60% of the diet should consist of raw food. 6-8 servings of a wide variety of vegetables should be included.

Seeds and nuts are critical elements and sources of fatty acids that the adrenal glands need in order to manufacture cholesterol, a precursor to all adrenal steroid hormones. The key is to take nuts and seeds that are raw and free of rancid oils. Oils that are rancid make the symptoms of adrenal fatigue worse and should be avoided at all cost. Raw nuts should be taken on a liberal basis and should be soaked overnight in water. Nuts such as cashews, almonds, brazils, pecans, walnuts, and chestnuts are excellent. Peanuts should be avoided. Olive oil should be used for light cooking. The cooking heat should be low to moderate. Use coconut oil and butter for any high heat or deep-frying.


Vegetables high in sodium include kelp, black olives, red hot peppers, spinach, zucchini, celery, and Swiss chard. Fruits should only be taken in moderation. If you feel worse after food consumption, that is the body’s way of telling you that you are on the wrong track. Organic fruits such as papaya, mango, apples, grapes, and cherry are recommended. Bananas, dates, figs, raisins, and grapefruit are high in potassium and should be limited.


Many people with adrenal fatigue also have a lower level of hydrochloric acid (HCl), which is necessary to break down the protein. Symptoms of this problem include gas, bloating, and heaviness in the stomach after eating a meal containing protein. In such case, the use of digestive enzymes, probiotics, as well as HCl replacement is indicated

Dietary Tips:

1. Always eat breakfast, and do it before 10am. The body’s glycogen supply needs to be replenished after going through the evening. Try to each your lunch before noon followed by a nutritious snack between 2 and 3. The evening meal should be taken before 6pm. Just before bedtime, a couple of bites of high quality snacks are recommended.

Combine small amount of whole grains with generous portion of protein and fat at every meal and snack except at bedtime. This will ensure sustained energy is available at and between meals.

Eat 20-25% whole grain, 30-40% above the ground vegetables (50% of which should be raw), 10-15% beans, nuts, and seeds, 10-20% animal food, 10-15% good fat, and 5-10% whole fruits (except banana and fruits in the melon family).

Whole fruits are permitted with lunch and dinner except banana, figs and those in the melon family.

Sprinkle sea salt liberally to food to pleasant taste provided that blood pressure is normal. Food that is high in potassium such as bananas and dried figs can make the adrenals worse and should be avoided.

6. Start each morning with a full glass of water and half a teaspoon to one teaspoon of sea salt. The typical breakfast of fruits and yoghurt will only worsen the adrenal fatigue sufferer. In fact, those with adrenal fatigue usually experience an increase in shakiness after a breakfast high in fruits. A good breakfast would be one that is high in protein and fats such as eggs and raw nuts. A very small amount of grains is acceptable.

7. Eat 5-6 frequent small meals instead of 3 large meals

Take small amount of healthy snacks high in protein and fat such as cottage cheese or nuts before sleep if there is a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night.

Take small amount of carbohydrate such as whole grain bread before sleep if there is difficulty falling asleep.

Sample Dietary Plan of 2000 calorie a day:


20% whole grain = 400 calories = 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 cup of brown rice, and half cup of oat meal.

30% vegetables = 600 calories = 3 cups salad, 2 cups green leafy vegetables, 2 cups mixed vegetables.


15% nuts and beans = 300 calories = ˝ cup legumes, 3 tablespoon of nuts and seeds.

15% fat = 300 calories = 2 tablespoon olive oil. Or 3 tablespoons coconut oil

10% animal food = 200 calories = 2.5 oz meat (including chicken, or fish).


10% whole fruits = 200 calories = 2.5 medium whole fruit such as apple.





Food Choice Table


Good Choice


Bad Choice


Vegetables - green leafy

Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants, fiber

Most Tuber vegetables (potatoes, tapioca)

High glycemic index

Onions, Green Onions, Chives, Garlic

Antibacterial, antiviral, anticarcinogenic



Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower

Prevent estrogen dominance causing cancer.



Tomatoes (both raw and cook)

High Vitamin C and lycopene for CA prevention



Tubor vegetables in moderation - (carrots, beets, sweet potatoes)

Beta Carotene - good antioxidant



Whole Fruits -

Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants, fiber

High Sugar Fruits

High glycemic index affects adrenal

Lemon, Lime

Keep the body alkaline

Fruit Juices

High sugar content, low fiber

Sprouted Soybean Products in moderation

Cancer prevention







Blueberry, grapes

Protect the Heart



Whole Grains

B-Vitamins, Insoluble fiber



Oats, Barley

Soluble fiber, Lower Cholesterol

White Rice

High glycemic index

Basmati Rice

Low glycemic index





Soft Drinks

Acidic, high sugar




High in sugar, high in hydrogenated fats




Empty calories, Increase Triglycerides, Increases Chol, Dental Caries, Anti-nutrative


Good Choice


Bad Choice



Soluble fiber


Aflatoxin (carcinogen)


High in Monounsaturated fats



Deep water fish

High in Omega 3 Fatty Acid

Coastal Fish

Toxic Metals

Organic Eggs

Best Biological Value Protein for Human

Red Meats

Acid forming, Carcinogenic, Increase Hormone


Monounsaturated fatty acid (lower chol), fibers


Allegen, Hormone Increase

 Chicken Breast

 Good Protein Source




Good Choice


Bad Choice



Monounsaturated fatty acid (lower chol)


Hydrogenated Oil - carcinogenic

Extra Virgin

Olive Oil

Monounsaturated fatty acid (lower chol)

Deep Fried Food

Hydrogenated Oil - carcinogenic

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

 Short Chain Fatty Acids give energy



 Lecithin Granules

 Needed by all cells in body

Polyunsaturated Oils

Causes oxidative damage in body.



  • Sleep by 10 p.m.
  • Sleep in until 9:00 a.m., if possible
  • Do the things that you like
  • Avoid coffee or other caffeine containing beverages
  • Eat early
  • Have a glass of water in the morning with ˝ to 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Avoid grains such as bread
  • Avoid trans-fat in anything
  • Laugh several times a day
  • Take vitamin C, pantethanic acid, magnesium, and vitamin E
  • Take pregnenolone and DHEA as needed (Needs a professional)
  • Avoid getting over-tired
  • Avoid sugary fruits such as melons
  • Never skip breakfast


 Suggested Supplements

·         Vitamin C 2,000-4,000 mg/day Sustained Release

  • Vitamin E w/mixed tocopherols 400 - 800 IU/day

  • Vitamin B 50 complex


  • Niacin (125-150 mg/day) – as inositol hexaniacinate

  • B-6 (150 mg/day)


  • Pantothenic acid (1200-1500 mg/day)


  • Magnesium citrate (400-1200 mg)


  • Liquid trace minerals (zinc, manganese, selenium, chromium, molybdenum, copper, iodine) or Coral Cal-Min – calming effect

  • If depression is present – Add SAM.e 200 mg bid; DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) 500 mg bid

  • One older study reported that L-tyrosine (200mg), vitamin B6 (2.5mg) and Niacinamide (10mg) when given in combination for the treatment of hay fever, hives, allergic headaches and poison oak dermatitis produced significant symptomatic relief when 1-3 tablets were taken four times per day in milder cases and up to 6 tablets 4-6 times per day in more severe cases.


Herbal Remedies: Some herbal remedies that have been noted as possible therapies include Licorice, Ashwagandha, Maca, Siberian Ginseng, Korean Ginseng. Note: Licorice can and, if taken over time, does have a propensity to elevate blood pressure. It should not be used in persons with a history of hypertension, renal failure, or who currently use digitalis preparations such as digoxin.

Note: An excessive ratio of carbohydrates to protein results in excess secretion of insulin, which often leads to intervals of hypoglycemia. The body, in an attempt to normalize blood sugar, initiates a counter-regulatory process during which the adrenals are stimulated to secrete increased levels of cortisol and adrenalin. It follows that an excessive intake of carbohydrates often leads to excessive secretion of cortisol. This contributes to chronic cortisol depletion and consequently, adrenal exhaustion. Reduced DHEA is an early sign of adrenal exhaustion.

In order to stabilize blood sugar, you must maintain a balance between two hormones, glucagon and insulin, which are produced by the pancreas. Protein in the diet induces the production of glucagons. Carbohydrates in the diet induce the production of insulin. Insulin promotes fat (energy) storage. When excess carbohydrates are eaten, the body produces large quantities of insulin and little glucagon. This high level of insulin results in more fat being formed and stored.

When insulin is high and glucagon is low, the adrenals are called upon to produce excess cortisol as a back-up response to help raise blood sugar in the absence of adequate glucagon. This occurs at the expense of the adrenal glands, contributing to adrenal exhaustion. So if adrenal exhaustion or fatique is one of your health problems a careful control of the amount and quality of carbohydrates in ones diet is necessary.




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