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Stress and adrenal fatigue

Balanced nutrition is essential to maintaining overall good health, but it also can affect your capacity to cope with stress. When you are going through a period of stress, you need more nutrients, particularly the B vitamins, which affect the nervous system, and calcium, which is needed to counteract the lactic acid your tense muscles produce. Likewise, if you lack nutrients, your body will not be equipped to handle stress effectively.

What is adrenal fatigue? Balanced nutrition is essential to maintaining overall good health, but it also can affect your capacity to cope with stress and adrenal fatigue. You may be going through a period of stress, which affects the nervous system. Then, it would help if you had more of all nutrients, particularly the B vitamins and calcium. The latter is needed to counteract the lactic acid your tense muscles produce.

Eat a variety of foods to ensure that you consume all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. These include vitamins, minerals, amino acids (from proteins), essential fatty acids (from vegetable oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish), and energy from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. While most foods contain more than one nutrient, no single food provides adequate amounts of all nutrients. Try to maintain a diet of mostly whole (unprocessed) foods. Stay away from caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate), which causes nervousness and inhibits sleep if you ingested too much. Caffeine causes a fight-or-flight response in your body and uses up your reserves of the B vitamins, which are essential in coping with stress. Alcohol also depletes your body’s B vitamins and can disrupt sleep and impair your judgment or clarity of thought. Avoid sugar. It provides no essential nutrients and can cause an immediate “high” followed by a prolonged “low.”

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Studies of stress and adrenal fatigue

Studies have shown that the body depletes its stores of nutrients when under stress, mainly protein and the B vitamins and vitamins C and A. A deficiency of magnesium, which helps muscles relax, has been linked to “Type A” or high-stress personalities. Every single muscle that we hold in tension, often for years and even when we are asleep, is consuming energy, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium – to name but a few. If you are under prolonged stress or are at risk for hypertension, consume foods high in potassium, such as fresh orange juice, squash, potatoes, apricots, limes, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and peaches. It would help if you also increase your intake of calcium. Poppy and sesame seeds and yoghurt, cheese, tofu, almonds, and chickpeas contain it.

Since every person is unique, nutritional needs vary to some degree. It will probably take several months to change your diet and establish healthy eating habits. Experimenting and taking the time to reform your eating will have very positive immediate and long-term effects. Choose foods that you enjoy and try to make meals pleasurable times. Eat a relaxed meal. Continue your healthy diet and supplements even after the period of stress has passed so that your body. The goal is to maintain maximum health with good nutrition, exercise, and active stress management.


The stress response triggers off high levels of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Our body produces those regardless of the type of stress experienced. It may vary from emergencies (an impending car accident, for example) to slower-acting stresses (such as pressure at work, traffic jams, drinking coffee or alcohol).

These stress hormones use up significant amounts of vitamin C, B-vitamins, magnesium and zinc. It means that, for example,

  • vitamin C and zinc are not sufficiently available for collagen production to keep skin clear and to make white blood cells to fend off infections;
  • B-vitamins are not fully accessible for energy production and mental function;
  • calcium absorption is blocked, leading to osteoporosis;
  • oestrogen dominance leading to PMS, fibroids and breast cancer.

Stress sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline – leading to accelerated ageing. The effects of long-term stress are even more insidious. The pituitary, adrenals, pancreas and liver are continually pumping out hormones to control blood sugar, levels of the anti-ageing adrenal hormone and cortisol start to fall.


A well-balanced diet is crucial in preserving health and helping to reduce stress. Certain foods and drinks act as powerful stimulants to the body and are a direct cause of stress. Although quite pleasurable in the short term, this stimulation can be quite harmful in the long run.


Coffee, tea, chocolate, Coke, Red Bull etc., contain it. It causes the release of adrenaline, thus increasing the level of stress. When taken in moderation, coffee can increase your alertness and increase muscle, nervous system, and heart activity. Consuming too much caffeine has the same effect as long term stress. Be careful in reducing coffee or caffeine consumption. Abrupt cutting caffeine off can result in your experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Reduce consumption slowly over some time.

Alcohol is a significant cause of stress.

The irony of the situation is that most people take to drinking as a way to combat stress. But, in actuality, they make it worse by consuming alcohol. Alcohol and anxiety, in combination, are quite deadly. Alcohol stimulates the secretion of adrenaline resulting in the problems such as nervous tension, irritability and insomnia. Excess alcohol will increase fat deposits in the heart and decrease immune function. Alcohol also limits the ability of the liver to remove toxins from the body. During stress, the body produces several toxins, and in the absence of its filtering by the liver, these toxins continue to circulate through the body resulting in severe damage.


Many people use cigarettes as a coping mechanism. In the short term, smoking seems to relieve stress, but smoking is very harmful in the long term. Its disadvantages far outweigh its short-term benefits. Cigarette smoking is responsible for a variety of cancers, hypertension, respiratory illness and heart disease.


Sugar has no essential nutrients. It provides a short-term boost of energy through the body, resulting in the adrenal glands’ exhaustion. It can result in irritability, low concentration, and depression. Moreover, high sugar consumption puts a severe load on the pancreas. There is an increasing possibility of developing diabetes. Keep your blood sugar constant. Do not use sugar as a “pick me up.”


Salt increases blood pressure, depletes adrenal glands, and causes emotional instability. Use a salt substitute that has potassium rather than sodium. Avoid junk foods high in salt, such as bacon, ham, pickles, sausage, etc.


Fat Avoid the consumption of foods rich in saturated fats. Fats cause obesity and put unnecessary stress on the cardiovascular system. Essential fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and oily fish are, however, very beneficial.

Eat a meal high in complex carbohydrates triggers the brain neurotransmitter serotonin release, which soothes you. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include brown rice, wholemeal pasta, potatoes, wholemeal bread (unless avoiding wheat), oats, rye, barley.

Eat Food High In Fibre Stress results in cramps and constipation. Eat more fibre to keep your digestive system moving. Your meal should provide at least 25 grams of fibre per day. Fruits, vegetables and grains are excellent sources of fibre.

Eat More Vegetables Your brain’s production of serotonin is sensitive to your diet. Eating more vegetables can increase your brain’s serotonin production. This increase is due to improved absorption of the amino acid L-Tryptophan. (Vegetables contain the natural, safe form of L Tryptophan.) Meats contain natural L-Tryptophan also, but when you eat meat, the L-Tryptophan has to compete with so many other amino acids for absorption that the L-Tryptophan loses out. The net result is that you get better absorption of L-Tryptophan when you eat vegetables.

Bibliography for stress and adrenal fatigue.

Wilson J Adrenal Fatigue – The 21st Century Stress Syndrome Smart Publications 2001.

David S, Stewart A Nutritional Medicine Pan Books 1987.