I just read a great book by Dr. Alan Christianson called the Adrenal Reset Diet.
We live in a stressful world and more and more people are getting Adrenal Fatigue. Adrenal Fatigue is caused by stress and can lead to fatigue, weight gain, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and irritability among other things.
What I found most interesting in this book is that a lack of a cortisol slope is the strongest predictor of an early death. Even more so than people who smoke and are obese! Your cortisol slope is the difference between your morning and evening cortisol level and basically it should look like a ski slope. High in the morning, decreasing throughout the day, and lowest at night.
Wired and Tired
There’s a term you may have heard called wired and tired. This happens when your cortisol slope is all messed up. It starts out low in the morning, rises and falls during the day and rises again at night. Does this sound familiar? I went through this for years without knowing what was going on.
You start feeling very tired towards the end of your day. You go home and try to chill out and when you try to go to sleep you feel exhausted but you cannot sleep because your body starts producing cortisol and this leaves you wired and tired.
Dr. Sara Gottfried, a functional medicine doctor who specializes in hormones, says that about 90 percent of the patients in her practice have a problem with cortisol.
Too Much Stress Makes Us Fat
So how does this happen? When we are stressed our adrenal glands release cortisol into our bloodstream. This can come from stress from our lives (work, relationships, being bullied), processed food, and chemicals and pollution in our environment.
Our adrenals control a switch that can cause us to thrive, where we burn fat and feel energetic, or just survive, where we store fat and feel tired. The Adrenal Reset Diet is all about flipping our switch from surviving to thriving.
Dr. Christianson believes the link to obesity can be found in our adrenal hormones. This determines whether our food it turned into fat or muscle.
So, when we eat processed foods such as fructose, processed carbohydrates, and fake fats our adrenals get set to survival mode, we get hungrier, have less energy, and our food is stored as fat. When we get exposed to chemicals in the air or in our food or water the same thing happens. When we get too much blue light at night from our smart phones, TVs, and fluorescent light bulbs the same thing happens. And when we get overly stressed from our jobs, relationships, or day to day life the same thing happens.
There are three levels of adrenal fatigue
The first level is stressed. When we are at this level we feel edgy, other people seem too slow to us, it is hard for us to sleep, and our mental function is fast and scattered.
The second level is wired. When we are wired we feel overwhelmed, other people seem incompetent to us, we have a hard time staying asleep, and our mental function is erratic.
The third level is crashed. Once we are crashed we feel exhausted, other people seem demanding, our sleep is not refreshing, and mentally we are not able to think well and generate ideas.
There is a fourth level of thriving and this is the level we want to get to. When we are thriving we are enthusiastic, we find others to be engaging, our sleep is deep and restful, and mentally we are sharp and focused.
If you are not in the thriving level then this book is definitely for you. There’s even an adrenal level quiz to help you assess where you are on the different levels on the adrenal continuum.
You can take a test called an Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) but the test is rather expensive and most health insurance does not cover it. There are some shortcomings as well. The ASI shows circulating cortisol from your adrenals and does not measure whole body cortisol, which includes cortisol made by the fat, liver, and brain.
Eat Your Way To Thriving
The solution is simpler than you think. All you have to do is eat the right foods at the right time and you can eat as much as you like.
High amounts of protein and fat in our diet release more cortisol, thus turning off the fat switch. Higher carbohydrate meals release less cortisol and turn on the fat switch. But don’t worry. You can still enjoy your carbs. You are just better off having them at night and skipping them for breakfast.
By eating carbs at the right time each day, you can bring your cortisol back to a healthy rhythm and correct your cortisol slope. This also causes more of your calories to move into muscle and produce more energy and less of your calories to be converted into fat, causing sluggishness.
Starting your day off with a high protein and high fat breakfast is a great way to keep you energetic and mentally sharp all day. This allows your cortisol to be highest in the morning, when it is supposed to be.
Saving your carbs for dinner helps reduce your cortisol at night and provided for a better sleep.
Most veggies are allowed in unlimited quantities whenever you like so you never have to worry about being hungry.
And best of all, once you make eating this way a part of your life, you will have lasting fat loss and muscle gain.
In addition to making dietary changes work on better managing the stress you face in your day to day life. Doing yoga, taking walks, practicing mediation, and exercising are all great ways to do this. Spending time with loved ones is another great way to reduce stress and feel better.
Depending on where you are in the adrenal continuum, Dr. Christianson’s Adrenal Reset Diet has a strategy for you. Focusing on reducing the above mentioned stressors in your life can keep you at the thriving level or help bring you closer to it.
Give these dietary recommendations a try and post a comment on how they work for you!