In Part 2, Dr. Bakker discusses how when we eat affects adrenal gland performance
First and foremost: Timing your meals and snacks
One thing I often tell my patients is to never allow themselves to skip meals or to get too hungry. Low blood sugar by itself places a major stress on your body and can really tax your adrenal glands. You may not realize that your body is in constant need of energy, even as you sleep. Cortisol serves as a kind of moderator in making sure your blood sugar stays adequate between meals, especially during the night. It does so by signaling the liver to release glycogen (stored sugar) when there is no food in your system. Long periods without food make the adrenal glands work harder, requiring them to release more cortisol to keep your body functioning normally. This is why people with compromised energy levels fair better by eating smaller meals more regularly. Eating three nutritious meals and two to three snacks that are spread throughout the day is an excellent way to balance your blood sugar and lessen the burden on your adrenal glands. When you eat can also make a difference in preserving, supporting, and restoring your adrenals. Cortisol has a natural cycle that works with your circadian rhythm. Normally, it begins to rise around 6:00 AM and reaches its highest peak around 8:00 AM. Throughout the day, cortisol gradually declines, with small peaks at meal times in preparation for night time rest. As you can see in the graph below, cortisol has a natural cycle that works with your circadian rhythm.
But I’m not hungry in the morning…
As you’ve probably heard, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what if you don’t feel hungry in the morning? It could be for the following reasons:
• Corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which has appetite-dulling effects, begins to enter the bloodstream at a fast rate first thing in the morning.
• Decreased liver function, which can accompany adrenal dysfunction or a heavy toxic burden, can also dampen morning hunger. This can be compounded if your bowel function is not optimal.
Even if you don’t feel hungry, having a nutritious breakfast within an hour of rising — preferably including a protein — can provide energetic benefits to your metabolism and cortisol levels that last throughout the day. You will have a smoother energy cycle throughout the day if you eat breakfast.
Here are some other simple ways to gently support your body’s natural cortisol cycle:
• If possible, eat breakfast by 8:00 AM or within an hour of getting up (the earlier the better) to restore blood sugar levels after using glycogen stores at night.
• Try to eat lunch between 11:00 AM and 12:00 noon. Your morning meal can be used up quickly.
• Eat a nutritious snack between 2:00 and 3:00 PM to get you through the natural dip in cortisol around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. This could be a few high quality nuts like Brazil nuts or almonds, or a rice cracker with avocado, there are many options here. Get some good cookbooks out of your library and be creative!
• Make an effort to eat dinner around 5:00 or 6:00 PM, and make this your lightest meal of the day.
Supporting your body’s natural rhythms by timing meals and preventing dramatic dips in blood sugar not only minimizes cortisol output and frees up your adrenals to perform their secondary functions, but also gives you more sustained energy throughout the day. Life becomes much more enjoyable when we have the energy we need.
Eating regular meals and snacks supports your adrenal glands by:
• Optimizing and ‘smoothing out’ daytime cortisol levels
• Preventing the highs and lows of cortisol – your energy levels will be more consistent
• Helping to maintain night time cortisol levels, ensuring a more restful, restorative and satisfying sleep
It is ideal to work with this natural cortisol cycle to avoid dramatic ups and downs as throughout the day. To do this, it helps to get the majority of your food in earlier in the day, preferably up until lunchtime, and to eat an early dinner (by 5:00 or 6:00 PM). If it’s difficult to eat early, try to make your evening meal the lightest one of the day to prevent a surge of cortisol from increasing your night-time metabolic rate and disrupting your ability to fall or stay asleep. Many of my patients tell me that they have developed a tendency to overeat in the evening. This “night-eating” habit is due to the appetite-stimulating effects of residual cortisol, and unfortunately it only further disturbs your hormone axis.
About the Author
Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website: candidacrusher.com You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org Dr. Bakker’s Blog: www.ericbakker.com