You wake up exhausted from a poor night’s sleep. You go to work, push through the day with loads of coffee and sugary vending machine trips, and barely keep it together without falling asleep at your desk. Once home, you call up your favourite delivery place or throw a frozen processed meal into the oven or microwave.
After dinner, you actually start to feel normal- like you can get shit done and then some, it’s your best time of the day! As evening turns to night, you know you should get to sleep, but you’re feeling wired. Your brain just won’t shut off even though your body is ready for a winter’s worth of hibernation.
This is a really familiar story among the women I work with in my 21-Day Happy Hormones Diet program. It’s that ‘wired and tired’ state that over time really wreaks havoc with how we feel and how our bodies and hormones function.
Why Am I Tired And Wired?
The answer lies in the function of two small and little-known endocrine glands in the body, the adrenals! You have two adrenal glands, who sit atop the kidneys like little hats. They’re so important, they regulate your whole stress response! Additionally, the adrenal glands may also produce small amounts of sex hormones like estrogen, testosterone and DHEA. A few of the various functions include:
- Releasing cortisol in response to short and long-term stress
- Releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline in response to short-term stress (that “Fight or Flight” response)
- Control blood pressure
- Creation of sex hormones, which increases after menopause
When you’re chronically stressed out, especially over many years, your adrenal glands simply can’t keep up with the demand for stress hormones, and they crash, potentially contributing to Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue, or insufficiency, or dysfunction is exactly that- your adrenal glands may be fatigued and causing issues in the body. Adrenal Fatigue is characterized by experiencing many of a long list of symptoms, which you can see below. Adrenal Fatigue doesn’t happen over night- it’s something that comes about after years of health issues and stress.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:
- Feeling tired and wired in the evenings, can’t get to or stay asleep and then are bone tired all day long even after drinking coffee
- Irrational anger, irritability, anxiety or are quick to cry
- Constant fatigue
- Weight gain, especially in the belly area
- Blood sugar control issues
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Inability to handle stress
- Low resilience
- Cravings, especially for salty foods
- Reliance on stimulants like coffee and sugar to get through the day
- Weak immune system- chronic colds, flus and other infections
- Mild depression
- Lack of motivation or “get up and go:
- Short fuse
- Brain fog or poor memory
- Inability to concentrate
- Low libido
- Severe PMS
5 Foods to Improve Your Energy and Get a Good Night’s Sleep
#1 Bone Broth
A true superfood, bone broth contains loads of nutrients beneficial for supporting the adrenal glands, restoring energy and improving sleep. For example, bone broth contains loads of minerals like calcium and phosphorous which not only keep our bones strong but also help to calm the nervous system and feed the adrenals.
Bone broth also contains both collagen and gelatin. You may have seen collagen and gelatin supplement powders available at health food stores. They are the latest craze, and for good reason. Collagen supports a healthy immune system and soothes the lining of the digestive tract. Gelatin is where most of the minerals live, soothes gut lining and can calm symptoms of inflammation and immune over-response. All of this together helps to reduce your body’s internal stresses, like inflammation from foods for example.
#2 Root Vegetables
An amazing group of veggies, the roots literally help us feel rooted. This is partly due to the energetics of root vegetables- they grow in the ground and that grounding energy transfers into us when we consume them. The benefits of root vegetables are often best obtained when they’re cooked, as it becomes easier for us to absorb their nutrients.
Root vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, beets, winter squash, parsnips, turnips and others are indispensable when you want to heal adrenal fatigue, boost your energy and sleep well. They contain complex carbohydrates that are both extremely comforting when we eat them, and slow the spike of blood sugar when we eat, preventing crashes later on. These complex carbs also help our bodies to produce feel good chemicals like serotonin, boosting mood- hence the comforting effect of these foods!
Root veg are also high in many minerals, and the adrenal glands need high amounts of minerals to function well, especially when you’re chronically stressed out. An example of a mineral they contain in abundance is Magnesium. Although they may not have as much as other foods like nuts, seeds and beans, root vegetables are often much easier to digest than the other sources, making it a bit easier to get this calming and rejuvenating mineral into our bodies.
When healing extremely tired adrenal glands, it may be beneficial to use 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked root veggies with each meal, including breakfast. Having some of these veggies with dinner or before bed can help to reduce sleep disturbances like waking during the night.
#3 Sea veggies
Sea vegetables are not widely used in North America, to our detriment. Sea vegetables are extremely concentrated in nutrients, making them an amazing addition for improving energy, assisting sleep and restoring adrenal function. There are many types of seaweeds, including nori, kelp, dulse, arame, wakame and more.
Sea vegetables are high in many minerals, including iron. If iron stores are low, fatigue often sets in, and immune function suffers, putting additional strain on the adrenal glands. Sea veggies are also high in the mineral iodine, something lacking in Western diets as we get away from eating sea foods of all types. Iodine in small amounts is necessary for proper thyroid function, and a sluggish or under-active thyroid will negatively impact the adrenals and your energy levels.
Lastly sea vegetables contain small amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid used to make the happy chemical serotonin. This may mean that sea veggies are a great addition to the diet to boost mood.
Using sea vegetables is easier than you think. You can buy shakers of kelp or dulse in health food stores or online, and shake it onto your food in place of salt. You can use nori sheets to make wraps for lunch instead of flour-based products, and you can sprinkle strings of sea veggies like wakame and arame into soups and salads.
#4 Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers are a delicious addition to most any meal. They are also one of the highest sources of vitamin C out there, out-ranked only by papaya. The difference is, bell peppers contain a lot less sugar than papaya, making them a great choice to increase your vitamin C consumption without spiking blood sugar.
The high levels of vitamin C (1 cup contains 157% of your recommended daily intake) in bell peppers are food for your adrenal glands. Specifically, the highest amounts of vitamin C in the body are stored in your adrenal glands. Vitamin C is used to produce all adrenal hormones, especially in the production of cortisol, a hormone released in response to both short and long-term stress. When you’re chronically stressed, your body is going to use up vitamin C very quickly.
When you run low on vitamin C, your adrenal glands go into a panic mode of sorts, releasing even more cortisol, meaning you need even more vitamin C that you don’t have.
Getting bell peppers and other high vitamin C foods like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, strawberries and pineapple on a regular basis can healthfully support your adrenal glands to increase energy and allow for a good night’s rest.
#5 Wild-Caught Salmon
Last on the list, but no less important than the other foods, wild-caught salmon has numerous health benefits for the adrenal glands.
Firstly, wild-caught salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory type of fat most of us aren’t getting enough of. Farmed salmon doesn’t have the same levels of omega-3s, so I recommend choosing wild-caught whenever possible.
Omega-3s help to balance blood sugar, and imbalanced blood sugar and insulin levels put more stress on the body and adrenal glands. Omega-3s are also extremely calming to the nervous system, reducing stress and strain on the adrenals. They may also help to boost mood, increase your energy and calm you enough for a good night’s sleep with regular use.
Beyond the omega-3s, wild-caught salmon is a high protein source. Protein of course is needed to create muscles, but it’s also used in the creation of hormones, like the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. Consuming enough protein (about 20g-30g per meal and 5g-10g per snack) is an excellent way to support energy production, lean muscle mass, hormone production and adrenal function.