Let’s talk adrenals for a moment. Exposure to toxins, processed food and chronic stress all take toll on our adrenal glands. An important function of the adrenals is the regulation of cortisol, which is a hormone involved in stress and the storage of fat in our bodies. When cortisol is out of balance, we are more prone to gain weight. If you are having these issues, I recommend reading the Adrenal Reset Diet by Alan Christianson. I’ve read the book and my notes are below.
The Adrenal Reset Diet
Alan Christianson, NMD
There is a lot of wonderful information in this book, so please understand that my notes are simply just that ~ Things I wanted to specifically remember.
Pieces of the puzzle that Dr. C believes contribute to our adrenal health/ natural weight loss:
- Intravenous Glutathione is one of the best antioxidants = removes the rust of modern life.
- Lack of alcohol = it uses up internal store of glutathione.
- Low carb breakfast supports innate cortisol curve.
- Walks balance glucose, which helps with cortisol levels.
- Trekking poles reduce pressure from hiking ~ better balance, less stress on legs/ joints.
Dietary intolerances can make airborne allergies worse, and it is common to see symptoms like nasal congestion improve when reactive foods are avoided. Visit www.adrenalresetdiet.com/resources for more info.
Food today contain higher amounts of toxic proteins, which can trigger survival mode. Our foods are higher in chemicals and are different in many ways from the past. An increase can also be seen in milder food reactions: called food intolerances. Celiac disease is an example of delayed food intolerance. They are most common in regard to wheat, dairy, and eggs. These foods contain large amounts of complex proteins that can be hard to digest, and reactions to these foods can cause many ongoing symptoms and can directly contribute to weight gain.
- The protein in dairy is called casein
- The protein in wheat contains gluten
- The protein in eggs is albumin
This part is particularly interesting to me because I have ongoing joint pain (knee, shoulder, back and feet) and no one has a cure.
A food allergy or intolerance presents a situation in which our immune cells attack something they deem to be dangerous. Even if those cells are wrong, the attack process increases inflammation dramatically, signaling your body to go into survival mode, and the fuel switch to go “fat” mode.
The processing of foods and the ever-increasing burden of environmental toxins both change our intestinal flora. Processed cars and the daily onslaught of toxicants from our air, water and homes can damage the bacteria that assist in the breaking down of proteins. When proteins aren’t broken down properly, or are less digested, they are more apt to trigger immune responses. Food intolerances have also been shown to trigger anxiety, which raises stress level. (This happens to me when I eat ice cream with dairy in it – anxiety rises and I become intolerant. I only made this connection in the past year.) The viscous cycle of food reactions causing stress, and stress making food reactions worse, until your body goes into survival mode and you gain weight.
Environmental pollutants affect the liver. The liver does its best work cleaning out your body during your deep sleep. This is also when you liver is able to convert your food into energy for your muscles. When the body is full of pollutants, your liver never gets to rest and it ends up sending both calories and toxins to your belly fat instead.
- Key toxins include heavy metals such as lead or mercury, solvents, pesticides, and plastic by-products. (Please stop drinking and eating out of plastic!! You can use glass storage containers for storing and freezing, and natural waxed paper bags instead of plastic zip locks.)
- Many of these chemicals build up in our fat tissue, and since they are hard to process, they keep the fat locked in place and are seemingly impossible to get rid of.
- The higher the lead in your body (Most of our current exposure is the result of left over remnants from lead-fortified gasoline and lead-based paint.)
Our ability to control our weight also depends on deep sleep, which is directed by cues from the sun. In a state of healthy sleep, the cortisol levels are reduced to their lowest levels of the day. This break from cortisol allows calories to be made into energy for our muscles. If cortisol is not able to shut down all the way, those same calories end up creating fat; and along with the fat being over-fed, the muscle tissue gets starved.
Jing ~ Chinese medicine believe the adrenals are a source of health and vitality. We have a limited supply of Jing at birth, and herbs, meditation, and breathing exercises are able to add to it. The inevitable process of aging is from the loss of our Jing, and it is said it’s used up more quickly by overwork and lack of sleep.
Vitamin C is needed for good adrenal function. (Native Americans did not get scurvy because they ate the adrenal glands of game animals as a special strengthening food.)
Adrenal glands are critical parts of the endocrine system, which is a group of glands that produce the body’s hormones.
**The team who carry out all the orders, along with the adrenals, consist of:
Pineal gland: regulates sleep cycles
Thyroid: controls energy
Ovaries: produces reproductive hormones and does tissue repair
Testicles: produces reproductive hormones and does tissue repair
Pancreas: regulates blood sugar
Our adrenal glands control a staggering list of vital functions in our bodies. The biggest ones are:
- Regulation of other hormones
- Balance of electrolytes
- When to turn off inflammation
- Fight-or-flight response
- Sleep and waking cycles
- Blood sugar
- Body weight
Once hormones are released, the adrenal glands make the decision on how much should be used. Hormones only work when a door in the wall opens and lets them get inside the cell. Cortisol from the adrenal glands opens that door to let the hormone in to the cell. When cortisol is not present, the door remains closed and the hormone stays outside the cell.
What this means is that, even if the other glands are doing their jobs perfectly, it may seem like they are not working correctly if the adrenals don’t let their hormones into the cells. For ex. If your adrenals are not working properly, you may have symptoms of low thyroid, such as fatigue or weight gain. This can happen eve if your thyroid is perfectly healthy, because your cells are not using those thyroid hormones.
At a fundamental level, our bodies work like storage batteries. We have an electric charge, and reactions occur when this charge moves from one place to another inside the body’s fluids. These charges move only when the balance of minerals in the fluids is correct. These minerals are called electrolytes, and they include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Adrenal hormones work to make sure the levels of electrolytes are in balance. When they are not right, the muscles cramp and ache, digestion works poorly, and the brain cannot thing clearly.
Inflammation can be caused by a quick and obvious factor, but it can also be caused by slow and hidden factors, like infection, nutrient deficiencies, or stress. Inflammation can be a good thing, however if the inflammatory response goes on too long or can start when it is not needed. This “unneeded” inflammation is thought to be the source of most chronic disease. The more inflammation we have, the shorter we will live and the worse we will feel.
- When the adrenal glands are functioning properly, they can shut off inflammation as soon as its work is done. But when adrenal function is not at its best, that inflammation is poorly controlled, and this can manifest as chronic pain. For example, you could start with minor overuse injury like tennis elbow, but if the adrenals do not regulate the inflammation as they should, the repair may not be completed and the pain may become ongoing.
Sleep/Wake cycle ~ in a healthy/ thriving person, cortisol production starts being lowered after lunchtime and is almost completely shut off by bedtime. This allows the melatonin to take over and allows you to sleep well.
Blood Sugar ~ Adrenals regulate blood sugar. When you haven’t eaten for a few hours, your adrenals release cortisol. This moves carbohydrates out of their stores in your muscles and liver and into your bloodstream to keep your brain fed. When you are thriving, this can happen mostly through the efforts of the pancreas, with little work from adrenals. But if blood sugar drops off suddenly, your adrenals have to work harder and make extra cortisol. This happens when you miss a meal, eat too few good carbs, or eat too many bad carbs. These elevated cortisol levels may make you feel stressed out or edgy when you’re hungry. A drop in blood sugar triggers the same flight-or fight response that fear does.
When your blood sugar is poorly controlled, you feel depressed and you gain weight. When the latter situation goes on for long periods of time, bad things happen, like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
When faced with high levels of stress that come from consuming processed food, exposure the pollution, or the pressures of life, the adrenal glands have to work harder. If pushed too hard, it’s like a switch if flipped they stay on survival mode. When the switch is off your body is thriving and it adjust your metabolism to keep your weight steady, even if you change your diet or exercise routine. But when it’s in survival mode, your body holds on to every available calorie and converts it to visceral fat.
How adrenals control weight
People with high amounts of cortisol in their bodies from adrenal disease or from medications like prednisone gain lots of belly fat regardless of their diet or activity.
In the last few years, researchers have learned that adrenal hormones are not just made by the adrenal glands but also by visceral fat, the liver and the brain. Newer studies are showing that when you measure how much cortisol is in the whole body, versus just the blood, higher levels are found.
The reason for this is a group of enzymes that Dr. Christianson calls the Adrenal Fat Switch (AFS).
- C-jun—n terminal kinase
- Insulin protease
- 11-betahydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
When we go into survival mode, these enzymes make adrenal hormones and increase fat storage. The fat switch is like a stress amplifier. Weight loss cannot occur if this switch is turned on and you are in survival mode.
- The Adrenal Reset Diet repairs the adrenal rhythms that let us shut of the fat switch and lose weight.
- The right foods at the right times can reset the whole adrenal system, including the fat switch.
How food affects your rhythms
- Higher amounts of protein and fat in your diet cause more cortisol to be released, which turns off the fat switch. This is good for the morning rhythm.
- Higher carb meals decrease cortisol release, and they turn on the fat switch.
- When you are thriving (not crashed), the fat switch is off. This helps burn calories and use the food to make energy for the flowing day.
- By cycling carbohydrates ~ eating them at the right time each day ~ cortisol can be brought back to a healthy rhythm, with high levels of cortisol in the morning and low levels at night. This fixes the fat switch to off.
- If you want to be energetic and mentally sharp during the day, a high-protein breakfast is the key to start your day.
- Low carb mornings and lower protein evenings can pull you back to normal sleep and good glucose levels.
- Most vegetables, such as leafy greens, onions, mushrooms, sprouts, celery, and tomatoes, have carbs but only in tiny amounts. Starchy vegetables, like carrots, squash, turnips, and corn have more carbs. The highest amount of carbs are found in grains, beans, and fruits.
Fiber is the part of carbohydrate that we cannot digest, and it turns out that it has major health benefits. Fiber helps us lose weight, it helps our bodies remove toxins, and it protects our immune system.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This is what most people think about when referring to fiber. It helps the intestinal tract stay regular and stabiles the body’s blood sugar.
Best sources: Brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes with the skin.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and feeds the healthy bacteria of the intestinal tract, lowers abdominal fat and reduces cholesteol.
Best sources: Lentils, garbanzo beans, blackberries, flax seed, and gluten free rolled oats.
Resistant fiber is the new kid on the block. It is a unique type of starch that is digested, but only many hours later and only by the good bacteria. Also known as resistant starch, this fiber contains calories, but the majority of it’s calories are not usable and therefore cannot cause weight gain. Resistant fiber is remarkable since it creates little or no insulin response, unlike carbohydrate. In actually creates less of a response that many non-carbohydras like meat, poultry, and eggs. For this reason, many of the low-carb breakfast on the ARD include food high in resistant fiber.
Best sources: Boiled potatoes, cannellini beans, navy beans, great northern beans, and unripe bananas.
If fiber were the healthiest part of carbs, fructose is the unhealthiest. Fructose is a kind of sugar that can exclusively be processed by your liver.
Since fiber is good and fructose is bad, how good a carb is for us can be determined by considering how much fiber it has compared to fructose – F:F ratio. Those trying to lose weight should focus on carbs with a score of 4 or greater. See Table 3.1 on page 58. (Note: low-starch vegetables on the unlimited foods list do not have significant amounts of fructose and can still be eaten freely.)
In the last several years, the Paleo diet movement has had many positive effects on our nutritional beliefs: fresh organic veggies, meat, and the need to avoid processed foods. People have gained a better understanding of how many health problems stem from foods and food ingredients like dairy, gluten, soy, and sugar, even when the food doesn’t cause an obvious and immediate bad reaction.
Some within the Paleo movement have argued that all beans, legumes, and even gluten-free grains should be avoided because they contain chemicals like phytic acid. The argument is that these compounds can rob the body of minerals and leave a person deficient in essential nutrients.
Phytic acid does bind with minerals, but it does so with the foods before you eat them. Therefore it cannot take minerals out of your body that you have already absorbed. The main negative factor involving phytic acid is that it hampers the absorption of iron in the foods that contain phytic acid. This means that if your only source of iron is plants, as in eating beans and spinach, you may not absorb enough iron. If your diet includes animal sources of iron, such as dark meat poultry and red meat, you will absorb the iron just fine, even if you eat food with phytic acid, such as beans, in the same meal.
Phytic acid is not only harmless, but is actually helpful for the immune system and may lower the risk of colon cancer.
Carbs ~ should make up between 35-45% of calories, and most should come from vegetables and they should make up about half the mass of your day’s food. You don’t need to eat that much with each meal, but you do want that much over the course of the day.
In terms of grams, 75-90 grams is best for most adults who exercise under an hour/day. You can think of as 1 ½ cups of cooked brown rice, pinto beans, or sweet potato. If you go below 50 grams/ day you will get very tired.
The best carbs to eat are the ones that burn the most slowly, like black beans, brown rice, quinoa, or boiled potatoes. After you eat a meal, the carbs are broken down in the stomach and absorbed into the bloodstream by the small intestines. When carbs are absorbed fast, they lead to a drop in blood sugar and elevation in cortisol. Based on this cortisol response, the same carbs could be burned as fuel or stored as fat. Unhealthy carbs come in a box and some bags. If something has an ingredient list of more than five items, put it back on the shelf.
Along with how fast they get absorbed, you should know whether your carbs go to fat or muscle, and this is determined by what time of day they are eaten. The ARD provides most of the carbs in the afternoon and evening. This is because at night, the muscles are more sensitive to insulin and they take the cabs before the fat gets to do so. Eating them at night also helps the body relax and repair the cycles leading to good sleep and fewer aches and pains.
Protein ~ as important as it is to get carbs right, they can’t their magic unless they have the right amounts and the right types of protein and fat along with them.
High-quality protein foods include chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, lean beef, buffalo, game meat, pork, and animal or vegetable based protein powder.
Lower-quality protein foods (grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, cheese, and milk) can prevent a protein deficiency but will not work as well as the higher-quality proteins for staying lean.
Protein should make up roughly 25-30% of your calories. This means that ¼ to 1/3 of your daily food volume should be from protein-rich food.
Soy foods are best to be avoided as a regular protein source because they disrupt thyroid function, alter hormone metabolism, and promote weight gain. Eggs and nonfat unsweetened Greek yogurt are great sources of protein, but because many people can’t tolerate them, they are vest avoided until you well outside survival mode.
Best choices: Organic and free range white/ dark meat chicken, white/ dark meat turkey, lean grass-fed beef, best seafood are clams, scallops, shrimp, salmon (wild caught), sardines, snapper.
Most fats that the body uses can be made inside of us, as we need them ~ they are called nonessential fats. Other fats are essential for our health and we cannot make them, like essential vitamins, we need to consume these on a regular basis to stay healthy ~ these are called essential fats.
2 types of essential fats:
- Omega-3 fats are critical for many aspects of good health, especially for the development and function of the brain and the control of inflammation.
Best choices: Good types of seafood mentioned under protein “best choices”, as well as vegetable omega-3s like flax and hemp.
- Omega-6 fats are essential for repairing the skin and making essential building blocks in the body like the nerve cells. Our requirement for Omega-6 is small and we can easily get enough in our diet. They are found in all nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Nuts and seeds can provide all of the needed Omega-6 fats when you consume ¼ to ½ cup daily.
Best choices: Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, avocados, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
- Omega-9 fats are not essential, although the foods that contain them may be high in fiber or have good chemicals like phenols. They are found in olives, olive oil, almonds, avocados, macadamia nuts, and pistachios. Once you have met your need for essential fats, omega-9 foods are good sources for any remaining fat calories.
Best choices: Olives, olive oil, avocado.
ADR meals: Throughout the day each meal has the same amounts of healthy proteins and fats. The only difference from one meal to the next is the number of servings of carbs: they increase throughout the day.
*Breakfast does not avoid carbs all tougher, but it has one small serving that is especially high in fiber. This morning serving of fiber is important for your adrenal reset. The best strategies for breakfast are either doing protein shake or eating the same type of food you would eat at your other meals. Chicken, broccoli, and beans may sound like an unusual breakfast, but it can give you an unusually high metabolism.
Foods like waffles, syrup, juice, and muffins create a spike in blood sugar, forcing the morning cortisol to plummet. This sets a person up for a day of being edgy, out focus, and unable to burn fat. The other problem with breakfast food is that the few that are not processed carbs often have toxic proteins, like dairy and eggs.
ADR breakfast focuses on high-quality protein, alkalizing vegetables, high amounts of fiber, and moderate amounts of healthy fats. Some carbs, like lentils, white beans, pinto beans, and green peas that have been included. This is because of the high amounts of resistant fiber. Gluten free oats and bananas are also included in some recipes. Both are used raw and the bananas are better when they are a little unripe with some green on the peel. These carbs metabolize so slowly you can eat them for breakfast and not absorb the carbs until afternoon.
*Lunch is best planned the day before ~ Make extra for dinner and eat it for lunch with a palm sized serving of healthy starch. Some options when eating out include soup with beans, gluten-free turkey wrap, salad with kidney or garbanzo beans, or a stir-fry with ½ C brown rice – nothing fried and no sugary sauces.
A lunch with less than ½ C carbs would keep up the morning energy peak but would also require cortisol to stay high to keep the blood sugar levels up. On the other hand, if lunch has too many carbs your brain goes into sleep mode.
*Dinner consist of a protein, a side dish of healthy carbs, and some vegetables. Choose the healthiest versions of these foods and the right amounts.
By dinnertime, your insulin response is at its peak. If you do not have some carbs, cortisol will raise your blood sugar, which will prevent you getting a good night’s sleep. This can also cause a blood sugar crash, which leads to sugar cravings.
Snacks are optional. Until most recent decades, people rarely snacked as they do now. When you are thriving and healthy, it will not worry you to go several hours between meals and to eat fewer times per day. If you are in the habit of eating snacks and you prefer to do so, think of snacks as a great time to eat a few extra servings of veggies. Another great option for snacking is juicing.
The recipe chapter has some great juice blends for each of the adrenal levels as well as for specific health goals.
Breakfast ~ Protein in palm of hand/ Fat is golf ball size/ Carbs are 1 golf ball.
Lunch ~ “ “ Carbs are 2 golf balls.
Dinner ~ “ “ Carbs are 3 golf balls.
Thriving/ Stressed/ Wired & Tired/ Crashed
You can take the test online at adrenalresetdiet.com
There is a lot of information in the book regarding Adrenal tonics for the stressed. Also, recipes and sample meals.
- Some nonprescription supplements can help the stressed to move toward thriving in as little as a few weeks.
- Some adrenal formulas contain ingredients that are not a good fit for this stage, such as rhodiola and 5HTP, licorice root, and adrenal cortex extracts because they raise cortisol rather than lower it. Pg.122
Vitamin D is important for your bones and immune system. It turns out its also crucial for weight loss and good blood sugar control.
Magnesium is critical for your adrenals to work correctly. Supplements should be between 250-600 mg daily, taken with food.
Detox daily (Pg. 100) – the 3 easiest ways to clear pollutants:
Broccoli Sprouts – 1 package per week / Rice Bran – 1 tbsp per day/ Ground Flax Seeds – 1 tbsp per day
Stop the computers/ Tvs and dim the lights at least an hour before bed.
Negative ions have been well documented to improve sleep cycles, elevate mood, and lower appetite. Expose yourself to as much fresh air as possible. Negative ion generators and salt lamps are also readily available and inexpensive.