E-Book Excerpt: Developing Nutrition Protocols for Adrenal Dysfunction


Adrenal fatigue is not accepted as a valid diagnosis by the conventional medical community but is nevertheless affecting many of my patients. Nutrition-related changes work synergistically with other lifestyle modalities to restore adrenal function and rebuild the adrenal reserve. When working with these patients, I address blood sugar, remove symptom triggers, and replace nutrients that are missing or in higher demand. I often recommend small, frequent, protein and fiber-containing meals along with eliminating processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners. I also remove caffeine and alcohol, since both can affect sleep quality and stimulate the adrenal glands, exacerbating symptoms. If symptoms persist, I recommend a full elimination diet to determine other possible symptom triggers.

I encourage nine servings of vegetables with several of those being leafy greens to maximize nutrient intake and I provide targeted supplementation surrounding the B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium. Other nutritional supplements I consider for my patients experiencing adrenal dysfunction include a multivitamin-mineral to fill the gaps, omega-3 fatty acids to decrease inflammation, vitamin D3 to boost the immune system, and a probiotic to target gut health.

A nutrition plan to restore the adrenal reserve may include:

  • Small, frequent, protein and fiber containing meals
  • Elimination of processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners
  • Discourage caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Encourage at least nine servings of vegetables daily with several servings of leafy greens per day
  • Personalized nutrient supplementation, including B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, and a probiotic
  • Possible full elimination diet for a minimum of four weeks if significant relief is not realized with initial nutrition-related recommendations

Case study

Dene is a 30-year-old female referred for digestive distress, stubborn weight gain, and sleep disturbance. When I met Dene, she complained of abdominal bloating after meals and inability to lose weight despite intense workouts. She had stopped weighing herself five months prior to our meeting due to previous weight obsession and feeling depressed after stepping on the scale. 

Dene described her job as very stressful, she was exercising excessively, and complained of terrible self-esteem. She had recently begun seeing a therapist due to mood changes and feeling depressed. She followed a gluten and dairy-free diet and allowed herself a less-restrictive meal one day per week. Her initial symptoms score indicated severe symptoms and she documented mood swings, anxiety, anger, and depression. 

I suspected adrenal fatigue as a root cause of her symptoms and salivary cortisol testing revealed phase three adrenal fatigue with low levels of both cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The initial nutrition plan included:

  1. Fifteen minutes of meditation twice per day
  2. Continue the gluten and dairy-free diet, consume nine servings of vegetables per day, and consider a full elimination diet
  3. Proper sleep hygiene
  4. Supplements including:
    • Multivitamin-mineral
    • Probiotic
    • Vitamin C, 750 milligrams
    • B Complex
    • Magnesium, 400 milligrams
    • Adrenal formula
    • DHEA, 5 milligrams
  5. Decrease exercise to only four days per week and reduce the intensity of training

I felt an elimination diet would be very beneficial for Dene based on her symptoms, but she was skeptical and didn’t want to implement that change right away. She focused on supplements and remained gluten and dairy-free but didn’t experience the results she had hoped for.

After the second month, she implemented a full elimination food plan. At her four-month follow up, she reported, she was sleeping better, wasn’t as moody, and noticed weight loss due to the way her clothes fit. While on the elimination diet, she said the weight dropped quickly, perceived inflammation decreased, and she had more muscle tone.

After five months, Dene reported much improvement in energy, sleep, digestive symptoms, sinus congestion, weight and fluid retention, and excessive sweating.

Dene has continued the whole foods, plant-based diet. She does not like taking supplements, so she discontinued the probiotic and opted instead for fermented foods daily. She discontinued the adrenal formula, DHEA, and magnesium, but said she plans to continue the multivitaminmineral, B complex, and vitamin C supplements.

She has restored her adrenal reserve with nutrition-related strategies, healthy stress management techniques, and by allowing her body the opportunity to rest and recover.

Editor’s Note: This text originally appeared in the e-book, Components of a Successful Nutrition Protocol. To read the full e-book, click here.