7 Nutrients for the Adrenal Glands

My adrenal glands tanked after my first pregnancy and I felt the effects of not taking care of them!! I wasn’t taking supplements regularly, didn’t sleep enough, worked full-time from home, tended to a newborn, and felt pressure to still keep up on all the stuff at home. It took years to build them back up!

I can easily get caught up in life's pressures to do and to go. The feeling of pressure, stress, and fight-or-flight comes from the Adrenal Glands. They release the stress hormones CORTISOL and ADRENALINE, which are necessary, but also harmful to the body in high amounts.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue—sometimes known as adrenal insufficiency—occurs after periods of prolonged stress. At first, the adrenal glands may produce too much cortisol. Then, as they become “burned out,” they produce too little of this hormone. This leads to tiredness, weakness, brain fog, irritability, frustration, difficulty handling stress, and having a hard time prying yourself out of bed in the morning.

The Harmful Effects of Too Much Cortisol and Adrenaline

  • Impairs our immune response and overall immune function. Not good, especially now with a pandemic happening.

  • Causes inflammation (the harmful type), which damages tissues throughout the body.

  • Dysregulates blood sugar levels, which also causes inflammation.

  • Burns out the adrenal glands. Who has time to feel exhausted?!?!

  • Can cause weight gain over time.

  • Effects blood pressure levels.

  • Disrupts sleep, causing you to be more exhausted. A vicious cycle!

  • Negatively impacts mood.

7 Nutrients for Healthy Adrenal Function

When stress happens, the body requires specific nutrients to cope and recover. Here are the priorities!

#1) Magnesium

Magnesium is one of many essential trace minerals needed for healthy adrenal gland function. It’s needed to relax the central nervous system, which helps to reduce adrenal gland stimulation from the splanchnic nerve. Magnesium also supports sleep, which is important to maintain the 24-hour rhythm of the adrenal glands.

Even though Magnesium is a very simple mineral for your body to regulate, its levels can be thrown off pretty easily by stress, alcohol use and various medications.

Magnesium deficiency is common, and the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency can be subtle. Most magnesium is stored in our tissues so leg cramps, foot pain, or muscle twitches and spasms can be the first sign, such as when the corner of your eye twitches.

Magnesium-rich foods: bananas, oatmeal, lentils, beans, quinoa, squash, pumpkin seeds, and leafy greens like spinach, chard, and sautéed kale.

#2) Essential Fatty Acids, EPA and DHA from fish

Essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are long-chain fatty acids that concentrate in the cell membranes of adrenal glands. These essential fatty acids are not produced in the body but must be obtained through dietary consumption.

EPA and DHA food sources: fatty fish, shellfish

EPA and DHA supplement sources:

From my experience working in the supplement industry for 9 years, here are my top fish oil/cod liver oil recommendations:

I use daily this fish oil by Nordic Naturals.

I've also used (and like) this Nordic Natural cod liver oil with vitamin D.

I've also used (and like) this Lysi lemon cod liver oil.

I've also used (and like) this Carlson's Fish oil.

#3) B-vitamins

B-complex vitamins act as cofactors for the synthesis of adrenal hormones. The B-complex vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid, inositol, and choline. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), much like vitamin C, is required for epinephrine production and helps the adrenal glands produce healthy amounts of cortisol. It is directly linked to the body’s main stress regulatory center, the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis.

Foods with Vitamin B5: sunflower seeds, chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, peanuts, avocados

#4) Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed for optimum levels of epinephrine to be produced in response to immediate and urgent stress. The adrenal glands actually contain a higher concentration of vitamin C than most other parts of the body. When your body is under stress, it can use vitamin C much more rapidly than normal.

Vitamin C-rich foods: citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit, and don’t forget about papayas, red bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and strawberries.

#5) L-Tyrosine

L-Tyrosine is an amino acid important for dealing with chronic stress. It plays a role in adrenal hormone production, serving as a precursor of epinephrine and norepinephrine. It is important to note a different amino acid, tyramine, can over-stimulate the adrenal glands and should be avoided if you think you have a possible adrenal condition.

L-Tyrosine food sources: meats like pork roast, turkey, wild game, and tuna. Not a meat eater? Be sure to eat plenty of seaweed, spinach, avocados, and pumpkin seeds.

#6) Adaptogens

Adaptogens are amazing for helping the body handle stress, especially Rhodiola, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, and Cordyceps (mushroom).

Adaptogens are a family of unique plants, roots, and herbs used to support the body’s ability to cope with physical and psychological stressors. They support the health of your adrenal system, which is responsible for managing your body’s hormonal response to stress. Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without overstimulating.

Adaptogens work somewhat like a thermostat for the body. When the thermostat senses the room temperature is too high, it brings it down; when the temperature is too low, it brings it up.

#7) Herbal Teas

To help you rest and relax, try drinking herbal teas such as Passionflower, Lemon balm, and Licorice Root are calming and soothing.

It is also a good idea to limit caffeine because it can easily overstimulate the adrenals.

The Adrenals and the Root Center in Human Design

In Human Design, the Root Center correlates to the Adrenal Glands, Cortisol, Adrenaline, and Endorphins. It's the energy for anything we do in this life, and the stress and pressure happen because it’s the Root's way of moving energy (via cortisol and adrenaline) toward the throat so we can bring our genius out into the world!

Human Design may seem like an interesting tool to pair with Health and Nutrition, but I have found it extremely helpful for merging mind, body, and spirit with well-being!

Please check out my blog about the connection between the Root center and Adrenal gland health, the Root Center's not-self talk (learning this helped me so much!), the Wisdom of the Root Center, and tips for caring for the Root Center and Adrenals.

Thanks for reading! I love hearing from you, so feel free to leave me a question or comment.


Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

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