Bayou Health | Adrenal Cocktails
article by Shannon Dahlum, FDN-P
Your adrenal glands are two small, triangular shaped glands that sit above your kidneys, and they’re responsible for producing hormones that help regulate the stress response and manage blood sugar, among other essential functions. During the stress response, the adrenals produce hormones that cause blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate to rise, while forcing metabolism to become suppressed. This creates a burst of energy in the short term, but in the long run, depletes energy production in the body.
Whether the stress response in your body is triggered by a fight with your spouse, inflammation somewhere in your body, or the stimulation from caffeine or an intense workout, the process that happens inside your body is the same; stress hormones (short term energy) increase, and metabolism (long term energy) is diminished. When stress is chronic in your body, metabolism can become so diminished that without the stimulation of stress, you’re left without enough energy to get through the day. This can lead to stress addiction, or a dependence on the stress response to stimulate regular short bursts of energy to power you through.
Signs of stress dependency:
• Relying on coffee or other forms of caffeine to get through your day.
• Feeling the need to constantly be productive or stimulated by television or social media.
• A tendency to procrastinate and then have to rush to get a task done or to arrive on time.
• Feeling like there’s never enough time in the day.
• Difficulty sitting still or trying to relax.
• Being drawn to high intensity workouts frequently.
• Needing alcohol (or sleep medications) at the end of the day to wind down.
Your body was only designed to rely on the fuel provided by stress for brief periods of time, so when it becomes a chronic state, your body will eventually burn out and you’ll be left in a state of chronic fatigue. Remember that your metabolism (long term energy) has become suppressed because of the stress response (short term energy), so when the stress response wears out and can no longer respond properly, you’re left without healthy production of either form of energy.
Being intentional about regularly giving your mind and body the physical and mental rest it needs is vital for allowing your adrenal system to recover, but so is providing it with the nutrients it needs for healthy functioning. The stress response causes a loss of potassium and magnesium in your body, and it also utilizes sodium and vitamin C. Ensuring that you’re replenishing these nutrients regularly, especially if you’re living in a state of chronic stress (and who isn’t?) is important for maintaining a healthy stress response.
When you’re low in energy, you’re probably likely to reach for coffee, energy drinks, or another form of caffeine for a boost. Understand, though, that caffeine doesn’t increase energy production in the body; it stimulates the stress response. This means that in the long run, your caffeine habit further diminishes energy production and depletes the nutrients utilized in the stress response.
To encourage healthy energy production in the long run and support the healthy functioning of your body’s stress hormones, try swapping some of your caffeine for an adrenal cocktail. These mocktails replenish nutrients utilized by your adrenal glands, providing them with the raw materials needed to maintain healthy functioning. Fresh citrus juice replenishes vitamin C and sugar, coconut water provides potassium and other electrolytes, and unprocessed salt offers sodium and other necessary trace minerals. When your body becomes depleted in any of these nutrients, that on its own can exacerbate the stress state in your body.
Don’t let the mention of citrus juice scare you! You’ve probably learned that juice is high in sugar and is just as detrimental to your health as drinking soda. If you already have problems with blood sugar regulation or insulin resistance, your dietary needs for healing will be different, but for a healthy individual, fruit and moderate amounts of fruit juice can be very health supportive. They actually provide your body with the fructose and glucose it needs for fueling liver function (necessary for healthy blood sugar regulation) and metabolism (long term energy production). As always, everyone’s needs are different, so please discuss your own nutritional choices with your healthcare provider.
Basic Adrenal Cocktail Recipe
• 4 ounces freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice
• 4 ounces coconut water
• 1/4 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt or Redmond’s Real Salt
• Top it with sparkling water, or dilute with spring water and sip throughout the day.
• 1 serving of collagen or other protein supplement
• 2 tablespoons of heavy cream or coconut cream (from a can of full fat coconut milk)
• Omit orange or grapefruit juice and use the juice from half of a lemon or lime instead for a lower sugar option.
• For a very low sugar option, use 1 cup of spring water or sparkling water, with the juice from half of a lemon or lime, 1/4 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt or Redmond’s Real Salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to provide potassium.
Notes about ingredients
Sure, you can use store bought citrus juice (or any other 100% pure juice), but juicing it fresh really makes all the difference! My favorite brand of coconut water is Harmless Harvest. For any store bought juice or coconut water, check the ingredients and be sure you aren’t getting something with added sugar or other additives.
Do not substitute white table salt or other forms of processed salt for the Celtic Sea Salt or Remond’s Real Salt. Salt from the ocean, in its natural form, contains all of the trace minerals your body needs (except for potassium) and in the proper ratios. Processed salt has been stripped of all minerals except for sodium chloride (sometimes, iodine is added back in), and this further exacerbates the mineral imbalances created by the stress response. Pink Himalayan Salt also contains the full range of minerals you need, but it’s often also high in heavy metals, so it’s not my first choice.
When should you drink it?
If you don’t have an appetite in the morning and can’t stomach breakfast, try starting your day with an adrenal cocktail, with the addition of a protein supplement and heavy cream or coconut cream. This provides you with all of the macronutrients and can move your body out of a state of stress (which is naturally high upon waking) and support healthy metabolism.
Drinking an adrenal cocktail in the afternoon can help head off that post-lunch slump and support energy proaction through the afternoon. It’s also perfect to have during or after your workouts for replenishing energy and electrolytes.
If you tend to wake regularly around 2-3am tossing and turning (possible indication of daytime blood sugar dysregulation), try an adrenal cocktail before bed, with the protein and coconut cream add-ins. If you want to diminish the impact on your blood sugar, drink your cocktail 10-15 minutes after a meal rather than on an empty stomach.