Home > Diet and Nutrition > Adrenal Fatigue Diet > The Importance of an Adrenal Fatigue Diet

An image of a woman holding a bowl of salad and a slice of pizza deciding which to eatDiet is an important part of optimal health for every human being, but especially those who suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Researchers are now concluding that approximately 80% of chronic illnesses are caused by environmental factors, including what you eat. Adrenal fatigue falls into this category. It is a debilitating ailment brought on by long-term external stressors that have caused the body to operate inefficiently. Systems become imbalanced, hormones are out of range, fatigue kicks in, and organs begin to shut down. AFS can become a debilitating health condition, and one of the keys to recovering from this condition, and preventing it in the first place, is diet. Here we discuss the best foods, worst foods, and best meal timing for a healing adrenal fatigue diet.

The Adrenal Fatigue Diet and Stress

Stress is inevitable. And one of the main tools we are given to keep our body healthy both physically and mentally is our diet. A poor diet can put a major strain on the entire body, including the adrenal glands, increasing the risk of suffering from adrenal fatigue. The more the adrenals are exhausted and stressed, the less the body can absorb nutrients or tolerate medications, even in small doses. Adopting the proper adrenal fatigue diet can better equip your body to deal with stress, both internally and externally.

These are some of the benefits of a healthy diet for the adrenal glands:

  • The body gets all the nutrients it needs to function properly.
  • The increased nutrition means that the body begins to heal any damage caused by stress.
  • Decreased stress levels.
  • Better adrenal gland health and functioning.
  • Rebalancing hormones.
  • More blood sugar stability.
  • Decreased blood pressure.

What is AFS?

Adrenal Fatigue is the non-Addison’s form of adrenal dysfunction, a condition where the body’s stress response cannot keep up with the demands of chronic stress. Adrenal Fatigue is often called a sub-clinical syndrome, a condition that stays “below the surface” of clinical detection.

Your adrenals produce cortisol, sometimes known as the stress hormone. This is what’s responsible for that energetic, jittery feeling you sometimes get in stressful situations. It raises your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and causes changes throughout your body that prepare you to fight or flee from danger. After the stressor has passed, cortisol drops and all these changes return to normal.

The problem arises from chronic stress. Work, relationships, toxins, a poor diet--all of these factors in the modern world and more can cause ongoing stress. This can cause your adrenals to work overtime, constantly produce cortisol, and overwork the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. When this occurs, various interrelated circuits, organs, and systems in your body often become imbalanced. This can lead to AFS and multiple, seemingly unrelated symptoms that are hard to identify the source of.

This can be a very dangerous situation if not alleviated. Unfortunately, AFS is not recognized by the medical establishment. As a result, the condition often remains unidentified, making it impossible to address the root of the problem. That’s why it’s so important to discuss your health with a doctor aware of AFS before you implement strategies to address the condition. However, the adrenal fatigue diet is a fairly low-risk strategy that may be helpful for many conditions.

Common Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Adrenal fatigue can lead to a variety of symptoms. AFS has four stages, and these symptoms can change as you move through the different phases as well. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Constant anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling fatigued all the time
  • Loss of appetite or craving salty/sugary foods
  • Weight gain or weight loss for no known reason
  • Obesity
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle pain/muscle weakness
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Health issues relating to a hormone imbalance

Please contact a qualified healthcare professional if you have these symptoms. They could indicate the possibility of adrenal fatigue or other underlying health issues.

With your doctor’s support, however, an adrenal fatigue diet may be a path to healing that supports your body in developing stable blood sugar, consistent energy levels, and a healthy nutrient reserve. This eating plan also has many other health benefits.

What Should I Eat on the Adrenal Fatigue Diet?

Following the adrenal fatigue diet will provide you with the healthiest food choices available. Ideally, it should consist of 30-40 percent vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, 20-30 percent lean protein, and 20-30 percent healthy fats.

This diet is not a fast fix. It is a lifestyle change to continue long-term, even after adrenal fatigue recovery.

These are the best foods to eat on this diet.


The bulk of your diet, 30-40 percent, should consist of fresh vegetables. Eating vegetables provides multiple health benefits vital for the maintenance of a healthy body. People who eat more veggies reduce their risk of developing chronic health conditions. Vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes, and they are anti-inflammatory. Low in fat and calories, vegetables do not contain cholesterol.

Eating them raw or steamed helps retain their nutrient value. In addition, serving vegetables with healthy fat like olive or coconut oil helps the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients.

Here are some tips for making the best vegetable choices:

  • Aim for 6 to 8 servings of vegetables per day.
  • Choose brightly colored vegetables. Try to eat all five colors of fruits and vegetables daily (red, orange, yellow, green, and purple). These veggies are high in phytonutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Baby vegetables and sprouted vegetables are a concentrated source of nutrients.
  • Eat lots of leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, broccoli, choy sum, etc. These high-magnesium vegetables help with cortisol regulation and help to balance hormone levels.
  • Easily digestible, seaweed and sea vegetables contain many trace nutrients beneficial for AFS recovery.
  • Asparagus is a rich source of sulfur and vitamin B9 (folate). Folate deficiency increases the risk of neurotransmitter issues and hormone imbalances related to AFS.


Fruit is an essential part of an adrenal fatigue diet and some fruits can actually help lower your cortisol levels. Try to limit fruit choices to later in the day, however, as lowering cortisol early in the day can upset your natural cortisol balance.

Also, try to avoid foods high in potassium like bananas and oranges, as these can upset the sodium-potassium balance in AFS.

Some recommended fruits include:

  • Blueberries
  • Dried fruit such as apricots
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Mango

Lean Proteins

An adrenal fatigue diet should ideally consist of between 20 and 30 percent lean proteins. This protein should come from multiple sources of high-quality foods such as legumes, eggs, animals, fowl, and fish. This provides for more well-rounded nutrition.

Good protein choices include:

  • Lean red meat like beef
  • Turkey
  • Organic eggs
  • Unsweetened dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes

You can also consider eating organ meats like liver, for example. Organ meats are high in vitamins B12 and D, as well as zinc. These promote relaxation and help with stress management.

Healthy Fats

An image of a healthy lunch in a meal prepping container20 to 30 percent of your nutritional intake should come from healthy fats such as those derived from nuts and seeds. Try soaking nuts and seeds first. This makes them easier to digest and improves the availability of their nutrients for absorption.

The best nuts and seeds include:

  • Almonds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

Many nuts and seeds contain compounds that help with blood sugar control and adrenal support.

In addition, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardine, cod, and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty acid is anti-inflammatory, helps calm down an adrenal response, and is beneficial for many conditions.

Whole Grains

While not as essential as vegetables and fruit, whole grains also have a role in this diet. Whole grains are slow to digest, make you feel full for longer, and cause the release of serotonin, a feel-good hormone. They promote heart health by lowering bad cholesterol levels. They are also a good source of B vitamins and vitamin E.

They are also high in magnesium, which helps with DNA and RNA repair, neurotransmitter function, thyroid health, and more.

A good source of iron, whole grains also promote hemoglobin production. Low iron levels can lead to anemia and various adrenal fatigue symptoms that include fatigue, temperature sensitivities, and feelings of weakness.

Some good whole grains include:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgar
  • Barley
  • Wild Rice


These live “good” bacteria help to improve gut health, manage inflammation, and improve cortisol levels. Many health issues start in the gut because of an imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria. This imbalance could lead to poor gut health, inflammation, lower nutrient absorption, lower immune system effectiveness, and even increased risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. Supporting “good” gut bacteria with probiotic foods is a good way to avoid this.

Natural probiotic foods to try include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Tempeh

If considering a probiotic supplement, note that these may not be as safe or effective as probiotics in foods. In addition, taking any kind of supplement, especially if you have adrenal fatigue, has risks and should be done with the advice of a healthcare provider.

Drink Plenty of Water

The adrenal fatigue diet recommends that you drink plenty of pure water to help flush toxins from the body and ease the toxin load on the organs. Aim for at least 8 cups of water per day. If you have detoxification issues, try purified or distilled water.

Foods to Avoid

Obviously, there are also foods that you should try to avoid when you’re on an adrenal fatigue diet such as:

Junk Food and Sweets

An image of people eating at a long table covered in sweets and unhealthy foodsSoda, candy bars, and chips may be the easiest thing to grab in a hurry. They’ll even curb your appetite for a few hours and hold you over between meals. But sugar could well be the single worst ingredient in the modern diet, and may be one of the leading causes of chronic illness.

There are three main types of sugar - sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Table sugar, sucrose, is made of one glucose and one fructose molecule. But while these are both naturally derived from plant sources, glucose is easier to digest than fructose. Glucose spikes insulin levels, but can be used by the body immediately; while fructose does not spike insulin as quickly, but must first be converted by the liver for use. Eating these two together causes both a spike in insulin and a higher burden on the liver, which can lead to increased fat stores. However, this is a much great problem with processed sugar than when you eat the small amounts of sugar present naturally in plant foods.

If you are craving something sweet, opt for fruits. Fruit is a real food filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. And the much lower levels of sugars present in fruit do not show the same negative effects as processed sugar.

High-Potassium Fruits

Avoid fruits such as bananas, oranges, and dried fruits like raisins, dates, and figs, as they are high in potassium and can exacerbate sodium-potassium ratio imbalances, which are common with AFS. Take these minimally.

Table Salt

Avoid table salt when seasoning your foods. Heavily processed, table salt lacks minerals and often contains additives to prevent clumping. Healthy table salt alternatives include pink Himalayan salt and sea salt. They can help correct your body’s sodium levels while adding flavor and nutrients.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners may seem the ideal solution when trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, these highly-processed sweeteners may contain stress-causing components. Studies also show that many people using artificial sweeteners gain weight instead of losing it. Some may also promote heart disease and increase your risk of stroke.

Refined Carbohydrates

Eliminate refined carbohydrates including white rice, pasta, breads, and pastries from your diet. These foods cause a large spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a drop, leading to hypoglycemia symptoms.

Stimulants and Alcohol

Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. While they are tempting, they make the body work harder when it needs to rest and reduce stress. In those with adrenal fatigue, adrenal crashes may result.

Alcohol can also lead to adverse reactions, including dehydration, poor sleep quality, and increased stress levels.

Fried Foods

Avoid fried foods and cooking with oils above their individual smoke points. These oils, while often healthy, can transform into unhealthy forms with heat. This means that you need to avoid fried foods whenever possible. However, these oils are often safe to add to foods after cooking or when cooked at temperatures below their smoke point.

Meal Schedule for the Adrenal Fatigue Diet

The timing of a meal is just as important as the food content when it comes to the adrenal fatigue diet. Eating regularly, at planned times, helps to balance your cortisol levels, blood sugar, and energy levels. This is key for healing from AFS. Ideally, you should plan to eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day, starting soon after waking. Meals need not be big. A snack like julienned carrots with cottage cheese on a whole wheat cracker will help keep blood sugar levels stable.

Skipping meals can cause blood sugar levels to spike, resulting in increased insulin production. As a result, you quickly feel hungry again. The adrenal glands then try to regulate blood sugar levels with increased cortisol production, which strains an already depleted system.

The following schedule describes the ideal time frames for eating on the adrenal fatigue diet, assuming you wake at 6:00 am:

  • Breakfast. On the adrenal fatigue diet, you should eat breakfast between 6:00 am and 8:00 am, shortly after waking, and no later than 10:00 am. Your glycogen reserves are low after a night of sleep. Eating early replenishes the body and keeps it stable and healthy. Avoid fruits or fruit juices at this time, as they are high in sugar and can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash.
  • Snack. Keeping your body replenished with food and water is essential for optimal health. Around 10:00 am, or 2-3 hours after breakfast, have a healthy snack of nuts or lean protein sources.
  • Lunch should be eaten around 12:00 pm.
  • Snack. Eat another healthy snack between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
  • Dinner. Dinner should be eaten between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

The goal is to opt for smaller yet frequent meals to keep your body supplied with the nutrients needed to keep your energy levels at an even keel throughout the day.

Do not rush through meals. Chew slowly and savor each bite. A rushed meal makes the body work harder, causing additional stress for your digestive system, adrenal glands, and other organs.

Always Choose Organic

Always opt for organic options whenever possible. Everyone should eat organic, but when you’re suffering from AFS, your body is even more susceptible to the toxins non-organic foods contain. They act like a poison to the body and add additional stresses that could otherwise be avoided. These toxins stem from manufactured fertilizers and insecticides.

The most important reasons why you should always buy organic foods when on the adrenal fatigue diet include the following:

  • They do not use genetically modified organisms, more commonly known as GMOs. Genetically modified ingredients have been linked to imbalances, allergies, and health issues.
  • Organic foods are safe and contain no toxic pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, or climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers.
  • You’re less likely to suffer from E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter, or MRSA when you purchase foods from humane, clean, and conscious-minded facilities.
  • Organic farms prohibit the use of sewage sludge on their lands.
  • Animals on organic farms cannot be fed slaughterhouse waste, manure, or blood. They are more likely to be treated and cared for humanely.
  • Organic food is more nutritionally dense. Studies show that organic foods contain more vitamins and important trace minerals. They also have more cancer-fighting antioxidants.

When the body suffers from adrenal fatigue or other chronic illnesses, it is important to eat the healthiest, most nutrient-fortified foods for adrenal fatigue if possible. Choosing organic is the wisest choice.

The Adrenal Fatigue Diet: Tips and Tricks

While many people lose weight when on the adrenal fatigue diet, the main aim is a gradual restoration of energy. It does this by supporting adrenal health. Because the adrenals play a key role in hormone balance, you may thus see a gradual weight loss due to an improvement in hormone levels.

The two main things to keep in mind when on this diet is to always try to eat only organic fruit and vegetables, and to follow a regular eating schedule. Do not skip meals! And if you get hungry between meals, fill up on healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables.

In addition, this diet can be a little difficult to digest if you aren’t used to it. If you have a lot of digestive issues, try to eat everything cooked. Or try using a digestive aid or enzyme supplement to help break down fibrous foods and proteins, reducing the stress in the GI tract and improving digestive function.

Finally, when incorporating the adrenal fatigue diet into your life, it is recommended that you start slow and make progressive changes day by day. This is particularly important if you have other health issues or late-stage AFS. See a doctor well-versed in AFS and your individual health needs for additional advice on switching to an adrenal fatigue diet safely.

The Takeaway

An image of a meal plan list on a wooden table surrounded by healthy foodThe adrenal fatigue diet offers a solution for nutritious meal plans for optimal health. It also helps you adopt excellent eating habits for both the body and mind. By eliminating sugar crashes and keeping energy levels stable, you may feel better throughout the day and achieve greater health and longevity. Some general tips for establishing a healthier adrenal fatigue diet:

  1. Eat at regular intervals to avoid to keep your blood sugar stable and avoid increasing your cortisol levels.
  2. Aim to eat 30-40 percent vegetables and fruit, 20-30 percent lean protein, and 20-30 percent healthy fats.
  3. Avoid sugar, refined carbs, refined foods, caffeine, and alcohol, and instead focus on organic, whole foods.
  4. Talk to a doctor for guidance on switching to the adrenal fatigue diet while meeting your unique health needs.

If you need more information on a healthy diet for adrenal fatigue, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your concerns. Alternatively, please leave a question through our Ask the Doctor system by clicking here.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Following the Adrenal Fatigue Diet is crucial for recovering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, or AFS. Proper nutrition is one of the key components to healing the adrenal glands and there are certain foods that must be avoided to ensure additional stress is not placed on the body.

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