5

votes

How many carbs should I eat to resolve cortisol issues?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 01, 2011 at 12:02 AM

While I haven't been officially diagnosed, I suffer from many of the symptoms of cortisol issues/adrenal fatigue. I am tired most of the day (except early evening), I have muscular but skinny extremities with soft, loose fat centered on my belly, I wake up tired, I find it hard to focus on occasion, I'm never really hungry in the mornings, and I haven't lost any weight in the past several months.

I've already decided to cut out the caffeine and I'm gonna try to go to bed earlier. I sleep with a blackout curtain, but there is still a little bit of light in the room. I'm not working out right now, but I'm fairly active at my 25 hour a week job.

I've decided to try temporarily adding in more carbohydrate, mostly in the form of starch. I went out today and bought some purple and red potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, strawberries, and parsnips. My question is, what should I up my carb intake to, and for how long?

For the record, I'm 23, male, 5'9" tall, and currently weigh around 184 pounds. I normally aim for about 2200-2600 calories, with a 70/20/10 fat/protein/carb ratio.

EDIT: I should mention that I've been paleo/primal for over a year now, with over 40 pounds weight loss. I was tracking my diet for about a week and the carb intake ranged from around 30-60, with fiber ranging from 14-24.

EDIT 2: From another thread about cortisol, supposedly from Robb Wolf's book (which I own, but can't find to cite at the moment):

Do you have problems falling or staying asleep? (I wake up almost every morning by 8, no matter when I went to bed)

Do you wake up more exhausted than when you went to bed? (Yes, usually)

Do you get a "second wind" in the evening, and really only feel awake about the time you should go to bed? (Not when I should be going to bed, but early evening, yes)

Are you tired and achy all the time? (Not really achy, but tired yes)

Do you suffer from frequent upper-respiratory infections? (My nose has felt stuffy regularly for the past few months)

Do you work out to exhaustion, and do you crave the "boost" excercise provides? (I don't work out regularly enough to apply this)

Do you live and die by stimulants like coffee? (No, but I usually have a cup of green or black tea at work)

Have you gained weight in the midsection, despite watching your food intake? (Since Thanksgiving I've gained about 10 pounds, 5 of which I've since lost. I did cheat pretty heavily during the holiday season, though)

Do you have problems with depression or seasonal affective disorder? (I enjoy being in warm sunshine, but I don't think I have SAD)

Do you remember what sex is? (Remember and enjoy regularly :) )

3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on June 18, 2012
at 09:50 PM

Any update on this?

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 18, 2012
at 07:40 PM

"5 hours a day of moving around 10-50 pound weights" You're working out.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 01, 2011
at 06:59 PM

I've been dealing with adrenal fatigue with mixed success, and I'd second the recommendation for Dr. Wilson's book. I think his carb amounts might be high, especially for anyone who's also dealing with insulin resistance/metabolic syndome, and of course he lists the usual "healthy" carbs like whole grains. But in general, it's solid. I attribute my mixed success to the fact that, while I've followed the diet and supplement points, I've done less well on sleep and stress reduction. Sleep apnea is interfering with the former; and the latter is the hardest, since it requires changing one's life.

00617208f2e481c293a2f8ad4d097911

(295)

on March 01, 2011
at 03:40 AM

yes, it has 1/3 or 1/4 of the amount of caffeine in a coffee

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:22 AM

I take Natural Calm on a regular basis, about 1.5 teaspoons per day. I also don't get the chance to get in much sunlight, but I take a D-3 supplement almost every day (5000 IU). I thought that green tea would be something to avoid, because of the stimulative effect. Is green tea that much lower in caffeine to make it worthwhile?

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:20 AM

Today I ended up with about 100g of carbs, 25 of which were fiber. I'm active at work (5 hours a day of moving around 10-50 pound weights), but I don't usually work out. I have a fairly set day to day routine.

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:17 AM

Around 100g of saturated fat daily, but I use a coconut oil/clarified butter almost exclusively for cooking. I aim for around 1 pound of meat (either fish or ruminant) and three eggs per day.

2b8c327d1296a96ad64cdadc7dffa72d

on March 01, 2011
at 01:14 AM

Dana, if you do NOT have diabetes, your BG should NEVER go above 120. 140 is when bad things start to happen. That's way too high.

1acc4ee9381d9a8d998b59915b3f997e

(2099)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:11 AM

How much saturated fat from animal sources and animal-sourced protein are you eating? You need plenty of that kind of thing to make hormones, enzymes and muscle tissue. Btw, as a data-point for you, eating too many carbs puts abdominal fat on me totally in a flash.

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9 Answers

4
00617208f2e481c293a2f8ad4d097911

(295)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:13 AM

I'm also in the cortisol/adrenal fatigue situation. I've been looking into this for a while now.

Although diet definitely helps, this problem has to be resolved at it's core (vs dealing with it's symptoms). That is, the most obvious things to do are to decrease cortisol and reverse adrenal fatigue. Most of these come from lifestyle changes (getting enough sleep, decreasing work and exercise stress, increasing exposure to sunlight, etc.)

The same rule applies to all other aspects of a lifestyle: decrease any practice that is a potential stressor.

With regards to dietary considerations. In order to decrease the stress on your system, I would recommend increasing your carb intake to around 100g a day (as being in a state of ketosis adds extra stress to the system). Carbs should come mostly from starches and you should always avoid fructose. I am assuming you are at least 95% paleo, if not, getting there will help a lot.

Don't fast or IF or skip breakfast, although these practices are generally beneficial, they are only so when one's body is healthy. Again, they add unnecessary stress.

As for workouts, they should also be less "stressful" i.e. avoid metcons and endurance exercices, go for heavy lifts instead (press, lifts, cleans etc.) , not too much though. Don't workout on an empty stomach.

Other, less important stuff: drink green tea, contains L-theanine which helps with managing stress. Supplement with magnesium, adrenal fatigue decreases your body's retention.

00617208f2e481c293a2f8ad4d097911

(295)

on March 01, 2011
at 03:40 AM

yes, it has 1/3 or 1/4 of the amount of caffeine in a coffee

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:22 AM

I take Natural Calm on a regular basis, about 1.5 teaspoons per day. I also don't get the chance to get in much sunlight, but I take a D-3 supplement almost every day (5000 IU). I thought that green tea would be something to avoid, because of the stimulative effect. Is green tea that much lower in caffeine to make it worthwhile?

1
Medium avatar

on March 01, 2011
at 05:57 PM

I can relate to your problems! Apparently, adaptogens and cod liver oil help with adrenal fatigue/handling stress. I just started taking both daily, so I can't report yet on any changes, but perhaps these supplements are worth looking into for you too. I recommend going to your local health food store and poking around/asking for advice.

3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on June 18, 2012
at 09:50 PM

Any update on this?

1
537717eb26bd666e417eb1d026793b5c

(150)

on March 01, 2011
at 04:09 AM

That list came from page 142-143 of the Paleo Solution. :-)

Another great resource is a book called Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James Wilson.

I've never heard of increasing carbs (doesn't mean it won't work), but I did read that an aversion to consuming carbs unless mixed with fat and protein is a symptom of adrenal fatigue.

A few other recommends: - Sleeping in until 9am (if lifestyle permits). SLEEP really is key! - Adding sea salt to your diet - decreasing stress - taking vit C

Dr. Wilson really does a great job explaining the deal. You can pick up the book fairly cheap too - his site for about $15 and Amazon for $8 ish.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 01, 2011
at 06:59 PM

I've been dealing with adrenal fatigue with mixed success, and I'd second the recommendation for Dr. Wilson's book. I think his carb amounts might be high, especially for anyone who's also dealing with insulin resistance/metabolic syndome, and of course he lists the usual "healthy" carbs like whole grains. But in general, it's solid. I attribute my mixed success to the fact that, while I've followed the diet and supplement points, I've done less well on sleep and stress reduction. Sleep apnea is interfering with the former; and the latter is the hardest, since it requires changing one's life.

1
Medium avatar

on March 01, 2011
at 12:55 AM

Do yourself a favor and skip the high-fructose bananas. The rest are generally well-tolerated. That being said, you ought to start at 100g and see what happens. If you exceed your glycogen storage capacity, you'll begin to gain fat. Keep track of your fat levels with measurements of your hips, waist, a scale and the mirror. I don't know if you're active or doing resistance training, but you'll store a lot more glucose as glycogen if you ingest it shortly after a workout. If 100g is too much, adjust it accordingly. You shouldn't be consuming the same amount every day unless your activity is identical day to day.

I would wager that you are currently in a depleted state and could recharge your glycogen for a few days before really getting an accurate feel for the correct amount. Also, keep in mind that there is a significant amount of water that is stored in glycogen, so some amount of weight gain is expected.

A993550f2a130df8d3462c08582f08ec

(589)

on March 01, 2011
at 01:20 AM

Today I ended up with about 100g of carbs, 25 of which were fiber. I'm active at work (5 hours a day of moving around 10-50 pound weights), but I don't usually work out. I have a fairly set day to day routine.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 18, 2012
at 07:40 PM

"5 hours a day of moving around 10-50 pound weights" You're working out.

1
Bc95598d01872df264d859e007a09283

on March 01, 2011
at 12:47 AM

Damn...sounds like you were describing me. I am definately interested in any advice on the boards

0
De0bfd3b5084aa170f7361a97bf996a3

on June 18, 2012
at 07:33 PM

sgro and CheshyCat have you guys had any success in the past year? I've been having similar symptoms especially with sgro. I have some really good, productive days, but more often than not the brain fog and lethargy gets the best of me. I've been getting a bunch of blood tests but nothing has turned up yet. Awaiting full thyroid + cortisol panels...

0
Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25482)

on March 01, 2011
at 02:08 AM

Testing will be the only real way of determining this answer. Sleep and its quality are also another independent variable that has to be checked as well.

0
F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394

(3618)

on March 01, 2011
at 12:51 AM

I don't know a lot about adrenal fatigue. But with your carbs being so low I would not go full-tilt toward reintroducing them. Rather I'd reintroduce them a little at a time. People on Atkins are told to increase by 5g a week. You could probably go as much as 10g. Increase by 5-10g a week, see how you feel, ramp it up again the following week if you need to.

Good for you sourcing them from fruit and veggies though. Grains would probably overcomplicate the situation.

You might think about monitoring your blood sugar, too. For optimal health you shouldn't go over 140 mg/dl an hour after you finish eating.

2b8c327d1296a96ad64cdadc7dffa72d

on March 01, 2011
at 01:14 AM

Dana, if you do NOT have diabetes, your BG should NEVER go above 120. 140 is when bad things start to happen. That's way too high.

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