Feeling exhausted, stressed or mentally foggy? Sluggish adrenal glands may be to blame. These hardworking glands wind down due to everything from chronic tension to age. Fortunately, an adrenal cocktail could help. The healthy sippers (which are actually alcohol-free) are a tasty — and TikTok-trendy! — way to rejuvenate bogged down adrenals. Here, find out how to whip up your own adrenal cocktail, then get ready to reap the all-body benefits.
How your adrenal glands work
Quick biology lesson: Your adrenals are two triangular-shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Along with your thyroid and ovaries, the adrenals help make hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA, an anti-aging “fountain of youth” hormone that the body uses to produce estrogen and testosterone.
Your body relies on these adrenal hormones to carry out a huge range of essential jobs, explains Brendan Courneene, ND, a licensed naturopathic doctor in Los Angeles, CA, and medical consultant for Thesis. Some of these key tasks include:
- Turning food into energy
- Balancing blood sugar
- Keeping blood pressure normal
- Fighting off illness
- Handling stress
In fact, when it comes to dealing with stress, your adrenal glands basically run the show, explains Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a board-certified internist specializing in integrative medicine based in Kailua-Kona, HI. When a dangerous or tense situation sets off your internal alarm bells, your adrenal glands are responsible for launching a response to keep you safe. They’ll pump out hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, for instance, to increase your heart and breathing rate so you can escape a threat as quickly as possible.
That might be something big, like another driver careening towards your car. But more often than not it’s the small stuff, like looming medical bills or having to wait in a long line at the supermarket when you’re already running late.
Why your adrenal glands become sluggish
Just like a person can get burned out from a demanding job with no breaks, the adrenal glands can become strained when they’re forced to work too hard. “As with any organ, if we continually ask too much from it, under-functioning or slowing down will occur,” says Dr. Courneene. Adrenal fatigue is so common that it affects more than a quarter of women over age 50, Dr. Teitelbaum estimates. The top causes:
1. Chronic stress
Chronic stress is one of the biggest adrenal taxers. Why? It sends the glands into overdrive as they work nonstop to manage your body’s stress response, explains Jolene Brighten, NMD, a board-certified naturopathic endocrinologist and author of Is This Normal? Judgement-Free Straight Talk About Your Body. And it’s incredibly common, especially in women. In fact, women are twice as likely to have severe stress and anxiety compared to men, research in Brain and Behavior suggests. That’s in large part due to women taking on the burden of household tasks, financial worries and caring for loved ones, often times in addition to juggling a demanding job. (Click through to learn how you can reverse the effects of chronic stress by toning your vagus nerve with cold water.)
2. Carb- and sugar-rich diets
If you’re like us, it can be hard to resist carbohydrate-rich fare like french fries, or sugary sweets like your favorite chocolate chip cookies. But diets high in sugar or refined carbs can contribute to adrenal stress by causing rollercoaster-like blood sugar spikes. “Any time your blood sugar is going up and down, it will demand a response from your adrenal glands,” says Dr. Brighten. Over time, this can leave your adrenals sluggish and fatigued.
Sure, you know that menopause can trigger hot flashes and insomnia. But it turns out it can overtax your adrenal glands, too. As your ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen, your adrenals are forced to try to pick up the extra slack, Dr. Courneene explains. At the same time, aging in general slows your adrenal function. “The adrenal glands don’t give up completely, but they do go into retirement,” says Dr. Brighten. (Click through to learn how probiotics can ease menopause symptoms.)
How to tell if you have sluggish adrenals
Ever feel “wired and tired” — exhausted and in need of rest, but unable to doze off once you cozy up in bed? Plagued by brain fog and pesky memory blips? Seem to catch every single cold that goes around? If you’re nodding your head yes, then your adrenals might need a boost, Dr. Teitelbaum advises.
According to Dr. Teitelbaum and Dr. Courneene, you might also notice symptoms of sluggish adrenal glands such as:
- Low blood pressure or feeling dizzy when you stand up
- Cravings for salty food
- Low blood sugar
- Anxiety or irritability
- Fuzzy thinking
- Frequent colds
How an adrenal cocktail can help
Nourishing tired, overtaxed adrenals with a delicious adrenal cocktail gives the glands the fuel they need to function at top speed. With your adrenals firing on all four cylinders, you’ll feel energized and revived, plus better equipped to handle all of life’s stressful speed bumps.
By supporting your adrenals today, you’ll also be protecting your health in the long-run. When inadequate adrenal function gets severe, “it can progress to chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia,” Dr. Teitelbaum cautions.
So what should you add to your adrenal cocktail to keep your glands revitalized and properly fueled? Dr. Teitelbaum and Dr. Courneene say that some of the best adrenal cocktail ingredients include:
- Tomato juice
- Orange juice (in moderation, since high-sugar diets can worsen adrenal fatigue)
- Sugar-free coconut water
- Sea salt
- Licorice root
- Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, and maca
You can combine these ingredients any way you’d like to make a tasty adrenal cocktail, which is best sipped once daily when you wake. Why these ingredients? Foods rich in vitamin C, such as tomato juice and orange juice, are vital for supporting the body’s production of cortisol, which generally peaks in the morning. What’s more, the antioxidant vitamin also shields against adrenal damaged cause by free radicals, which can occur when you’re under high levels of stress.
Coconut water and seat salt brim with electrolytes, minerals crucial to your adrenal glands’ function. Sodium and potassium are especially important when it comes to nourishing the adrenals. That’s because stress can deplete your body’s stores of these minerals, which means you need to up your intake to restore your levels to a healthy range.
And licorice root and adaptogenic herbs are stress-busting anti-inflammatories that help regulate cortisol levels and counteract the effects of chronic stress. (Click through for more foods that heal adrenal fatigue naturally and melt pounds.)
Here are a few of our favorite simply delicious adrenal cocktail recipes:
1. Orange creamsicle adrenal cocktail
This refreshing drink combines coconut water and orange juice for a tropical treat.
- 3/4 cup sugar-free coconut water
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 scoop protein powder
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Blitz all ingredients in a blender until frothy, then pour into a tall glass and enjoy.
2. Virgin blood Mary adrenal cocktail
One of Dr. Teitelbaum’s go-to ads is a virgin bloody Mary made with tomato juice or V-8 and a splash of olive juice. For extra sodium, “line the rim of the glass with salt,” he suggests. Here, a recipe inspired by his preferred adrenal cocktail.
- 1 lemon wedge
- Sea salt
- 1/2 cup tomato juice
- 1 Tbs. olive juice
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
- 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
- 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 celery stalk
Run a lemon wedge around the rim of a glass, then coat in sea salt. Add ice to glass, then set aside. Add tomato juice, olive juice, lemon juice, horseradish, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce to a blender; blitz until smooth. Pour into prepared glass. Garnish with celery, if desired, then enjoy.
3. Green garden adrenal cocktail
This smoothie-like sipper brims with adrenal-nourishing vitamin C plus adaptogenic ashwagandha powder. One to try: FGO Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder (Buy from Amazon, $17.99).
- 1 cup spinach
- 1/2 cup sugar-free coconut water
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. ashwagandha powder
Add all ingredients to a blender, blitz until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy.
7 more ways to revive sluggish adrenal glands
An adrenal cocktail isn’t the only way to nourish overworked adrenals. These stress-busting tricks can help, too.
1. Savor a veggie scramble for breakfast
The combination of protein-packed eggs and fiber-filled vegetables team up to support steady blood sugar levels. That’s something Dr. Brighten says eases adrenal stress and makes it easier for them to do their job. Some other ways to get protein and fiber at breakfast: Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, oatmeal cooked in milk, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
2. Stroll around the block
Enjoy a ramble around your neighborhood, or crank up your favorite songs and move to the music while you wait for your coffee to brew. Exercise is a proven stress-buster, and less stress means less work for your tired adrenals, Dr. Courneene says. And that doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or break a sweat to get the benefits. In fact, research in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports suggests a leisurely 30 minute midday stroll is enough to reduce stress an increase positivity for the rest of the day.
3. Bring your lunch outside
On a nice day, enjoy your sandwich out on your porch or the nearest park bench where you can watch critters scurry about and feel the sun shine on your face. Spending just 20 minutes in an outdoor setting like your yard or a park can drive down your cortisol levels and help melt away stress, University of Michigan research shows, easy strain on the adrenals.
4. Doodle daisies
Borrow your grandkids’ colored pencils and try doodling some flowers or colorful swirls next time you’re on hold or waiting in the doctor’s office. Drexel University research published in the journal Art Therapy found that creative activities like drawing or painting (no matter your skill level!) rapidly lowers levels of stress hormones. That means your adrenals can expend less energy on taming your tension, which wards off adrenal burnout. (Click through to learn how the Three Good Things journaling method can help help alleviate burnout in 15 days.)
And if you make getting crafty a regular habit — whether you’re drawing, scrapbooking or knitting — you’ll boost the benefit. The same study found that folks who spend 45 minutes engaging in a craft they love soothe their adrenal glands enough to curb production of energy-dampening cortisol spurts by up to 59%. Rhythmic, repetitive motions of activities like crocheting or drawing calm stress centers in the brain. This keeps hormone production at the slow-and-steady levels needed to keep you alert without feeling on edge.
5. Snack on apples and peanut butter
Feel like your cravings for sugar and salt have increased recently, especially mid-afternoon? It’s not a coincidence. These niggling urges are your body’s way of trying to compensate for a sluggish adrenal gland that can’t produce enough get-up-and-go hormones. To sidestep a slump while keeping your adrenals in tip-top shape, snack on apple slices and plain peanut butter. The protein in peanut butter improves adrenal function when the body is under stress. And research in Psychopharmacology shows fiber (like that found in apples) helps adrenal glands regulate cortisol production on par with prescription anti-anxiety drugs.
6. Sip tulsi tea
Trade your cup of black tea for an herbal brew made with tulsi, or holy basil. The shrub, which has long been used in traditional Indian medicine to relieve anxiety, is a proven stress-reliever. A study in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests drinking the brew twice daily significantly reduces stress, gently lowers your heart rate and even improves sleep. It’s so effective, a study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine finds folks who sip it daily for 4 weeks cut their stress response in half. And by week 6, chronic exhaustion plunges up to 78%. One to try: Buddha Teas Holy Basil Tea (Buy from Amazon, $8.92). (Click through for more health benefits of holy basil.)
7. Cozy up with a good book
Exhaustion can send your stress levels soaring, forcing your adrenals to work harder, Dr. Brighten explains. The fix: catching extra Zzzs. But the problem is, that’s often easier said than done. Luckily, you can up your odds for getting a good night’s sleep by reading a book before bed instead of scrolling through your phone or tablet. Research in the journal Trials suggests perusing a page-turner before turning noticeably improves sleep quality. On the other hand, the blue light from electronic devices can make it harder to fall asleep, research shows. (Click through for our favorite cozy fall reads.)
For more ways to nourish your adrenal glands:
Expert: If You’re Over 50, You’re Riding a Cortisol Roller Coaster — And Those Ups & Downs Are Packing On The Fat
9 Best Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
The Adrenal Reset Diet Cycles Carbs to Help You Lose Weight
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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