Saturday, 29 November 2014

Adrenal Fatigue & The 80/10/10 Diet

Many individuals become interested in the 80/10/10 diet and raw veganism in an attempt to help overcome adrenal fatigue or burnout.

There are alot of exaggerated and even fabricated testimonials when it comes to the 80/10/10 diet.  Many individuals are finding that strict vegan diets such as 80/10/10 don't live up to the hype, are potentially dangerous and alot of people actually find it makes there adrenal fatigue issues worse in the long term.

Strict Vegan Diets & Nutrient Deficiencies

A strict raw vegan diet is actually one of the worst things you can do if you have adrenal fatigue, one of the main reasons for this is because strict vegan diets are lacking in a number of nutrients to support the adrenal glands.  Where to begin with the typical nutrients that are low or missing, when following a strict raw vegan 80/10/10 diet.  Some include zinc, b-complex vitamins and vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, certain conditionally essential amino acids that are often depleted such as taurine or carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and so on.

Strict vegan diets also typically contain no cholesterol, which can be problematic for individuals with adrenal insufficiency.  Cholesterol is a vital pre-cursor to the synthesis of adrenal gland hormones such as cortisol and steroid sex hormones such as testosterone for example.

A common dietary bio-chemical imbalance which occurs following strict vegan diets is copper and zinc imbalances.  Copper and zinc imbalances are a common root factor behind many individuals chronic fatigue, anxiety and other health problems, put it simply copper imbalances can wreck your mental, emotional and physical health.

Strict vegan diets tend to be very rich in copper, whilst being low in zinc by comparison.  Zinc is a very important mineral for proper function of the adrenal glands and immune system, so following diets low in zinc such 80/10/10 isn't recommended.  A typical 80/10/10 diet removes or limits many of the good dietary sources there are for zinc such as animal foods, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses for example. 

High Sugar, Low Protein, Low Fat Diets & Blood Sugar Disturbances

Another big problem with diets such as 80/10/10 is the amount of sugar and carbohydrates are not tolerated well by those with sub-optimal adrenal gland function.  Individuals with hpa-axis dysregulation and adrenal insufficiency often have low blood sugar, hypoglycemia and other blood sugar disturbances, in large part caused by low cortisol levels.  Most with adrenal fatigue will find that without a small amount of protein at meals, they will have trouble balancing their blood sugar levels.  The large amounts of simple sugars may temporarily increase energy by stimulating the adrenal glands, however like all stimulants, it comes at the expense of robbing the bodies true energy reserves.

The 80/10/10 diet consists of 80% percent carbohydrates and most, if not all of these are from simple sugars such as fructose.  As explained above this level of glycemic load and often the lack of protein to balance blood sugar at meals, makes this a very problematic diet for those with adrenal fatigue.

Many raw vegans mis-represent the research from the likes of T Colin Campbell and other vegan nutritionists, who recommend high carbohydrate and low fat diets.  However these diets are based around cooked COMPLEX carbohydrates and often contain higher protein and mineral foods such as beans, pulses and even grains.  Complex carbohydrates break down much slower than simple sugars and as such don't tend to effect the blood sugar so adversely.  However im not a fan of high or extremely low carbohydrate diets anyway, especially for those with adrenal insufficiency.  We all know the documented health problems that are associated with excessive sugar intake and the common vegan nutrient deficiencies that scientific research has shown, so i wouldn't recommend these diets either and i don't believe there healthy.

The 80/10/10 diet consists of 10% protein, which is too low for an individual with adrenal fatigue.  As discussed above those who have problems regulating their blood sugar levels, often find they benefit from consuming a small amount of protein rich foods at meals.  Balancing blood sugar levels is a major component of any successful adrenal fatigue recovery program.  The high sugar intake and lack of blood sugar balance that comes with eating 80/10/10 is not only very stressful to the body, it just further disrupts the hpa(hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal)-axis.

80/10/10 is also a low fat diet and only derives 10% of its calories from fat.  Low fat diets are a disaster for those with adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalances.  Fats are vital for proper adrenal gland function and hormone synthesis, which is why many vegans find that their libido disappears or that they encounter sexual dysfunction or irregular menstrual cycle, although these issues also typically involve zinc deficiency.  Studies show that vegan diets are often deficient in fatty acids such as DHA, which are very important for health.

Low Sodium & Excess Potassium

Another potential issue with diets such as 80/10/10 and many other raw vegan diets is that they are excessively rich in potassium, whilst being very low in sodium by comparison.  This again is very problematic for individuals with low adrenal gland function, who typically have problems retaining sodium due to lowered levels of an adrenal hormone known as aldosterone.  As such individuals with adrenal fatigue often find that many of there symptoms such as orthostatic hypotension(dizziness upon standing) worsen when consuming potassium rich foods such as banana's and many other fruits.

Many raw vegans eliminate salt completely from their diet, but don't obtain enough sodium elsewhere.  As discussed above individuals with adrenal fatigue typically have an increased need for sodium, not a reduced need like someone with sodium induced high blood pressure would for example.  The excessive amount of potassium has a diuretic effect, which naturally displaces sodium and further lowers levels/increases the need.  This might be healthy for a normal individual, however not for someone with adrenal fatigue who will typically have problems retaining sodium as it is.

Doug Graham On Adrenal Fatigue

The author and creator of the 80/10/10 is an individual called Doug Graham.  Doug has proven to me on several occasions over the years that he doesn't understand the physiological changes that occur in individuals with sub-optimal adrenal gland function and hpa-axis dysregulation.

As such many of his dietary and health recommendations are in my opinion potentially very dangerous and contraindicated for those with adrenal insufficiency.  Another of his potentially dangerous recommendations is long term water fasts for treating individuals with adrenal insufficiency.  Long water fasts are extremely stressful for healthy individuals, let alone someone in a disordered state such as adrenal insufficiency, who often have problems as it is regulating blood sugar, electrolytes/fluid balance and typically have problems tolerating stress.  Ive already discussed the dangers of water fasting for individuals with adrenal insufficiency in the past, which can be found here - Water Fasting Dangers For Adrenal Fatigue

All in all, the 80/10/10 checks the list for every problematic dietary factor relating to the health of the adrenal glands such as high sugar, low sodium, nutrient deficiencies, low protein, low fat and no cholesterol.

Always consult a professional before making any significant dietary or lifestyle changes.

I will be writing more posts soon for informational purposes, on diets that help to support the adrenal glands. Here is an older post on specific foods, which have an affinity for nourishing and supporting the adrenal glands. - Herbs & Foods For Nourishing The Adrenal Glands

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