Will A Ketogenic Diet Wreak Havoc On Your Adrenals?

keto bowl at home recipe
Photo: Brooke Lark

We say Keto, you say Abs! *Keto!* *Abs!* (You get the drift).

We’ve all seen fitness stars on Insta pedalling the merits of a ketogenic diet. Shredded abs, lean arms and sculpted legs are all part of keto image, and there are definitely health benefits to be reaped from increasing your fat intake and lowering your carbs. Think; improved blood sugar levels, reduced inflammation and better brain function, to name but a few.

Characterised as a low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet, the debate surrounding keto reaffirms that the health benefits of carbohydrates is still one of the most hotly contested nutritional conversations going.

With keto, the carb intake is supposed to sit at around 5% of your daily calorie intake, or 20-40 grams of net carbs per day (net meaning a measure of the total carb grams MINUS the indigestible carb grams.) And FYI, 30g of carbs looks roughly like one medium banana.

So, is this enough? As women, does following a keto diet stand to stress you the hell out, and make you more susceptible to adrenal fatigue? Glad you asked. 

Your adrenals are responsible for responding to stressors, and adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands cannot adequately respond to the demands of the stress. Here, your adrenals are struggling to release the necessary amount of cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine that help regulate the stress response. Basically girl, you feel like you’re up exhaustion’s creek without a paddle.

Amodrn’s Emma Cronin says that low carb diets will increase your cortisol levels, and when cortisol is elevated for a period of time, adrenal fatigue occurs. Keeping your cortisol levels in check is the best way to keep adrenal problems at bay.
Essentially, a low-carb diet is a potential stressor for anyone who is susceptible to adrenal issues. AKA, pretty much everyone you know. A fast-paced work life, inadequate rest and sleep and intensive exercise has rendered the majority of the workforce on the brink of burnout.

Stephanie Greunke says that as a registered dietician, she frequently sees patients that are eating extremely low carb and suddenly start to develop signs of adrenal fatigue. If this happens to you, or you’re already suffering from adrenal fatigue, a low carb diet could be putting more stress on your already stressed out body, and might not be the best decision for your health.

Now, let the minutes please show that we aren’t saying that you need to eat a pasta and potato sandwich for each meal. Just that if you have adrenal fatigue or become concerned about the function of your adrenals, incorporating moderate amounts of carbs throughout the day (not all in one meal — balancing them them out is key!) could work wonders in nurturing your adrenals back to optimum health.

Check out this article to see what a doctor, a nutritionist and a psychologist had to say about adrenal fatigue, and this one for some further information about why a ketogenic diet might not be for you.

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