Wired and Tired: Are You Hooked on Stress?

If your day starts with the sound of an alarm clock screeching in your ear, followed by a quick shower and a fast coffee then you are probably running on empty. Our adrenal glands sit right on top of our kidneys and are responsible for giving us our get-up-and-go and enthusiasm for life. The problem is that many of us are asking too much of our adrenals, so we feel wired and tired. Stressed, anxious, busy, rushed, but with no energy to get through the day without caffeine and sugar – sound familiar?

Nutritional Therapist and author Jane McClenaghan specialises in nutrition for adrenal stress support. Jane says ‘Often when people think about stress, they overlook how dietary factors could have a role to play in stress management. Make your diet a technique for balancing and managing stress, rather than a contributor to burn-out.’

Eating lots of sugary snacks and guzzling caffeinated drinks is a sure-fire way to kick off a rebound blood sugar and energy dip, triggering more adrenal hormone release. Our sugar intake has gone up from nearly zero for our ancestors to over 22 teaspoons a week. Caffeine consumption, which causes the release of adrenalin, has increased to an average of around 300mg a day. That’s about six cups of tea or three cups of coffee every day.

Jane believes that whilst diet is often a contributor to stress, it is also the one element we can control. Simple changes like not skipping breakfast, avoiding snacking when you feel tired, and avoiding sugary treats in lieu of proteins and slow-releasing carbs makes a big difference to our stress levels.

Here is what Jane suggests we eat on an average day to help support and nourish our adrenal glands:

Breakfast – start with a protein based breakfast to keep energy levels sustained. Try scrambled eggs with a grilled tomato, a few mushrooms and a generous helping of wilted spinach, or simply add a big handful of nuts and seeds to your daily porridge to help balance your adrenals.

Lunch – with more protein at breakfast, you won’t feel hungry until lunchtime. Ideally a great big super salad or a bowl of soup, served with a generous helping of protein will do the trick (try Quinoa Super Salad or my Thai Squash and Lentil soup from The Vital Nutrition Cookbook)

Dinner – make sure half your plate consists of vegetables and/or salad, a palm-size portion of protein and no more than one fistful of low GI carbs. One pot wonders are ideal, as they save time and energy, so I like curries, stews and tagines.

Snack – if you need a snack, then think protein! Don’t eat too much fruit and opt for veggies instead. Carrot sticks and houmous, oatcakes with sugar-free nut butter or natural yoghurt and berries would be ideal.

Vital Nutrition have teamed up with Patrick Holford to bring his Stress Cure tour to Belfast on Thursday 12th March at the Agape Centre, Lisburn Road. Patrick will share his research into nutritional therapy for stress and explain how to build stress resilience to help you thrive, rather than merely survive, in the 21st century.


The Stress Cure with Patrick Holford will be at the Agape Centre, Lisburn Road Belfast on Thursday 12 March 7pm. For more details on the Stress Cure (Piatkus, £13.99) and the nationwide seminars visit

Vital Nutrition specialises in developing bespoke, tailor-made nutrition programmes to help you achieve 100% optimum health. For more details visit

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