Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency, affects the body’s ability to manufacture adrenal hormones such as Cortisol and Aldosterone; this is why an Addison's disease diet is important.
These and other hormones produced by the adrenal glands help regulate body functions such as blood pressure, metabolism, and the immune system. Although Addison’s disease is treated with medication, following an Addison’s disease diet plan can be very beneficial as well.
An Addison’s disease diet plan is a simple plan that uses certain foods high in calcium, salt, and other nutrients to help regulate body functions that are impacted by the disease.
Because Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands, which rely on these nutrients to regulate body functions, it is essential to consume a diet rich in nutrients. Be sure your diet includes foods high in the following nutrients.
The following will provide a direction for an Addison's disease diet.
Ensuring that your diet includes sufficient salt is extremely important. One of the adrenal hormones affected by Addison’s disease is Aldosterone. Aldosterone is responsible for keeping levels of sodium and potassium in the blood balanced. Without enough salt in the body’s blood supply, two major problems can occur.
Hyponatremia is caused by a lack of sodium and can result in confusion, fatigue, muscle twitches, and even seizures. Hyperkalemia occurs when there is too much potassium in the body’s blood supply. Hyperkalemia can cause symptoms such as nausea, irregular heartbeat, and a slow pulse. Without enough salt in the blood, blood pressure and blood volume can both drop drastically, causing serious medical complications.
Therefore, it is imperative that your Addison’s disease diet plan contain enough salt to sustain your body. Although sodium can be found in lots of junk foods like chips and pretzels, it is better for your diet and your body to consume foods that are healthy and contain a lot of sodium. This includes foods such as beets, celery, carrots, chicken, spinach, and chard. Soup, cheese, and bread are also good sources of sodium. Additionally, foods that are high in potassium should be limited.
The medications used to treat Addison’s disease are corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, when used for a prolonged time, increase the risk of developing osteoporosis because they affect bone health by decreasing the formation of bone. In fact, studies show that as many as 30-50% of people taking corticosteroids experience osteoporotic fractures.
Because of this, it is essential that your diet includes foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D. This includes dairy products, but also foods like orange juice, soybeans, egg yolks, and leafy green vegetables. Certain fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are also high in vitamin D.
Calcium rich foods such as kale, yogurt, broccoli, almonds, figs, and oranges should be added to your diet plan as well. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can also be bought at virtually any local store that sells vitamins. Ask your physician before adding these supplements to your diet.
Eating complex carbohydrates is an essential part of any Addison’s disease diet plan. The adrenal glands affected by Addison’s disease also regulate sugar within the body. The hormone that regulates sugar is called the Glucocorticoid hormone.
To reduce the risk factors associated with too much or too little sugar in the body, eating complex carbohydrates is advised.
Complex carbohydrates include foods like whole grains, low-fat yogurts, kidney beans, and nuts, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates fuel the body, reduce hunger, and help to prevent sugar problems.
Simple carbohydrates, which are composed primarily of sugar with no nutritional value, include soda, candy, white rice, white bread, and desserts. Anything that contains artificial sweeteners, like syrup, is also a simple carbohydrate. These should be avoided or limited to only occasional consumption.
When combating the effects of Addison’s disease with food, it is important to consume a diet that is full of healthy foods that contain just the right amount of salt, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Because there is no “one fits all” diet plan solution for Addison’s disease, consulting with your doctor or a dietitian is helpful for constructing the diet plan that is right for your body’s needs and will ensure that you are receiving the proper amount of nutrients each day.