Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How I am curing my Adrenal Fatigue, Burn-Out and Crazies....the All Natural Way!

I often throw around the term adrenal fatigue - it has been such a huge part of my life I  assume everyone is familiar with it. Some of you unfortunately know EXACTLY what I'm referring to. Some have no idea. But you might be surprised to find out you might have it, or have had it in the past. The pace at which we are living our lives and the amount of things we try to squeeze into our days is making us more and more susceptible to it. Some (lots) of us rely too heavily on adrenaline to fuel us. Not to mention caffeine and chocolate.

But it seems, my friends, that once we get a bit older and throw a couple of kids into the mix, the adrenal glands just can't keep up. They burn-out.

Basically adrenal fatigue is BURN OUT. Okay, that's a term that everyone knows.

You might feel exhausted all the time. You might never wake up rested.  You might have a general feeling of unwellness. You might have blood sugar swings (although upon testing they seem normal) and wild cravings for sweets and caffeine. You might feel an overwhelming need to nap in the afternoon. You might not feel like yourself. You might have low blood pressure. Your moods might be all over the place. You might have anxiety or panic attacks. You might feel dull or flat. I had all these and more the first time I got adrenal fatigue. The symptoms can be a bit different for everyone - CLICK HERE to hear about my symptoms in my most recent bout of adrenal fatigue. Plus you might have more than one thing going on so it might be hard to tell where one thing starts and another ends.

I was the classic adrenaline junkie. I thrive ("ed") on stress. No - I didn't jump out of planes or go bungee jumping. I just wore my adrenaline like perfume to get me through a basic day. It kept me going at a pace through my 20's and early 30's that I would never have been able to keep otherwise. I had chronic stomach aches and insomnia but I didn't let that slow me down. I had my constant friend adrenaline to keep me going. If there was a crisis I was your girl. I get super efficient and focused when I'm stressed.

I still don't sit still very often. I'm shaking my foot as I write this - a nervous twitch I have had since I was a child. Someone at work once said to me "you are just one of those people that gives off energy". I laughed to myself and thought "that's called adrenaline honey". But of course I didn't share my little secret.

My endless supply of perfume eventually ran out. I felt dull. Getting through the day was a chore. Playing with/caring for my kids felt like a chore. Sitting outside in the sunshine in the park, my kids laughing and having the time of their life, felt like a chore. And that made me sad. I was so very tired and missing out on the life I always wanted. A life I should have felt blessed to have. A life I was too tired to live. I was just going through the motions. I felt terrible.

This was about 2 1/2 years ago. It was brought on by years of abusing my adrenals. And by having one of "those years" when everything just goes wrong. A bad bad year. A bad year where I desperately tried to keep up the pace I was used to. And to keep up the appearance that everything was great.

I didn't pause to take the time I needed to deal with all the bad that was going on. And it broke me. I was broken. It still makes me tear up to think about it.  I felt horrible. I looked pretty normal so you might not have noticed unless you really looked into my eyes. I wore my "mask" well. No one really knew how badly I was feeling. It was kind of like being a prisoner in my own body. But thankfully I got help. I went to a Naturopath instead of taking a prescription for anti-depressants. And I got better.

Unfortunately this winter it came back. Not as bad as I had it the first time. And this time not induced by stress. That was the confusing part. I had no "stress" but I still got adrenal fatigue.

My adrenals might just never be what they were. I broke them. And now I have to baby them. I'm still super efficient and can go like crazy when I need to - but inevitably I crash. And I crash hard.  And other things can stress your adrenals: lack of sleep, vitamin deficiencies, food sensitivities, Candida, etc, etc, etc. So just because you don't feel stressed out at the moment don't think you can't have adrenal fatigue. It usually hits hardest when the stress is over.

So now you kind of have an idea of what adrenal fatigue is. If you still don't understand then just google it or consider yourself lucky. If you are relating to this little tale. Sorry. But know IT CAN BE FIXED. Because I am proof. I fixed myself once and I am fixing myself again.

So if you are burnt out and feeling desperate, confused and crazy - HAVE HOPE. You will get better. You are not crazy - your body is just out of balance. I would always recommend getting the help of a professional (a Naturopath is a great resource) if you can afford it. But if you can't or don't want to then here is what I did to heal my adrenal fatigue - it might not work for you but you never know.

1) Eat: Clean - Low Carb - Protein - Regularly

When you have adrenal fatigue you need to work hard to stabilize your blood sugar because it gets all out of whack. So how do you do this?

By eating a low carbohydrate/low glycemic index/low sugar diet in which you eat adequate amounts of protein at regular intervals throughout the day. I can't stress this enough - no pun intended! Here are a couple of tips. [Keep in mind that I try and eat a minimum of 60 grams of protein a day. This is based on my body weight and activity level. You can adjust to what you feel is right for you. These are just guidelines for a 115 lb breastfeeding white girl that has severe leaky gut, adrenal fatigue and Candida.]

You need to EAT a high protein breakfast within one hour of waking up. If there is one thing you are going to do to your diet (other than eliminate caffeine - see below) to try and combat your adrenal fatigue this is it. Its harder than it sounds. Work at it. Make it a priority. Let the baby cry for a couple of minutes if you have to. Get your breakfast ready before you go to bed. Just eat.  I try to make my breakfast a minimum of 15 grams of protein.

Try not to go more than 2 - 3 hours without a snack or meal containing protein. Basically I try and have a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack with at least 6 - 8 grams of protein in it. And don't wait until you are hungry/shaky to have your snack. Be proactive. Pay attention to your body.

Eat an early lunch. If you have severe adrenal fatigue you might want to try and have your lunch by 11 or 11:30. Sometimes hard to do. If you can't make that work then make sure your snack is protein heavy. My lunch and dinner are usually a minimum of 15 grams of protein.

For my adrenal fatigue, I seemed to do best if I kept carbohydrates to less than 10 net grams (grams of carbohydrates less grams of fiber) per meal/snack. At least for the meals early in the day. For dinner I could tolerate a bit more than that.

My final comment on diet is that the cleaner your diet is, the better your overall health. And if one of the triggers of your adrenal fatigue is digestive related you might need to do a lot more with your diet to clean it up like figuring out and eliminating your food sensitivities, getting rid of Candida, healing your leaky gut, etc. But if you have stress induced adrenal fatigue, just altering the ratio of carbs to protein and the timing of your meals can make a huge difference.

2) Sleep
I just did a big post on sleep and basically it is the same advice for adrenal fatigue. Get to bed by 10. No exceptions except for your brothers wedding (just giving myself permission for this weekend). Relax before bed as much as you can. Make sure your room is dark. Try and get AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep a night. When you are in burn out stage you probably need more than that. Leave the dishes dirty, forget about the laundry. Just get to bed by 10.

3) Reduce Stress - Just say NO
You need to SLOW DOWN and that means saying no. Do less than you think you need, you want or are expected to. You probably set those expectations yourself anyway. No one will think less of you. Make sure you are getting a break when you need it. My main problem is that I didn't have enough daycare set up for my children. With no family around to help I was scrambling all the time. Ask for help. Pay for help. Pray for help.

Wearing that "mask" of perfection for everyone else's benefit does nothing to help you in the long run. Unless you are gunning for a promotion at work or more work at work. In which case, you probably won't be able to handle it anyway because you are burnt out.

I have learned that showing your weakness and asking for help makes you a much bigger hero to so many people than trying to pretend to be perfect. At first it hurt my pride. Now I wear my scars with pride. (I think I should be writing the lyrics to a song). I'm not perfect but I am trying to be the happiest healthiest person I can be. Today. For me. And for my family. Not for everyone else. Because who really cares about perfection anyway.............except maybe a Type A Virgo. And even she sees the error in this thinking now.

4) Say Goodbye to Caffeine
Sorry. Hate to break it to you. Coffee and caffeine might seem like its the only thing getting you through the day. I know you are exhausted. I know this scares you. But it is possible to give up caffeine and still have a great life. Drink roasted chicory root (my first choice), decaf coffee or herbal tea. You can do this. I did it.

I don't know the science behind it but caffeine seriously exasperates the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Even small amounts of caffeine (so even drinking decaf is iffy). Just say Goodbye and don't look back.

5) Good Quality Supplements
I wish the list had ended at 4. My goal in life is to be off supplements entirely. But my leaky gut, poor absorption and predisposition to anxiety is a huge obstacle for me ever getting off them completely. And frankly, the adrenal support pills I am on WORK WONDERS. Really. I can't believe how quickly and effectively they work on my anxiety.

I am personally taking Adrenal Px Balance made by Restorative Formulations. It contains Vitamin C, Eleuthero root extract, Hawthorne berry extract, Alfalfa juice powder, Sarsaparilla root extract, Rhodiola root extract and Holy Basil leaf extract.

I am down to 2 a day (from 4).

My anxiety is gone. I sleep. I feel rested if I follow my rules.

The first step to healing adrenal fatigue is admitting you have it. This sounds silly but I had a really hard time with accepting that I was burnt out. When I first heard the words from my Naturopath I cried like a baby. It was a mix of relief (that I wasn't dying) and tremendous disappointment in myself. In those days I had very high expectations of myself and felt like such a failure that I couldn't handle my own life.

But by accepting it, dealing with it and healing myself I have learned so much.  Don't be disappointed in yourself. Think of this as an opportunity to become better. Here's a little pin I liked that reminded me of my adrenal journey.


And another pin so you don't forget the key points:



















33 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I was "diagnosed" with stage 3 adrenal burnout back in February through the Saliva testing. I too was relieved I wasn't dying (major irrational fear), but left sad and confused. A few weeks later I got my allergy panels back. Once I strictly eliminated those foods, I felt tons better. Well, slowly, slowly, slowly my "strictness" on sleep, nutrition, relaxing etc... has started to unravel. After a small "stress/anxiety hiccup" I feel like I am back to square 1. It really stinks to be feeling so great only to sink back into the depths of exhaustion, anxiety, mood swings, food cravings/swings, and so on. This is a great reminder/motivator to get me back on track! I know it can take months to years to fully heal, it can just be so hard, and inconvenient at times.

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    1. Sorry you could relate to my story (especially the irrational fear thing - that is THE WORST thing about adrenal fatigue) but glad I got your comment because it got me back to this post - I needed a reminder myself. It has been very hard over summer to keep on my routine and baby my adrenals like they need to be babied. Too many late nights and eating away from my own kitchen. And I feel it. But that's okay. Just need to re-group and start over. At least this time we KNOW we can feel better if we do the work. And it is a lot of work but its worth it.

      I checked out your blog. Super cool. Look forward to checking out your Etsy shop.

      Hope you start feeling better soon.

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  3. I know this all too well, I severely burnt them out in 2008 after my chemotherapy treatments ended. I think the chemo burnt them out first and then I went through some extreme stress right after that knocked them down pretty hard.

    I was happy to hear you say that "My adrenals might just never be what they were. I broke them." I have always felt that way because after I suffer stress that lasts for 1-3 days, I go through this horrible cycle of weight gain, digestion issues, anxiety, heart palpation, shortness of breath, tense neck and back, etc that lasts about 6-9 months. Then all of a sudden out of no where I get better and drop the weight gain. Sad thing is, is that this time, I have not come out of it and it has been a year. :(

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    1. Hey there, Just wondering how you are doing? Did you break the adrenal cycle and start feeling better.

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  4. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Home Based Business Burnout

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  5. MamaChanty, I also have a adrenal fatigue... my biggest struggle with extreme anxiety. How long after getting on the Adrenal PX Balance did your anxiety stop?

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    1. Hey Mara, Sorry to hear you are dealing with this. I know how scary and frustrating it can be. I wish I had "the answer" for you but I don't think the same thing works for different people or even the same person at different times in their journey. In my experience, I went on a high dose of adrenal PX and my anxiety subsided significantly within a couple of days. However, I wouldn't have been doing it in isolation (i.e. I likely made some other changes - diet, B12 shots, etc - at the same time). Another time I was going through an "anxiety flare up" I cut out grains and sugar and my anxiety lifted within 3 days. Just keep experimenting and taking a hard look at everything - how you are eating, sleeping, exercising and thinking (stress). You can get better. I am currently down to one adrenal pill a day (from four) and have not had any anxiety for months. A Naturopath (a good one) can also be a great help................Good luck!

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  6. I just stumbled upon this post and thank you for sharing! I was diagnosed by a naturopath last summer and did really well eliminating foods and resting and taking adrenal px balance. I thought I was better and have been less strict. When you struggled, did you notice you get sick really often? I fight a virus or my body feels under the weather (symptoms that knock me out) almost every month.

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    1. Hi Sarah, glad you went the Naturopath route. To be honest, it is a constant daily challenge to keep feeling my best. My adrenals healed (and are holding) but once the "noise" from all those symptoms disappeared I still had other issues to deal with that required other adjustments to my diet/supplements/lifestyle. I remember specifically telling my Naturopath "well now that my adrenals seem to be healed now it seems like I need to deal with my hormones". If you are getting this monthly could be cycle related. I strongly suggest you start tracking/logging your symptoms and looking for patterns. I have to constantly "re-group" and analyze what is going on to figure out whether its something digestive (food triggered), adrenal (usually stress triggered) or just hormonal (monthly cycle) and then try to figure out what I can do to manage it. And it helps me to work with my Naturopath more effectively as they are limited by what you tell them and how much you can articulate how you are feeling. Make notes. Best of luck to you.

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  7. Good luck to everyone going through this :) I am, also.

    Just as a heads up - insulin is required to break down protein. So if you eat it without carbohydrate, your blood sugar will decrease. This means that your body has to release adrenaline and cortisol in order to stimulate gluconeogenesis and get glucose into your bloodstream from your fat stores, to normalize your blood sugar level.

    So in short, I would advise carbs to protein in a 2:1 ratio, otherwise you will be releasing cortisol and adrenaline all day and I don't see how you could ever recover that way!

    x

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    1. P.S. also, carbohydrates are required in order to convert t4 into t3, so without them, your thyroid levels will plummet. if this happens it will lead to hypothyroidism, which also taxes the adrenals. just so ya know!

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  8. Can you give me ideas of what to have for the meals, simple breakfasts, lunches, dinners & snacks? I know I have this and am looking into fixing it!! Thx so much.

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  11. Did you struggle with constipation with this as wel

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  12. Interesting that you recommend a low-carb diet... My experience has been that a low-carb diet exacerbated my fatigue. I could hardly function when my carbs were too low.

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    1. Low carb not no carb. I can handle carbs later in the day but not much in the first part of the day. I have low blood sugar issues so that works for me but it might not work for everyone. Listen to your body - if its giving you fatigue then its not working and you have to adjust your diet to what works for you.

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  13. Hi there! So Adrenal PX Balance is safe to use while breastfeeding? I've been looking for a bf safe adrenal support myself.

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  14. I was wondering the same thing....is the Adrenal PX breastfeeding safe?

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  15. I am a bf mom and my nurse practioner (under the supervision of an MD recommended Adrenal Px Balance, so I believe it is safe to use. I've been suffering from severe insomnia, heart palpitations and anxiety for almost 6 months following the birth of my first child. I've changed my diet and take so many supplements, and while I feel better during the day most days, my insomnia has not improved at all. I've tried a number of herbal remedies, mindfulness,and even prescription medications. Resting my adrenals is paramount but feels impossible since I can't sleep at night and have to take care of my baby during the day. I've also been told to avoid daytime napping as that can mess with my Circadian rhythm. I've continued to follow my treatment plan to a T but am losing hope with my insomnia.

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    1. Naps really mess me up as well so I have to agree - although it is torture some days. Don't give up hope. I suffered from insomnia most of my life but it can get better. I assume you have eliminated caffeine - even decaf can keep me awake. I'm sure its hormonal for you. Have you heard or read the book "the hormone cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried" - it may help you identify what hormone is out of balance (other than cortisol). Its a great book. I found out my progesterone was low and after treating that my sleep has improved significantly. Mine final tip is to keep the temperature in your room really low and even sleep with an ice pack under your pillow if you have too. It will get better as your hormones balance out after having baby. It sounds like you are on the right track. Keep trying - its worth it!

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    2. Hi
      My naturopath put me on vitex for low progesterone. I been on vitex for two weeks. How long does it take to see effect. I just want relief on insomnia. I believe I suffer from adrenal fatigue. My anxiety has vanished but insomnia came back. 😭

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  16. This post is the most relatable post I have ever read on adrenal fatigue. Thanks for putting it in words and offering your solutions!

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    1. I agree! Thank you for sharing your experience. It helps to know that the healing process is long. As soon as I start to feel better, I overdo it and relapse. I need to accept these new limitations for the long term for now. I love your humility!

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  18. For those with insomnia--when I took a high dose of magnesium it helped a lot! I had also started a blood sugar supplement and a probiotic which helped with digestive symptoms and a little bit deeper sleep, but working up to a higher dosage of magnesium finally helped me sleep through the night. I was waking 15-20 times a night before that. Good luck!

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    1. Hi How much magnesium are you taking for insomnia? I been dealing with insomnia off and on for a year

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story ... before reading this it felt like I was the only person going through this. I can relate to everything the adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, food sensitivities and candida. I figure I will do one thing at a time and just heal my adrenal gland's first.

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  20. It's hard not to cry when I read someone put into words exactly what I'm feeling. I have a hard time talking about how bad I feel, even to the people I'm closest to. Question: I'm a nursing mama, and my daughter has been struggling with insufficient weight gain for the last month. I can't find many sources about adrenal fatigue and breastfeeding. Could it be affecting my supply? I haven't felt this bad in a long time. I had it under control pretty well before I got pregnant, and now it's as bad as when I was diagnosed.

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