Are you finding that you have reached a plateau? You’re no longer able to achieve your fitness goals and in some cases maybe even gained weight or not felt so hot since starting a new workout routine?
Do you find yourself reaching for a cup of coffee in the afternoon or waking up feeling tired even after a full nights sleep?
Do you get a jolt of energy at night when you should be winding down for the evening?
Are you finding even the littlest stressors are making a big impact on you whether that be with road rage, anxiety, yelling or compulsive eating?
Are you experiencing depression or just down right don’t feel like yourself and you are no longer enjoying life?
Are you dealing with brain fog, becoming forgetful or feel like you are losing your mind?
Has your thyroid test come out normal but you’re having thyroid-like symptoms?
You are not alone. I’ve been there.
I used to go hard. REALLY HARD at the gym. I would put in a solid 45 minutes of cardio in the morning and in the afternoon after I got home from work I would put in another 45 minutes of weight training or a HIIT workout. EVERY SINGLE DAY with maybe one rest day in between, unwillingly and only if I had to. Soreness never stopped me and I was so scared to take a rest day in fear I would lose all my progress. I was restricting calories and counting macros religiously. I had gone off birth control after being on it for 12 years. At this time in my life I was also dealing with work stressors and other health stressors. I am also naturally a very energetic, wound up, go-go-go type of person. My human design doesn’t know what it means to relax.
Within 2 years of this insane lifestyle I started having symptoms of adrenal fatigue. I’m actually surprised my body didn’t start showing symptoms sooner.
I no longer was losing weight but was putting it on pretty quickly regardless of not changing my training or eating habits. Naturally, I began thinking I needed to restrict more and workout harder! That lead me to losing my period for 3 months and DREADING, I mean dreading the gym, like I’d be kicking and screaming if I had to step foot in the gym or workout another day. BUT, being who I am, I always showed up and did the work. Go hard or go home right? Welp. I certainly wasn’t going home #perfectionist. I started waking up feeling like I was hungover without having a sip of alcohol the night prior, I knew something was up.
I would wake up every day after a full 8-9 hours of sleep feeling absolutely exhausted. This was a new feeling to me since I have always been a morning person and the amount of energy I have is outstanding. I have always held sleep at the utmost priority.
I also began having severe brain fog and anxiety. A lot of things became hard that naturally are easy for me. The anxiety was REAL. I would be sitting on the couch and hear my heart beating out my chest for absolutely no reason.
I no longer had any interest in the things I loved to do and for the first time ever I experienced what it was like to be unhappy. Looking back, I think I was unhappy that I was unable to do the things I love because I was just downright EXHAUSTED.
I have always been such an upbeat, positive, energetic gal. I was becoming boring, tired, and a negative Nancy.
Little did I know that my body was providing me all these symptoms to warn me to slow down and relax.
What did I have to do to overcome adrenal fatigue?
I had to learn how to relax and manage my stress better. I started doing daily breathing and yoga activities and carving out more time for myself with low-impact activities I enjoyed. I also had to learn to say no. I no longer could expect my body to be able to go-go-go anymore so I had to limit the commitments I made.
The hardest was getting rid of my gym membership and having to focus on less strenuous activities. I continued to hike and bike every week because I absolutely love those activities and I couldn’t bear to see a weekend without them but I was very cautious of how I used my recovery time. I also began a supplement protocol to help my body to adapt to stress.
It took a solid 6 months to fully recover. I have now learned to not push my body so much and pay attention to how it feels before it starts screaming because I will tell ya, adrenal fatigue is no joke.
So what is adrenal fatigue?
First a little bit about these amazing glands. The adrenal glands are tiny glands located on top of our kidneys. They significantly affect the functioning of every tissue, organ and gland in our bodies. They also have a big effect on our mental and physical health. These glands produce hormones we can’t live without such as cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that helps us respond to stress. Chronic stress which can be both physical and mental causes the adrenal glands to produce high levels of cortisol but they can only produce so much and eventually they get too fatigued because of the constant demand. Cortisol ends up dropping and we end up with adrenal fatigue symptoms.
Adrenal glands play a large roll in weight loss and weight gain. The adrenal glands affect how we convert carbohydrates, proteins and fats for energy, how we distribute fat, and how we regulate our blood sugar. They also directly affect our gastrointestinal and cardiovascular function. In comes insulin resistance, but we can save that for another day.
To sum it up, how well you live depends a great deal on how your adrenal glands are functioning.
Causes of adrenal fatigue:
Plain and simple: stress.
All forms of stress, physical, emotional, psychological, environmental, or illness. Our adrenals respond to every kind of stress the same regardless of if its source. We often think of athletes as having adrenal fatigue, but it can happen to anyone.
Stressors: A death, traumatic experience, accidents, giving birth, infections, changes in diet, job change, surgery, having a cold or illness, a fight with a friend, unhappy relationships, environmental toxins, lack of exercise and over-exercising, financial pressures, lack of relaxation, negative attitude, coffee, medications (birth control), caffeine, lack of sleep, allergies, being a perfectionist, lack of enjoyable activities, gastrointestinal disorders or gut dysbiosis, emotional stress, food allergies and poor eating habits.
Whew. How many of those have you encountered in your life? I know I can name few!
Examples of lifestyles or events that can lead to adrenal fatigue:
- Being a single parent
- Being a new parent
- Shift work
- An unhappy marriage
- All work and no play
- Being a college student
- Being an athlete
- Hating your job
- Any severe emotional trauma
- Death of a family member
- Major surgery
- Having repeated exposure to chemicals and toxins
- Losing your job
- Chronic undereating
- Chronic overexercising
- Emotionally stressful job
Adrenal fatigue occurs when we reach our stress limit. Picture a bucket. You keep adding one stressor on top of another stressor and eventually that bucket overflows. That is when you start experiencing adrenal fatigue and all its symptoms
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Hard time waking up in the morning but find yourself wide awake at night
- Feel fatigued even when getting a full nights sleep
- You crave salty foods
- Things are no longer enjoyable and seem like a chore
- Lack of energy during the day
- Brain fog and lack of productivity/ motivation
- Decreased sex drive
- No longer able to handle even small stressors
- Difficult time recovering from illness or injury
- Experiencing mild anxiety or depression
- Increased menstrual symptoms
- Get shaky and irritable if you wait to long to eat
- Weight gain with no changes to diet or movement
Testing for adrenal fatigue:
My preferred method: Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Testing!
Keep in mind you will need to go to a functional practitioner or Naturopath in order to get testing as your primary care doctor will likely laugh at you and tell you adrenal fatigue does not exist but I’m sure they will be more than happy to prescribe you an anti-anxiety medication.
Unfortunately, the modern medicine community fails to acknowledge that adrenal fatigue is a real syndrome. Medical schools are not teaching it so physicians rarely look for it or are willing to order testing. There are no pharmaceuticals to help the symptoms of adrenal fatigue so why would they care to acknowledge it?
But you’re in luck! Us Functional Practitioner’s certainly and whole heartedly believe in adrenal fatigue and we know what to do about it!
I offer HTMA testing to clients! Read my blog post here all about this amazing inexpensive, non-invasive test!
How to recover from adrenal fatigue:
Yes! You can heal from adrenal fatigue! Your recovery really depends on your lifestyle, nutrition, movement, mental state (what thoughts feed your mind) and relaxation.
- Relaxing exercises to try: belly-breathing and repeating positive mantras or affirmations while doing a tapping exercise.
- Reframing Process: Changing focus and refusing your perception of the situation. An example, instead of saying “I hate work”, say “I get to go to work today.”
- Unfortunately, you may need to cool it with strength training/ intense workouts and do more yoga and walking. This is especially true if your bucket is already full of other stressors that are out of your control.
Foods to heal adrenal fatigue:
I wouldn’t be much of a nutritionist if I didn’t talk about the healing powers of food right? In my experience a nutritious diet is key to healing adrenal fatigue. When your adrenals are constantly responding to stress they are burning all your nutrients at a much faster rate leaving your body in desperate need of more just to continue to function. Lack of good quality food is a major stressor on the body. And food is the best and most absorbable way to get in all our vitamins and minerals. Food first, always! If you are eating a processed food diet, lacking vegetables and good quality meat sources then your adrenals are certainly not getting enough nutrients to function optimally.
How do the adrenal glands play a factor in low blood sugar? I am sure we have all experienced what this feels like. That jittery, irritable feeling when we skip a meal. When we have adrenal fatigue our cortisol levels drop lower than normal making it hard for our bodies to maintain normal blood sugar levels. In this case, WHEN you eat is almost more important than what you eat. A long time between meals will worsen your symptoms. Please, for the love of god. Stop fasting! Eating 3-4 large balanced meals consisting of protein, carbohydrate (non-starchy source) and fat will keep your blood sugar stable and adrenal fatigue symptoms at bay.
What not to eat? gluten, refined flour and sugar, no more than one cup of caffeine and alcohol, processed foods, “fast” food, hydrogenated oils (canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil),
Drink salt water in the morning right when you wake up to give the adrenals some love. Get yourself a good salt like Redmond’s Sea Salt that is filled with trace minerals to help to calm the adrenals.
If suspected, get tested for food allergies and sensitivities. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory so our adrenal glands play a big role in our histamine response and inflammatory response. If we continue to eat the foods we are sensitive to our adrenals will keep releasing more cortisol to help bring down the inflammation.
Supplements are necessary when it comes to healing adrenal fatigue. Some supplements to consider: Vitamin C, B Vitamins (specifically B6), Magnesium, and Calcium. Herbs: Ashwagandha, Licorice, Ginger, Ginko Leaf, Reishi, and Turkey Tail
To sum it up…
Reducing stress and proper diet really is the key to healing your adrenals. I recommend going through the list above and seeing if your bucket has overflowed. I give you permission to rest, relax and enjoy life so you never reach the brink of exhaustion, like I once did.
Let’s keep those adrenals happy because as you can see, they certainly are the most important glands in our body.
Not sure where to start? As always reach out if you suspect you have adrenal fatigue, this is something that can be healed through nutritional therapy! Trust me, I did it.