‘Adrenal fatigue’ refers to a collection of symptoms including body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. Viewed as a mild form of Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ is widely used in alternative medicine, but not recognized by the mainstream medical community. Guest blogger, Sandra, details her personal experiences:
It has been eight months since my world pretty much came crashing down around me in more ways than one. For the past ten years I have been living in a chaotic mess. I seemed to draw chaos to me. I had no idea of the toll that living a life suspended in such a high and prolonged state of stress would take on me physically, mentally and spiritually. The comedown had been in the cards for a long, long time. I saw many warning signs along the way but I didn’t have the time, knowledge or where-with-all to deal with this thing called ‘life.’
In short, life sometimes causes us to crash so we can stop, wake up and get a clue.
I am extremely grateful and honored that God helped me out of my chaos and showed me things can always get better. Basically, this is what I have gleaned and put into action over the past five months from a myriad of people, books, conversations and resources to finally beat adrenal fatigue once and for all!
• I have a Smoothie for breakfast (containing protein and good fats) as it is easy on the digestive system.
Digesting food and its nutrients requires energy from the body to break things down. As fatigued people need to conserve or redirect energy elsewhere, this is a gentle way for your body to start the day.
• I have breakfast within one hour of arising to keep my blood sugar levels even.
Many fatigued people skip breakfast as we’re not hungry first thing in the morning due to our low liver function. Having breakfast prevents our body from having to play catch up for the rest of the day and also helps the dreaded mid-morning sugar/coffee slump we usually end up in. Note: Coffee does NOT constitute breakfast!
• I boosted my Vitamin C levels through supplements to get me kick-started, then maintained through diet.
The more cortisol (stress hormone) used, the more Vitamin C your body uses.
Small increases of cortisol produce positive effects like improved memory, reduced sensitivity to pain and increased sustained energy. However, elevated cortisol levels from prolonged or chronic stress can cause side effects such as suppression of thyroid function, cognitive impairment, increased blood pressure, decreased bone density and blood sugar imbalances. High levels of cortisol can also lower your immunity and inflammatory responses, as well as slow down the wound healing process. – Lee, J.R. (2009). Cortisol and The Stress Connection. Virginia Hopkins Health Watch.
• I take my recommended dose of Adaptogen herbs daily – Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwaganda, Maca and Siberian Ginseng.
Ginseng improves physical performance, but also removes mental fatigue. Maca root, dubbed the ‘Peruvian Ginseng’, increases strength, energy, stamina, libido and sexual function. In Russia, Rhodiola Rosea has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life.
• I walk – not power walking with a purpose – just out and about strolling.
I’m fortunate enough to live in the most beautiful country in the world *cheeky* so walking in nature is my absolute lifeline. I struggled with this when living in other countries where nature barely existed or when I worked from dark until dark. If you’re in the same situation, perhaps you can download nature sounds if that’s your thing and walk. We all know exercising instantly boosts endorphins, but exercise gently when you have chronic fatigue.
• The biggest change I had to make was to my nutrition/diet (or lack thereof).
Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson I am not. My nutrition consisted largely of eating out and snacking on highly sugared and processed foods to keep me going interspersed with the ‘Cigarette and Caffeine Diet’ I followed when I became a bit pudgy. Smoothies, juices, chia seeds, spinach and the rest of the Superfood Family were NOT a part of my world. Slowly I have had to re-learn to eat properly and regularly. The foods I did eat were nutrient deficient, therefore I gained no energy, nutrients or goodness from what I was putting into my body. That coupled with my celiac disorder meant my hair was not growing and was actually starting to fall out. If that doesn’t call a girl to action then I don’t know what will!
I know this sounds harsh, but these people DRAIN mental, physical and spiritual energy stores. Energy Vampires – you know the ones, you see them coming and swear under your breath, roll your eyes, tense your body, breathe more rapidly and feel absolutely exhausted and depleted before they’ve even said hello. Now I choose who I give my time to, who I limit and who I have no contact with anymore.
• I started being true to myself…
I had always hated that expression, I found it very ‘Oprah’ and never truly knew what it meant until I stopped and had time to rest. I literally didn’t have the energy to play the game or be who I thought I should be anymore. And, more importantly I started to speak. My best friend said to me once, “Speak, tell them how you feel.” It was such a simple statement, but I heard her that day. It’s something I still struggle with but it feels great to have a voice, to be heard and know ones worth. In fact, she is the reason I started my blog – to have a voice. Now I have a clear set of values, personally and professionally that won’t be crossed.
• I invested in a juicer and blender.
Eating copious amounts of vegetables everyday was not an enticing thought at first, but it is an easy and tasty way to gain the nutrients your body craves. Note: not ALL juices are horrid, trust me.
• I cut out all stimulants such as cigarettes, alcohol, energy drinks, high-sugar laden foods and caffeine.
Thankfully, I have never been much of a drinker so alcohol was easy. I finally quit smoking last June after smoking for a lot of years. It was tough, as I have always been a worrier prone to anxiety and bad nerves. Whatever you want to call them, ‘ciggies’ were my crutch, my friend and were always there for me when life got tough. Sad huh? I still miss them sometimes emotionally but the thought of inhaling all those toxins again thankfully grosses me out. I also cut down on caffeine – I thought this was going to be impossible to be honest! Remember to know your limits and accept them. I didn’t quit cigarettes and caffeine both cold turkey, it was more of a slow culling process for me. We all learn differently and this is good. Please don’t stress! You can incorporate caffeine back into your world at a later date if you desire. Now I have one coffee a week and man do I enjoy it ! (I love this post by fellow blogger, The Holistic Ingredient, regarding coffee.) Instead, I have started drinking jasmine green tea or organic apple cider vinegar with warm water. I love apple cider vinegar as it contains a myriad of mineral and antioxidants, plus it helps to curb sugar cravings.
Forbid adrenal stimulating foods and drugs, especially coffee … The adrenals are already over-stimulated. – Practical Endocrinology, 2nd Edition, Henry R. Harrower, 1929, pg. 86
Check out my post by Kavita Maharaj. Download some Guided Meditations and sneak away in your lunch break. Ten minutes is all that is needed sometimes to rebalance yourself midway through the day. I do it in bed at night sometimes too, just to re-center myself on an extremely stressful day. You don’t need to be an expert, I found a lot of information on YouTube which helped lead to other websites. I found a free adult course in my city that offers meditation classes every Monday night for eight weeks. They often run free workshops and seminars too, so check your community newspapers.
• I explored alternative therapies.
Like most things, what works for me may not work for you as our bodies may be healthier in certain areas and waning in others. Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue isn’t recognized by mainstream medicine. Integrative doctors, however, are fantastic. They treat the Mind, Body and Spirit holistically. I’m fortunate in that I’m trained in holistics so I sought out the healing benefits of acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine and various ayurvedic practices.
• I explored my spirituality.
A busy life doesn’t lend time to true connection of any kind these days. Acknowledge God or a Higher Power, rest in the fact that if you don’t get something done, the world still goes on. We ARE NOT, contrary to our own beliefs, the center of our own universe.
• I am not contactable 24 hours a day anymore.
Pre-burnout, I was a Blackberry addict, dealing with information and socialization overload 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I had what is commonly known as F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out). Nowadays you can miss me out, I don’t care!
• I’m in bed at 10.30pm every night (okay, most nights).
In the words of Wendyl, New Zealand’s ‘Green Goddess’: “It’s okay to be a Nana.” According to Dr. James Wilson, a pioneer in adrenal fatigue work:
It is important to be in bed and asleep before your second wind hits at about 11pm. Riding your second wind and staying up until 1.00 or 2.00AM will further exhaust your adrenals, even though you may feel more energetic during that time than you have felt all day. In order to avoid this pitfall, make sure that you are in bed before 10.30PM, so that your adrenal glands do not have a chance to kick into overdrive for that second wind.
I know going to bed may be difficult for many as this is when you finally get some ‘me time’ after the kids have gone to bed and everything else has wound down. Again, I fought this for a while feeling it was ridiculous to go to bed so early but after a few nights it was what my body wanted. Remember this is for healing and, just like caffeine, I’m sure you can pull the odd all-nighter or late night further down the healing path. I have had in the past terrible bouts of insomnia through worry or just being tired but wired. I started taking Magnesium Ultra Supplements which helps to ease and relax the nervous system.
I give my body a good ole scrubdown to increase my magnesium and help rid it off excess toxins. Please read this article about the benefits of bathing in epsom salts. (And it’s cheap to buy! YAY!)
• I read anything I could get my hands on about healing (natural, alternative, mainstream…).
These two books helped me immensely and if you are suffering or think you may have adrenal fatigue I strongly suggest you get them:
Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome (Dr. James Wilson)
REVIVE! End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (Dr. Frank Lipman)
• I stopped being a martyr – and asked for help!
Let go of the reigns a little. Again, this is something I have noticed we don’t do much of anymore in western society. Keeping up with The Jones’s and not airing our ‘dirty laundry’ takes a toll and separates us from our community. I’m not saying over-share or become helpless, but ask for help every now and then.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to take a year off work to completely and fully recover. I realize most people don’t have this luxury – people suffering with adrenal fatigue who have children, dependants and businesses of their own can’t commit the time as I did to fully recovering, but it can be done by making changes slowly as time, energy and finances dictate.
Baby steps… Make a commitment to yourself that you deserve a happy, joyful life that is deliciously divine!
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