4 'Healthy' Habits That Caused My Adrenal Fatigue - Rebelle Nutrition

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If you read my last post, you are probably well aware of the different types of stressors that can cause adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue: as described by Dr. James Wilson:

"Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress...
You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected."

 

In today’s post, i’m going to talk about 4 of the so-called “healthy” habits that contributed to my adrenal fatigue. 

 

First things first:

How did I know that I was suffering from AF?

The main symptoms I noticed in myself that were a huge red flag: extreme difficulty waking up in the morning -then feeling “wired” at night, inability to handle everyday stressors without a meltdown, feeling easily overwhelmed, craving salt like a mofo (I would literally put salt on EVERYTHING - this one also led to severe water retention) and getting dizzy overtime I went from seated to standing (a classic symptom of low blood pressure).

Symptoms can vary from person to person - check out this post for more info.

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with tips and tricks about how to “hack” our bodies, our diet, and our health. I’m clearly a fan of this type of information (it's part of my job!) and find it fascinating - but it does allow us to become disconnected from our own bodies in lieu of "trying out" whatever the new health trend is this week. 

When I finally accepted the fact that I was not immune from the wrath of adrenal fatigue, I took a close look at my daily habits, dietary intake, and stress levels in order to begin my own healing. 

Here are the 4 “healthy” habits that caused my adrenal fatigue:

 

1. Drinking coffee:

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t considered universally healthy, but I personally don’t think everyone needs to avoid it, either. Especially when you add some good collagen and healthy fats to it - yum! My problem with coffee (caffeine, specifically) is that I personally have a tendency to abuse it (#teamnomoderation).

For example, at the height of my adrenal fatigue I was probably drinking around 12-20 ounces in the morning, followed by 12 or so ounces after lunch in order to make it through the afternoon. Unfortunately, the more of it I drank, the less it actually worked. I decided it was time for an intervention and cut out caffeine cold turkey, which was a terrible decision (think flu-like symptoms, horrible headaches, and waves of hopelessness and depression - WTF coffee) - but it taught me something very important: caffeine had been masking the true state of my adrenal health for the past few years (which I now knew was completely tanked).

I’ve now been in the process of backing off of coffee for the past few months, and am down to about 2 oz in the morning, mixed with dandy blend (my favorite coffee substitute). I plan to cut it out completely in the next few weeks...someone hold my hand?

Are you in the same boat? Here's what you can do:

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Cut out coffee completely OR back off slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is a great way to witness the true state of your adrenals and might just be the motivation you need to begin a healing protocol. 

2. Eating low-carb:

I now know from experience that eating too low-carb for my body ( which is anything less than 150g a day) is STRESSFUL AF. To be honest, I never actually intended to be eating a low-carb diet, but once I transitioned to eating a paleo-ish diet that removed most sources of grains (and thus, carbs), I naturally began eating more veggies, meats and fat. At first I felt amazing, but after a few months I noticed my energy tanking, an inability to complete my workouts, and a more difficult time sleeping. 

Carbs are extremely important in the body, specifically their role in signaling to the hypothalamus (the main hormone-signaler in the body) that you are in a fed, relaxed state. When we under-eat carbs (or food, period) this is seen as a stressor to the body: calling on the adrenals to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Constant output of cortisol from the adrenals leads to the disruption of every other hormone, leading to things like fatigue, PMS, cravings, and weight gain. 

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Aim to eat nutrient dense carbs at every meal: fruit, starchy veggies, potatoes, even gluten free grains if you tolerate them. If you suspect adrenal fatigue is an issue for you, never dip below 100g of carbs per day - but experiment with different amounts and see how you feel. Some of my clients have needed to increase carb intake to 250g per day in order to start feel healing.  

 

3. Eating eggs

Important note: I think eggs are one of the most perfect, nutrient dense foods out there! But, ANYTHING can be harmful to your body if you’ve developed a sensitivity to it. When I first started eating real food, it was not uncommon for me to eat 2-3 eggs for breakfast, followed by some sort of paleo baked good in the afternoon (that also contained eggs). Although this was extremely delicious, I began wondering why I was starting to struggle with fatigue and breakouts again, after the initial euphoria of paleo wore off.

When we continue to eat the exact same foods, every single day, without rotating them or changing things up, our bodies can start to create antibodies against these foods. When we have an antibody response to a specific food, the immune system is activated- putting us back into a state of sympathetic stress (aka "fight or flight” mode) that calls upon the adrenals once again - when they really shouldn't be involved in the first place.

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Rotate your meals. If you are stuck in a food rut (i.e. eating the exact same things every single day) start mixing it up! Try out some new veggies or cuts of meat that you've never tried before. Look for local, in season fruits and veggies. Also, If you suspect a food sensitivity, try pulse testing it!

 

How to pulse test: take your pulse for 1 full minute. Place suspecting food in your mouth and chew it (without swallowing) for 15 seconds. Take your pulse for another full minute (with the food still in your mouth) and assess: Did your pulse stay the same? Did your pulse increase? If your pulse increases over 6+ bpm, remove that food for at least 2 weeks before bringing it back in and repeating the test.

 

4. Working out

We all know that working out is good for you. Duh. But when you are an extremist like myself, “good” things often get taken too far. For example, for years I ran 5-6 miles per day without many rest days. Then, I decided to train for a half marathon, and incorporate hot yoga, and become a personal trainer so I could basically live in the gym…you get the idea. I think this one is pretty self explanatory, but years of what MY BODY perceived as over-exercise (this threshold is different for everyone) were the icing on my adrenal fatigue cake.

However, it wasn’t like one day I just crashed…I had months, maybe years, of signals from my body that I needed to take it down a notch (no period, hair falling out, extreme fatigue, reliance on caffeine to workout) but I didn’t listen. So as a result, I am in a constant state of rebuilding and repairing my adrenals, which includes avoiding any type of intense workouts.

These days, I stick with walking, yoga, and bodyweight only workouts. I am definitely still a work in progress, and the effects of just one too-intense workout will still leave me fatigued for days afterward. 

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Try incorporating mind-body movement, walking, things you love that do not leave you feeling depleted. Give yourself permission to NAP! Especially if you feel like you’ve hit a weight loss plateau despite eating well and exercising hard - what you might need is more REST. Add more rest days into your schedule and you just might be surprised how much your inflammation goes down.

Clearly, just because something is considered "healthy" for one person, doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy for YOUR body. For more information about healing adrenal fatigue, download my free guide below!

 

XO, Amie

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Is it Hypothyroidism or are you just starving?

Hypothyroidism is a HUGE problem today. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease; women being 5 to 8 times more likely to develop the condition than men.

But did you know that hypothyroidism is often the diagnosable disguise that hides an underlying illness - missed by even most functional medicine doctors?

That being said, up to 60 percent of people with thyroid disease are unaware their condition, which is the culprit of symptoms like chronic fatigue, digestive issues, low body temperature, hair loss, cold intolerance, hormonal problems, and more.

These symptoms are real, and can truly lower the quality of life of those suffering. However, a very different health problem can also result in nearly IDENTICAL symptoms as hypothyroidism, and can often be overlooked by most health professionals.

UNDER-NOURISHMENT.

For this post, I am speaking to those who have been chronic dieters, over-exercisers, stress-addicts, perfectionists, workaholics, people who have trouble saying 'no' and people who have a history of disordered eating.

Maybe you are someone who exercised religiously and ate a “clean” diet for years with great results; but recently you have noticed fatigue and weight gain - despite the fact that you keep your calories low and hit the gym 5 days a week. You’ve also noticed changes in your hair, everything you eat seems to upset your stomach, your moods are consistently low, and your menstrual cycle had changed and/ or stopped altogether.

Taking these symptoms to your family doctor (and even most naturopaths) will result in the ordering of a blood test for TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone). If your results fall outside of the “normal” range, the Doctor will likely prescribe Levothyroxin/ Synthroid (pharmaceutical route) or Naturethroid/ Armour (holistic/ natural route). If you fall within the normal range, you will likely be prescribed an antidepressant and told to eat less and exercise more.

Reliance on TSH alone is a very outdated approach to thyroid health (read more about that here)
but since this post is meant to reach those who are falsely presenting as hypothyroid, let’s get to the root of what’s REALLY going on in your body.

First, here are the symptoms of hypothyroidism and malnutrition presented side by side:

 

Clearly, it is no surprise that being undernourished often results in a diagnosis of hypothyroidism; especially in a culture where dieting is praised and disordered eating is still widely misunderstood.

So, if you are someone who is experiencing the symptoms of hypothyroidism AND have a history of restriction, over-exercise, stress or chronic dieting, here are a few things you can do to determine whether your problem is truly hypothyroid in nature, or if you simply need to eat and rest:

Monitor your carbohydrate intake - Carbohydrate are needed for the production of T3 (the active thyroid hormone responsible for things like energy, metabolism, etc.). Are you consistently eating too-low carb, either on accident or due to weight loss efforts? If so, here is your permission to carb-the-fuck up with nutrient dense sources like fruit, sweet potatoes, starchy veggies, and gluten free grains if you tolerate them. If it is the fear of weight gain or another mental block that is holding you back, make sure to get support from someone who can help in both these areas!

Assess your stress - Are you stressed about your job, your kids, the weather, your health? The onset of stress releases a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which tells the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Cortisol and CRH both suppress TSH levels, as well as impair the conversion of thyroid hormones T4 to T3 (<— T3 is needed for things like metabolism, energy, hormone production, healthy hair and skin)

Get your adrenal hormones tested - Testing your adrenal hormones (cortisol levels specifically) is a good way to determine whether your thyroid is being down-regulated as a result of adrenal fatigue. Low adrenal function leads to low thyroid function, thus slowing the metabolic rate order to enhance survival and preserve energy. Adrenal hormone testing can be done easily via saliva testing (Shawn is an expert on this )

Exercise - Do you feel addicted to exercise? Do you feel the need to work out in the morning in order to feel alert? Or do your workouts leave you feeling exhausted and in need of a nap? These are all signs that you are pushing your body too hard, and further stressing your adrenal glands which will only exacerbate your “hypothyroid”-like symptoms. Try to incorporate things like yoga, walking, and deep breathing while you try to heal.

Get support - working with a practitioner who is knowledgeable about holistic nutrition, as well as the mental/emotional aspect of food and nourishment is key. (And hey i’m accepting clients 😃 )

Hopefully these tips will help you determine whether your symptoms are stemming from simply being under-nourished. If you have ruled out each of these possibilities but are still suffering from classic hypothyroid symptoms, I recommend getting a FULL thyroid panel (blood test) done including:

TSH
Free T4
Free T3
Reverse T3
Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies
Thyroglobulin Antibodies

This test will give you a comprehensive look at exactly what is going on with your thyroid, including if you test positive for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis: an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks it’s own cells (i.e. the thyroid)

If this is the case, an intensive (yet doable!) nutritional protocol, in addition to supplemental support for your thyroid will be essential in restoring your health, energy and vitality.

Tell me: have you experienced 'hypothyroid' symptoms? What did you do?

How Do I know If I Need To Detox?

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YOUR BODY DOESN’T NEED TO BE ‘CLEANSED'

or flushed, or rid of toxins.

Yet, mainstream advertising does an excellent job at making us believe that our digestive systems are like dirty pipes in need of ‘cleansing’- or that the best way to quick start a weight loss program is by (essentially) starving our way through a week long juice cleanse.

This is wrong on so many levels, but lets start with what toxins are.

What are toxins?

Toxins are any substance that has harmful effects on the body. These can be external things like:

  • radiation
  • heavy metal exposure
  • air/water pollution
  • chemicals
  • drugs/food additives
  • pharmaceuticals
  • pesticides

Or internal sources like:

  • bacterial overgrowth
  • cellular/metabolic wastes
  • poorly digested foods
  • stress

It is important to note that any substance in excess can create toxic elements in the body. The good news is, our bodies are fully equipped to detoxify themselves through various systems:

The Cardiovascular system:

  • The blood links every organ in the body and helps to purify detoxification sites like the liver and immune system

The Lymphatic system:

  • Lymph is a vital fluid that flows through the lymph nodes where bacteria, viruses and organic material are filtered out
  • The lymph system acts a a pre-filter before toxins are shuttled through the liver
  • The movement of the lymph is propelled by the skeletal muscles which is why exercise is critical to lymphatic health

The Digestive system:

  • The gastrointestinal tract detoxifies poorly digested, fermented foods
  • Filters food and intestinal bacteria
  • Eliminates toxins and other unusable substances from the body
  • The intestines provide a barrier to stop foreign molecules from entering the blood stream
  • The good bacteria in the intestines help detoxify substances
  • The liver is the body’s master site for cleaning and purifying the blood that nourishes the entire body
  • The liver has over 500 functions to filter toxins from the blood and neutralize toxins in preparation for elimination (it breaks down pharmaceutical drugs also)
  • Neutralized toxins are then excreted as feces

The Kidneys:

  •  Toxins that are bound and ready for elimination are excreted through the feces or through the kidneys as urine
  • Primary role: filter the blood to remove cellular wastes

The Skin:

  • Sweat glands act like a second kidney and are another avenue of elimination
  • Sweating is an effective therapy to remove toxins from the body

The Respiratory System:

  • The lungs eliminate waste products like carbon dioxide
  •  Respiratory rate is a major mechanism of pH control

Basically, the human body is amazing and has plenty of built-in detoxification mechanisms.
Having said all of that, we live in an increasingly toxic world. Everything from pesticides sprayed on our produce, to endocrine disrupters in our beauty products can read havoc on our organs of detoxification if we continue to expose ourselves day after day.

Here are a few quick tips to assist your bodies' natural detoxification systems  (without the need for expensive green powders or juice cleanses ;) )

  • Choose organic whenever possible
  • Avoid chemical perfumes
  • Look for non-toxic beauty products (make sure to read labels) including shampoos, lotions, makeup
  • Avoid man made fats like canola, cottonseed, soybean, vegetable, partially-hydrogenated, etc.
  • Make sure your digestion is working properly.  Specific amino acids are imperative to proper functioning of detox pathways in the liver
  • Manage blood sugar. blood sugar imbalance place undue stress on the liver, and chronically high blood sugar create a buildup of free radicals which inhibit the body’s ability to detoxify properly
  • Hydrate properly! This keeps the fluids in the body moving properly, allowing for proper excretion of toxins in urine, and feces. Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water per day (increase if consuming diuretics). 
  • Dry brushing
  • Rebounding
  • Sweat therapy (i.e saunas)
  • Exercise
  • Castor oil packs
  • Relax, enjoy your life, and try not to stress about whether you are detoxifying or not :)

One final note about detoxification:


Many people are drawn to ‘detoxes’ and ‘cleanses’ because they want to lose weight, they feel sluggish, or they want to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. If this is the case, it is so important to work with a practitioner who can make sure that all of the natural detoxification pathways are open and working properly before doing any type of detox protocol (i.e colonics, fasting, gallbladder flush, etc). If you try to ‘detox’ via a 30-day cleanse, fast, etc. but do not have proper digestive function, for example, the cellular waste products that are released in the body will not be properly excreted through the digestive tract. This can overburden the system and cause more harm than good.

Finally, please beware of any product that claims to ‘rid the toxins’ from your body, or ‘cleanse your digestive system’. These are marketing ploys from people who want your money, not your wellbeing.

The best thing you can do to support your body's natural detoxification processes is *shocker* eat a real-food based, nutrient dense diet. 

Jumpstart your journey to eating real food by joining my free course: Real Food S.O.S below!

Also, move your body, sweat, and avoid things like alcohol, cigarettes, pesticides, etc.

Seriously. It’s definitely not as sexy as a beautifully marketed ‘detox plan’ but IT WORKS (<—pun intended, hehe) :D

If you really want a detox that works, here is my advice: detox from processed foods, detox from stress, detox from saying "yes" to things you hate, detox from pushing your body to the extremes.

XO, Amie