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!
P.S. Did this post help you? Share it with a friend!