hypothyroidism

8 Signs Adrenal Fatigue is Causing Your Allergies, Anxiety, and Acid Reflux

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The main function of the adrenal glands is to help you deal with and adapt to stressors, which could be anything from financial and relationship stress to a poor diet or underlying infection. They do so by releasing a variety of hormones that signal to the rest of your body that an “attack” is taking place. This function is vitally important to keeping us alive, for example, in primitive situations like running from a predator, our “fight or flight” response is what gave us the rush of adrenaline to be able to run, fight, or survive. 

These days, the “fight or flight” response is no longer a once-and-awhile occurrence. Today, most of us are under a nearly constant stream of stress, ranging from environmental toxins, to 60 hour workweeks, to underlying infections and poor diet, to debt and finances. 

Constant activation of the adrenal glands (the main producers of KEY hormones in the body such as cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone) means that their essential function becomes disrupted, leading to hormones being produced at the wrong times, in the wrong amounts, or a near failure to produce them whatsoever. 

HORMONES RUN THE SHOW. 

In case you didn’t know, your hormones are in control of everything from your weight, your mood, your hunger/fullness signals, to your energy, your sleep and more. 

The hormones produced by the adrenal glands have a HUGE impact on how every tissue, cell, and organ system in the body functions - and if they aren’t functioning up to par… a whole lot can go wrong. 

For more on what adrenal fatigue is, go here:

Here’s how your low adrenal function is contributing to a variety of symptoms such as allergies, insomnia, and anxiety.

 

1. Allergies

 Cortisol is a hormone that often gets a bad rap for driving fat storage, but it has many very important roles in the body. Cortisol has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and is one of the primary hormones released by the adrenal glands. The amount of cortisol in our bloodstream at any given time is responsible for monitoring and controlling the body’s inflammatory response - which means that the function of the adrenals is KEY in moderating our histamine response (i.e. allergic reaction) to different foods, dander, plants, etc.   People suffering from adrenal fatigue may notice an increased amount of allergies, or existing allergies may seem to worsen, due to the inability of the adrenals to produce enough cortisol to counteract allergic responses. A vicious cycle occurs here, because increased histamine production means the adrenals have to work even harder to produce enough cortisol. 

2. Insomnia

Adrenal fatigue has profound effects on our circadian rhythm (aka our sleep/wake cycle). This is because our circadian rhythm is controlled by our 24 hour cortisol rhythm (established by the adrenal glands). In an ideal rhythm, cortisol should peak in the morning (helping us wake up) and be lowest in the evening, allowing melatonin (the sleep hormone) to take over and allow us to fall asleep. The stress from adrenal fatigue causes a disruption in hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, producing them in higher quantities as night (causing us to feel wide awake at 9pm despite being exhausted all day). If this is you, avoid exercise late in the day, incorporate relaxing activities at night, and remove caffeine (I know, I know).

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Another source of nighttime disruption caused by Adrenal Fatigue? low blood sugar. Waking around 3 am often indicates low blood sugar, low adrenal function, and low cortisol. 

3. Hypoglycemia & weight gain

 In the more advanced stages of AF, many people suffer from low cortisol levels - meaning an increased difficulty sustaining proper blood sugar levels. The result of low adrenal hormones like cortisol (which help to free up stored glucose in the liver in order to raise blood sugar) PLUS high amounts of insulin from stress, means that cells are unable to get the amount of glucose and nutrients they require. This leads to feelings of shakiness, tiredness, weakness, irritability, and have crazy sugar and carb cravings. So, the symptoms of classic hypoglycemia, such as irritability or nervousness when extended periods without food - are often the result of high stress levels and adrenal fatigue (preventing nutrients from getting into your cells), rather than hypoglycemia itself. 

Many sufferers respond to this feeling of low blood sugar by consuming sugar and simple carbs in high amounts (to get the quick hit of energy). This causes blood sugar levels to spike (and become completely erratic) yet another stressor on the adrenals. This can result in unwanted weight gain, because insulin (fat storage hormone) transports all of that extra glucose (in the form of sugar and simple carbs you just ate) into fat cells.  This is an evolutionary response that serves an incredible purpose - after a period of famine (low blood sugar) we are designed to overeat, while extra calories are available.

For this reason, hypoglycemics have a tendency to gain weight easily if they do not monitor their blood sugar levels closely.  If this sounds like you, avoid low blood sugar dips by eating more fat with meals, eating more frequently,  reducing stress, and healing the adrenals.

4. Anxiety/depression

Did you know that adrenal hormones are intimately involved in your cognitive function and mood? Stress and high cortisol (in the beginning stages of Adrenal Fatigue)  have been linked to anxiety and depression. Conversely, low cortisol has been linked to brain fog, depression and impaired memory. Adrenal Fatigue sufferers also often report feeling more frustrated and less tolerant, with an inability to handle everyday stressors. Do you ever go off the handle from something insignificant, like one too many dishes in the sink, or pieces of mail on the counter (me!!!)? This is a red flag. If you’re feeling unusually anxious or blue, your adrenals may need some lovin’.

Side note: did you know that caffeine actually helps increase levels of serotonin and dopamine? This means coffee = happiness. Literally. I only learned this a few weeks ago when I decided to cut out caffeine completely, and started feeling unusually sad and helpless for no reason whatsoever. Although it sucked, this is yet another reason to give up coffee and observe the TRUE under-functioning of your adrenals. 

5. Joint pain

As you now know, cortisol is responsible for decreasing inflammatory responses within the body. When the adrenals are underfunctioning (as seen in Adrenal Fatigue) cortisol levels are often unable to keep levels on inflammation in check. This is why AF sufferers often report increased levels of joint pain, arthritis pain, or fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, conventional medicine often treats symptoms of arthritis and joint pain with corticosteroids (synthetic cortisol) which, although effective in the short term, halts the bodies natural production of cortisol, meaning that adrenal fatigue can become even worse. 

6. Brutal menopause

The adrenal glands become the primary producer source of sex hormones in women, as soon as they hit the mid-life point (menopause) and their ovaries are no longer making estrogen and progesterone. This means, if the adrenal glands are under-functioning once you start menopause, the likelihood of proper sex-hormone production is slim to none. Inefficient (or imbalanced) levels of estrogen and progesterone is what leads to things like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, hormone imbalance and more. If you are in the peri-menopause stage or are already suffering from intense menopausal symptoms, look into supporting the underlying causes of your symptoms, aka supporting adrenal function.

7. Hypothyroidism

Another negative consequence of adrenal fatigue is decreased production of thyroid stimulating hormone. Thyroid hormone is responsible for many different processed in the body including metabolism, body temperature, energy levels, hair, skin, and more. This could be a key component of why so many people diagnosed with hypothyroidism DON’T respond to thyroid medication - because the root of the issue is not the thyroid, but the health of the adrenals. If you have been tested for hypothyroidism but are unresponsive to thyroid medication - it is  highly likely that your adrenals are to blame, not your thyroid. 

8. Bloating and acid reflux

One of the consequences of adrenal fatigue is a constant state of sympathetic stress (fight or flight). This means that during mealtimes, your energetic resources are being shuttled to things like increased heart rate, blood pressure, etc…NOT digestion. As I explain in this post, we must be in a parasympathetic state in order for our brains to signal for the proper breakdown of foods in the mouth, followed by  the production of HCL and pancreatic enzymes further down south. So what happens when these functions are not signaled? A whole host of digestive problems ranging from burping to bloating to acid reflux, to diarrhea and constipation. All disease begins in the gut, but the gut can’t do it’s job if your nervous system is in a constant state of sensing danger

Ready to start healing your adrenals? Download the cheatsheet below!

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Tell me: what has been your experience with adrenal fatigue? What do you still struggle with?

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?

5 Ways Eating Low-Carb Is Hurting Your Health

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Low-carb diets can be very effective for short periods of time to improve things like blood sugar regulation, gut healing (i.e SIBO, GAPS or candida protocol) and even accelerate weight loss.

Emphasis on short periods of time.

Our bodies NEED carbohydrates, despite the fact they are often vilified in mainstream nutrition.

Gut healing protocols for issues like SIBO or Candida remove certain carbohydrates from the diet for a short period of time in order to “starve” the bad gut bacteria that may be causing things like bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

In terms of weight management, most people see quick weight loss pretty immediately when beginning to eat low carb. This is usually for a couple reasons:

- They are inadvertently eating less calories overall by removing carbohydrates and restricting a wide variety of foods
- Carbohydrates in the diet encourage your body to retain water - a reduction in carbohydrates will cause a quick loss of (water) weight.

However, after the initial weight has come off, most low-carb eaters notice a plateau, and from there find it quite difficult to move the scale. A common mistake I often see is trying to “low-carb harder” in order to see more weight loss. Eventually, people are left solely eating meat and green vegetables, yet aren’t seeing any weight loss, not recovering from workouts, and feeling lethargic.

Why does this happen?

1. The thyroid becomes sluggish - The thyroid gland relies on carbohydrates to convert T4 (the unusable form of thyroid hormone) to T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone). Without adequate glucose (derived from carbohydrates) this conversion slows down, causing T3 levels to plummet. Think of T3 as the master hormone regulating everything from body temperature to metabolism. Low levels of T3 result in symptoms like fatigue, mood problems, dry skin, inability to lose weight, and even high cholesterol.

2. Carbs are essential for energy production - Carbs provide quick energy and begin metabolizing almost immediately after ingesting them. If you are unable to recover from your workouts, can’t muster the energy to work out in the first place, or regularly feel fatigued, taking a closer look at carbohydrate intake is vital.

3. Low carbohydrate intake is stressful on the adrenal glands - A large majority of clients that I see with adrenal fatigue have previously been eating a low-carb diet, working out too much, and/or have large amounts of stress. Carbohydrates are essential to healthy adrenal function, and going too low-carb can actually increase cortisol production. High cortisol can lead to a cascade of problems relating to weight management; most notably low T3(as mentioned in #1), thyroid metabolism defects, and decreased metabolic rate.

 

4. If the body senses high levels of stress from being too low-carb, any glucose it receives will be shuttled to the area of priority: the adrenals. This is actually a safety mechanism to provide safety if danger were to occur. In other words, your body will prioritize your “fight or flight” response as protection, rather than your ability to produce healthy and adequate hormones. Adequate hormones (like T3, progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen) are essential for energy production and maintaining a healthy weight. Symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles can be a huge indicator of being too low-carb.

5. Cravings - Feelings of restriction towards any food will ultimately cause cravings for that food. In terms of low-carb diets specifically, I notice that many people have intense cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. This is your body’s way of screaming for glucose! Eating intuitively allows you to satisfy your bodies cravings for carbohydrates in a way that will help you maintain a healthful way of eating, as well as your sanity.

So, to recap - How do you know if you’re too low carb?

- Frequent fatigue
- Inability to lose weight/ plateauing
- Cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
- Inability to recover from workouts/ workouts suffering
- Irregular menstrual cycles

How low is too low?

Obviously, the amount of carbohydrates that are ideal for one person to eat daily will differ quite a bit based on sex, activity level, health concerns, etc. However as a baseline, I recommend that most people never dip below 100 grams per day.

Where should I get my carbs on a real-food diet?

Best sources of carbs:
- Potatoes (sweet, purple, russet)
- Starchy veggies (carrots, beets, squash)
- Yucca
- Pumpkin
- Taro
- Plantain
- Parsnips
- Fruit

Other sources of carbs:
- Rice
- Quinoa
- Gluten free grains (millet, oats, amaranth)

Tell me: what has been your experience with eating low-carb?

xoxo, Amie

6 Signs your Diet is Failing You

Nutrition is a relatively new science, so it is no wonder there are contradicting reports on almost a weekly basis about what is considered ‘healthy’.

Low carb! Low Fat! High Carb! Fasting! Ketogenic! Unicorn Tears!

This ever-changing advice can get extremely confusing and take us further away from our intuition around food.  You may even find yourself completely stressed out before each meal, trying to choose the ‘healthiest’ option based on which articles you read that week. Or maybe you have ever found yourself eating a certain way based on what is 'trendy' or worked well for someone else who seems to be the epitome of health, but you still aren't feeling your best. For this reason, I have created a list of questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if the 'diet' you currently have is working for you or not:

 

     1. Are you satisfied?

If you find yourself craving sweets, need dessert after every meal, or feel hungry again shortly after eating, your meals may not have the proper macronutrient ratio to keep you satisfied. As a general rule, aim for 40% carbs, 30% fats, and 30% protein at each meal. (Consisting of real food sources of course :)) For example, a meal containing a piece of steak, sweet potato, and salad with olive oil will likely leave you much more satisfied than a bowl of cereal.

 

     2. Do you have balanced energy throughout the day?

If you do, great! (Assuming you aren't constantly consuming sugar and/or caffeine). However, if you experience a lot of energy spikes and crashes during the day (especially right after meals) this is a huge indicator that your diet needs a bit of tweaking. I talked extensively about this in my last blood sugar post. 

 

      3. Do you feel deprived or have intense cravings?

Did you know that certain cravings can mean different things? For example, a chocolate craving can signal a magnesium deficiency, a craving for salt can signal stressed out adrenals, and constant sugar cravings can be indicative of a candida or yeast overgrowth. Our bodies are smart and have ways of asking for what they want! Instead of feeling like a slave to your cravings, addressing the underlying vitamin/mineral deficiency can often be a simple fix.

 

      4. Are you always thinking about food?

One classic sign of under-eating is constantly thinking about food and planning your next meal. If you feel like you are unable to concentrate at work or carry on normal day to day activities without thinking about food, it may be time to increase your caloric and nutrient intake.

  

      5.   Is your weight stable?

Weighing yourself is totally unnecessary! However, looking at the way your clothes fit can be a good indicator of whether your weight is stable (despite normal fluctuations). If you find yourself consistently reducing your food intake and continue to gain weight, this can be a sign of a slowed metabolism* that can be reversed through increasing amounts of nutrient dense proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Think of your metabolism like a fire; the more wood you add, the bigger the flame becomes. Similarly, the more food you eat, the faster your metabolic rate becomes.

*This can also indicate hypothyroidism; however if you have been a 'yo-yo' dieter for many years, it is more likely that your metabolic rate has slowed in response to a caloric deficit.

 

     6. Do you have any chronic health concerns?

This could be anything from Anemia, IBS, dry skin, acne, endocrine problems, insomnia, fatigue, arthritis, thyroid disorders, digestive disorders, anxiety, depression, eczema and the list goes on and on. If you are suffering from any of these problems, it is extremely likely that your body is in a state of imbalance. Underlying problems like food sensitivities, mineral deficiencies and insufficient digestion are all underlying causes that must be addressed if you want to find the root cause of your symptoms.

 

Does your current diet leave you feeling famished?