low carb

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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Why You Failed Last Time You Went Paleo (It's Not What You Think)

Last time you "went Paleo" started innocently enough...you did the grocery shopping, meal prepping and planning...but somewhere around day 10 the cravings took over and you dove face first into every carb source within a 5 mile radius - "Paleo" or not. 

This led to feelings of guilt for "falling off the wagon" and not being able to do it perfectly, bringing you back to square one...AGAIN. 

Let me first start by saying that i've been there. I put off making changes in my nutrition for sooo long out of fear that I would never be able to "paleo perfectly" - how would I ever go a day without diet coke or fake sugar to curb my cravings?  

So don't worry - the purpose of this post is NOT to tell you to just "Paleo harder" next time (I am SOOOOO not about that).

It is, however, intended to give you some insight as to why going into Paleo with a "diet mentality" is guaranteed to set you up for failure. A "diet mentality" means viewing foods as "good" or "bad", attaching morality to different food groups, and/or believing you will "fall off the wagon" if you eat some cheese.  

 

Here are the 3 biggest reasons why you failed last time you "went Paleo" and what you can do this time, instead:

Mistake #1: Going too low carb

Removing gluten and other grains is one of the best ways to improve digestion, heal the gut, discover food sensitivities and more.  However, the problem with this occurs when these grains are not replaced with something else.  For example, continuing to eat a Standard American Diet (think sandwiches, burgers, etc) and simply taking away the bread component is a great start, but leaves you with much lower carbs and lower calories than you were to start.

This is likely going to result in quick weight loss initially, due to the lowered caloric intake, but it is not going to leave you feeling satisfied or energized for long.  When removing gluten and other grains, make sure to replace your sources of carbohydrates with nutrient dense, whole food sources such as sweet potatoes, root vegetables, green veggies and fruit.

Mistake #2: Going too low fat

Similar to #1, going too low fat is often a result of the “diet mentality” that many of us have been plagued with for years. Eating too little fat while transiting to a Paleo diet looks something like this: egg whites, grilled chicken, and broccoli for every meal. Yes, these are all “real foods” (well, maybe not the egg whites…) but they definitely leave something to be desired in terms of flavor and nutrient density.  

When eating real food, don’t fear the fat!  Especially when you are eliminating inflammatory foods like grains, dairy and soy, it is important to replace these calories with nutrient dense fats like egg yolks, ghee, avocado, coconut oil, etc.  As a bonus, these added fats will help nutrient absorption, skin health and vibrance, and most importantly - they make your food taste better and keep you satisfied. 

Mistake # 3 You tried to do it alone

Filling up on nutrient dense foods like grass-fed meats, eggs, fish, veggies, fruits and tons of healthy fat seems easy enough, right? You already have access to the education and tools you need to make eating real food easy... (get them here!)

Unfortunately, lack of support from friends and family is the number one reason why even highly motivated people slip back into old habits of eating out, nutrient-poor food choices, caffeine, sugar, etc. 

How much easier and less stressful would it be knowing that your next holiday party or family dinner would have tons of nutrient dense options, and no one would give you weird looks or question your sudden interest in health?

Until that day happens, it is extremely important to find a group of like minded women who can support, share, ask questions and understand exactly what you're going through as you navigate the world of real-food, Paleo, self-care and healing - like a boss. 

This is why I created the PaleoBossBabe Facebook group - Join here!

Looking for step by step instruction to discovering your personalized paleo nutrition plan?

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