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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Adrenal Fatigue Awareness - What You Don't Know Could Hurt You

Why make an Adrenal Fatigue Awareness post?  Many people suffer from this either in a minor, moderate or major way.   In fact it's been said that at least 80% of Americans suffer from Adrenal Fatigue in one of these forms.  Just like fibromyalgia was once thought to be all in the patients head, many medical doctors believe the same with Adrenal Fatigue.  How do I know it's a real ailment - I've suffered with it from what I believe is all my life from in utero.  I'll talk about that later but it explains so much!  As I got older, things got worse and worse and I did a lot to help it get worse without realizing it.  Now my goal is to spread the word and try to help those who want to be helped in avoiding getting as bad as I have.  It's a long process to recovery - it's very slow.  But praise God I've seen recovery and even gotten pregnant when honestly, it shouldn't have happened with the way things were.  So, here goes.

What are some signs that your Adrenal Glands are "tired" or "fatigued"?  

1. You need coffee or sugar or other similar stimulants to wake up in the morning and/or get you through your day.  Especially so in the afternoon around 2-3pm as well.  Craving sweets and caffeine when tired is on this list.

2. Difficulty winding down or getting to sleep and staying to sleep - racing mind.

3. Depression - especially postpartum depression.

4. Low libido - even though this is common in women, it is NOT normal.

5. Cravings for salty foods and fat (like butter, and other animal products).

6. Low blood pressure.

7. Low body temperature.

8. Troubles with female hormones.  PCOS is a big one.  Thyroid and insulin resistance is usually in here as well for women.

9. Getting sick often or having a harder time than normal getting better.

10. Allergies

11. Indigestion or slow digestion.  There should be waste after every meal.  Again, 2-3 bowel movements per day isn't common but common doesn't always mean good.

12. Panic attacks.

13. Jolted at loud noises (this is when it's getting worse).

14. Easily upset/frustrated - more so than "normal".


Some people may have a few of these symptoms but not all of them.  For instance, people have said "well I'm not tired all the time so this can't be it" even though they exhibit many other symptoms.  They just aren't severe - yet.  Dr. James Wilson has a fabulous book called Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.  He talks about how getting better sleep, reducing stress (even in forms we may not realize) and eating better can tremendously help our health.  If you look at how far we've come with our "conveniences", we've just packed many more things into our day than I believe we were ever meant to do.  If you look back in history, people used their day to feed, cloth and take care of their families and worship their God.  Today, we pack in that plus entertainment galore, activities galore (for kids and adults), "good deeds" for various different things and more.  Is any of that in itself bad?  I don't think so at all - when it is done in moderation.  What we're finding is that people pack way too much into their day/week/month and are having a hard time functioning normally.  But they are afraid that if they don't do it, no one will.  Sound familiar?  That's how I used to be.

My personal history:
I tried to trace back where my issues started and while I can't be 100% sure, I think it has been traced back to in utero.  Here's how I feel things started out slow and progressed as time went on.

1. My mom drank a lot of Mountain Dew while pregnant with me.  I know had she known this would possibly affect me later on she would have never done it.  You see, refined sugar and caffeine really harm the adrenal glands.

2. By the age of 4 years old I had horrible seasonal allergies.  When the adrenal glands aren't functioning optimally people tend to get seasonal allergies.

3. I knew even in elementary that eating something sweet in the morning made me sick - especially bananas.  I would much rather have a sandwich or something with protein.   I would even get shaky if I didn't eat on time and this followed me from grade school up through marriage!

4. In elementary I knew I needed more sleep than some of the other kids.  I needed at least a good 9 hours per night to feel "alive".  I was often thought of as lazy because of needing more sleep and being sluggish when I didn't get it.

5. As soon as my periods started, they were horrible and heavy.  I had terrible cramps and started by using tylenol and by the time I was out of high school, I was using Pamprin and other things to help with the horrible pain.

6. While growing up I had tonsillitis and/or strep throat along with throat infections several times per year.  I was sick a lot!

7. In high school I started not eating or throwing up my food - starving myself for quite awhile.  This even followed me through right after I got married.  Praise God, I prayed about it and have not done this in 8 years!  God is good!

8. I had a suicide attempt after high school overdosing on caffeine pills and drugs.  I was also a drug abuser.  Along with that I smoked 2 packs of cigarettes per day.  Very bad for health all around.

9. I got pregnant and was a single mom for several years.  There was so much stress in so many forms during those 4 years of my life.  My daughter was amazing so don't get me wrong there...but I had so much stress (a lot of it emotional) than I can explain.  Some of that same type of stress followed me into my marriage and it's still something I'm working through.

10.  I had several miscarriages over the years after I got married.

11.  My sleep schedule has always been horrible up until I learned how bad it was for adrenals.

12. Very traumatic (in my eyes) birth of my 3rd son where I felt very out of control.

13. I way over scheduled myself in the past.  In fact after my 3rd child was born, I thought I'd show everyone what a super mom I could be by jumping into homeschooling right afterward along with doing all my normal chores and tasks within a week of him being born.  With the lack of sleep and already tired adrenals, using stimulants and such, that's when my health took it's biggest drop.  You can see how horrible things really were by looking up Adrenal Fatigue on my blog here.  My first post explains it all and it was frightening to say the least.  I thought I was dying.

I know there are things in there that I have since forgotten that have contributed to my journey towards bad adrenal health along with poor food choices, and poor choices in cleaning and body care products. It all contributes.

So, now that we know some things that contribute to poor adrenal health, what can you do?  If you are not severe yet like I put in this post, there's a lot of things you can easily do to help improve your adrenal function and not every have to go on things that I have to take.  Taking steps now can help you tremendously while continuing on the path you're on now can lead you in a direction that you do not want to go.

Things That Can Help

Bedtime - Go to bed by 10:30pm and make sure you get good sleep.  No lights, music, etc...  Just nice, dark and quiet sleep.  Stay in bed if at all possible till 8am (or later if you need to).

Food - Eating right and at the right times are very important.  Here's a great schedule to follow.  If you are hypoglycemic, this will be super for you!  Oh and real salt (sea salt) and real fats (butter, coconut oil and such) are essential to good adrenal health.  If you go low-fat or vegan on this, you will get worse.

Breakfast - eat within 1 hour of waking up and no later than 9:00am.  Make sure to eat protein for breakfast and no sweets, not even fruit juice.  This causes too much of a spike in blood sugar and then causes you to crash later.  An ideal breakfast if you can handle it is 1-2 eggs fried in butter, some sort of veggie or salad and some good quality toast using Ezekiel bread.  Make sure to use butter.  Just remember protein, fats and veggies for breakfast.

Lunch - eat by 11:30 if possible to keep things nice and steady.  Some kind of complete protein, raw or cooked veggies and good fat.  Some people can tolerate basmati rice, potatoes and such while others can't.  Go by how you feel.

Snack - eat around 2:00pm.  This can be a handful of nuts, cheese sticks, meat and cheese roll-up, etc...  Be careful but some people can add in 1/2 piece of fruit with this snack.

Dinner - eat by 5:30pm and again, good protein, veggies, good fat.

Snack - eat a snack before bed.  I know some people say it will make you fat but if you have adrenal issues, not only will this help you, it actually helped me lose weight and feel better as opposed to get fat.  There is a huge myth that if you eat fat you get fat.  Anyway, the snack here can be like your afternoon snack minus the fruit.  Even a piece of whole grain toast with a nut butter can be nice.

Make sure to salt your food to taste.  Your body doesn't want it when it has what it needs.  Iodonized table salt is not good salt - this salt does lead to heart problems.  However, real unrefined sea salt does not lead to heart problems and helps feed your adrenals.  Two top salts are Himalyan Pink Sea Salt and Celtic Sea Salt.

Make sure to eat "real" foods and not refined processed food.  This makes a huge difference in how your body works and how you feel.  Real fat (butter, coconut oil and such) is not the problem with heart disease.  It's the margarine and other foods that contain high omega 6 fats vs omega 3s.

Reduce Stress!  There are so many different forms of stress.  Point blank, simplify your life so you can breathe on a regular basis.  If you think there's no way you can free up your schedule, think again.  You don't want to be in the place I was not able to get out of bed for a 2 month period.  That is something you can't afford.

Vitamins!  
Vitamin C feeds the adrenal glands.  Look online for a good quality supplement and start taking it regular.  Space out taking it 2 times per day - once in the morning when waking and once in the afternoon no later than 2pm.  I get mine from vitacost.com  You'll know if you're getting too much because you'll start having the runs.  It is water soluble so if this happens, lay off for 1 day and you'll return back to normal.

Multi-vitamin - get a good quality multi-vitamin.  I've tried many and by far the best are Nature's Sunshine.  They are amazing quality and are very well priced.

Magnesium - this is a big one!  Most people in the U.S. are deficient in magnesium.  If you're not going to get a blood test to see where your vitamin/mineral count is, and are nervous about taking too much magnesium, start taking epsom salt baths 3 times per week or so.  Up to 2 cups in a bath per time is sufficient.  Your body will absorb the magnesium from the salts.  Make sure to stay in at least 15 minutes, don't add any soap or anything to the water and make sure to rest 1/2 hour afterwards and hydrate.  These are especially nice before bed because they have a calming effect on the body.

Get rid of toxins as much as possible.
When we first got married, I started getting rashes and headaches.  I later realized it was being around all the cleaning products, wall flowers (scents) and other things.  I started making my switch over to more natural things for my body care and cleaning products and I haven't had problems with that since. My body was way overloaded.  There are many sites online that can show you alternatives you can use in place of your cleaners and body care products, even how to make your own.  I know many people who think you have to use bleach but the thing is you don't.  My kids are the healthiest around and we never use bleach.  In fact, it can make problems worse.  If I find a good link for this I'll ad it below.


Closing
Well, that is the very basic version of my explanation on adrenal fatigue and how small changes can help everyone!  If you're more severe, there are other things you'd have to add in.  But this post isn't for that, it's for the average person who is doing too much and hyping themselves up on too much caffeine and sugar.

To sum it up:
Get good sleep.
Eat good food at the right times.
Support your body with very basic nutrients.
Most importantly, reduce stress which is probably what got you here in the first place.

Some helpful books/websites that will go much more in depth about what I talked about are:
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome
Eat Fat, Lose Fat 
Total Forgiveness
The Weston A. Price Foundation
Dr. James Wilson on Adrenal Fatigue

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