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**This post has been entered in Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!**
I’m writing this post because this issue has been in my head for awhile. I truly believe that God puts things in front of us that we need to focus on, and this has been put in front of me many times. I’ve read articles on adrenal fatigue and how to help it, how having children too close together can cause it (and how you should space your children AT LEAST three years apart; given our plans that was a big OUCH!), and also various signs and symptoms in myself. I’ve thought for quite awhile that in another life I would have been an endocrinologist (it really fascinates me!) and this definitely falls in that category!
So, anyway. Adrenal fatigue. It is my belief that it actually affects everyone in this country, to varying degrees. It is commonly caused by excessive stress, poor diet, pregnancies close together, and really any other behavior that creates or causes stress or inflammation. So, everyone has at least one of those factors in their lives at one time or another. Adrenal glands also require a large amount of B vitamins as well as vitamin C and D, and of course most of the country is deficient, usually severely, in two of the three. It leaves us with a pretty big problem.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include (emphasis mine):
1. Excessive fatigue and exhaustion, chronic fatigue
2. Non-refreshing sleep
3. Sleep disturbance, insomnia
4. Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
5. Craving salty and/or sweet foods
6. Sensitivity to light
7. Low stamina and slow to recover from exercise
8. Slow to recover from injury or illness
9. Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
10. Poor digestion
11. Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS
12. Low immune function
13. Premenstrual syndrome
14. Menopause symptoms
15. Low blood pressure
16. Sensitivity to cold
19. Frequent influenza
24. Reduced memory
25. Low libido, sexual drive or interest
26. Lack of lust for life and/or food
27. Excess hunger
28. Low appetite
29. Panic/anxiety attacks
30. Irritability, impatience, quick to anger.
If quick to anger, the person will often tend to back down quickly if confronted.
I also believe that, related to the items on this list, that other “female” conditions, like PCOS, infertility, endometriosis, etc. are caused by adrenal fatigue.
Hmm, sound familiar?
The problem is that the adrenal glands help control the cortisol and other hormones in our body. If we are constantly put under stress by our food choices, worrying, or other nutritional issues (like the close pregnancies), we can find our adrenals getting fatigued. It may be minor (as in my case — I have only a few symptoms on that list), or it may be severe (chronic fatigue syndrome or even Cushing’s disease, where the adrenals barely work at all). Doctors don’t recognize that this is even an issue until it gets to the point of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Cushing’s disease. Prior to that most tests would show up as normal.
However, there are many things you can do at home to help, if you suspect that you may have this problem. None of them will harm you if it turns out this is not your problem and may help regardless! It’s worth a shot.
*Consume an excellent diet.
This means, if you suspect illness, no cheating! No white flour, no white sugar, no vegetable oils, no factory-farmed meats, no MSG or other food additives. No junk food at all. Any time you cheat, you’re putting new stress on your adrenals and you are not allowing them to heal. Once you are feeling better, things will be different again, but for now — no cheating!
*Consume plenty of fat.
You need the fat in order to regenerate your body overall. The fat will also help to regenerate your adrenals. Good quality saturated fats are called for, such as butter from pastured cows, lard from pastured pigs, extra virgin coconut and olive oils, beef tallow from pastured cows, etc. Foods containing fat, such as egg yolks and raw, whole milk are also good.
*Consume as much natural sea salt as you want.
Your desire for salt naturally increases when you have adrenal fatigue, and this is a good thing. Your body needs both the sodium and the trace minerals in the salt. However, don’t consume refined table salt, because this will actually put more stress on your adrenal glands. Good quality sea salt should be eaten, and as much as you feel. You can make a “sports drink” at home (exact recipe to come next week) with juice, sea salt, and water. You can add a pinch to plain water or to smoothies. Add to your food to taste as well.
*Consume as many B- vitamin foods as possible.
Sprouted grains and grass-fed meats top this list, not necessarily in that order. Brewer’s yeast is also high in B vitamins. So are leafy greens, nuts, grass-fed dairy, and shellfish. Kombucha happens to be a great source as well, which I will address in my next point. Some sources say spirulina may help as well. Strive to include several of these options in your diet daily. I truly believe that B vitamins are the next ” vitamin D” (where suddenly everyone realizes that the whole country is seriously deficient and this is causing many health issues).
Not only does it contain B vitamins; it also contains vitamin C, several acids that help our health (most notably, oxalic acid), immune-boosting elements, and liver-detoxing elements. For some it can also replace pop, which in itself can tax the adrenals. If you are not used to it, go slowly, because it can cause serious detox.
*Epsom salt baths.
Epsom salts are a great magnesium supplement if taken during bathing (i.e. put it in the bathwater, don’t drink it). They also help to detox your body. Pouring 1 – 2 cups in a warm bath, dissolving, and soaking for 20 – 30 min. every couple of days may help.
*Get extra rest.
You NEED sleep, especially since people with adrenal fatigue tend to suffer from insomnia or non-restful sleep. Try to rest your mind and do things that encourage sleep — drinking warm milk or chamomile tea. Resort to taking Valerian root if you need to (consult a doctor if you are having trouble sleeping for specific recommendations).
*Don’t try to conceive until you’ve fixed your deficiency.
This is a HARD one for me, so believe me, I know! (We had hoped for pregnancy nearly 6 months ago.) But I’ve seen many women who are suffering from PCOS, chronic fatigue, etc. saying they are trying and struggling (and they wonder why!). They are simply put women on Clomid, tell them they’re just stressed, and don’t even address the underlying deficiency. In my opinion, this is practically criminal. Pregnancy will heavily tax the adrenals and leave you even more deficient in general, and your baby will be shortchanged too if you go into the pregnancy deficient. That leaves your baby at higher risk for problems, like spina bifida, learning disabilities, and more.
*Don’t rely on stimulants to cover your deficiency.
Although you will likely crave caffeine and sugar, don’t consume them! Especially in large quantities. These will appear to “help” temporarily, but they actually also tax your adrenals and will seriously exacerbate the problem in the long run. Avoid foods which contain these (and limit natural sugars) and work to overcome your “need” for these with a truly healthy diet.
*Seek advice from a qualified health professional.
I would personally recommend seeking a chiropractor, accupuncturist, or other alternative practitioner, because I think they would be more helpful than a traditional doctor, but that’s up to you. These practitioners may be able to help in a variety of ways (accupuncture can work on pressure points that can alleviate some stress on the adrenals and aid healing, for example).
Over time, if you follow these principles, you will begin to heal and your health and vitality will be restored. You will feel better able to coop with ordinary stresses, your menstrual cycle will regulate, your sleep habits will regulate, digestive disturbances will disappear, and you will overall feel more balanced and in tune. This is a wonderful way to feel!
My personal experience has been that first, I noticed that I was heavily craving salt and fat. I wanted to simply eat butter. My husband noted that much of the food I cooked was saltier than it had been previously, too much so for his taste. I had trouble falling asleep at night (would lie in bed over an hour, thinking about all the things I needed to do the next day) and always felt tired in the morning. I found myself with little energy during the day (although that’s also related to the heat) and easily impatient and irritable with my children. I also often felt that drinking filtered water only made me thirstier! When I discovered these were signs of mild adrenal fatigue, I began to consciously eat as much butter as possible (some days up to a whole stick by myself), more raw milk, more meat and cheese, and to make my homemade “sports drink,” which helped me actually feel hydrated. I consciously tried to rest more and sleep more. My chiropractor recommended I take vitamins B, C and D in addition to what I was doing. It will take a few weeks, I believe, if not a bit longer, but since my fatigue is only mild I’m hoping I will be truly better soon!
Do you suspect you have adrenal fatigue? What steps will you take to recover?
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