Are you constantly tired but your doctor tells you nothing is wrong? You may suffer from adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is something more widely acknowledged in functional medicine than in conventional western medicine. The western world will only embrace adrenal function when the adrenals don’t work anymore at all.
If you are constantly tired your adrenals may have been working overtime and now are very depleted. This deserves attention and treatment to avoid complete adrenal burnout. Preventative support is better than total system failure.
The Adrenals or an organ that sit on top of the kidneys and secrete cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline in response to signals from the pituitary gland(which is in the brain). These secretions: cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline help us adapt to stress both internal and external. When stress becomes chronic (meaning, it doesn’t go away) the adrenals become impaired in their ability to keep up with the stress.
This stress may be due to physical injury or infection, environmental (poor diet, toxin exposure) or even psychosocial (family issues, divorce, etc). Your adrenal glands respond to stress in the same way no matter the origin. Adrenal fatigue can be sudden, as in a terrible accident. It can also take it’s toll gradually with smaller stresses that accumulate or come so close to one another so that your body has no time to recover. I’m sure we can all imagine a time where a root canal, major job stress, family member major illness, and a month of binging on holiday candy and egg nog, all happened at the same time.
The hormones that the adrenal glands secrete are very important. Cortisol causes conversion of protein for energy, it makes the liver use protein stores to convert to sugar, it suppresses the immune system, and helps maintain blood pressure. DHEA is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen, it improves resistance to viruses, bacteria, parasites, can lower osteoporosis, lowers total and LDL cholesterol. Adrenaline is the major fight hormone. When the adrenal gland can not produce these hormones, it can have an effect on many different body systems from bone health, to hormone and endocrine health, heart health, and immune health. You can also have an impaired ability to manage blood sugars when the adrenal gland slows.
A short list of symptoms:
-Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep
-Increased effort to do everyday tasks
-Craving for salty foods
-Increased time to recover from illness, injury or trauma
-Skipping a meal causes worse fatigue and irritability
Conditions associated with adrenal fatigue:
-Use of corticosteroids
-Chronic fatigue syndrome
Eating habits are very important in treating adrenal fatigue. Some tips:
-Eat at frequent intervals. The adrenal hormone cortisol is partially responsible for keeping our blood sugar at normal levels. You need to eat to keep your blood sugar up because your body is having more difficulty doing this function as well on it’s own.
-Avoid caffeine(or at least decrease intake of caffeine), it depletes the adrenals too, making matters worse not better - this can be a hard one when you are tired all the time, however it is an important step in the healing process.
-Eat breakfast early in the day (within an hour or two of waking)
-Snack between lunch and dinner and snack before bed(choose healthy fats and whole grains instead of sugar filled foods).
-Eat good quality whole foods.
-Decrease intake of high sugar foods.
-Stay hydrated – aim for half your body weight in ounces of water per day.
-Go ahead and eat salt. You need it.
Food sensitivities can also play a key role as the offending foods cause histamine and other inflammatory substances to be released. It takes cortisol to reduce that inflammation. That’s taxing on the already drained adrenals.
If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue you should get assessed by a functional doctor or nutritionist and get a personalized plan. Click on this website for more resources and information.
I recently joined a new gym and fell back in love with an old friend of mine, spin class! It didn’t take long for me to find my two favorite instructors at the gym. It’s a mix of a lot of sweat, some high speed yet stationary cycling (just the kind I like, with no cars next to me), good music, and the right words.
The right words is what I would like to focus on in this post. Speaking to yourself kindly, with encouraging and motivating language will help you reach for your goals. Negative self talk and negative views toward yourself, reciting these thoughts to your self will continue to put larger and larger mountains between you and your health goals. Check out these two sayings: ‘Yes You Can’ and ‘I See You.’
One of the teachers will just out of the blue say “Yes You Can”. It’s not that someone in the room has said, I can’t, or I won’t. Maybe she sees it in someone’s face or diminishing energy levels. But, I eat it up. Every time I hear her say “Yes You Can”, I am like “Hell Yes, I Can!”. And just then I have more energy than the second before. I never tire of her saying it. And now even when I don’t take her class and I’m in someone elses class I will say it to myself. “Yes You Can”. It’s this self talk that is so positive. It helps me get through a long, hard workout. I’ve brought it into my business practices too. Whenever I have a moment of doubt that I may be attempting something too big or too far out of my reach I say “Yes You Can”, Sometimes I say it over and over again. I say it until I believe it, and then I push on.
This is something that can help as we make decision by decision for health. Whether it is taking the screens out of the bedroom at bedtime so you can sleep more soundly, or at the grocery store when the amount of produce you put in your cart seems like more than you’ve ever eaten in an entire week before. I want you to stop, and say “Yes You Can”. Make it personal, [insert your name] you can! Caitlin, you can! Jason, you can. Lilly, yes you can. Slowly not only will you realize you can, but you will DO.
The other spin teacher I really like will randomly in class say “I See You”. This isn’t like a mother saying “I See You” as you reach for the cookie jar she told you was not available until after dinner, or the teacher responding to wandering eyes during a quiz. It’s an “I See You Working”. I see that effort! It’s an “I’m Proud Of You, And I’m Telling You!” I love it when he says it. It seems so simple but, when he says it, I feel proud of me too and the work I’m putting in. It is one that feels a bit more silly to incorporate into self talk. But, I recommend you try. When you make the choice of a piece of fruit instead of cookies as a snack or you choose yogurt as a bed time snack instead of ice cream, let yourself know, that you recognize the change and the decision. Let yourself know how proud you are. Reward yourself with these positive thoughts. I promise there are chemical reactions happening in that brain that will increase the satisfaction as you reward yourself with gratitude that is associated with these choices.
I know many of you read this blog to learn about health and nutrition. I want to let you know I will continue to post information… and though I don’t know exactly who is reading, I can tell how many of you are. I see you and I’m proud. Whatever your health goal, I want you to feel empowered to reach for it, Yes You Can! I BELIEVE IN YOU. If you find that you need more help reaching for those goals, consider hiring a health coach. I would be happy to help encourage you, provide you with the education you need and the hand holding, cheerleading and accountability to reach your health goals.
There are over 300 enzyme reactions in the body that magnesium takes part in. It is an electrolyte helping to keep proper pH balance, it helps regulate protein synthesis, takes part in blood-glucose control and blood pressure, insulin regulation, bone health, cleansing and detoxifying processes and vitamin D metabolism. It is a major player in both sleep and digestive function.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be magnesium deficient: muscle cramps or twitching, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, constipation, headaches, kidney stones, and reflux. Research has also linked low levels of magnesium in people with the following conditions indicating it either plays a role in the development of these conditions or with the disease process, magnesium becomes scarce: Diabetes, Obesity, IBS, ADHD, Autism, Anxiety/Depression.
The typical Western (read as American) diet contains very little magnesium. We eat very highly processed, refined foods, white flour, meat and processed dairy. These foods do not contain magnesium. To add insult to injury, alcohol, salt, coffee, chronic stress, chronic diarrhea, diuretics and antibiotics can all lower magnesium levels. It’s no surprise we need more of it in our diets.
Foods high in magnesium include:
If you think you may be deficient, because you don’t eat enough of these foods and you experience some of the symptoms of deficiency – please keep reading.
HOW CAN MAGNESIUM HELP YOU:
Sleep – Studies show Magnesium helps people both fall asleep AND stay asleep. As we know sleep is so important for health and weight loss. Supplementing with magnesium before bed is a great way to relax into a sleep-filled night.
Reflux – Magnesium relaxes the sphincter between the stomach and small intestine. That means it will help your stomach empty so food can keep moving in your digestive tract, decreasing the amount of time in the stomach or the bulk in the stomach to “reflux”.
Say Goodbye to Constipation – Magnesium draws water into the intestine, helping stool from getting too hard and difficult to pass (softer poop). It also helps to relax muscles in the GI tract which can make it easier to go to the bathroom.
More Energy – The energy molecule in our body is called ATP. Without magnesium, you can not convert calories to ATP. Magnesium is essential for the process, so supplying magnesium helps unlock the door to using the energy molecules in the body, taking magnesium can help by increasing your energy levels.
Calming/Soothing – Listen up if you have anxiety, insomnia, or ADHD. Magnesium calms and relaxes the body by slowing the nerve signals from the body to the brain. This will not impair you, it will simply help you to feel calm and relaxed.
There are two types of magnesium I often recommend to patients. If you would like to take a product that will provide help with the above listed items ESPECIALLY constipation, then you should choose a magnesium citrate or oxide. If your bowels are in good working order then I suggest magnesium glycinate, this is a better choice as it has lower incidence of changing stool texture and frequency.
Here are my two favorite supplements for magnesium supplements. Both of which you can find at Wellevate where you will receive 10% off every order!
Hormones fluctuate dramatically throughout our lifetimes, and for women especially, they fluctuate dramatically just monthly. Hormones going hay-wire can contribute to weight gain, mood swings, and depression. There are actions within our own individual control that have significant effects on hormone production and metabolism. You guessed it: Diet and Exercise (and perhaps one you didn't guess or often overlook!) SLEEP. Today I will focus mostly on diet. We will keep it pretty simple too, eat more of these... and less of these... got it? Let's go.
Cruciferous vegetables (1-2 servings per day)
- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussel's sprouts
Leafy greens (1-2 servings per day)
- spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens
Berries, melon and citrus (1 serving per day)
Raw nuts and seeds (1-2 servings per day) - consider soaking
Ground flax seed (1 Tbsp daily)
Beans (at least 1 serving per day)
Whole grains (2 servings per day)
Fish (2 servings per week)
Healthy fats: avocados, olives, olive oil, and those mentioned above.
Artificial sweeteners (diet soda, etc)
Trans fats and saturated fats
Sleep at least 7 hours per night
Get out in the fresh air and breathe
Get into full spectrum sunlight as quickly as you can upon waking
Maintain a healthy weight
Consider supplements that may help (ask a qualified health practitioner)
Take time to relax
Stress, the secret ingredient that’s keeping you from your health goals...
HOWEVER, when a body has chronically high levels of cortisol (due to chronically high levels of STRESS) there are harmful effects on immune function, risk for chronic disease and WEIGHT. In normal stressful situations humans encountered thousands of years ago like chasing an animal in a hunt, the hunt would eventually end. Subsequently your body would send out other hormones to decrease cortisol levels. Remove the stressor and lower the cortisol.
Today our lifestyles are very different. Many work long days, coming home to families, with the stressors of finances, relationships, traumatic events, media streams of terror that never seem to end. We lead over-stressed, fast-paced lifestyles and our bodies are pumping out cortisol nearly constantly.
What does cortisol do?
Don’t worry it’s not all doom and gloom. There is much we can do for ourselves to slow this path to over-stressed and less than ideal health.
Here are just a few recommendations:
While our bodies are quite fascinating with untold numbers of physical processes we barely understand, and complicated cascades of enzyme interactions that work together so harmoniously to make us live and thrive, there are less complicated and less complex therapeutic diet and lifestyle changes we can make to strategically lower stress in our bodies and experience the extraordinary healing power inherent in these bodies when provided the right environment and necessary resources.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
110 N McClelland Street
Santa Maria, California 93454
Hours: Tues and Thurs 10-5 PST