To preface my adrenal writings…. you need to know this is going to be a post from a non-scientific prospective (which is the only way I understand them). There will be links at the end of the post to give you a better and deeper view.
For years I has heard the words Adrenal Fatigue and thought it was an old lady problem and a weird sounding issue (to be frank I also thought “whiners” when I heard someone complaining about it). The first time I took it seriously was when I watched to Dr. Rind’s and Anne Fischer Silva’s presentation at the 2010 Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) conference.
So, what do the adrenal glands do? Here is a summary from my (non-scientific brain)
- Adrenals are our stress handling glands.
- Adrenals put out the adrenaline when we need it.
- Adrenals are integral in our ability use our hormones.
- Adrenals are a factor in our emotional well being. (attitude!)
- When we are experiencing changes (internal or external), Adrenals help us regulate those changes in a way that makes sense to our body.
- When our blood sugar goes to high or too low, Adrenals regulate our internal balance.
- Adrenals control our immune system responses (this relates to cortisol levels and inflammation, more on that later…. just keep in mind this reason is why steroids are given to people with inflammation issues)
- When I drink coffee or other caffeine items my adrenals surge to balance my body.
- Stress (like disease, lack of sleep, emotional stress, etc) makes the adrenals work harder (remember the internal balance?)
Allright, so I realized they were important. Dr. Rind also said something terrifying (I am paraphrasing here), “If you have a thyroid problem you are almost guaranteed to have an adrenal problem and vice versa. I take extreme notes and study the person when they only have one issue or the other….. it happens so rarely.” I thought “Oh no! I have that old lady disease too!” Then Dr.Rind said something even more terrifying (again, I am paraphrasing here), “If you have been taking Armour or some other thyroid hormone, you are giving yourself an adrenal rush and will damage your adrenals and then you will be in even worse shape than before.” AAHHHH!!! I had been taking Armour for at least 7 months now, I knew my blood sugar had MAJOR lows, I had started drinking coffee to compensate, I wasn’t going to bed early enough, I had NO ABILITY to handle frustration (think mean mommy here), and I had an inflammatory based disease that was killing my thyroid (which is auto-immune). I had to admit I had major adrenal issues.
So, I called Anne Fischer Silva and set up a free appointment to consult her to see if she could help me. She told me, “Yes I can help. Go off gluten immediately, read Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms, and….” a long list of other information I had to gather for a 2 hour appointment to go over everything with a fine toothed comb. One of the tests she wanted to me to have before the consult was an adrenal saliva test from here. As you can imagine my Adrenals were in fatigue. Anne told me “this is what I would expect from a 45 year old women who is not feeling great.” Grrreeeaaaatttt…….
Anne’s recommendations for healing my adrenals were this:
Rehmannia complex, Licorice (one bottle), and 7 Keto DHEA (to support DHEA levels). She had some very specific product and amount recommendations for these and only the Rehmannia she suggested for long term use. So, I am not recommending you readers just go start taking these, as the amounts, brands, and way to take them are dependent on your adrenal situation. I learned that taking these supplements without specific recommendations can be more damaging than not taking them at all.
There were also lifestyle changes I needed to make which included avoiding these:
Pushing yourself to exhaustion
Sugar, caffeine and junk food
Being critical and harsh with yourself
Eating carbohydrates by themselves
Staying up late and catching your “second wind”
Arising early if you don’t have to
Food that you react to or are allergic to
Drinking sodas, coffee, alcohol, juice
Making someone else responsible for your health
People who steal your energy
Taking care of everyone and everything else Feeling guilty about caring for yourself
The alternatives to those damaging adrenal activities are:
Eat real, whole, fresh food
Be compassionate and kind to yourself
Eat every two hours
Eat a combination of carb, fat and protein
Set to bed by 10:00-ll:00pm
Sleep until 7:00-8:00am when possible Eat nutrient-dense food.
Drink H20, lactofermented bev. or herb teas
Become empowered and informed about your health
Be with people who are concerned for your
well-being and are helpful in your recovery
Take care of and nurture yourself
Find an inner balance and sense of peace with taking care of yourself
Find things that make you laugh
Do things you enjoy
Mild to moderate exercise
Anne’s other recommendation for me was to take all high sugar foods out of my diet. Including maple syrup, cane sugar, rice, potatoes, high amount of honey, etc.
I switched to using almond flour and coconut flour instead of gluten free flour mixes (they have potato & rice flours) for baking. At this time we were in a MAJOR house remodel so I was not able to completely relearn how to cook and eat. I continued to use some maple syrup, eat potato and rice with suppers, and use honey in cooking (sorry Anne!). But, I did not eat high starchy items for snacks (like granola bars, fruit bars, crackers, or bread), instead I ate almonds, other nuts, or a almond/coconut flour based snack. If I did have some rice it was mixed with a lot of veggies, a fat source, and a meat source. We also ate a lot of quinoa as a starch because it does not raise your blood sugar like the other grains do. The difference in how I felt was absolutely amazing. I no longer felt nauseous every two hours (a sign of low blood sugar), followed by a high carb snack, then another blood sugar crash. I felt like I was getting my brain back! I was also nursing my 1-year old at this time, so I had some extra demands on my body.
After 4-5 months of the adrenal supplements Anne wanted me to retest my Adrenals, in doing so I had to wean off the 7-Keto/DHEA, as that is a hormone and not good for long term dependency. I hated going off the 7-Keto. I had headaches, shakes, and felt stressed. I am back on the 7-Keto because my tests showed I continue to need the DHEA. Before speaking with her the first time, I had purchased a DHEA pill before (that I never took) and told her I had some, she said it was a dangerously high amount. So, I’m tentative to give a blanket DHEA 7-Keto recommendation.
There were also some other supplement recommendations and further testing Anne wanted me to do. But those are not about the adrenals – and I need to stick to one topic today .
For those that are wondering about my current adrenal state. My initial stage showed me in stage 7, and my retest recently showed me in stage 4 (maladapted stage II). So, I do have some improvement to work on – but I feel much much better. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when I get to stage 1 or 2!
Here are the reference levels:
CORTISOL-DHEA CORRELATION SPECTRUM
1. Adapted to stress.
2. Adapted with DHEA slump.
3. Maladapted Phase I.
4. Maladapted Phase II.
5. Non-adapted, Low Reserves 6. High DHEA.
7. Adrenal Fatigue.
I would say if you have blood sugar issues, feel sluggish, stressed, and are not in tip top shape – then you have adrenal fatigue and need to do something about it!
The other very interesting thing I learned about the adrenals relates to steroid use. When someone has a cumbersome autoimmune disease (like Rherumatoid arthritis, Crohns, or ongoing inflammation), steroids are recommended. Here is a link about how steroids work. Basically, steroids mimic your adrenal system, suppress your immune system, and cause long term damage – both to your adrenals and other body systems. I continue to be amazed at how modern medicine focuses so largely on suppressing symptoms and not causes. Research for yourself the damage that steroids can do, even if they do provide a quick fix (short term).
Oh! And I learned that Adrenal Fatigue can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, as our immune barriers become compromised because of Adrenal Fatigue. Can’t wrap my brain around that today though to give a thorough explanation. But basically, my adrenal fatigue was a contributing factor to my autoimmune disease.
AND I learned that a pregnant woman in adrenal fatigue can actually draw the adrenal hormones FROM HER BABY in the latter part of pregnancy. The LITTLE BABY can then be born with adrenal stress already as an issue! This could lead to a myriad of problems, but I would say leaky gut as one of the top issues that go along with adrenal fatigue. This totally freaked me out when I read it, and was an extra motivator for me to clean up my health issues before bringing another child into this world.
Here are those recommendations I promised you:
- The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, by James L Wilson, N.D., D.C., PhD., Smart Publications, 2001
- Adrenal Fatigue Home Page
Happy Reading! Take care of those adrenal glands!