Fighting Adrenal Fatigue, Naturally

fight adrenal

After losing our son in the early second trimester in August, my body just never recovered. I lost a lot of blood, resulting in plummeting iron levels and extremely low energy. Walking up the stairs, exercising, and even holding my daughter were exhausting to me.

Even when I got to a point where I was eating a very clean diet, pushing through workouts, and taking my multivitamins regularly, I still couldn’t shake the fatigue and general feeling of “unwell”. I gained 15-20lb in about 3 months. My self confidence was waning and I honestly felt hopeless.

Several friends encouraged me to research adrenal fatigue- and, boy, were they on to something! Adrenal fatigue is kind of complicated, but you can read up on it here. The general premise: stress and life events render your adrenal glands basically inactive. Your body stops making adrenaline, or produces it at inappropriate times, resulting in crazy fatigue but then sometimes insomnia and unnecessary panic. Weight won’t budge no matter what, exercise makes you feel worse, and you can have random bouts of inflammation. I had all of these symptoms and more.

Because I don’t currently have health insurance, I was cornered into a self-diagnosis through trial and error. However, I am happy to report that after about 6 weeks, I am already starting to feel much better! So, I want to share some of the lifestyle changes that I have made to fight my battle with adrenal fatigue.

Cut out the caffeine…
This was so hard for me! I was drinking 4-6 cups of coffee throughout the day and I was feeling NOTHING. No jolt, nothing. It does’t help that I like the taste of coffee, the feeling of a warm mug in my hands- so yeah, it was an issue. Overusing caffeine, particularly after 12PM, overworks and confuses the adrenal glands. So out went coffee.

Now, if I have any, I drink decaf or maybe a half cup of regular- and I feel it. Instead, we drink Chaga concentrate or sometimes even Mate!

…and the sugar…
Sugar functions much like coffee in that it makes it more difficult for the adrenal glands to function properly, let alone the myriad other health issues it causes. Out goes the sugar. Boo!

…and the gluten.
Same thing. Gluten takes a lot of work for the body to digest, and when the body needs to be healing instead…you need to conserve that energy. I am not 100% gluten free at this point, but I try to limit my consumption as much as possible to give it the break it needs.

Support your body’s natural rhythms.
ACV and honey in the morning help naturally jumpstart the metabolism and support the adrenals! Also, see the supplements below.
Magnesium and chamomile or lavender at night- help relax the body and the mind. Tell your body that it’s time to shut off and sleep! I love to drink this magnesium just before bed.
Epsom salt baths to relax at night- again, helps relax the body and get ready for sleep. These are particularly helpful if you are struggling with any kind of sleeping issues. This kind is great!

Add in supplements to support healing.
Ashwagandha, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba all support the adrenals and productively manage stress. You can find formulas with all of these, or each individually. There are also adrenal support specific formulas that often include these.

Support your healing with essential oils.
Essential oils can be very supportive of the healing process. Using “awakening” oils in the morning, such as citruses or mints, and calming oils in the evenings, like lavender, chamomile, or cedarwood, can further support the body’s new rhythms. There are also oils that specifically support the adrenals, such as rosemary and lemongrass. For more information on essential oils and for purchasing options, please email me: karli.vonherbulis@gmail.com.

Replenish minerals and vitamins and FEED your adrenals with SOLE.
Sole water is one of the best ways to do this! Sole is a high-mineral salt water infusion that is drank on an empty stomach each morning (ideally). You can buy high quality sea salt crystals made specifically for making sole and make it at home! This has made a huge difference in my healing process and I have come to (almost) crave the taste 🙂

Limit heavy cardio and stick to restorative exercise
For most healing protocols, this sounds counterintuitive- but when your body isn’t making energy hormones to even get you through the day, making them for a sweaty cardio sesh just isn’t gonna work. Stick to things like yoga, tai chi, or walking until you feel your energy starting to return.

SLEEP!
For the love, your body is healing! Go to bed early, sleep in if you can, nap if you need it. This is a good, good thing!

Have you suffered from adrenal fatigue? What was helpful for you in recovery?

Help Me! What’s My Skin Type?

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me MamaOne of the most important tools I was taught during my time in working for a retail skincare and beauty company was the ability to help a customer figure out their skin type. I think that, a lot of the time, we assume we know our skin type based on how it usually feels or what products we use- but in my case and the cases of many others, it’s easy to be pretty off. Try this little trick tonight and see if you’ve been properly diagnosed.

-Before you go to bed, wash your face with a gentle soap, nothing special. Skip whatever normal regimen of products you use at night and go to bed.

-In the morning observe how your face feels. Is it oily all over, or only in certain areas? Do certain areas feel dry or rough?

-Take note of these areas. It might even be helpful to draw out a diagram of your face to help you map out what is oily and what is dry!

-You may want to repeat this test for several nights, giving your skin a rest from whatever products you normally use to see how it behaves normally. Compare your skin maps from each day and you’ll get a more accurate result!

Now, let’s take a look at those maps and see what we can do to support your skin in it’s normal state. The following are the three most common skin types:

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me Mama

OILY– almost completely oily when you wake. Maybe a few areas that might qualify as “dry”, but probably just “less oily” instead.

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me Mama

COMBO (also known as T-ZONE). Forehead, nose, and possibly chin are oily, but cheeks are dry. Dryness may extend to sides of nostrils or chin.

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me Mama

DRY (sometimes described as MATURE)- almost completely dry. Skin will likely feel tight, flaky, possibly itchy upon waking.

If you’re like me, your skin might behave differently during the various seasons- summer makes me a combo, but winter makes me flaky and dry!  If this is you, fear not: just make some simple adjustments as the seasons change. Knowing these things is essential to treating your skin with the proper products.

Here’s a few tips for each skin type:

OILY– Make sure that you are using ingredients that aren’t completely drying your face out. When this happens, your skin overcompensates and produces more oil, which has you worse off than when you started. Instead, skip moisturizer (or use a very very light one-coconut oil can be a great choice) and look for healing ingredients- tea tree oil being one of the most effective. It is a blemish fighter and a natural antiseptic and antifungal, and it’s going to clear your face up in no time! Worst enemy of this skin type: butter-based moisturizers, or anything with “alcohol” in it: acetyl alcohol, ceteryl alcohol, etc.

COMBO– My favorite. Who the heck knows how your skin might react? The best thing that I have ever come across for combo skin is LAVENDER OIL. The stuff is magic. See, something about the chemical compounds in lavender oil make it almost identical to your skin’s sebum (which manages oil production), which allows your skin to properly balance out oil production on your face. It’s pretty incredible, and I don’t totally understand how it works, but it does- so look for moisturizers that highlight this ingredient (LUSH’s Imperialis moisturizer is a favorite of mine, but it is a bit pricey). Also, focus on getting the right moisturizers- not too heavy, not too light, but effective. In the summer, you may not need a moisturizer on your face- maybe just a wash with coconut oil every few days. In the winter, you may find you need something heavier.

DRY– use moisturizers- yes, you probably knew this. But are you using the right ones? Many commercial moisturizers are full of ingredients that your skin can’t actually absorb. One of the most common, mineral oil, actually sits on top of your skin instead of sinking into your pores! Butters, like shea, cocoa, or mango, are a better alternative, but can sometimes be too heavy to use under makeup or may even clog pores making matters worse. The best alternative is actually to use natural oils, like coconut, grape seed, olive, or even castor oil. These oils mimic the oils that your skin naturally produces, as well as creating an environment that is difficult for bacteria to flourish. Try washing and moisturizing your face with coconut oil, and see what a difference it makes!

One final tip that goes for all of these skin types- don’t forget to exfoliate! Moisturizers and corrective ingredients can’t work properly if there is a layer of dead skin on top of your living layers. Aim to give your skin a good exfoliation AT LEAST once a week- maybe more, if your skin isn’t too sensitive. You don’t need any fancy products either- try baking soda, or even cornmeal, for a simple but effective scrub. If you need some inspiration, here’s our guide to the full at-home facial 🙂

Do you have a miracle product that you swear by for your skin type? Share it in the comments!

Surviving the First Trimester- Naturally

firsttrimester

I was a pathetic mess my entire first trimester.

I’m serious. It was embarrassing. I wish I could say that I was one of those women who just brought along a trash bag and towel wherever she went and barfed when necessary and just powered through life, but it just wasn’t true. The nausea and vomiting was so bad that many days I never got dressed and didn’t leave the house. I am so, so thankful that I have a job that I can do from the comfort of my home 90% of the time. I seriously don’t know how I would have managed a 9-5 office job. It was completely the grace of the Lord that I got through alive.

All that to say, many women have it much more difficult than I do. I was never hospitalized, I was able to stay off of anti-nausea medicine (though it was offered to me many times), and I was still able to work. But almost every women who experiences pregnancy has some degree of nausea and vomiting, though it’s different for everyone. And we all have different things that make our nausea better! Today, I want to share the things that helped me make it through- regardless of how pathetic I was.

-Eat a complex carb before you lift your head from the pillow. My go-to was Trader Joe’s Rosemary & Raisin Crackers- filled with flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and lots of other fun super grains for my little girl. I must’ve eaten through 20 boxes during my first trimester. When I say “before you lift your head”, I am not kidding. I would grab the box, spin over onto my belly, and eat half a box of crackers before even thinking about getting out of bed. Not the cutest thing I’ve ever done, but it would sit heavily enough in my stomach to get me downstairs, let me go to the bathroom, and fix something for breakfast without spiraling into an all-day mess of nausea.

-Eat OFTEN. As in, I ate every 1.5-2 hours MAX. Keeping something in my tummy was the only way I could avoid feeling gross. It didn’t necessarily matter what it was, as long as I got it down. It was my ‘preventative measure’.

-Figure out what herbs work for you. For me, ginger made me even more sick, so I had to avoid anything with ginger in it, including virtually every anti-nausea tea on the market. However, peppermint worked wonders for me, as did chamomile. I would keep a small box of altoids in my purse and suck on one or two whenever I started to feel gross. Breathing in a chamomile steam inhalation (or simply making chamomile tea and sipping it) was also really effective.

-Stay hydrated. Lemon is another anti nausea aid that many people find helpful- I was pretty much constantly sipping ice water with a heaping amount of lemon juice in it, and it really did make me feel better- and staying hydrated is key to keeping yourself well.

-Try alternative medicine. I see a Chinese Herbalist and received acupuncture treatments throughout my first trimester that I really feel helped keep my sickness manageable. Check with your insurance to see if they cover alternative medicine- mine covers 75%! You might be surprised. Aromatherapy, focusing on ginger, lemon, or peppermint essential oils, can also be helpful- either applied in a carrier oil or used in a diffuser, or even in bath water.

-Up your magnesium levels. Some lovely mamas online suggested using magnesium oil topically twice a day, and I think this also contributed to my survival. you can also add magnesium oil, or a ton of epsom salts, into bathwater and have yourself a nice soak. I honestly don’t know all the science behind this one, but I can say that it worked for me, and for many other mamas as well!

-Don’t force yourself to eat what isn’t appealing to you. You will barf. It will suck.

-Take your prenatals and don’t stress. Your baby is very tiny and requires very little at this stage- do your best and your prenatals will cover you. But- DO your BEST too! Don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to eat donuts all day. Your baby is a beautiful responsibility- take the best care of him or her that you can!

-Don’t be afraid to ask of help. I remember calling my mom and asking her to come over and clean my toilet for me one morning, and while it was very humbling, it was worth it. Especially if you have other children, give yourself grace. Accept a meal from a friend, an offer to babysit, take an extra nap while your kids sleep.

-Recognize when you need medical attention. Some people truly need anti-nausea medication to get through the first trimester. Others suffer from a debilitating condition known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which requires a lot of monitoring, and often medication, to control. If you can’t keep anything down and you can tell that something is wrong, take care of yourself. Your body, and your baby, will thank you.

Have any of these tips worked for you? What else helped you survive your first trimester queasies?

The World’s Worst Cold Season

Hi, friends!

It goes without saying how sad I am that I literally haven’t posted a blog in over a month. This blog is therapeutic for me- a way to process what I am learning, share what I am passionate about and, yes, release a bit of frustration sometimes. Well, that frustration has certainly come to a head in the past weeks because it seems that myself and everyone I know is sick! Seeing this, I thought I would share some steps you can take to prevent and combat the common cold when it has you down and out.

About three weeks ago, I came down with the worst cold I have ever had- I was like a walking Nyquil commercial. I had a sore throat, itchy eyes, terrible sinus congestion, couldn’t sleep as a result, it was just awful. Never had I come down with such a stereotypically miserable cold. It just so happened that I was co-Music Director for that weekend’s Chrysalis Retreat, and the one thing I was dreading was beginning to happen- losing my voice. Well, I made it through- and here are some of the tricks I used to keep my voice and my sanity during those stuffy days:

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Medicinal Teas. My two go-tos were both from Traditional Medicinals: Gypsy’s Cold Care and Throat Coat. Spoiler alert- they both taste kind of awful, but they are both very effective. Gypsy’s lessens general cold symptoms as well as cutting down on the duration of the cold, while Throat Coat is particularly useful if you are prone to laryngitis whenever you get sick, like me. There are mixed views on using Throat Coat when you are sick- especially if your throat issues are sinus related, it can sometimes make you produce more mucus in an attempt to lubricate the throat. Bottom line- use your best judgement. Don’t use it for the first time before a big performance unless you know how your body will react.

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Honey. So much of it. Raw and local is best. Over the course of the Chrysalis weekend, I downed close to a two pound bottle of raw honey (a lot of this in attempts to cover the taste of the Throat Coat tea!). Honey is an antiseptic and a lubricant, which helps both coat and heal your throat.

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Neti pot or other sinus rinse. Yes, this is uncomfortable at first, but you are not only removing excess mucus, but neutralizing PH and flushing out any germs and allergens in your nasal passages. I was doing this upwards of 4x a day when my cold was at its worst.

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BLOW your NOSE. I can’t emphasize this enough! Keep tissues with you all the time- Target sells really cute little ’tissue wallets’ that I should by stock in. The more you can get that stuff out, the better off you are going to feel. Sniffing and swallowing (gross, I know) is only going to keep you sick. It can even give you an upset stomach. Just don’t let it happen.

-Sleep sitting up. Not completely, but prop two or three pillows under your head to keep post-nasal drip at bay. It sicks but you will probably end up sleeping better than you would have originally.

-Check out your environment. We recently discovered a lovely mold infestation in our closet- no wonder we are staying sick forever! Make sure that you don’t have a culprit hiding somewhere…

-Healing baths. This can help any type of sickness- taking a hot bath is like having a self-induced fever- your body temperature rises and your body’s immune responses are heightened, which helps fight off germs. Adding helpful herbs like peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary can aid in clearing congestion. If you don’t have a bath tub, put some essential oils in the corner of your shower and inhale in the steam!

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-Steam inhalations– these are my favorite! Boil a pot of water, pour it into a bowl and add some essential oils (eucalyptus is the most effective). Form a tent over your head with a towel and inhale! Have tissues ready because this can work very quickly! I like to do this after I do a sinus rinse- it leaves me clear and feeling good.

-Supplements. Vitamin C is a given, but Vitamin D is also proven to help ward off sickness! Echinacea is an easy-to-find herb that is a powerhouse for strengthening the immune system. It is often paired with Goldenseal. Green tea and other antioxidant-rich supplements will help, too!

-Eat foods that will help your body heal. Focus on getting a plant-based, whole foods diet especially when you are sick. Get away from the processed foods! Dairy especially is a big hindrance to healing and makes you produce more mucus. Red meats take more energy for your body to digest, which pulls energy away from the healing process. Juices are great when you are sick, because they are chock full of nutrients but easy to digest- letting your body focus all of it’s energy on healing! Garlic and Onions are two foods that are especially good for mucus cleansing. Ideally- a whole foods vegan diet. I know it’s hard, but do your best!

-Get your rest. If you are run down, so is your immune response. Get enough sleep and take care of your body, it will take care of you!

Wishing you a health and energy this cold season,

Karli

Help Me! Anxiety

One of the most debilitating health issues that I have struggles with (and, sometimes, still do struggle with) is anxiety. It reached a head after Matt and I had been married for about a year, and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I had always been the type of person that didn’t get stressed out, let things roll off my back, and was all-around easygoing. Suddenly, my heart would race if Matt wasn’t getting over to an exit lane quickly enough, or if I couldn’t find my dog, or for really any reason at all. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know how to handle it.

One quick doctors appointment later (with a primary care that I had never met before, I might add) I had a lovely little pill to take that would solve my problems- at least, that’s what I was told. In the three months I took the medication, I only had negative side effects and never felt that my anxiety was alleviated. To make matters worse, I stopped taking the pills cold turkey, which made things much worse before they got better (apparently, my doctor should’ve told me not to do that, but that never happened). I became very aware that I had only done my body harm, and that I wasn’t going to get better (or at least manageable) without some life change.

One of the biggest things that I did (and most effective) was to eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars. I was so, so addicted to coffee, and I love dessert like no other, so this was very difficult for me. However, caffeine and sugar both put the nervous system under stress, which allows anxiety to thrive. Instead of coffee in the mornings, I drank some anti-anxiety tea. You can make your own; any of these herbs work well (starred ones taste better than others):

Valerian

Kava

Lavender*

Chamomile*

Dandelion (young leaves, older taste bitter)

Lemon Balm*

Oats*

St. John’s Wort

Vervain

Many of these are available in blends or solo bags from Yogi teas or Traditional Medicinals, both of which are becoming readily available in local supermarkets. Make sure that you read up on how to prepare certain herbs- some must be boiled (like Valerian) while others are steeped like normal tea!

A hidden gem in the natural health world is a magnesium supplement called Natural Calm. Magnesium has an almost immediate calming effect, and this supplement (a powdered drink mix, much like Crystal Light) delivers deliciously. I loved having some before work, or before bed, or really anytime I needed a bit of a calming boost. Most health stores will carry it, and I have even seen it at a supermarket here and there. Very well worth it.

In addition to cutting out certain foods and adding in others, I strived to avoid processed foods and instead add whole foods into my diet- a change that now has become lifestyle for me. Our bodies readily receive the nourishment they need via whole foods, instead of having to drudge through processed foods for the sub-par nutrition available there! Keeping our bodies whole helps us function as we should.

Another key part of my recovery was the addition of exercise into my daily routine. I fell in love with yoga (thanks to the lovely Debra Corso), started rock climbing, and generally tried to stay as active as I could. Not only did this take my mind off of stressors in my life, but the exercise helped my body to function properly, which allowed me to handle situations with grace and ease that was hard to come by beforehand. These days, I practice a bit of yoga in my home, and run 3-5 times a week.

The most important part of my battle with anxiety has been conversations with people that care about me, love the Lord, and help me to focus on what is important. Christian counselors are invaluable if you are struggling with anxiety- the time that I spent speaking with trusted people about my struggle, the more I realized that focus on Christ and his Kingdom was necessary and missing from my life. Regaining vision for my life and praying through panicky situations helped me tremendously.

Please understand that I write these things from my experience and studies, not from a professional standpoint. My experience with anti-anxiety medication may vary drastically from someone else’s, nor can each persons case be treated the same. These are simply changes that helped me, and I pray that they help someone else, too.

Peace be with you,

Karli