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! Detox

One of the most important tools of a health regimen is the knowledge and time to detoxify. I do think that this is important in all aspects of life, but doing a cleanse for your body is something that can’t be approached lightly or without planning. I’ve found some great resources and have been through detoxes a few times now, and I want to share my experiences with you today!

These days, we are completely bombarded with toxins and things that don’t belong in our bodies- from the food we eat to pollution in the air to what we use to clean our homes, its virtually inescapable. Especially during the holidays, its so attractive to try to ‘get away from it all’- well, with a cleanse, you can give your body the break that it has been craving.

While you can go into virtually any store and buy a boxed ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ these days, I am a firm believer that the most effective way to cleanse and rebuild your body is by carefully choosing food and placing exercise over a controlled amount of time. My detoxes usually consist of juicing whole fruits and vegetables for one or two meals per day and eating freshly prepared meals for the rest of the day- avoiding dense carbs (breads and pastas), dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and meat. It seems like a lot, but it is amazing how quickly the body adjusts and heals itself in just 3-5 days. It resets the digestive system, cleanses the lymph system and clears mucous membranes, increases energy, and boosts the immune system.

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If you are new to juicing, be sure to read up on how to juice certain fruits and vegetables, and what tastes good together. For example- anything with grapefruit will be very sour! For just starting out, stick with a mostly vegetable based mix, with a fruit or two to your taste. One of my favorites is Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, and Orange. If you don’t have a juicer, you can buy frozen fruits and puree them in a blender or food processor, and throw some spinach in there for good measure (don’t worry, you can’t taste it). As for your other food, stay simple, but remember: spices are a great tool, as many spices have great health benefits. Try to avoid salting food if possible.

This is what a typical day looks like for me during cleanse:

On Rising: Hot water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne (I do this daily- alkalizes the body, stimulates digestion, and aids in detoxification, among other benefits)

Breakfast: Fresh juice, sometimes mixed into a smoothie. Juice what you can, then add in whole things that are hard or unnecessary to juice to a blender- bananas, berries, avocadoes, spinach. I also add in supplemental whole foods- whole raw oats, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, and powdered cinnamon and ginger. Puree it all together and you have yourself a powershouse!

Exercise: yoga, swimming, pilates, or light running (helps continue cleansing)

Immediately after workout: homemade protein ball for muscle recovery (or, sub banana and natural nut butter- avoid commercial protein bars)

Lunch: Another juice smoothie, or a green salad with fresh vegetables and oil/vinegar dressing, or a homemade vegetable soup

Dinner: Roasted or steamed veggies, fruit salad, vegetable soup, quinoa with veggies, homemade chickpea curry with quinoa, brown rice with spices

Evening: Detox Bath

Before bed: Caffeine-free tea, such as lavender, chamomile, or senna leaf

Throughout the day, I make sure to drink lots of water and several cups of herbal tea. There are special detoxification blends of tea that can further your process. Some people like to use a gentle laxative tea before bed each night to help with cleansing the digestive system the next day. Traditional Medicinals makes a readily available Senna Leaf tea that doesn’t taste terrible and gets the job done- they also have a good Everyday Detox blend.

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My favorite part of the day is bathtime! I have a beautiful, ancient clawfoot tub that I put to good work in this apartment. Here’s my recipe for the best detox bath, swish it all around and stay in as long as possible:

2 cups Epsom salts

At least 1 cup baking soda (more if you want!)

10 drops tea tree oil

5 drops lavender oil

A teaspoon of powdered ginger

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When exiting the tub, be slow and careful- the detox bath can (and does) make you a wee bit lightheaded if you get out too fast. But, that’s how you know its working!

Another thing I like to add in daily are some quick but effective yoga poses. The best and easiest for detoxification are seated spinal twists– sitting on the floor, turn your head over your shoulder and continue to twist your body as far as comfortable, using the opposite hand to the knee to further the stretch. This causes a sort of ‘wring-out’ effect on the major organs- much like you wring out a dishrag- and allows for fresh blood flow. I also like to end my days with a simple, relaxing inversion– lay on the floor, hips to the wall with legs going up the wall, so that your body makes a 90 degree angle. Stay as long as comfortable and enjoy the relaxing effect!

Repeat this, or a personal variation, each day for 3-7 days. Don’t be surprised if, for the first few days, you feel some ill effects– sluggishness, headaches, a touch of nausea, indecisive bowels. This is very normal, and will be heightened depending on how drastic a change the cleanse is from your everyday diet. Cleanses draw out and remove toxins from our bodies- toxins that will make us feel icky until they are gone. By day 3 you will start feeling much, much better! But, remember that even if you can only cleanse for one day, your body will still be healthier than it was if you weren’t cleansing at all!

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