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?

Body & Brain Boost Pumpkin Oatmeal

Body & Brain Boosting Pumpkin Oatmeal

HELLO FALL! I can’t quite rock the leggings look anymore (at least not gracefully) but I’m fully embracing my boots and autumn-flavored things. There’s a pint of Hoffmans’ pumpkin ice cream in my freezer, Baugher’s apple butter on my counter, and pumpkin puree in my fridge. It’s like something biological happens when the cold weather hits, making us all crave these things.

Here’s the crazy thing- something biological DOES happen! Our bodies are designed to need more beta carotene, vitamin C, and warming food in the fall and winter, when the weather is colder and our immune systems can become repressed. It’s no coincidence that things like pumpkin and citrus come into season, bursting with their essential vitamins that are perfect for this season!

This quick morning dish, full of flavor and supplemental goodness, boosts brain function, digestion, good fats, fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene levels. This is a bowl of super foods!

You’ll need:

1/2 cup of oats cooked in 3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon each: flaxseed, chia seed, wheat germ, pumpkin seed
Cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice) to taste
Raw Honey (or regular is fine) and sea salt, to taste

Cook oats in the water- the oatmeal won’t be soupy, but you’ll add pumpkin to it which will thin it out a bit! After the oats are cooked, swirl in the pumpkin, flax, chia, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Spice, salt, and honey to taste- you may like yours sweeter, while I prefer mine a little salty, to balance the rich flavor of the pumpkin.

Here’s all the amazing health benefits you’re enjoying! Do your body some good this fall 🙂

PUMPKIN– An underestimated superfood, this autumn gem is full of fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene. It also works wonders on digestion- it eases upset tummies like a charm! You can even bake dog treats with pumpkin to help pups that might be having digestive issues.

CINNAMON– Helps to balance blood sugar, high in antioxidants, aids in detoxification and boosts the metabolism.

OATS– Oats are an amazing source of fiber and protein, and work to balance the blood sugar throughout the day. Incorporating oats into the diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risks, lower cholesterol, and lower type-2 diabetes risk.

FLAXSEED– Famed for being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (that even stays intact through baking!), flaxseeds are also great for digestion. They are also a surprising antioxidant source- containing more polyphenol antioxidants than even blueberries.

CHIA SEED– The wonder seed! Who knew that such a nutritional powerhouse was growing silly spiky heads when we were younger. Chia seeds are intensely good for hydration- they absorb 2x their weight in fluids, which helps slowly release into our systems when we need it most! For more on Chia seeds, check out this previous post on health benefits and ideas to incorporate into your diet!

WHEAT GERM– Again, very high in omega-3 fatty acids, this is a famed ‘brain builder’ supplement. It’s packed with B-vitamins, which make it ideal for pregnant women and those who don’t eat much animal proteins. It’s also high in fiber, which aids in digestion and detoxification. Minerals found in wheat germ include iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.

PUMPKIN SEED– Also called pepitas, these babies are high in iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and Vitamin E. This is a great food for pregnant women to incorporate into their diets. Raw or activated is best, but toasted brings out a great flavor as well!

RAW HONEY– Chock full of B vitamins, vitamin C, antioxidants, beneficial enzymes, pre and probiotics, honey is also highly regarded for it’s antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Great for incorporating ingot he diet if you feel a cold coming on, or applying topically to a cut, scrape, or burn to prevent infection and speed healing.

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?

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