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When I look back over the last several years (that I haven’t been blogging, ah-hem), I see a blur. I see some darkness and a lot of colors and light. I see the ups and downs and a whole lot of in between. I see massive transformation in Ronnie and me and of course our family. Life is nothing like I thought it would be as I round the corner to the big 4-0.
But when I quantify the last few years compared to the rest of my life, it’s like looking at a boa constrictor that ate an alligator – like how can all that possibly fit? From job changes, to nutritional therapy school, to the lawsuit at the gym, to marriage troubles to another baby born with a broken heart, and a couple moves of home and business in there, life somehow managed to feed us an alligator (we chose some of those things, but maybe we bit off more than we could chew). There have been times of bitterness about it all, and thinking “life’s not fair” and shaking my fist at God. But I’m far enough removed from the heavy stuff to see the blessings that have unfolded. As Winston Churchill said “We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival,” and I truly believe we are better for it.
However, those years have aged me. My body feels like that of a completely different person than 5 years ago, and it feels more like what I would expect closing in on 50 to feel like, and not the last of my thirties. I learned about this in my nutrition training, and I knew it was happening all along, but when you are just trying to survive, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. When I finally got with a naturopathic doctor a little over a year ago, she agreed that I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, which was also impacting my hormone balance and likely the cause of my lack of energy, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and skin issues.
My naturopath was able to use my standard bloodwork, a salivary cortisol test, and in-depth interview to develop protocols for me to follow that included the below dietary and lifestyle changes as a treatment for adrenal fatigue:
- Prioritize sleep: This wasn’t hard to do since I was so exhausted, but I was having trouble staying asleep for the whole night and feeling rested. I use a high dose of magnesium citrate/glycinate before bed, and if I woke up, chewed 1 or 2 tablets of GABA . It didn’t take long for me to sleep through the night, and my mornings became much more tolerable! I still chew GABA before bed on occasion if I’m particularly wound up, but it’s a rare occasion at this point, so, progress!
- Moderate workouts: Not that I had much energy for exercise, my doctor recommended I tone it down for awhile till my body feels “safe” again. Intense or excessive exercise can stress the adrenals more and prolong the healing process. She recommended, walking, moderate weightlifting, yoga, and high intensity interval training for a max of 20 minutes. Since I’ve got goals to summit more fourteeners this summer, I’m going to need to step things up, but I’m working with my doctor to figure out that training plan. In the meantime, it’s nice to have the “permission” to not feel like I have to go all out in my workouts and be okay with that.
- Nutrition: I’ve been eating a diet low in inflammatory foods for several months now, limiting sugar, dairy, gluten, eggs, coffee, and alcohol. Limiting these foods has decreased the stress on my gut and immune system which has done wonders for my gut and mental health. Additionally, I tend to eat lower carb, but my doctor recommended I read the Adrenal Reset Diet book, which provided guidelines on how to time when I eat my carbohydrates to best work with my ideal cortisol rhythms. And, now that we are passed the holidays, I’ve begun a gut health/liver cleanse that involves 3 weeks of a strict elimination diet along with a supplemental shake and extra nutrients to assist my liver. The shake tastes like ass, but by day 3 I had figured out some acceptable mix-ins to make it tolerable.
- Supplements: I’ve been cycling a lot of different supplements, and adjusting types and dosage each time I follow up with my doctor (about every two months). I’m not going to go into detail here since it’s super customized to me and how I feel, but I’ll list of few of the things I’ve been taking through this process, not necessarily all at the same time: Vitamin C and D, phospatidylserine, licorice root, methionine, DIM, maca, various mushrooms and herbal adaptogen blends/teas.
- Breathwork/meditation: I read a great book on meditation that simplified it and took all the woo-woo out of the process to make it much more practical. It’s such a basic concept that just does wonders for my mental clarity, especially since I love to overthink and overanalyze. In addition, I’ve started doing simple breathwork, almost daily on my commute (both ways) and before going to sleep. I use the simple cadence of 4-6-7 (4 second inhale, 6 second hold, 7 second exhale) and try to repeat that for at least 5 minutes. What’s amazing is I could see an immediate impact on my heart rate variability tracked in my Oura Ring when I started doing this before bed.
- Oura Ring: This wearable fitness tracker was a Christmas gift from Ronnie and I am obsessed. My doctor hadn’t heard of it as it’s fairly new to market, but I heard about it on several podcasts and felt it was the perfect tool to help me figure out sleep/activity balance to get a better handle on my nervous system as I try to restore adrenal health. Check out my Oura Ring review for more info on how I’ve been using it as part of my health journey.
All of the tactics listed above were prioritized by my doctor and have been slowly layered into my life as I gained energy and formed new habits. There was no way I could’ve taken on all that with the way I felt when I first began working on my adrenal fatigue. Even though I knew about this condition and had some ideas how to go about dealing with it, I was so exhausted I didn’t even know where to start. Working with a naturopath has been an investment since insurance doesn’t cover the treatment, but it has been the best decision I have made and money well spent. It also helps keep me accountable when I have to follow-up with someone that I am paying! I would love to know what other energy hacks or stress management techniques you’ve used or are using to help you through this crazy life. Let me know in the comments below!