Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue

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My struggle with adrenal fatigue began when I was 21 years old. I moved back to New Zealand from Melbourne in 2010 after living there for 3 years. I began working in retail and some weeks I would work up to 60 hours with no days off. During the weekends I would party hard and sometimes be out until the early hours of the morning and turn up to work with little or no sleep. This vicious went on for 2 years until I decided I needed to make some changes to my health. I had been interested in studying nutrition for a few years and applied to study Holistic Nutrition in Auckland. Uni was full time which meant I was there for 5 full days with an extra 20 hours of study to complete at home. On top of this, I was working up to 25 hours per week, which meant I worked weekends, after uni in the evenings and some days I would leave class early to go to work. I couldn’t excel in any area of my life. I would turn up to uni extremely exhausted and would find it hard to concentrate in class, the days I had to leave uni early to go to work I would be worrying about my essays that needed to be completed, the classes I had missed and not having any time to study for my next exam. It was quite ironic that I was studying health when it was one of the unhealthiest and unhappiest times of my life.

Getting up in the morning was a struggle, I would push snooze at least 4 times before I was finally awake and then I had to literally drag myself out of bed. Caffeine was the only thing that would keep me going throughout the day and my stress levels were at an all time high. My health began to suffer!

Some of my health symptoms included:

  • Acne, especially around my jaw line
  • Weight gain and an inibilty to lose weight (I was holding weight on my hips, lower tummy, arms, buttocks)
  • Eczmea on my inner elbows
  • Bloating
  • Dark circles under my eyes
  • PMS from hell!
  • Tender breasts that would go up a cup size every before every cycle
  • Irregular periods

Due to my weight gain I began training hard at the gym and running every other day. No matter how much I was training and eating healthy I just couldn’t lose any weight, in fact, I was gaining more weight and it would take me days to recover from a hard workout. It was only a matter of time before all this buildup caused my body into adrenal exhaustion. After years of overworking my body mentally and physically it finally broke. In 2014 I finally finished studying and finished with a Bachelor of Naturopathy and Diploma of Nutrition. Some days I look back and still cant believe that I actually finished uni! There are so many people that over work themselves to the point of exhaustion and experience the same symptoms I was experiencing and choose to ignore it. Maybe you’re a full time employee working 40+ hours a week, a busy parent, full time uni student, gym junkie that is doing high intensity workouts everyday after getting poor sleep and living off caffeine to keep you going throughout the day or you are going through an emotional crisis. You can be wrecking havoc to your adrenal glands and body.

What is adrenal fatigue? Adrenal fatigue is when our adrenal glands, which are the walnut sized organs that sit on top of the kidneys, become fatigued. Our adrenal glands have a huge job within the body. They are responsible for many functions in the body and produce the following hormones:

  • Cortisol which helps to regulate metabolism and respond to stress.
  • Adrenaline and Noradrenaline which control the ‘fight or flight’ response or when our body goes into high alert and senses danger. When this occurs our heart rate and blood pressure increases and our liver releases glucose into the bloodstream for instant energy and our respiration rate increases.
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Our body is meant to only be in the ‘fight or flight’ response when we are in highly stressful situations such as running away from danger. These hormones are only meant to be secreted when the body needs them to survive, but due to our busy lifestyles our adrenal glands can over-secrete them. The adrenal glands become fatigued from over-firing which results in adrenal fatigue, a state when they cannot make enough or the right type of adrenal hormones.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:

  • Craving caffiene to get you going in the morning
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Having increased energy in the evenings and finding it difficult to fall asleep
  • Reduced short term memory
  • Inibility to concentrate
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Craving salt or sugary foods
  • Poor immunity
  • Finding it hard to cope with stressful siturations
  • Irregular blood sugar levels
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Weight gain and an inibility to lose weight
  • Feeling wired throughout the day

How I overcame my adrenal fatigue

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  • Booked in to see a Naturopath (Lynette at My Remedy Clinic who is incredible). She prescribed me supplements to help heal my body. I began taking a good quality Fish Oil, B complex, Magnesium, Zinc, Adrenal Support and liquid herbs similar to the one below. If you do think you have adrenal fatigue I would highly recommend booking in to see a Naturopath who can prescribe the correct supplements for you to take.
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  • Stopped all high intensity exercise and opted for low intensity exercise. I signed up to a yoga studio and began practising 2 classes a week and swapped running for brisk walks. This was initially hard to do as I felt like I was only getting a workout when I would work up a sweat but I knew that my body needed it. By doing this I began to gradually lose weight and lost a lot of the water retention I was holding.
  • Stopped drinking caffeine and began drinking herbal teas. Cutting out caffeine was definitely a challenge but I noticed a HUGE difference straight away to my energy levels once I had stopped. I no longer needed to have caffeine every morning to get me going, I didn’t have a mid afternoon energy slump and I felt less wired in the evenings and more consistent energy levels. So many people rely on caffeine to give them am energy boost throughout the day when all this is doing is actually leaving you with less energy, not more. You will begin to notice how much money you can actually spend on other things instead of the 3 coffees per day.
  • Started getting 8-9 hours sleep per night. I made sure I was in bed by 10 pm every night and stopped using any electronics for an hour before bed time. If you do have trouble falling asleep I encouarage you to read before bed to help calm the mind and get off social media or stop sending emails. Light emitting devices such as laptops, tablets and phones inhibit melatonin production meaning our bodies don’t get the proper signal to fall asleep.
  • Cut down on the amount of refined sugar you are consuming. When I was studying I found myself eating a lot of sugar to give me energy throughout the day which would only spike my blood sugar levels giving me a short burst of energy, leaving me fatigued again. I increased the amount of leafy green vegetables and protein I was eating. I began cooking most of my meals at home instead of buying takeaways or nibbling on snacks throughout the day which meant I knew exactly what was going into all of my meals.
  • We should be drinking between 2.5 - 3 litres of water per day depending on our body weight and how much exercise we are doing. A lot of us are simply not drinking enough water and once you start having the right amount you will notice an increase in energy levels, clearer skin and you will actually eat less throughout the day.
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  • Chilled out! When I stopped uni I had a lot more free time, I was no longer staying up all night writing essays and I had weekends off for the first time in years. I was able to actually read books that weren't my text books, go to yoga, cook dinner and socialise with friends. I understand that for some people it is hard to take time off but I recommend taking 30 minutes out of each day to have ‘me time’ and do something for yourself. Whether it is doing a deep breathing exercise in the evening (too many people only shallow breathe), going for a short walk on your lunch break or writing in a diary at the end of your day.

It can take some people months and even years to overcome adrenal fatigue but once you start addressing it and making small changes to your lifestyle you will begin to reap the benefits. These days I can wake up without an alarm and have energy throughout the morning, my skin has completely cleared up, I am a happier person to be around, I have lost weight and find it easier to lose if it does creep back, my hormonal issues have gone, I can handle stressful situations so much better and I no longer need caffeine to get me going throughout the day.

If you do suffer from adrenal fatigue I am more than happy to help you! Lx

libby@juliaandlibby.com