Adrenal Fatigue

 

 

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Are you feeling anxious, depressed, and irritable? How about experiencing brain fog, cravings for sugar and salt, night sweats, and troubles sleeping?  If so, you could very well be suffering from adrenal fatigue.   Adrenal glands are the endocrine glands that produce a number of hormones including adrenaline and the steroids aldosterone and cortisol.  These are the hormones released in response to stress.  It’s our “fight or flight” gland. Of course this release of hormones can be very beneficial in times of extreme stress (i.e., when you need to swerve your car to avoid an accident).  However, if we take a handful of chronic life stressors (say a job change, divorce, death of a loved one, diagnosis of an illness, birth of a new baby, sick kids, over scheduling social activities, etc.) and put them all together at once, our adrenals start to be taxed and have a lower level of hormones to produce.  Some or all of symptoms (anxiety, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, cravings for sugar and salt, and insomnia/restless sleep, night sweats, etc.)  can set in and if ignored, only make it more challenging to cope with additional stressors.

Lifestyle, relationships, hormone levels, activity, and nutrition are the main focus of the work I do with my clients. I often make referrals to other providers to rule out other factors (hormones, vitamin levels in blood, thyroid, birth control, medications) that might be contributing to their overall mental health and well-being.

Yet, sometimes as health practitioners, we don’t practice all the advice we give.  When it was time for me to pay attention to some red flags, I kept moving right along for a while before I sought out help. You see for a while, I was noticing more fatigue and night sweats. This had all been going on for a while, but was increasing in frequency and duration.   I figured something was going on with my hormones, but I put it on the back burner.

Then, my dog died in September.  Along with that devastating loss,  my closest cousin died a tragic death in the early part of December. Mix in holiday prep and traveling, and it was just all too much.  I ended up getting a nasty respiratory virus that lasted 2 weeks. Fortunately, for me, I consulted with a friend, Krista Margolis, CNP, who is a functional medicine women’s nurse practitioner.  She did a full assessment of my medical history, activity level, supplements, emotional supports, etc.  and decided to run a series of blood work.

The results of the tests were fairly good all things considered. I take a variety of supplements and follow a fairly healthy diet. However, the blood tests showed my adrenals were fatigued.  I was low in progesterone. My immune system wasn’t at the optimal level.  And I was also slightly low in Vitamin  D, chromium, and copper.

First and foremost,  I boosted my intake of Vitamin D3, chromium, copper, and fish oil.  I also added a supplement for adrenal support.  So far, I haven’t noticed much from the supplemental change other than my immune system seems to be better.  It may take a while for my progesterone level to increase from the adrenal supplement.

Second, I cut back on the high intensity workouts.  I haven’t eliminated the high intensity exercises entirely, but I am spacing them out more.  I’ve been adding additional days of compete rest and gentle yoga/stretching or a nice easy cardio on alternate days. The break in intensity has been easier on my Type A personality than I thought it would be.
Third, I started seeing an acupuncturist weekly. She’s been working on balancing my Qi with cupping and acupuncture, getting me more grounded, and reinstating my practice of  meditation before bedtime.  I’ve noticed I’m more calm, mindful, rested and relaxed after our sessions and sleeping much better.

So now I’m getting more intuened in practicing more of what I preach: to SLOW DOWN, rest, meditate, enjoy walks in nature, decrease screen time, boost up my supplements, commit to less social activities, and seek alternative health practitioners that help me stay grounded in self care and harmony.   Finding a better balance of work/home/self care/social life can be hard.  I feel so very lucky to have the additional healing support.

Here’s wishing you all a healthy and peaceful weekend!

xo

Kara

Monday Motivation

Monday Motivation

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Often I hear clients tell me they want to change, but lack the motivation follow through.  Whether it’s a diet and exercise plan, getting a new job, or working on relationship concerns with others, finding the motivation to succeed at changing your life can be challenging.

Last week, I had to teach myself how to use Quickbooks.  It’s tax season and this is a whole new territory for me as a business owner.  I am definitely not a numbers cruncher kind of person.  It was HARD.  I didn’t want to do it, but I had to learn.  How did I make the transition from thinking about the task to making it happen?

Have a plan.  Write it down. Make sure to focus on one task/behavior change at a time.  Too many tasks can lead to complete failure as they can become too overwhelming.  Start small.  Think baby steps.

Identify distractions and obstacles.  What was preventing me from learning how to use Quickbooks?  My dirty and disorganized house.  I like a clean house and when it’s even a tad too disorganized, I can’t focus.  So I cleaned out my closets and dresser; went through my cookbooks.  One pile for trash, another for donations, and another for keeps.  No more distractions. Then I could move on to focusing on the task I really didn’t want to tackle.

Ask for help.  In our independent go-getter mentalities, it can be hard to ask for help, however,  you aren’t alone.  Life is much easier to cope with if we can ask and accept help when we need it.  Recognizing we can’t do it all is freeing.  I called my accountant, he reassured me I was on the right track and offered to meet with me.  Whew!  Such a relief.

Recognize the resistance to change.  Motivation to change in a life changing way often has to come at the right time and place.  It’s probably not a good idea to quit smoking while having to find a new job after being laid off from another.  Be realistic and kind to yourself.  It doesn’t all need to happen at once.

xoxo

Kara

Sleep and Mood

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Sleep can have a positive or negative effect on mood.  There’s no doubt about it.  If you have ever experienced parenting a newborn or pulled an all-nighter at work, you know how challenging to your mood and overall well-being that lack of sleep can effect a you.  Get a decent night’s sleep and suddenly you’re a nicer person.   During my sessions with clients, we often discuss sleep because it’s so important to overall health.

10 Habits That Can Improve Sleep

1. Decrease caffeine. I get it.  That cup (or 2 of 3) of coffee in the am gets you moving.  Go right ahead and have your morning cup of joe.  However, keep late afternoon and evening intake of caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks) to a minimum.   Keep in mind when eating food that there’s caffeine in chocolate, coffee ice cream, and coffee-falvored yogurt as well.

2. Decrease use of electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime.  Go back to reading a good book since studies have shown that exposure to artificial light decreases production of melatonin.

3.  Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual.  This may include a warm epsom salt/lavender oil bath followed by body oil.  Or you can add few drops of lavender oil to your pillow or sheets.

4. Turn up/down the temperature of your thermostat.  For most people, the ideal sleeping temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees.

5. Watch alcohol intake. Alcohol may induce sleep, however, it disrupts the REM (rapid-eye movement) part of sleep in which dreaming and restoration occurs.

6. Supplements.  Used temporarily, Melatonin, Passion Flower, and Camomile Tea can sometimes help.  I personally have strange dreams when I’ve tried Melatonin and Passion Flower so I stay away from them.  Some studies have also shown Valernian Root and Kava (for anti-anxiety) can be helpful as well (however, there are side effects from both of these when combined with alcohol or other drugs).  My advice is to consult with your doctor before using sleep-aid supplements.

7. Eat dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime.  Our bodies need time to digest that evening meal.  Eating too much too late can lead to nighttime stomach rumblings and indigestion.

8. Exercise.  Exercise helps release stress and endorphins, and decreases body temperature.  Our bodies need sleep to recover from vigorous exercise.  Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime or you may have difficulty falling asleep.

9. White noise, ear plugs, and eye masks.  Get a noise maker and those high decibel ear plugs from the drug store.  They’re both well worth the investment. Eye masks can help as well.

10.  Decrease stress.  Life stressors ( losing a loved one, job loss, parenting a sick child, divorce, etc.) are sometimes hard to avoid, yet there are ways to effectively cope with those stressors.  Counseling is a healthy outlet for sharing your feelings in a safe, private, and non-judgmental environment.  Set boundaries with others.  Say “no” to some of those requests from others that you don’t want to commit your time and energy to doing.  A never-ending checklist in your brain is a surefire way to create anxiety and insomnia.

Sweet dreams. . . .

Kara

Self Care

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Picture taken on a hike in Sedona, AZ

 

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed? What are you doing to take care of yourself when life gets a little wacky?

Here’s a few self-care tips to get you back to feeling sane:

1. Get 6-9 hours of sleep a night. The ideal amount of time is different for each person.  Hit the  off button on electronics an hour before bedtime.

2. Exercise. Whether you find it easy or hard to motivate yourself to exercise, getting those endorphins pumping will make you feel awesome when you’re done. Depending on what you enjoy, I recommend 1 hour of high intensity exercise/day-cardio (walking/running/biking), HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), yoga, barre, strength-training, etc.

3. Eat a balanced diet of real food.  This means food that comes from the ground and from animals. Throw all of those diet processed food products in the garbage.  My rule of thumb is if I don’t know what the ingredient is on the list, I don’t recommend buying it. Shop at farmer’s markets and around the perimeter of grocery stores for most of your meals. Your body will thank you.

4. Socialization/support network. Connect with a positive network of family, friends, or a faith-group. Call someone. Ask them to meet for coffee. Or dinner. Or to just visit. We need contact with other human beings.

5. Relaxation.  Meditation, massage, acupuncture, yoga, guided imagery, biofeedback, aromatherapy, and/or a warm bath. Whatever you need to chill out and relax. I’ve been known to stop a cold in its tracks with a shiatsu massage followed by an epsom salt/eculyptus bath.

6. Supplements. Our hours of sunlight are diminishing as winter approaches. It’s important to have your Vitamin D levels checked.  If they are low, add a Vitamin D supplement.  I also recommend a good Multivitamin Fish Oil and a Calcium/Magnesium blend.  Probiotics and digestive enzymes can also help improve gut health.

7. Set goals. Life is a gift to us and goals help lead us forward. Want to take up a new hobby? Learn a new language? Travel to a new country? Carpe Diem.  Start planning now.

Of course there will be times of sadness and agony in our lives. And if you have these tools, coping with those down times can be bearable.

Make healthy choices for yourself.  Your body and mind will thank you.

Kara