Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue

Yesterday I read Dr Libby Weaver’s article of “Rushing Women’s Syndrome” in the Huffington Post UK. and shared it on Facebook.  There were several women who commented on how they could relate to this, or, knew several other women who it related to.  And so it reminded me of how there are just so many women out there who are on the go but are struggling with exhaustion and feeling unwell. Yet, these women do not know what to do about it, because the very nature of themselves that got them into that state, (the caring, nurturing woman with career drive and passion), is the very nature that stops them from stopping and taking care of themselves.  And I don’t just mean an afternoon nap on Sunday. I mean really taking care of your emotional, physical and spiritual bodies. I mean making those life changes that are probably scary but you know deep in your gut that it’s what you need.  

And I mean getting real about the fact that you are a woman not a man! (That whole feminist thing really didn’t serve us as well as we think!) Woman are different.  We need different things.  We like different things.  We are wired differently. We operate very differently.  Time to accept it, not fight it.

Reasons for my passion

There are two reasons I speak so passionately about this.  First is that I see people all the time who are suffering from chronic physical injuries and pain, but the underlying issue is that they are adrenally exhausted.  They have undergone so much stress either from work, from their injury, from relationships or a combination of everything, and their bodies have been in that constant “flight or fight” mode.  Their adrenals have been pumping and pumping to create adrenal hormones, which is great when the tank is full.  But over time, they run out of juice.  And this juice is VITAL for function and ABSOLUTELY VITAL for healing.  Cortisol is one of these main hormones and among it’s main functions are to regulate blood sugar levels, anti-inflammatory action, immune response and regulate mood and behaviour.  Usually these people have seen multiple practitioners, sometimes had multiple surgeries and everyone has focused on the bit that hurts.  Yet the bit that hurts cant heal because there is no healing juice!   

The second reason is that I have been there.  In that dark dingy hole where you just keep powering on no matter what, thinking you are saving the world and passionately following your life’s purpose.  Yet you are deeply unhappy, you wake up feeling like absolute shit every day and then you just power on.....and on and on.  You think that if you stop the world will fall apart.  And if there is not that little bit of stress and rush you feel like something is wrong.  

Well, that was how I used to feel.  And, I ran a marathon in this state!  (there really is some truth to that saying that long distance runners are running away from something! funny thing is......you can’t run away from yourself!  Bugger!) 

The way through 

My way through all of this was to make some fairly dramatic changes to the way I was operating, and, as Dr Libby talks about in her article, I had to change the way I perceived myself.  I no longer run that program that I am not enough......not smart enough, slim enough, rich enough, nice enough, blah blah blah.....the list is endless.  Because in that state, you are ALWAYS on the go.  I had to make some fundamental changes in respecting myself enough to see that the decisions I made by myself, for myself, were actually ok.  No one else needed to approve.  If I was the only weirdo ordering gluten free, msg free, organic full fat food, then I had to be ok with that.  If I was the only one sitting on the beach meditating while everyone else was running, that was ok.  If I worked 30 hours a week instead of 70, that was definitely ok!!!  The changes in the way I was operating were all to support my adrenal system, providing time for rest and recovery and not being in a constant state of alert.  Furthermore, these changes are for life.  The more I take time to stop and listen to my body, the easier it is to know what I need.  

What about you? 

So, what can you do if you feel this relates to you?  Firstly, don’t panic.  It took a while for you to get in this state, so it will take some time to undo. Secondly, you are not alone and you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. There are some great resources out there and some great practitioners who can help and guide you.  The one’s listed below are some of the practitioner who I use and refer to.  Thirdly, I’ve put together a general list below to get you started, remembering that it is not just a physical problem with a physical solution.  A wholistic approach is essential.  

Body Intelligence - do some abdominal breathing.  Here is a link to further info, but basically, you do not need to be technical about it in the beginning.  Just breathe into your belly, as much as you can, as often as you can.  This will aid in relaxing the body and activating the parasympathetic nervous system......that part of your nervous system that helps you to rest, digest and heal. 

Movement Intelligence - is all about finding a balance.  Most people either fall into the category of exercising too much or not exercising enough.  Movement is great for your body in so many ways.  Do it frequently and do something you enjoy.  BUT, don’t push yourself to exhaustion all the time.  Think about yin and yang.  Do a bit of yang movement, like running, cycling, tennis, surfing, and then do a bit of yin movement, like stretching, walking, yoga, swim in the ocean.  Balance it out over the week. 

Nutritional Intelligence - make smart choices when it comes to your eating habits.  Start to get less of the bad stuff in and more of the good stuff in.  Try having less caffeine and less sugar in your diet to start with.  The last thing a stressed out body needs is more stimulation and toxins!  

Spiritual Intelligence - get a journal and write in it.  It doesn’t need to document what you’ve done everyday, it is there for you to write your thoughts and feelings.  To write about the things that go round and round in your head.  It is just for you.  No one else should read it unless you ask them to.  It doesn’t even need to make sense.  Writing therapy has been documented across many years as having multiple therapeutic effects in disease management and pain management.  

 WHAT ABOUT THE MEN! 

And men!  While the article listed above refers to women, this kind of adrenal fatigue does not just happen to women.  Men also suffer from this, however, there are usually different driving factors and “causes” behind it.  

This is a complex issue and this article only scrapes at the surface.  So, please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to know more of my experiences of things that worked for me (and things that didn’t).  And, please dont give up if you have been on the merry go round with doctors and specialist and got no answers.  This is not recognised in "main stream" medicine by all doctors.  So they cannot help you with something they know nothing about!

In health,

Jac

References and resources used and highly recommended;

 

Dr Jane Chapman - Integrative Medicine Physician www.drjanechapman.com.au

 

Dr James L Wilson - “Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome” 2001. www.adrenalfatigue.org

 

Dr Libby Weaver - Nutritional Biochemist www.drlibby.com

 

Tracey Whitton - Restorative Yoga Practitioner www.stmt.com.au


Breast Cancer - a sensitive issue

Everyone has a story about health and I love reading them.  We learn so much from hearing about other people’s journey’s in relation to illness and disease.  After hearing so many people’s reaction to Angelina’s decision to have a preventative double mastectomy, I feel like I want to tell my story.  It is not for any other reason than to help people take another look at the same issue.  As it is with many many women in this world, breast cancer is an issue so close to home for me.  Three years ago I nursed my best friend to her death.....she had breast cancer, she had a double mastectomy, she lived another 9 healthy years and then it metastasised into her lungs and bones.  She was a very intelligent, healthy, emotionally connected integrative medicine doctor.  She knew so much about health and it didn’t make any sense that someone who knows everything about alternative medicine, who looked so vibrant and healthy, who was very emotionally and spiritually aware and connected, could number one get the disease, and number two, die from it.  That just didnt make sense to me and it made me question everything.  It also made me realise, there is something about illness and disease that we don’t fully understand.  It is different for every person.  Even though you might be diagnosed with “breast cancer”, it is a different set of things that have caused the disease and that will allow it to either grow or go away.

Last year I got my own personal encounter that was both scary and enlightening.  I had that experience that every woman dreads of finding a lump in their breast.  When I spoke with my doctor, we both agreed that it was not surprising, given I had only just gotten through adrenal fatigue and knew that I had a whole heap of extra estrogen floating around in my body....otherwise known as estrogen dominance.  None of this worried me, I knew it was just a consequence of pushing myself too hard and going through a few years of quite a lot of emotional stress.  I was not scared until I was lying on the table having an ultrasound of my breasts and the very scary, powerful radiologist came in to give me the report on my ultrasound.  Her booming words were that the lump I had found was no issue, however, they found another lump on the other side and it was time to panic please.

What I realise now, is that if it were not for some prior knowledge, some voices of reason and a very skilled and understanding integrative medicince doctor, I would be sitting here now having had either one or two of my breasts cut off.  

I was scared and I was in absolute turmoil about what to do.  I did not want to get into the system.......mammogram, fine needle biopsy, lump removal, etc etc.  I wanted to make some informed choices.  And, I had to make decisions that were right for me with or without the approval of those close to me.  I came to realise that I could make a decision that was right for me and my body, even though others disagreed with it.  A very hard thing to do when all you want is the people around you to agree with you and prop you up.  

So I decided I would give myself 3 months.  I would do some more testing to further understand why I had excess estrogen and why I might have a lump in my breast and how I could best cultivate a healthy body, mind and spirit.  The hardest thing was, during this time I had to try not to stress out about the obvious and I had to somehow get rid of this belief I had.  Without even realising it, I had developed this belief that if I got breast cancer I would die.  Quite extreme, but it’s funny how our minds work based on our experiences.

Part of the tests I had were some genetic testing.....and of course, it showed I was in the 10% of the population who have the progesterone receptor gene that indicates increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  Hhhhmmmm...what now?

Wtih this information, rather than feel doomed to get breast cancer, I felt empowered to know how to further look after my health.  You see, I do not believe that your genes determine your health, it is just the blueprint for what you have got to work with.  There is such a growing field of science in epigenetics that confirms that it is our internal environment, and the signals we send our genes through our belief systems, that determines our health, not the other way around.  Although I knew, understood and believed this, I felt like I was butting up against a massive system that didn’t agree.  If I was to think this way, I had to get the system to agree?! It is such a new way of thinking, and the recent stories of Angelina Jolie show how we have such a long way to go as a society and as a medical system to integrate this knowledge.  When you think and act like I have, most people think you are a bit whack.  I have even been reluctant to tell this information to people because I don’t want other people believing that I am at high risk of breast cancer because of my genes.  I don’t want that around me.  

Now I realise, it is actually ok for people to know, because I know in my heart what really matters to me.....and if the system doesn’t agree, it actually doesn’t matter.  I know what really really matters to me and therefore, what gives me the absolute best opportunity at maintaining a healthy body.   I know that for me it is about healthy and intimate relationships, time at the beach, engaging work, running in the bush, nourishing food, red wine with friends, camping, travel, wearing nice clothes, time with my niece and nephew, dinners with my girlfriends doin weird things like angel cards and astrology.  And, this combination of “things” is totally unqiue to me and would not work for anyone else.  And that is ok.  I don’t need to explain nor justify it to anyone else.  And no one else needs to explain nor justisy to me what their set of things that really matter are.  

So after three months of turmoil, freaking out, deep soul searching, mediatating, drinking wine, juicing and some funny conversations about whether I should do some coffee enemas, I went and had another ultrasound.  This time my experience was totally different and it was calmy, cleaning and precisely explained to me that the lump identified on my previous ultrasound was a fibroadenoma.....it presented nothing like a cancerous lump and  there was absolutely nothing to worry about.  It had not changed and that was a good thing.  What the?  Why didn't I get that information 3 months ago!!  Obviously, taking a closer look at what mattered to me was the lessons I needed.

 

It is my hope that as individuals and as a society, we are able to see things differently.  That we develop a more whole way of seeing and understanding health, and we don’t blindly follow the system that surrounds us.    

After seeing my friend die, and sharing her journey, I learnt at a very deep level, that you can never ever judge anyone else for their decisions or actions, because you have absolutely no idea what they are going through.  We have absolutely no idea what Angelina has been through and it is not for me to judge or even have an opinion about her decision.  It is however important to see things for what they truly are, and not get sucked into a system that will now have women all over the world having “preventative” mastectomy’s.

 

Jac Edser  

Healthy Hormones

Last night at Health School, Shannon gave us an excellent talk about healthy hormones.  A brief overview of her talk is listed below.  Everyone who attended gained a lot of information about how this complex system works to stay “in balance”.

Our hormonal health is governed by our endocrine system;

  •  Thyroid
  •  Pituitary gland
  •  Ovaries
  •  Testes
  •  Adrenal glands

This system is a lot simpler in men than in women and therefore easier to manage.  We can think of this system like an orchestra, if someone is out of tune or off beat, it disrupts the whole flow and sound of the music.  Our hormonal system is the same, if one part if disrupted or effects by internal or external stressors, it will have an effect on the whole system.

Stress has the biggest impact on our hormonal health.  This stress can come from work, money, illness, infections, over exercise, relationships and emotional stressors.  And, it’s not so much the stress itself, but our PERCEPTION of it. 

Short term stress is usually good for us as prepares us for action.  Short term stress activates the sympathetic nervous system or our “flight or fight” mechanism, which gives us a hit of adrenalin.  This increases our blood pressure, increases our heart rate and sends all the blood to our legs and arms ready for action.  If however the stress does not go away........our body adapts by increasing our cortisol levels.  Normally our cortisol is highest in the morning and then lowest during the later part of the day and early evening.  With long term stress it remains elevated for most of the day. 

Increased cortisol levels can cause;

  •    increased weight gain
  •    has a catabolic effect on muscles
  •    creates fluid retention
  •    foggy mind
  •    feeling emotional

Increased cortisol levels can also disrupt our progesterone activity.

Progesterone is a key hormone as it is an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, fat burner and a sleep hormone.

The adrenal glands are key in this as our cortisol, some of our progesterone and serotonin are made here.  And hence, you will often here the term Adrenal Fatigue, meaning your adrenal glands have been exhausted. 

Shannon gave us a few keys to help support our adrenal glands and keep our overall hormonal balance;

  • adequate hydration
  • address the stress or change your perspective of it
  • don't over exercise and balance heavy exercise (yang) with restorative activities like yoga (yin)
  • manage your emotional health
  • adequate magnesium intake either through supplementation or a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, whole grains and nuts
  • adequate Vitamin C intake
  • decrease caffeine

Shannon will be running a three week Women's Health program starting 25th August at 7pm.  Click here for more details on this click here.

 

Your's in health

Jac