You might be thinking “Yeah, So What I’m Tired?”
Isn’t everyone dog-ass tired nowadays? It seems most of us are dragging ourselves through our days and then struggling to get restorative sleep at night … what of it? Besides, what’s the worst that can happen anyway?
I’m here to tell you … PLENTY can go wrong by ignoring your fatigue and continuing to flog that already dead horse you call your life while thinking it’s normal to feel this way.
In fact our new normal is so detrimental to our health that I’ve put together a SHORT list to hopefully open your eyes to what ignoring, or powering through fatigue, can ultimately cost you:
- Premature aging/wrinkling
- Stubborn weight gain
- Memory difficulties
- Sudden hair loss
- Chronic illnesses
- Muscle loss
- Slow recovery from injuries
- Autoimmune disorders, i.e. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
- Full-blown Chronic Fatigue and/or Fibromyalgia
Still not convinced? How about this statistic … autoimmune disorders are among the leading cause of death among American women under age 65 (women are diagnosed with autoimmune disorders more frequently than men).
Sadly, especially when it comes to conventional medicine, our approach to treating health disorders leans heavily upon treating the symptoms of the disorder, rather than what created the problem in the first place!
Part 1 – Identifying the Cause
This is the first article in a series of three I’ll be bringing you over the next month dealing with fatigue (or downright exhaustion), cravings, belly bloat (or weight that just won’t budge), and my favorite subject: sleep struggles.
During an initial Health Evaluation with a client, my primary tool is doing some serious detective work – which suits my Scorpio curiosity just perfectly! Until we can get to the root cause of the disease or health challenge that brought you to me in the first place, it’s easy to end up playing a game of “Whack-a-Mole” with your health; you beat down one symptom only to have another one pop up elsewhere.
To truly solve the overwhelming issue of fatigue and to pinpoint the cause of the weight gain that often accompanies it, we need to address what tend to be the major underlying factors so you can enjoy permanent solutions. That’s where we’ll start today!
Could it be Pooped-out Adrenal Glands?
Weakened or burnt-out adrenal glands are far too often the cause of a whole host of poor-health symptoms. So what are they? Adrenal glands are two small but mighty glands sitting directly over the kidneys with the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT task of dealing with stress from every possible source – ranging from injury and disease to work and relationships. It’s the responsibility of these little glands to stand guard over your entire body’s ability to adapt to stress.
Whew! Talk about pressure – especially in today’s world. These little guys are tap dancing constantly, trying to keep up with what has become our everyday level of stress. We have come to expect ourselves to pump out high quality work twenty hours a day, do a vigorous workout, squeeze in a few hours of restorative sleep somewhere in those remaining four hours, and THEN get back up and do it all over again – day after day, year after year.
In the book Adrenal Fatigue, Dr. James L. Wilson calls the condition of whipping these poor little glands nearly to death “The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.” This is a book (by the way) that I recommend you pick up as soon as possible. Even though my copy was published in 2000, the information still holds very true today. It also provides a fantastic starting point for understanding and healing both adrenal fatigue and its “Kiss’n Cousins,” thyroid disorders.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue or Thyroid Imbalance can include:
- Crave salty or sweet snacks
- Wake up after eight hours of sleep still tired
- Need a coffee or cola drink to get you going, or keep you going
- Crave alcohol
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, i.e. sugar crash)
- All but lost your sex drive – feels like another thing “to do”
- Feel teary, stressed, on edge or “too” emotional
- Life doesn’t seem fun anymore
- Don’t seem able to bounce back from stress or illness like you used to
- Have a thicker middle lately and can’t seem to lose it
- Recurrent respiratory infections/issues (e.g. asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia)
- Long-standing digestive issues (signs include cycling between constipation and diarrhea, belly-bloat or belly ache after eating)
What can bring on any or all of these symptoms – Causes?
- Loss of a significant relationship (divorce, death of loved one, etc.)
- Excessive physical exercise (running, hot yoga, etc.)
- Ongoing stress/fear – especially with no end in sight (job, relationship, etc.)
- Traumatic event (accident, assault, witnessing or serving in war/killing, etc.)
- Caregiving a loved one through a long-term illness
- Poor diet or nutritional needs not being met
- Extended periods of “all work and no play”
- Cluttered and or toxic environment (work or home)
How can you know for sure?
In Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue book there is a thorough description in Chapter 10 regarding tests you can do at home but I’m going to give you the Reader’s Digest version (short and sweet) here:
Iris contraction test
You will need:
- Small flashlight or penlight
- Watch with a second hand
- Dark room
Simply darken the room (a large closet works great) and sit in a chair in front of a mirror. Shine the lit flashlight across one eye (not directly into it) from the side of your head. Keep shining the light steadily across one eye and watch in the mirror with the other.
Your pupil (that dark circle in the middle of your eye) should contract (shrink) immediately as the light hits your eye. If your pupil isn’t able to stay contracted and starts to dilate (open/widen) again within two minutes and stays dilated for approximately thirty to forty-five seconds before it has the ability to contract again – it’s usually a sign you have some form of weakened adrenal gland function. Cool huh?
Low Blood Pressure and Postural Low Blood Pressure test
Although there are other causes associated with low blood pressure, low adrenal function is probably the most common.
All you need for this test is a blood pressure gauge (called a sphygmomanometer) from a local drug store, medical supply house, or the Internet. Get the type that takes your blood pressure for you without requiring a separate stethoscope.
Lie down quietly for about ten minutes and then take your blood pressure while lying down. Then stand up and measure your blood pressure again right away. Normally blood pressure will rise 10-20mmHG from standing up. If it drops when you stand up, you likely have some form of adrenal fatigue.
Either of the above tests will be great to measure your improvements as we address this issue of the next few Courage to be Healthy™ blog postings. As your pupils start showing increased strength and your lightheadedness and other symptoms begin to disappear, you’ll know your adrenal health is improving.
My favorite way to know for sure how your adrenal glands are functioning is with Saliva Hormone testing. This is a simple test where you collect your saliva (yep, you spit) into three or four different vials at various times of the day to determine what your cortisol levels are (cortisol is the hormone produced by the adrenals that is essential for life).
A test kit can be purchased from most naturopathic doctors’ offices for anywhere from $150.00 to $500.00 (which should also include an appointment with the naturopath to discuss the results with you).
So what can you do to start improving your energy before the next blog?
Of course I have plenty of tips and tricks to share with you, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. After all, overwhelm is what I’m here to help you solve right? My goal for today is to start the conversation around the questions and concerns I get asked about daily.
Here are five simple strategies you can begin to follow over the next two weeks. Look for the next installment of my series then, when I’ll share which supplements can balance blood sugar (plus help stop episodes of lightheadedness that come with those crashes), reduce cravings and increase your energy!
- Add a pinch of sea salt to your water to replace the essential minerals you are likely lacking thanks to the low salt craze. Most people with adrenal fatigue tend to have low blood pressure rather than high, so the myth of salt increasing blood pressure isn’t usually a concern anyway.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates such as breads, pastries, crackers, etc. which quickly convert to sugar and can bring on cravings, crashes and confusion.
- Combine proteins and complex carbs (fresh vegetables or fruits) with good fats; this can help stabilize blood sugar and keep your energy strong and consistent. For example, eat raw almond butter on apple slices, raw cheese on celery sticks, avocado (or guacamole) spread on Ezekiel (sprouted grain) bread with chicken breast and sprinkle sea salt on top – yummy!
- Eat small amounts of nutritious foods more often, such as the foods listed above, in order to keep your blood sugar at an even keel. This doesn’t mean eating six regular meals instead of three though. Let your body work less by fueling it with “more bang for your buck” nutrient dense foods every two to three hours.
- Avoid over-exercising. As a yoga instructor, I’ve seen a dangerous trend occur over the past few years, especially with the addiction to how great we can feel after getting a sweat-on and ridding the body of toxins during a hot yoga class. That addictive feeling can lead to students attending two or three classes a day, which can really tax your adrenal glands. Instead, try alternating your workouts like this: Every second day, do a hot, sweaty workout like hot yoga; then, on the alternating day, do a warm yoga class, go for a long walk (outdoors is best), or do Burst workouts (i.e., walk for five to ten minutes then run/sprint with a burst of energy for one or two minutes, then walk again: alternate like this for twenty or thirty minutes).
The “How I look…” is how your adrenal glands might be feeling if you’re overdoing your exercise routine!
Following any, or all, of the above suggestions can help you regain your energy, boost your immune system, and reduce those cravings, which will likely lead to dropping a few of those stuck pounds around your mid-section – bonus!
Until next time: go a little easier on your adrenal glands, lower your expectations of yourself – and while you’re at it, your expectations of others too. (Wow, that’s a biggie isn’t it?) Maybe even squeeze in a nap or two whenever you can – you honestly deserve it!