Tag Archives: Thyroid

Type A and Tired? Adrenal Fatigue – Part 1.

Does this image look familiar? If so, I’m not surprised. It is estimated that up to 80% of adult Americans suffer from some level of adrenal deficiency at some point in their lives, which is most commonly characterized by feeling tired for no reason, having trouble getting up in the morning, irritability and requiring coffee, energy drinks, sweets or salty snacks to keep going.  However, it is one of the most overlooked and under-diagnosed illnesses in the U.S. and can be the underlying issue behind conditions such as of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism and food intolerance.

I can already hear many of you warily saying, “so let’s run this back – being tired all the time, depending on your triple venti latte to be remotely effective during the day, being a little irritable and maybe having an inappropriate fondness for that bottle glass of Pinot every night — who DOESN’T live like that?” Unfortunately, being run ragged seems to be the acceptable norm in this country. As a Mom, entrepreneur and former corporate rat – trust me, I get it. But I’ve also been down in the trenches of adrenal fatigue and am currently successfully climbing out, so I can promise you – it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to figure out how to stop the madness.

All About Adrenals.

These two glands that sit on top of the kidneys may be small, but they are packing some of the most powerful hormones and neurotransmitters related to energy and stress response. They are chiefly responsible for releasing adrenal steroids, such as cortisol, and the catecholamines (a.k.a. the “fight or flight” hormones) epinephrine/adrenalin and norephinephrine.

Cortisol belongs to a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which affect almost every organ and tissue in the body. Cortisol’s most important job is to help the body respond to stress. Among its many vital tasks, cortisol helps:

  • maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
  • slow the immune system’s inflammatory response
  • maintain glucose levels
  • regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

Can you see why you want to do everything you can to keep these two little powerhouses firing on all cylinders?

The Road to Exhaustion.

The progression of adrenal fatigue is slow and insidious. Most commonly, adrenal fatigue is caused by some form of stress – could be physical (e.g. surgery or other serious injury or lack of sleep, excessive consumption of caffeine), psychological (e.g. traumas or chronic stress related to your career, finances, or family troubles), environmental (e.g. toxins from over processed food and other sources) and/or infectious (e.g. a severe case of or recurring bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, sinusitis). Prescription drugs and even pregnancy can also cause stress on the adrenals.

You’re even more at risk if you have multiple stressors simultaneously or one becomes chronic. Your adrenals will never get a chance to come up for air!  Whether you are aware you are under stress or not, your body (and your cortisol levels) is keeping tabs. All stressors are additive and cumulative. At first, stress causes more and more cortisol to be circulating in your system, which can cause weight gain and lower your immune response. But eventually, your adrenal glands throw in the towel and slow or stop producing the need cortisol to combat the stressful situation.

While adrenal fatigue can affect anyone of any age or stage of life, those of us with Type A tendencies can be more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. With attributes such as constantly driving yourself, being a perfectionist and putting yourself under constant pressure, you are putting your poor little adrenal glands into constant overdrive. And so begins the recipe for a lethargic disaster.

Symptoms | Related Conditions

While some people can present without any obvious signs of being sick, they likely experience a sense that things just aren’t quite right and are likely masking their fatigue with caffeinated drinks, sugary foods or other stimulates to drag themselves out of bed and be somewhat effective in their daily lives. While you can’t draw any conclusions by experiencing just one of these symptoms or conditions, if many of these ring true you could be experiencing some level of adrenal deficiency.

Symptoms

Difficulty getting up in the morning Increased time to recovery from illness or injury | bruising easily
Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep Light-headed when standing up quickly
Craving for salt or salty foods Mild depression/less enjoyment with life
Lethargy – not really awake until 10am; fading at 3 or 4pm, feeling best after dinner Increased PMS – bloating, irritable, chocolate cravings
Increased effort to do every day tasks Worsening symptoms with skipped meals
Decreased sex drive Increased fears/anxiety
Weight gain around the middle Confusion/Difficulty Concentrating/Memory Issues
Decreased ability to handle stress Irritability
Feeling cold all of the time Low blood pressure

 

Related Conditions

Rheumatoid Arthritis Respiratory Infections
Fibromyalgia Allergies
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Asthma
Hypoglycemia Frequent Colds
Type 2 Diabetes Cancer
Ischemic Heart Disease Other auto-immune and chronic disease
Alcoholism Food Intolerance

No Love From Western Medicine.

I’ll try not to get too “conspiracy theory” on you here, but the biggest rub with resolving adrenal deficiency is that because it doesn’t fit within the stricture of Western medicine, it can be difficult to find appropriate treatment, or even acknowledgement of the syndrome. First off, medical doctors, during their Big Pharma sponsored programs, are not educated on the etiology or treatment in adrenal deficiency. Even worse, there is no ICD-9 Code for adrenal deficiency or adrenal fatigue until it has become full-blown Addison’s disease. No code for billing = no reimbursement by insurance.

In Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands can have actual structural and physiological damage that could require life long treatment with corticosteroids — powerful, synthetic cortisol which provide a lovely laundry list of side effects including: high blood pressure, bone disease, poor immune system, high blood sugar, vision problems, white patches or sores, acne, swelling of the face, weight gain, and cognitive issues. The failure of Western medicine to recognize non-Addison’s adrenal fatigue is an enormous disservice to Americans, especially in this high stress Petri dish we live in. Dr. James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., PhD explains in his book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, that “with each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected.” When caught early, adrenal fatigue can be easily treated with natural supplements and dietary changes – or even prevented altogether.

Adrenals Role in Food Intolerance & Food Cravings.

Interestingly, there is a lot of crossover between adrenal fatigue and food intolerance.  When you consume foods your body doesn’t tolerate, your body releases histamine causing inflammation. In response, your adrenal glands release cortisol (a strong anti-inflammatory) to mediate the histamine. The more histamine released, the more cortisol required and the harder your adrenals have to work to pump it out. Chronic inflammation from eating foods you don’t tolerate obviously further taxes your adrenal glands and leads to their fatigue. This in turn reduces the amount of cortisol they’re able to produce, which reduces the anti-inflammatory response and allows the histamine to inflame the tissues more. A vicious cycle.

It’s easy to see why Dr. Wilson claims that eliminating foods that you don’t tolerate is “one of the best and easiest ways to decrease the demands of your struggling adrenals.” For a refresher on common food intolerances and guides on clean eating, please refer to my Clean Eating Guide post from January.

There are many more adrenal specific nutrition guidelines as well as lifestyle changes and testing available that can be immensely helpful in restoring proper adrenal function, which I’ll cover in a follow-up post. For my Type A peeps, try to resist Googling your fingers off looking for answers and just GET SOME REST….

10 Ways Eating Clean Will Get You Lean

Fit BodyEating a clean diet not only yields significant health improvements for those with food intolerances and chronic health conditions, but can be the key to achieving your weight loss or weight maintenance goals. It’s a paradigm shift from the calorie counting decree we’ve been fed, but trust me, it’s legit. No calculators or food scales required.

This was a pleasant, surprising side-effect for me when I started strictly following an anti-inflammatory way of eating for rheumatoid arthritis. Being 8 weeks postpartum with about 10 lbs of baby weight to lose, I was amazed at how the weight melted off once I started eliminating foods I had intolerances/sensitivities to and just cleaning up my diet in general. I have since maintained a fitter, 10 lbs lighter frame than my pre-pregnancy, calorie counting and even low glycemic index following weight. And I have maintained this weight even during times when I wasn’t able exercise regularly due to injury or just the general insanity of life.

1. Lose the Bloat.

If you are consuming foods you have sensitivities to, you likely have excess bloating and swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, abdomen, chin or around the eyes. This is due to fluid retention caused by inflammation and the release of certain hormones.

If you’re food sensitivities/intolerances are not known, the best option is to follow an Elimination Diet for at least 2 weeks in which you COMPLETELY avoid the suspect food(s) and all derivatives of that food. Reactions to foods are not always immediate – they can manifest hours or days after ingestion. Symptoms of food sensitivity can include headaches, digestion issues, fatigue, depression, joint pain or arthritis, skin conditions like eczema, canker sores, acne; or sinus congestion.

2. Prevent Fat Storage.

With repeat exposure to toxins from food, our bodies can be overloaded with chemicals that need to be detoxified. When the amount of toxins exceed what your body can process, they are either: 1) stored in your liver, which is coincidentally in your belly area (can you say muffin top?) or 2) they are isolated from the body’s systems in additional adipose tissue (aka FAT) as a protection measure. In essence, your body holds on to excess weight to dilute the toxicity.

3. Avoid Beefing Up (literally).

Here’s some food for thought “Cow’s milk, by design, can grow a 90lb calf into a 2,000 lb cow over the course of 2 years.”

This quote is taken directly from the “Diary Disaster” chapter of the book, Skinny Bitch, possibly the crassest, yet eye-opening part of the book for me. When you consume dairy products (and meat), you are consuming the same hormones and steroids those animals were fed to drastically boast production — and profits. Cows are injected with bovine growth hormone. Is further explanation even required to see why dairy (especially non-organic) is not your friend if you’re trying to be lean?

If you (or the kiddies) absolutely can’t give it up (and you are sure you do not have a sensitivity to it), please promise me you will always choose organic, hormone- and  antibiotic-free milk and meat products. For beef, the best option is organic AND grass-fed (just being organic doesn’t mean they are grass fed). And try to work in some almond, hemp or coconut replacements once in a while.

And no, you don’t need to drink cow’s milk to consume enough calcium (more info on that coming in a later post).

4. Ensure Optimal Thyroid Function.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of  The Ultramind Solution and 3 other New York Times bestsellers, addressing the root cause of illness, one of the most important factors in hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides. Such toxins act as hormone disruptors and interfere with thyroid function.  The other major factor that affects thyroid function, Hyman states, is chronic inflammation, with the biggest source of chronic inflammation being gluten. Of course, consuming other foods you have sensitivities to and highly processed and/or genetically modified foods are also going to keep you in a state of inflammation.

The primary function of your thyroid is maintaining your basal metabolic rate, so let’s keep it in high spirits.

5. Keep Insulin Levels in Check.

Consumed refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates are absorbed very quickly causing a surge in glucose levels (also referred to as having a high glycemic Index). This requires your pancreas to release a responding level of insulin to combat the high levels of glucose which are toxic to the body. I believe it’s well-known, but worth reiterating, that insulin encourages the body to store up calories as fat. Prolonged levels of elevated insulin also contribute to inflammation, which if you haven’t gathered already is kind of a theme we have going. This doesn’t mean you need to go all Atkins on me to keep your weight in check.  Eating a clean diet includes eating high fiber carbs to slow the absorption into the bloodstream and avoid spikes in that fat storing insulin – choose whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and lots of whole, organic veggies and fruits (leave the skins on!).

And there is no exception to this rule just because you’re eating gluten-free. I admit, whole grain, gluten-free products are really hard to find, which was a big impetus in the creation of our Clean Cravings line. Many gluten-free bread products on the market are made primarily with white rice, corn, or potato flour or starch and loaded with sugar (not to mention a bunch of other artificial crap) so they have a high glycemic Index causing that surge of fat storing insulin. So look for the first items in the ingredients list to state “whole grain” and/or use grains like brown rice and quinoa. Here’s the ingredient list of our Just Crust products as a reference:

Ingredients:
WHOLE GRAIN ORGANIC BROWN RICE FLOUR, WHOLE GRAIN SORGHUM FLOUR, ARROWROOT FLOUR, ORGANIC RAW AGAVE NECTAR, GUAR GUM, FRUIT JUICE (GRAPE, PEAR, APPLE), RICE DEXTRIN (A NATURAL AND UNMODIFIED STARCH), ORGANIC OLIVE OIL, SEA SALT.

Read it and weep Glutino!

6. Avoiding the Pitfalls of Refined Sugar.

When refined sugar is consumed, it is stored in the liver as glycogen (blood sugar stored in the liver and muscles). However, if the liver is already overloaded with sugar or other toxins, (which it commonly is due to the prevalent toxins from processed food and environmental toxins), the excess amounts of glycogen get returned to the blood stream in the form fatty acids. The kicker? They are then stored in the less active areas including the buttocks, belly and thighs. One lump or two?

Note: Because this post is focused on weight loss, I will hold my diatribe on the other harmful effects of refined sugar  — for now.

7. Maintain pH balance.

A clean diet means a diet that is not highly acidic (e.g., no coffee, dairy, refined sugars and other refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, fried and processed foods, large amounts of animal protein). According to Dr. Linda Frassetta, a Nephrologist with the University of California,  our bodies now produce fat cells when we have an overload of acidic foods,  to prevent the acid from getting to your vital organs. And not only do they add those unwanted pounds, highly acidic foods deplete your body of the alkaline minerals required to neutralize that acid, which include: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This makes you prone to chronic and degenerative disease. Alkaline foods include: fruits and vegetables (yes, even citrus fruits because once they enter the body they are alkalizing).

8. Fighting Inflammation.

Avoiding inflammation is the common denominator in all of the above points because it is a big contributor to weight gain. But we’re not just playing defense here. While there are many foods to avoid – there are also plenty of foods we can consume to actually fight inflammation.  The key players here are essential fatty acids (EFA’s), which are strongly encouraged in an anti-inflammatory, clean eating diet. Essential fatty acids can be either omega-3 or omega-6 (ensuring a proper balance between the two, requires a post all its own – stay tuned), and are found in: flax seed or flax seed oil, fish or fish oil, hemp oil, chia seed, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, walnuts. These are “good fats” that are needed by the body to make hormones and maintain the body’s metabolic rate. Essential fatty acids can increase thermogenesis (fat burning) and a deficiency may cause cravings, particularly for fatty foods.

9. Have Satiety Kick in Sooner.

Whole foods high in nutrients, essential fatty acids, and fiber and low in refined sugar will keep your appetite in check by triggering your feelings of satiety earlier than processed foods and artificial ingredients. Why don’t you see how many almonds you can eat vs. bag(s) of Baked Lays….

10. Rule Out the Crap.

I know this is an obvious one, but worth mentioning. When you choose only whole foods, especially if you’re cutting out gluten and dairy, there’s not going to be a lot of donuts and candy bars on the menu. Enough said.