26 Feb What Is Adrenal Fatigue And How Do I Fix It?
I used to have weeks where I taught up to group fitness classes a week, personal train upwards of 15 clients a day, study for University and enjoy a fantastic night life that good old Dunedin had on offer. Along the same time as doing this I was searching for that perfect toned body and eating a low fat, calorie counting diet.
Yet despite all the training I was not losing much weight and somewhere along the line my energy, digestion and skin health began to change. I don’t remember a defining moment and it didn’t happen suddenly, more over the period of a couple of years. My body just couldn’t handle what it used to, and I don’t believe this is age. I believe there was something out of balance in my system and I just ran on adrenaline, caffeine and sugar for a bit too long.
This is where I began to delve deeper into my own health to find answers.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Our bodies produce adrenaline when we are stressed. This is natural. Think back to cave man days. When the tiger chased you, you ran! Today we keep running from the tiger and we keep stressing our adrenals all day every day. Our stimulus of the tiger may have changed in the modern word to stressful emails, over exercising, emotional issues, work stress and wrong foods.
Your body sees that stress the same way. It produces adrenaline because it has to in order to survive. However it only lasts so long that your body can handle that tiger chasing them, so if you then reach for the caffeine, sugar and the wrong foods then more stress happens in the body. This is how adrenal fatigue can be developed.
For me this happened from doing too much, but I was aware of that and let myself recover. However the realadrenal fatigue came when my digestive system was out of balance. Somewhere along the lines I have had a gut infection, and my digestive health hit rock bottom along with my skin health.
Our adrenal glands see stress as stress, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. My stress was coming from my gut. At the time I was eating a pretty conventional healthy diet, yet my skin was s@#t and I felt rubbish. My body was a wreck, I was running off caffeine, having a few wines a week and feeling exhausted each day. I was asking myself “why can’t I? Everyone else seems to be able to do this”.
Then my skin screamed and it wasn’t until my skin got inflamed that I took notice of what I was doing. You can’t really ignore a red rash on your face. So I started the journey to real health.
How Is A Rash Linked To Adrenal Fatigue?
Gut health was out of balance. I have damaged the integrity of my gut over time. I had an overdose of the wrong bacteria and a leaky gut to match (more on this later). So any time I ate something that wasn’t right such as too many carbs, too much sugar, processed foods, over eating or simply too much highly irritable fibre, I basically couldn’t break down the food. It would feed my bad bacteria and they had a great old party in my small intestine.
Toxins were released from the fermentation of the food I couldn’t digest. This then stressed my adrenals out and basically made me feel and look like I had been hit by a truck! I often received comments like “you look tired”, “big night last night ay?”…I wish I could say that was true, but alas I was in bed by 8pm and had about 10 hours sleep! Yet still exhausted.
Other comments included “You are doing too much, slow down”. I do fit in a lot in my day, but I manage it really well. I know how to achieve plenty in my day and I have my work life balance in check. I sleep well, routine is great, I just didn’t have my digestive health in check at the time. But how do you explain this simply to someone who says ‘you look tired?’ I just go with thanks. It is the quickest way to answer.
Adrenal Fatigue and Adrenal Glands
Adrenal fatigue is caused by your adrenal glands are functioning below where they should be. This happens when they cannot meet the demands of the stresses placed upon them. Stresses can come from diet, infections, environment and work. It is not relieved by sleep generally, and in most cases you look fine but you carry around a sense of tiredness or fatigue each day and need caffeine, carbs or sugar to pluck you up each day. This was me to a tee!
Sometimes I would be running fantastic with this concoction, then one little slip up which could be as simple as a stressful day or a late night could throw me out of whack for days. I still pulled through and carried on training and working, just feeling like rubbish.
I shouldn’t be feeling tired. I’m supposed to be fit, healthy and an inspiration! What is going wrong..?
Getting Balance In Your Life
One thing you need to understand, is it is not about the amount of training you do, it is about a balance between the right amount of training. If you are continually running from that tiger then your body is continually stressed and producing cortisol. A stressed body believes it needs to protect itself so it holds onto body fat. Picture that cave man running from the tiger. He doesn’t know when the next lot of food is coming, so he holds body fat for protection.
If you keep stressing your body in this way, it will always hold onto that body fat. This is why you see many people who train the house down but they just can’t lose weight.
I discovered this the hard way by doing it the wrong way, but once I learned that a lean healthy body actually doesn’t require endless hours of cardio, then I was away.
My stress was caused by chronic inflammation in my gut, this lead to improper absorption of nutrients, throwing my endrocrine system completely out of balance. My skin health was compromised and my adrenal system destroyed. I had to bring down the stress and inflammation in my gut in order to relief my adrenal fatigue. This is where I followed an autoimmune protocol that I share in the online gym.
I started to eat foods that bought down inflammation, foods that built back up the integrity of my gut lining and foods that didn’t cause stress on my digestion. This involved lots of broth based meals, well cooked vegetables and meat, and homemade rich gelatin jellys. I started to feel better within days and then slowly but surely started reintroducing new foods again. I do have to play it fairly safe still. Any slip ups can make me look and feel like I have been hit by a truck, the path to recovery wasn’t fast and there were highs and lows but I did get better.
The Importance Of Gut Health
From this post it should be fairly clear how important gut health is. Proper nutrition, correct exercise, thoughts, lifestyle balance, emotions and reactions to stresses in your life play a huge role in your overall health. When you get these things right you can get your adrenals in check and your health where it should be.
Some of the biggest contributors to adrenal fatigue is food choices, lack of sleep, use of caffeine and sugar, doing all nighters, shift work, over training, perfectionism, not having a fun lifestyle.
This is why I teach Nutrition, Fitness and Lifestyle. It is about balance. Finding your balance.
Actionable Learnings For You
1. It is about creating health first. Those people that look lean and toned aren’t necessarily healthy. Ask yourself, ‘What is my ideal weight?‘
2. Eating fat is essential for the health of your hormones, skin and digestion. Eating fat does not make you fat.
3. Autoimmune conditions are caused from inflammation. Everything I consumed should be about reducing inflammation.
4. Most people with an autoimmune condition are likely to have some degree of leaky gut also.
5. The wrong type of exercises increases cortisol and stresses your body. Exercising smarter and not harder gets you results quicker.
6. Sleep is crucial for repair both physically and emotionally. Getting adequate sleep helps you recover from adrenal fatigue, reduces cortisol levels and lowers your body fat percentage. Read my post on ‘can sleep help to lose weight?’
I hope my story has helped explain why I am so passionate about getting down to the root cause of a problem. If you continue to put bandaids over issues, creams over skin problems and never really address the cause of why it is happening, you will never find that place of health that you are so desperately seeking.
Health comes first. Fitness, Nutrition and Lifestyle 🙂