My Struggle with Adrenal Fatigue (Part I: Stress Sucks Series)
“Don’t be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others.” - Anonymous
This is a Part I of an adrenal/stress sucks series I’m going to write for the blog. (Part II - My Recovery Plan || Part III - All about Adrenal Health… coming soon!)
I have been ashamed. Ashamed of the story of how I overworked and overtrained myself on multiple occasions throughout my life.
Perhaps I should have titled this: “How I ran myself into the ground over and over again all in the name of ‘health’”…
Hi, my name is Kate. I’m a (recovering) perfectionist. I’m extremely type A. I’m the definition of Gretchen Rubin’s Upholder.
And living this way can be HARD. I honestly have a difficult time NOT working, NOT finishing my to-do list, and NOT feeling productive every single day. I believe those of us wired this way are more prone to adrenal challenges.
My whole life, I have been “into” nutrition, fitness and health. Or at least, from the outside, it looked like health.
When I read health and fitness magazines or heard “the experts” say:
Eat less, workout more
Don’t eat carbs after lunch
Don’t eat food after 8 pm
Eat 6 mini meals a day
Eat low fat
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels
Well, I thought that was the way things had to be… and I put them into action! This all began towards the end of high school and into college.
My freshman year, I got VERY ill. I was chronically constipated (not going to the bathroom for weeks at a time) and suffered from amenorrhea. I also lost a ton of weight from the stress of school (that I put on myself. I take full responsibility). I had essentially no immune system as my white blood cell count was almost diminished every time I had it tested.
I was chronically overtraining and undernourishing my body. BUT I was only working out as often as I could and eating 1200 calories (I mean, MyFitnessPal told me that was enough for my stats)... this is health, right? ::shakes head::
After college, I trained and ran 2 half marathons. We got engaged, bought a house, I switched jobs, and got married all within 8 months. Talk about stress!
I got into working out at the gym with my friends AND doing home workout programs. Sometimes I would pull 2-a-days (even 3-a-days!!!).
I would pat myself on the back when I kept my calories and fat under the allotted amounts that my apps suggested. Of course, eating low-fat typically means eating a ton of processed garbage in forms of protein powders and bars… which I was doing!
When I was at my lowest weight ever… I was as miserable as I have ever been.
I always wore baggy clothes and “tried to hide” (because I felt my abs could be more defined, arms more lean). I never wore shorts (my legs still jiggled). I had 0 self confidence and self-esteem. I used to HATE looking in the mirror or taking a picture.
But mostly, I remember how awful I felt.
I. was. exhausted. and running (mostly) on caffeine and pre-workout. I had to press snooze 100000x every morning and drag myself out of bed… but then I would be wired and wide awake at night. My mind would RACE as I was trying to fall asleep. I was lucky if I got 4-5 hours of “restful” sleep a night. I had constant headaches and even migraines.
I was living in a constant state of stress.
Looking back on it all, I don’t know how I “pushed through” and did as much as I did!
I went to:
my PCP (who told me I was depressed and tried to give my anti-depressants)
Gynecologist (who told me I needed to go on birth control)
Gastroenterologist (who gave me prescription laxatives)
Oncologist (for my white blood cell count - who told me that must just be what my body is since it tested low throughout several appointments)
I suppose I took this as nothing must really be wrong since I was never "diagnosed" with something. You know, it must be in my head...
BUT my body was giving me all the signals - fatigue, loss of period, no immune system, sleep troubles, constipation - and I simply kept ignoring them. My doctors didn't think it was anything "serious." And I was of the mindset that being lean and toned was the key to health.
When I signed up for the NTC (Nutritional Therapy Consultant program) and we started to learn about blood sugar dysregulation and adrenal health, lightbulbs started going off. Holy crap, my “healthy habits” were actually making me sick?
I started treating myself… which I now believe is not a good idea. We can justify and “let things slide” when it comes to our own health. While improvements were made, at the end of 2015, I decided to work with a RWP (Restorative Wellness Practitioner).
I want to focus mainly on adrenals for this post, but I will mention that we discovered A LOT through some testing (stool test, saliva tests, blood tests).
Namely, I had a parasite (I’ll blog about this in the coming weeks), my progesterone was in the tubes (although my conventional doctor told me it was in the normal range) which meant potentially getting pregnant was going to be very difficult, my thyroid was struggling (although my conventional doctor told me it was in the normal range) and my adrenals were taking a hit from it all.
Please note: I AM NOT knocking conventional medicine because I absolutely think there is a time and a place for it. However, I also KNOW there is a time and a place for holistic and functional medicine. Without becoming an NTC and learning about “this approach” to health, I truly do not know what state my health would be in today.
On to the results...
At first, my adrenals weren’t so bad. They were higher in the morning and dropping quickly throughout the day, while rising again at night << this was the most concerning (and the result of my body trying to fight off the parasite).
At the time we tested, I wasn’t feeling AS much fatigue. I was through my NTC program and had more knowledge - GOOD knowledge. I was eating A LOT more (1200 calories to 2000 calories a day) and working out way less (6-7 days a week to 2-4 days a week).
I’ll discuss what we did a recovery plan for me in a part II post. But we did retest my adrenals in May 2016 and I remember getting these results and just having a mini meltdown.
This is a more common “trend” of those with adrenal challenges. Basically, in the toilet all day long. Hey, it did get a little lower in the evening!
While on paper this looks A LOT worse, it actually was the result of focusing on the parasite during the first half of my protocol.
I want to tie together this story with one underlying theme: STRESS.
Stress comes in MANY forms:.
Undertraining your body
Overtraining your body
Yes, working out is a stressor! It can be good or bad stress.
Particularly, lack of quality sleep
THE LIST GOES ON AND ON...
When I write part III, I can get into more details about how stress affects our adrenals and cortisol output. It's very important to understand.
But I suppose this is a good place to stop for this section of my mini series here.
If you are struggling with a similar story or experience, please reach out. We can chat and discuss whether we would be a good fit to work together or another path.
I am passionate about helping as many people heal from this type story as possible... I truly believe this is as much a LIFESTYLE and MINDSET healing process, as it is a FOOD situation.
But you can heal!