Feeling off? It could be Adrenal Fatigue
Nearly four years ago when I turned 30, I noticed a significant change in my digestive system. From bloating and random rashes on my face to irregular bowel movements (Warning! This article is filled with TMI!), I knew something wasn’t right.
While it wasn’t an every day occurrence, it happened often enough for me to take notice and realize something was off. On top of my digestive system feeling out of whack, I was also experiencing chronic UTIs, Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections. I was tested for Crones, IBS, gallbladder disease and every other stomach disease known to man. All of the tests came back normal. My doctor was left scratching his head and it seemed liked the only options I had were antibiotics, antidepressants and birth control.
I opted out of antidepressants and birth control for the time being, but felt like I was constantly popping an antibiotic. I decided that I needed a different solution and took matters into my own hands. I began researching chronic bloating and digestive issues. I began experimenting with my diet, and that seemed to help, but my stomach woes were far from over. I had spent most of 2016 chronically stressed. I was a freelance-casting director living in Los Angeles who was constantly hustling for the next gig. However, this particular year was the slowest work year and I was feeling the effects. I could barely make ends meet and I felt helpless, hopeless and worthless. On top of that, I was broken hearted from a toxic relationship and constantly comparing my situation with my peers. Thoughts like “I should have a house, husband, child, savings account — all of the things” ran through my mind night and day.
I decided to make a move back to the east coast and did nothing but yoga for six months. In 2017, I reentered the workforce. I was working 40-hour weeks plus teaching two hot yoga classes and trying to find time to keep my own hot yoga practice alive. On top of all of this, I was in a certification program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a wellness coach. Not once did I question how I was going to do all of it — I just did it — until I couldn’t anymore.
While it felt like it happened all at once — the chronic constipation, extreme bloating and fatigue, the intense sugar cravings and the sudden weight gain — the truth is my body had been here before, but this time it was worse and I was forced to truly listen. I began seeing the doctors again and all sorts of tests were done once again. No diagnosis was given, but I was again advised to take birth control and antidepressants.
Finally I was referred to a GI doctor who took a holistic approach and decided to seek out a naturopathic doctor. After multiple tests were done, including having to give a stool sample, (Yep!) a diagnosis was finally made.
James Wilson, PhD, a naturopath and expert in alternative medicine coined the term Adrenal Fatigue and defined it as the result of the overstimulation of the adrenal gland. Typically this is caused by chronic stress that leads to inconsistent levels of cortisol. My doctor explained that as a result of my adrenals malfunctioning, I developed Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) defined as the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine. I had adrenal fatigue.
So what’s a chronically stressed girl to do? Well, my journey hasn’t been easy, but I have learned to navigate my way through my adrenal fatigue by doing the following things:
- Eliminate sugar and alcohol during the healing process
- Eat lean proteins
- Eat lots of veggies
- Stay hydrated
- Introduce turmeric into your diet
- Ditch the Orange Theory and HIIT workouts until recovered
- Incorporate restorative yoga and meditation
- Take leisurely walks
- Limit caffeine
- Explore supplements under the supervision of a doctor
- Get PLENTY of sleep
- Unplug and CHILL OUT
When I was diagnosed and started discussing my symptoms with people, I was surprised by how many women were experiencing the same thing but didn’t know what it was or why they were feeling that way. I am on a mission to help spread the word about Adrenal Fatigue. We as a society are chronically stressed and, as women, we are busier and more stressed than ever before. If you feel like you might be experiencing adrenal fatigue, I encourage you to find a doctor who will truly listen to your concerns. Be an advocate for your health. Take control of your nutrition. Find balance. It’s important to remember to take it one day at a time. My healing journey didn’t happen overnight just like my chronic stress. It is a process and one that requires patience and self love and care, but with the right balance, it can be overcome.