Today is the last post in our
two three week series on adrenal dysfunction. If you have missed any piece of it, go back and catch up!
To Burnout and Back: A Series on Adrenal Fatigue (My story)
Adrenal Fatigue: What is it and do I have it? (Megan’s Story)
Adrenal Fatigue: Is this for Real (Mandi’s Story)
Tiny Glands with a Supersized Job
Running…Right into a Wall ( Julia’s Story)
The Pursuit of an Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosis (Kelly’s Story)
Spit and Swallow – Testing and Treatment
The Rest of the Story (Julia and Kelly)
Adrenal fatigue. That has to be what it is!
I quickly registered for the Revitalize cleanse, focused on restoring my adrenals. My next call was to my Naturopath, Dr. Emily Cleveland to discuss testing.
The cleanse removed dairy, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine from my diet, as well as most animal foods. The supplements that were recommended were adaptogens to help the body deal with stress and to calm cortisol levels. By day 3, I started to feel better. I was still sleeping 10 hours a night and needing naps throughout the day, but my body didn’t ache as much. The revitalize cleanse was completed in 7 days. I decided to maintain most of the routine, especially the adaptogens.
The following Friday, I received my adrenal test kit in the mail. Four vials, 4 sponges, and a plastic bag to contain them all.
The test was simple:
- Rinse out my mouth thoroughly
- Place a sponge under my tongue to absorb my saliva
- Place sponge into vial
I performed this four times: 8 am, 11:30 am, 4 pm, and right before bed. I mailed them the next day and eagerly awaited results. The bad news…Dr. Cleveland said the results may take up to 2 weeks! UGH. Per our conversation, Dr. Cleveland was pretty confident my self-diagnosis was accurate and was also concerned about my thyroid levels. She agreed with the supplements suggested by my cleanse and told me to rest. This meant taking a break from any extra stressors and particularly my grueling workout schedule.
WHAT!? You don’t want me to exercise?
I died a little inside.
Exercise is my stress relief, my favorite job, and a part of who I am. I would miss my students! I would miss my paycheck! How would I stay sane?
Your health is more important. Your family needs you. You’re body is exhausted. Focus on YOU for once! *sigh* I better start listening
I admitted that after I would teach a fitness class, I would need to come home and sleep. My body was achy more often than not, and I was not enjoying my workouts like I usually do. As a triathlete, I started to worry about my upcoming season. I was currently working with a running coach and needed to start my swimming. Now I would have to table all of my training! How would that affect my goals? The struggle was intense. I realized that I was not happy and in order to bring back the passion for fitness, I would need to take some time off.
A difficult decision, but completely necessary.
I eagerly awaited my results. I was praying that there WAS a problem. That something REALLY was wrong with me. That it wasn’t all in my head. I wanted a piece of paper to show to those who questioned my ‘exhaustion’ as proof of a treatable problem. A week later, my prayers were answered. My results were in. YES! Faster than we had expected. I was completely SHOCKED by what we discovered:
- Cortisol levels were sky high between 4pm – midnight: This made no sense to me, since I was exhausted in the MORNING. Dr. Cleveland asked me, “How are you even able to sleep?” I had to really think about it. Lately, I was snoozing by 8pm! Then it dawned on me: if I was still awake at 10pm, I DID struggle to fall asleep or I would wake frequently.
- DHEA was not doing it’s job: DHEA is the rest/repair hormone that is secreted at night. It can only be released when cortisol levels are low. This explains my body aches and exhaustion. My sleep was not restoring my body at all!
- Insulin response was normal: I expected it to be amiss due to the weight gain I had experienced. Chronic cortisol elevation can cause functional insulin resistance. Now I wondered what was causing the weight gain? Maybe the lack of exercise??? Hmm…
- Progesterone was normal: YAY! Not pre-menopausal at 37 *whew*
- Salivary SIgA was depressed: This is the mucosal immunity test. Excessive chronic cortisol output is the culprit. That made sense. What didn’t make sense, is that this test result meant I could have a food allergy or sensitivity!
- Gliadin Ab was HIGH: WHAT? Cortisol levels rise to help fight chronic inflammation. Food allergies are extremely inflammatory.
Gluten Sensitivity Revealed – Yes, folks, it was official. I had a gluten sensitivity.
I was shocked, but also relieved. When I took a minute to think about it, it DID make sense. I am well aware of how my body reacts to most grains. They make me crave sugarlike crazy! I have attempted the Paleo diet two different times which rids the body of grains. It was apparent that I felt better, my skin was clearer, and my workouts were amazing when I went grain-free. Now I know why.
Given the test results and my history, we concluded the causes of my adrenal dysfunction:
- Gluten sensitivity – who knows how long this has been a problem!
- Severe emotional distress
- Lack of sleep – to get work done, I stay up too late most nights.
- Day to day stressors of running a business, a home, and a family
- Remove gluten from diet – including gluten-free oats
- Phosphorylated Serine – to break down the sky high evening cortisol and encourage DHEA to begin doing it’s job
- Bovine adrenal gland – to support the adrenals
- Licorice root – helps decrease cortisol levels (taken in the afternoon)
- Ashwaganda – an adaptogen to help the body achieve balance amidst stress
- Whole food supplement – already taking
- Vit D – already taking – tablet form
- Minimal exercise – starting with 4 weeks
- Tanning bed 5 min a day – optional
I quickly began my therapy. Four weeks later, I added more to my workout schedule. It sucked. I was wiped out. We added to my treatment:
- DHEA – to help my body restore at night.
I was also concerned about my weight gain, so Dr. Cleveland suggested I get a thyroid test.
- T3 levels low – This made sense since it is usually caused by chronic emotional or physical symptoms.
- Vit D very low – My score was 20 points lower than last year!
- The emotional aspect of my diagnosis could not be ignored any longer, so I have started therapy.
- I changed my Vit D supplement to a liquid form at a higher dosage and ALWAYS take it with fat for proper absorption
How I’m doing today
It’s been a crazy road, but I am so very grateful. I am blessed with the knowledge I have about the physiology of my body. I know how to HEAR what my body is telling me (even if I ignore it!), and I was able to catch this problem in the early stages. Had I let it continue without treatment, I would have ended up with complete adrenal fatigue. My cortisol level would have been flat and the recovery time could have lasted a year or more.
Eight weeks after my official diagnosis, I added a second fitness class to my week and began swimming. I could tolerate it well. Ten weeks later, I am up to almost a complete tri-training schedule and I feel pretty good on most days.
Gluten is gone from my diet. This isn’t a huge deal for me. The hardest part is trying to eat out…you never know what’s in things! What I miss the most: my post-ride beer. However, me bestie found my some gluten-free beer that’s pretty good!
My emotional crisis is being managed as best as possible, and therapy is going…well…let’s just say it’s GOING.
I am still taking all my supplements and will do so for the next two months. Then it will be time to re-evaluate. Overall, I feel SO.MUCH.BETTER, but I do have to be careful. I notice that certain foods, like gluten-free oats, make me sleepy (I had to test it…). If I stay up past 10 o’clock, I still have a hard time going to sleep. If I overdo it on a workout, I ache all over. Stress relieving techniques are helpful, so I rely on them to get me through the hardest days. Being diligent on treatment is the only way to recovery from tired adrenals. I like rules, so this works for me.
Through this entire experience I have reaffirmed my belief that your body will tell you what it needs, if you just take the time to listen. I also hold firm to my RADitude. Sure, I may have a pity party for myself every now and then, but the celebration of RADiance is much more invigorating. I want to spread that energy to others and I can’t do that if I focus on what I CAN’T do.
The first thing I knew I MUST do, was to share my story and the stories of others who have been down this road…or are fearful they are just a step from the path. I hope that this series was beneficial to you and for your quest to YOUR RADiant Revolution!
Please share this post and the entire series with your tired, achy, crabby friends who just want to feel better!