In my practice, I talk to my clients quite a lot about the liver. Pretty much all of our problems begin and end with the liver. It’s no surprise, as this organ performs over 300 metabolic processes to keep us alive each day! The word “liver” is derived from the Old English word for “life”, and it’s no wonder because the liver seems to be the key to life. It is even able to regenerate itself given the right nutrients and circumstances! But did you know it can take up to 2 years to fully rebuild your liver? By sticking to the right diet and detoxification protocols, you will provide your liver the best possible circumstances in which to regenerate and renew. And we all know the affects that stress, exogenous hormone use, poor diets, and nutrient depletion do for our livers (if you don’t, I’ll bring you up to speed in future posts!).
You want to feed your baby the best. We all do. As they grow older and begin to eat solids, how can we give them the best start possible with whole foods? If we take a look at what babies around the world, in traditional cultures are fed, we find that nutrient density is key. If we take a look at what is for sale on the “baby food” aisle of the grocery store, we see that sugar, white flour, and cheap processed foods abound. This is conventional wisdom, but is this the best start for babies? Read the rest of this entry »
Functional hypothyroidism is on the rise, and it effects more of us than we realize. While a traditional thyroid panel may not reveal it, there are many, many people who go undiagnosed with hypothyroidism yet still have all of the symptoms. There are many, many reasons for decreased thyroid function, and they are beyond the scope of this article. However, the goal of this article is to simply share some thoughts on how to eat if you are struggling with symptoms of a sluggish thyroid. Read the rest of this entry »
Today begins a several-part series on nutritional therapy and healing through diet, based on some notes and reflections on my own and my daughter’s health journey for the last five years. Her story is a living testimony at how damaging antibiotics and processed food can be, and how healing nourishing foods are! And my story highlights just how amazing and far-reaching the effects of optimal nutrition for energy, weight loss, positive mood, and healthy skin.
I want to share with you something I’m really excited to promote! Nourished Kitchen, and incredible blog that has been featured on CNN Health, is launching a beautifully organized 12-week class on How to Cook Real Food. If you’ve ever wanted more in-depth instruction on the methods of making gluten-free sourdough, or culturing your own yogurt, this class is for you! Watch the video below to get a taste of what to expect! Read the rest of this entry »
As parents one thing we all face, is keeping our energy levels up, as we keep up with our children. This month Whole Foods Market’s current podcast series suggests tips and action steps to support our energy levels naturally and safely. Read the rest of this entry »
We have come past the middle-mark of Lent, the days are getting longer. Spring is certanly in the air and all around us. The world is renewing; apple blossoms and tulips open forth and the old, dead leaves and branches of winter are suddenly transfigured in green. I love spring. Lent can often be thought of as a time of depravation, especially at this point in the fast…and perhaps, if you’re like me, you’ve slipped up a little bit and had a bite or two of meat (or whatever it was you were fasting from!).
Well, there are a little over 2 weeks left, and if you’re tired of spending gobs of money on shrimp and scallops (oh, the irony!) to try and stay low-carb and nutrient dense, then I have some ideas for keeping the fast in a thrify, ultra-simple way: Read the rest of this entry »
So now I was suffering the repercussions of the unfortunate combination of events that led me to this place. My choice to not go the conventional route in treating this condition was met by incredulous reactions from family and friends. No one knew what to think because, besides my mom and Ellen, no one had ever experienced this before. Most had the mindset of my husband, which was that when you are not well you go to a doctor and they fix you.
I don’t blame them for disagreeing with me because I was obviously very incapacitated and there should be an answer out there. They just wanted me to get better. But God had plans for me. The process I would be going through would absolutely rock my world so much that I had no choice but to trust Him to guide me through. I had never in my life been in a position where I had absolute dependence on others and God to get me through something.
As you will see, God strategically placed others in my path at the perfect time to help pull me through in such a way that I had no choice but to see God’s hand in the process. The other gift He gave me in the healing process was not to take the pain away, but to give me the big picture to see what He was doing as He was doing it. Often with God we won’t see that He was intervening until after the fact and we look back at a situation in awe. But this divine perspective I was given gave me hope. And “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:3-5). It showed me that I was not alone (and this is the loneliest experience I have ever had) and that I would get through it and be a richer and more understanding person when I was through. Sometimes that glimmer of hope was very small and I didn’t know how I would pull through, but I hung on and somehow I made it to where I am right now, writing my story.
As I said before, I have always been health conscious and besides my absolute craving for sweets (something I later learned could be fixed by diet changes) I was pretty disciplined in that area. I majored in Health Promotion and Education in college, thinking that even if I never found an ideal job in corporate wellness, I could always use my education for my future family. This general direction I had for my life was refined and fueled by my need to figure out what was going on inside my broken body.
Physically, I was pretty limited because my eyes couldn’t focus well and my hands couldn’t grip a pen well enough to journal for long, but in short spurts I would read and take notes about things that would be helpful to me. I also depended on the ongoing advice from Ellen. She was learning right along side me, but her nursing background gave her a leg up in her understanding (later I found out she was actually going through another bout with the same thing because of some stress in her own life).
Eventually I switched to a local doctor who, in a general way understood adrenal fatigue. She recommended the same book I had been reading (“Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”), which helped to confirm my decision to see her. Just to have someone with some expertise directing my recovery was a huge support to me, even though the process I was in required patience for my body to heal itself.
My doctor helped set me up with some supplements that would be supportive and strongly encouraged regular protein snacks and meals to help with the hypoglycemia that goes along with adrenal fatigue. I learned all about cortisol and how it is produced by the adrenal glands along with adrenaline, to get us through short bouts of stress (i.e. an emergency situation that eventually has an end). The way our society operates is to ignore fatigue and use stimulants such as caffeine to keep going, all the while this continual revving of our engine is breaking our bodies down.
I also learned that my only chance at a real recovery would be to listen to the fatigue and rest. Rest and diet were the answer. My body had depleted itself so drastically of many of its nutrients, that supplements were also essential to boost it back up more quickly than diet alone. There are many distressing symptoms in addition to the fatigue that go along with this depletion of the body’s hormones and nutrients. Because of the intricacies involved with taking the supplements and the need to have ongoing tests to check levels, a knowledgeable doctor is essential, though hard to find. Most traditionally trained doctors have one semester on nutrition and nothing on hormone balancing.
MORE TO LEARN
The fatigue continued until July, about 6 months, when I decided I wasn’t getting any better and my doctor couldn’t give me the detailed answers I needed. One of the books Ellen had given me was called “Chronic Fatigue Unmasked”, by Gerald Poesnecker. He was a naturopath doctor from Quakertown, PA at a place called Clymer Healing Center, who had done research on chronic fatigue patients for 30 years. In his book, he basically said that chronic fatigue was an issue of the adrenal system. Although his perspective was slightly different from the Adrenal Fatigue book, his findings were basically the same and he had a clinic in which he successfully treated those with chronic fatigue. The phone number for his clinic was in the book…so I called.
It sounds simple, but it wasn’t. I was so far out of my comfort zone by that point that one more step out just made sense. A phone call sounds pretty harmless until you start taking medical advice from someone whom you’ve never met, never seen or heard of the clinic and have no idea how legitimate this doctor is, who has never seen his own patient. If there ever was a time for faith, now was it. In my logical, rational world it didn’t make sense. It was something I would have never done before. But as far out of my comfort zone as this was, I felt very peaceful about it.
The minute I heard Dr. Neville’s voice (Dr. Poesnecker’s predecessor) telling me he could help me, I had this sense that this is who God has provided to walk me through this mess. I still asked lots of questions and tried to find reasons why this wouldn’t work. I couldn’t find any. It didn’t make sense to do it this way and I would sound crazy when I told my conservative families and friends, but I didn’t care because I knew this was what I needed. There was a ray of hope. I prayed my way through my conversations with Dr. Neville, always aware that if his advice ever became questionable I would lose my peace about him. I never lost it.
So for the next 2+ years, Dr. Neville played a large part in getting me through the darkest days of my life. His knowledge of the adrenal system and my wacky, disturbing symptoms continued to give me hope. Just knowing that what I was going through was a “normal” process and someone had been through it before me, meant everything to me. And it wasn’t just his knowledge that gave me support. Dr. Neville had literally felt what I was feeling when he experienced his own time of adrenal fatigue. He had been there and gotten out of it.
In our very first conversation, he said some words that were very hard to hear, but following them was the beginning of feeling real improvement: no sugar/low carbs, lots of protein and lots and lots of rest. As hard as I had been trying to eat well with my current diet, it wasn’t good enough. The sugar and carbs were doing me in. I had cut back on sugar but hadn’t cut it out. My body’s sugar metabolism was so sensitive that when I cut out sugar and reduced the carbs, I felt dramatic improvement.
It was early on in this process that Dr. Neville introduced me to the Weston A. Price way of eating. It was very overwhelming at first because starting a whole new outlook on eating was a huge undertaking for anyone, let alone someone who could barely get up to cook a meal. And it wasn’t exactly a quick way to cook either. I tried things as the energy came, my poor family suffering dramatic diet changes that were so foreign at the time. At first I wasn’t so sure about the full fat thing and fermenting and eating organ meats. Then the more I read, it starting making lots of sense. It was food the way it was supposed to be eaten. I’m still working on the organ meat thing, but not because I disagree. It’s because for so many years I was so repulsed by any meat not perfectly sanitized and fat free and pretty, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. (I figure I get my organ meat through the glandulars Dr. Neville has me taking!)
The better I ate, the better I felt. I discovered a sensitivity to preservatives which made life eating meat much more difficult, but much healthier. Also during that time we discovered some food sensitivities in my other family members. Because of that, we had to become basically gluten-free in our household and many meals are dairy and egg free as well. I have been thankful for Carrie’s yummy recipes on her blog as I have had to create a new way of eating for my family. Many of my meals have been downright boring, but when I get the energy and focus enough to attempt a new recipe it is always an exciting time.
NOT THE END
My story of recovering from adrenal fatigue is not over, but not because I haven’t tried everything I can do for myself. Unfortunately, life doesn’t let up even when you’re down. What’s the deal with that?! I keep asking God for a season of rest, free from difficulties but I am still waiting. There have been times where I felt like I was getting my head above water and then life sends something new to knock me down again. And in those times I just keep moving forward, knowing that I don’t always understand why things happen as they do and God is giving me extra fortitude to continue on. But even with all of that, I have been ever-so-slowly improving. I can go about my daily tasks now and even play with my kids.
My energy is pretty consistent under normal conditions. It’s those knock-down times I need to have a little extra reserve on hand and don’t always have it. And since life hasn’t let up on me yet, I’m ready for the next stepping stone in my recovery. Recently, I began taking a bio-identical cortisol replacement. It should give me some of that reserve that life hasn’t allowed for and finally let my adrenal glands rest fully for awhile. If all goes well when my adrenals have had their rest, I will gradually wean off the cortisol replacement and learn to live within the limitations of my own body.
One of the most difficult aspects of my condition has been the isolation and its effect on my relationships. The effort that it took to maintain relationships was so great that my conversations with people were few and far between. As much as I wanted to give to those relationships, I had to limit each interaction pretty strictly if I wanted to keep my energy from taking a nosedive. Unfortunately, just talking itself was a drain.
There were many misunderstandings as I had to cancel plans and in the beginning couldn’t even explain why I would suddenly become unavailable if my energy crashed. Over time others learned to understand why I was limited as I learned brief ways to prepare them for my unreliability. Even my husband was in the dark at first, until we sorted out what was really going on.
Because of the personal nature of this condition, no one will ever fully understand it if they have not been through it personally. That is something that I have had to become okay with, since limiting my energy output and getting better has been my primary goal.
I know I have been supported by family and friends, even with very little to go on, and I have appreciated all the remote support I can get. It’s not so remote anymore and I’m finding several of my relationships that were basically put on hold are becoming even richer than they were before. It is in a huge part because of my own new perspectives.
Relationships really are some of the most important things in life, but the drain happens when I allow others’ needs to become more important than my own. I am a doer and a helper and I am much closer to finding the balance of taking care of myself first before helping others. It’s like the oxygen mask on an airplane. You need to put yours on first or you won’t be able to help the one next to you. There will always be people in need of my help, especially my family, but I have learned first hand that I am no good to anyone when I don’t listen to my gut instincts and give myself what I need first.
I feel like the process I have been through has successfully altered my lifestyle. Life is much simpler than I was making it before. I hope as I make a full recovery I will continue to follow the principles of a truly healthy lifestyle, however unconventional it might be.
I am seriously considering completing the same certification that Carrie is currently undertaking to become a Nutritional Therapist. The timing will depend on many factors – my body’s readiness as well as my family’s readiness. I feel that my “calling” is definitely in the health field and look forward to being able to help others who have had to go through their own personal trials. I don’t feel like a person has to be in the same position I have been in to be empathetic because going through this has given me a very strong understanding for others who are hurting in many ways.
My story is as much of a spiritual journey as a physical one. However horrible the physical and emotional side has been, the process has all been worth it for the spiritual strength and character building that I am still receiving through this process. Even my relationships with my husband and children are richer because of what I (we) have been through.
We want to thank Celeste heartily for sharing her story. Unfortunately, she does not [yet] have a blog, but perhaps this act of writing about her journey will inspire her to keep writing! Please keep Celeste, and all others who suffer this silent disorder known as Adrenal Fatigue, in your thoughts and prayers!
I’m grateful to report that Celeste recently returned home from a two week vacation in Hawaii! Now that sounds like an appropriate Rx for adrenal fatigue!
If you missed Part 1 of Celeste’s Story, you can find it here.
VISIT TO THE DOCTOR
After the first month of my disturbing symptoms and in response to my husband’s pleas to see a professional, I went to a women’s wellness clinic 2 1/2 hours away that specialized in hormone balancing. A blood test revealed that my progesterone was at rock bottom and I had a quick education on the myriad of symptoms that go with low progesterone. I also found out that the birth control pills I was on the prior 4 months had actually replaced my natural progesterone with a synthetic form called progestin. Progestin’s only purpose is to regulate a woman’s cycle. It took the place of my natural progesterone and all of the protective and helpful things that progesterone did for my body were gone.
Later, a saliva test revealed that my cortisol levels were extremely high. The doctor had me continue the tryptophan and GABA and progesterone she had prescribed. She also gave me a prescription for Xanax in case the panic attacks got overwhelming. My first inclination was that I didn’t need it, but I had been swallowing my pride a lot lately and decided to do it one more time just to have something in my back pocket in an emergency. Another opportunity for me to rethink my judgment of those in distress. Then, I was sent on my way. I went back 1 or 2 more times before finding a local practitioner to continue my treatment.
My adrenaline-induced panic attacks continued through my daughter’s 2nd birthday in October and the holidays. Then, shortly after the holidays, the racing feeling that I was continually fighting just stopped. It was replaced with a deep fatigue that, at first, was a restful peace. I started sleeping through the night…and the day. Before, I had to rest because of a weird combination of “wired but tired” (it’s a feeling that only those with adrenal fatigue can fully comprehend), and I was up and down depending on which one was more dominant at the time. Now I was always tired. The ceasing of the constant revving that sat in my chest was a huge relief, but what it meant was that, except for a spurt here and there, my body was almost depleted of cortisol. And the deep fatigue that it brings can barely be described in words.
The only thing I can use to compare the fatigue to is the flu my family recently experienced (probably the swine flu). As I laid on the couch with a fever and the kind of fatigue where you can’t move a muscle and don’t even want to get up to get a drink of water, I had a flashback of how I used to feel. Minus the fever, but including some of the aches, slight nausea, “brain dead” thinking and dizziness, the comparison is pretty close. Except for me it never went away.
Month after month, my body was “resting”, regenerating, trying to build itself back up again. The problem was that in an ideal world I would sleep all day and eat perfectly. My world involved two very active young children and a life that couldn’t just stop because of me. I did my best to rest as much as possible, but the rest of the time I was using the little bit of energy that the rest gave me. I was back to forcing myself to function, without the coffee. But I did discover that green tea was “good for me” and the small amount of caffeine it had I used as much as possible to get me through my days. My husband still helped as much as possible, but he had to make money to pay for all my supplements and other expenses.
About 6 months prior to all of this, my husband had quit his job of 13 years as an engineer/project manager at a mill to start a new career in land development. He had set up an office in our home to build his new business. Now if there is one thing I never had to worry about during this time it was my husband’s ability to keep us financially stable. His is gifted in that area and has never let us down.
Unfortunately, even though the timing was good for me to have him close, it was not good for building a brand new business. Somehow, however, he kept us afloat. And, aside from hiring a nanny to watch the kids, the only option was for him to do it. With me in bed and on the verge of panic much of the time, he had to be on stand-by 24/7. For that I can never thank him enough. It wasn’t the way he had planned starting his new career, but he did what he had to do.
I continued to cook our meals to the best of my ability and he watched kids when I needed help, working in his down time. As I read more books and talked with Ellen, I finally decided that adrenal fatigue was what I was dealing with. The book “Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st Century Stress Syndrome” was my 2nd Bible.
I went through that book with a fine-toothed comb, trying to do everything right to get myself well. The nutritional info was very helpful to me even though I have fine-tuned quite a bit since then. One major thing I realized through the book was how much my diet affects the process of adrenal fatigue. Essentially, the condition is brought on by an overload of stress to your body-internal and/or external. One of the many stressors I had been experiencing was my diet. Prior to having kids, I had always been careful about what I ate (at least what I thought was a healthy, low fat diet). I tried at first and finally gave in to the pre-packaged easy way out. It really was easier and everyone else looked okay doing it.
Unfortunately, that was only one straw on the camel’s back. The more I thought back to my lifestyle and thought patterns and the stresses that had been out of my control, including my own weak adrenal system (a hereditary thing), it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. The human body is resilient to a point, but every body had its limits. And I had found mine.
As far back as I can remember, I got stressed easily but kept it internalized – the worst combination. I think my otherwise healthy lifestyle kept me out of the woods most of my life. I loved the outdoors and grew up as a tomboy riding horses, helping my dad cut firewood, avoiding the indoor domestic duties as much as possible. I also always had exercise to fall back on as a way to wind down. Another thing I loved was playing the piano – my parents used to laugh at me growing up as I pounded the piano for hours to get rid of the stress from life. Time to myself was always another major need I had to regenerate and relax.
I have always been independent, and very self-sufficient. My husband, being of the same mindset, took it in stride as we went through our new marriage. All of my coping mechanisms worked for me until I had a baby. My world got turned upside down. Not only was I recovering from a C-section and the emotional regrets and physical healing that went along with that (I always planned on a natural delivery), but the sudden responsibility of a newborn added quite a bit of emotional stress, as it does to many.
The bigger problem was that all of my stress-relievers were taken away in one fell swoop. Exercise became more trouble than it was worth, alone time was non-existent and the piano playing only happened briefly in between nursing, diaper changes, sleeping and cooking or cleaning. Eventually I found a routine that sort of worked for me until the second child was born.
The elation that came with my successful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) delivery was quickly thwarted with real life. The same issues came up again, but compounded this time. My second child slept very little, had the loudest scream I’ve ever heard and between the two I never found that balance again. At 6 months old she also had RSV, which was the beginning of a viral asthma that occurs with every cold. The first year of her life I was in a total daze.
When the baby was born my oldest daughter started experiencing some extreme behaviors in reaction to the baby. She became more and more difficult to control and would have extreme tantrums with no warning, which confused and disturbed us as parents. We had a feeling these tantrums were more than just power struggles but couldn’t put our finger on what was wrong. Even as we gained more insight, this would continue to be an ongoing source of stress in my life.
To complicate things more, when my youngest was about 1 ½, I was in a car accident in which I hit black ice on the freeway and totaled the little pickup I was driving. Literally, because of the grace of God and guardian angels, no other cars were involved and I came out of it with little more than a huge knot on my forehead and some achy muscles. This traumatized me more than I knew. I thought I was going to die but had nothing physical to show for it.
About 3 months after the accident was when my husband quit his job, which for many would be a negative stress. However, this was actually a positive change for me because it meant a husband who was not on call and leaving in the middle of the night. He set his own hours and his whole demeanor was more relaxed because of this change. Still, there was the unknown of how we would make it financially, but we had money saved and the future looked good in that respect.
A couple of months later, against my better judgment, I went on birth control pills. I had been on them before having children without any problems, but never liked the idea of messing with my hormones like that. The next 4 months were a hormonal nightmare. As I tried to act normal while my insides were freaking out, I could definitely feel the internal stress rising. The doctor didn’t want me to make any changes to the birth control until I had tried it for 4 months. If I had listened to my gut, it would have said “to heck with the doctor, something is not right”. But, I didn’t listen because I had trained myself to push through no matter how I felt if I thought it was what I was supposed to do.
That same summer, everything was coming to a head with my oldest daughter’s emotional issues (by then she was 4 years old). We were at the end of our ropes with her and ready to figure out what was really going on. When we finally made the appointment with a professional at the end of the summer, we had a month’s wait – way too long for parents who had already waited too long…
A month before my body gave out on Labor Day Weekend, we had planned a family vacation to visit relatives who live on Lake Michigan (we live in Oregon). I tried hard to make the vacation a positive experience, but unfortunately everything that could go wrong, went wrong. It started with a major meltdown from my 4-year-old in the airport before we even got on the airplane. When we arrived in Michigan is was the hottest and most humid weather they had experienced all summer and we just happened to be staying in a rental cabin with no A/C. Our relatives’ house didn’t have it either. And the water in the bay was like warm bath water. The local café and iced coffee became my only respite on that trip. Because of the heat, I don’t think any of us ever slept more than 2 hours a night the whole week we were there. On the plane ride back I felt like the walking dead. I remember thinking, “How long can the human body function in this state?”
Apparently not long. About 1-2 weeks later we went camping with family and didn’t sleep for those 2 nights because of our screaming children in the middle of the night. The next weekend was Labor Day Weekend.
There was the answer to my question. My body could hold out no longer.
I am so honored to begin a series of posts on recovering from Adrenal Fatigue naturally from the perspective of one of my readers who has actually lived it. As a nutritional therapy practitioner-in-training, I have already seen so many cases of adrenal fatigue among my practice clients that I’m pretty sure it’s epidemic. Celeste’s story illustrates what happens when we push our adrenals to the max. And I’m not talking about big risk factors here; Celeste was just a mother of two young children going through life like any one of us right now, when all of the sudden her whole life changed.
I hope you enjoy and appreciate the difficult journey and the significance of her being able to put so much energy into writing her story. I invite others who have experienced healing through nutritional means to share their stories with me. I would love to publish them, and I know my readers will enjoy reading them as well! Now, without further delay, here’s Part 1 of Celeste’s story: Read the rest of this entry »