Two years ago I didn’t have the energy to brush my teeth. I would lie in bed before work thinking about what body part I could break that wouldn’t be that painful but would keep me out of work for a few weeks? Yes, I was THAT tired. I was in phase 3 adrenal fatigue. There is no phase 4.
Two years later, things are quite different. I am able to juggle a full-time corporate job (although not for much longer!), build my own health coaching business, attend courses for continuous education and keep delicious, nutritious food in the house all while running after a 3 year old.
Don’t get me wrong, my health is always a work in progress, but the difference between 2 years ago and today is night and day.
As you can guess, one of the most common questions I get asked is this “What did you do to restore your adrenals and your energy?” Here are my top ten tips for the busy person or mom who suspects adrenal fatigue or hormonal imbalance.
1) Start with the numbers. Get your hormone & cortisol levels checked with a Functional Medicine Doctor or a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) practitioner like me. We use a saliva test with samples taken at four times during the day. This provides a baseline of the state of your hormones and also gives clues into what other areas need investigating. An individualized supplement protocol based on your lab work can offer support and improve energy while we are digging to find the root cause of your adrenal fatigue. Sometimes we need a little boost before we can make lasting changes in diet and lifestyle.
2) Blood sugar balance is key. This was incredibly important for my shift in energy. I learned that when you eat is just as important as what you eat. One study looked at the fasting blood sugar levels of nearly 2,000 men, over a 22-year period. Men with fasting glucose levels over 85 mg/dL had a 40 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The same study indicated that with fasting blood sugar between 85-90mg/dL, there is a 20 percent increased risk of dying of a stroke or heart attack; from 90-95mg/dL there is another 20 percent risk of dying of a stroke or heart attack. (1)
- When to eat. This is the most important factor when trying to maintain blood sugar balance. For busy mamas who get up and go, you MUST eat breakfast. I know, I know. How many times have we heard that this is the most important meal of the day? But it is true! Eating within 30-60 minutes of waking will set you up for a balanced day. Establish a route of preparing all of your smoothie supplies the night before, or make an egg burrito ahead of time and heat it in the toaster oven.
- What to eat. For every meal and snack, include a carbohydrate, protein and fat. All carbs are not created equal when it comes to blood sugar regulation. Complex carbs such as quinoa, brown rice and sweet potato are ideal. After eating a half of a sweet potato every day at lunch with cinnamon and coconut oil, my blood glucose numbers stabilized.
- Test your blood sugar. Consider buying a glucometer at the drug store. Take your blood sugar first thing in the morning and then thirty minutes before each meal for a week. This will give you an idea of exactly how you are reacting to what you are eating.
3) Drink water with minerals. Are you constantly thirsty but then when you drink water it doesn’t seem to quench your thirst? This is really common for those with adrenal fatigue. Making sure you are getting enough water is important, but the quality of the water is just as important for adrenal health. Our body is craving the minerals that are naturally in spring water. Since nowadays it has become necessary to filter our water, the good stuff gets filtered out with the bad. We drink a tall glass of water and our body is thinking “where the heck are the minerals that I asked for?” My suggestion is to buy spring water if you can. If you cannot, then you can add the minerals back in with a product like Concentrace Trace Mineral drops.
4) Sea salt on everything! Salt is bad right? Not anymore! I remember when my nutritionist told me to put as much Pink Himalayan salt as I could stand on all of my food. Sure! Sea salt is packed with minerals that support the adrenals and it is delicious.
5) Chicken Bone Broth just like Grandma said. Christa at The Whole Journey taught me that daily bone broth with help someone recover from adrenal fatigue 30 percent faster! I don’t know how I would measure that 30 percent, but bone broth was an important part of my protocol. Bone broth made from organic raw chicken bones (all of the bones!) that is cooked over a 24-hour period helps with gut repair, has highly absorbable forms of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sulfur and is an easily digestible protein. It’s the perfect food for someone in deep adrenal fatigue who needs the maximum nutrients with minimum effort.
6) Don’t forget Vitamin C! Healthy adrenal function requires vitamin C. Tissues in the body use more vitamin C during times of stress. Vitamin C is found naturally in a lot of foods such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, tomatoes, sprouts, kiwi, papaya, red pepper, and cauliflower. One teaspoon of Camu Camu powder added to a smoothie has the same amount of vitamin C as eating 6 oranges, so this is a good option for those of us who really need a boost!
7) Magnesium is essential. Magnesium was really important for my journey out of zombie-land. I would add 2-4 ounces of Magnesium oil, 1 cup Epsom salts and lavender in a bath and soak most evenings. The same thing can be accomplished with a foot bath while you read a book or watch TV. It is a great way to help your body relax while you are also absorbing your way to feeling better!
8) Sleep! Maybe this should have been #1, because this is very important. Every hour of sleep that you get before midnight is like 2 hours in terms of rest and recovery for the adrenal glands. Aim to be in bed by 10pm every night. Don’t forget that the lights from the TV or electronic devices stimulate the pineal gland and can throw off your sleep cycle. I ask my clients to avoid all screen time after 8pm.
9) Less Stress, more massages. As a mom, we sometimes feel that we have to do everything. Create a list of all of the top activities that drain your energy. Brainstorm which of these activities are critical and which could be put on the back burner or delegated. This might sound silly or simple, but this is crucial! We must give ourselves the space and energy for recovery if we want to be able to restore balance.
10) Minimize alcohol & caffeine. Do you wish you had an intravenous drip of caffeine every morning but instead settle for multiple cups of coffee? Although VERY common, heavy use of alcohol and caffeine is very stressful to the adrenals. They give us a quick fix that leaves us ultimately in a more depleted state, causing us to need even more the next time around. This is a very rough cycle.
If you are heavy coffee drinker, start by switching to organic and try to get yourself down to only 1 cup. Always make sure to eat you breakfast first. If you really love the morning ritual of coffee, you could try something like Teechino, an herbal coffee alternative or green tea.
Note: In addition to the above recommendations, the basis of all of my programs to restore hormonal balance starts with eating whole foods while minimizing refined packaged foods, additives, chemicals, toxins, alcohol and caffeine.
Disclaimer: Please see your Doctor to rule out any serious conditions. This information is not meant to diagnose or treat disease, but is just what I have personally found to work well for me.
1. Bjornholt JV, Erikssen G, Aaser E, et al. Fasting blood glucose: an underestimated risk factor for cardiovascular death. Results from a 22-year follow-up of healthy nondiabetic men. Diabetes Care. 1999 Jan;22(1):45-9.