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  • Kellie Blake RDN, LD, IFNCP, CMHIMP

Why Am I So Tired?

Are you just exhausted? There was a time in my life when I had to take naps in my car on my lunch break because I felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open, the fatigue was just overwhelming. I have been able to reverse my own symptoms, but I come into contact every day with people who report at least one of the these symptoms:

1. Fatigue

2. Insomnia

3. Depression

4. Digestive Distress

5. Mood Changes

6. Stubborn Weight Gain

7. Unexplained anxiety

We've all probably experienced some or all of these symptoms at some point, but if they're a chronic, daily experience, there is likely something going on in your body that needs to be addressed. I know many people, myself included, who have visited their doctor with the above symptoms only to be told there's really nothing wrong. Your doctor may order some blood testing, but if common causes of the above symptoms are ruled out, there's really nothing offered to help you feel better. It can be extremely frustrating to have no answers.

As a functional nutrition provider, I am trained to look for root causes of symptoms. I listen to your story and think about where your symptoms may have originated or what body system may be the culprit. If we can pinpoint the imbalance then we can work to correct it and symptoms can be reversed! No matter what anyone else tells you, it's not normal to be tired all the time, it's not normal to have digestive issues or to work out daily and still gain weight. It's not normal to have a difficult time falling or staying asleep, and it's not normal to be depressed, anxious, or moody. And, it's definitely not related to your age! The good news: there's always a root cause and there's always something that can be done to help you get back to your own normal!

If you're experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, one root cause may be adrenal dysfunction. The conventional medical community doesn't recognize adrenal fatigue as a valid diagnosis, but it's an actual problem that many of us are suffering from. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) keeps us healthy during times of stress. The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and their job in the axis involves secreting the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA. When the body is under stress, whether real or perceived, the adrenal glands are signaled to release the above hormones to help fight the stress. Once the stress has been removed though, the pituitary and hypothalamus should return to normal function. But, when stress is chronic there is a constant stimulation of the HPA axis. Over time, the adrenal reserve is depleted and the above symptoms can occur leading to poor quality of life, not to mention chronic disease.

So, how do you know if you have adrenal fatigue? A functional medicine/nutrition provider can order a comprehensive salivary adrenal function panel, which will provide valuable information and allow your practitioner to work with you to target specific imbalances to help improve your symptoms and rebuild your adrenal reserve.

If you have the above symptoms, nutrition and lifestyle-related changes are vital. Try working on these recommendations and if there isn't much improvement, consider a functional medicine/nutrition assessment with a qualified provider.

Nutrition Tips for Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms:

1. Eat small, frequent, protein containing meals. When hormones are not in balance, blood sugar levels can be affected. Stabilizing blood sugar is a first step in improving your symptoms.

2. Eliminate processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners. These types of foods often affect blood sugar levels and can also cause inflammation in the body. Plus, they lack nutrients and when adrenal fatigue is a problem, nutrient-dense foods are vital to recovery.

3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both of these stimulate the adrenal glands leading to symptom exacerbation and they can both affect sleep quality.

4. Consume at least 9 servings of vegetables per day. Nutrient deficiencies are common in adrenal fatigue. Vegetables provide valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber and water, not to mention phytochemicals not found in other foods.

5. Add good food sources of B-vitamins to your diet. B vitamins are crucial in making neurotransmitters and hormones in the body. Add in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, gluten free whole grains, legumes, organic poultry, eggs, and grass-fed meat.

6. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin C. Vitamin C is the fourth leading nutrient-deficiency in the US, but vitamin C is crucial in helping your body manage stress in a healthy way. If you increase to 9 servings of vegetables per day, you'll naturally increase vitamin C intake, but adding in one or two servings of citrus fruits per day can also increase vitamin C status.

7. Add good food sources of magnesium to your diet. Magnesium deficiency is also common in the US, but is vital for many reactions that occur in the body at the cellular level. Diets deficient in magnesium are associated with depression and anxiety. Add in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, figs, and avocados.

8. Nutritional supplements are often required. Do not begin taking random nutritional supplements. Instead, work with a qualified functional medicine/nutrition provider to determine what's best for your situation.

Lifestyle Tips for Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms:

1. Healthy Sleep: Lack of sleep is extremely detrimental to physical and emotional health. Without restful, restorative sleep, the adrenal reserve will never be restored. Aim for 7 to 8.5 hours per night.

2. Move Your Body: Exercise is crucial, but overexercising can be damaging when trying to rebuild the adrenal reserve. Find the right balance that works for you. A mix of flexibility, cardiovascular, and strength training is best. And remember to allow your body to rest.

3. Restore the Circadian Rhythm: Get in some natural sunlight first thing in the morning and try to follow the natural rhythm of your own body. We are all different, find what works best for you. For example, I feel best when I go to bed at 9:00pm and wake up at 5:30 am.

4. Meditate: This is so important for promoting healthy HPA axis function. I started with just 1 minute of meditation and have worked up to a 10 minute meditation daily. The optimal goal is 20 minutes twice a day, but start wherever you can. Meditation in the morning has been shown to improve sleep at night.

5. Create Healthy Relationships: If you have stressful relationships in your life, work on improving those relationships. Work with a qualified counselor to address trauma and to learn how to create fulfilling social connections.

Most of my clients with adrenal fatigue tend to be women, however men can be affected as well. I think men are less likely to discuss the above symptoms or think there's nothing that can be done. But, no matter who you are, it's vital to restore the adrenal reserve, not only to improve how you feel every day, but to prevent future medical complications. The health consequences of unmanaged stress can be devastating. Managing stress in a healthy way requires an adequate adrenal reserve. Think of it like a bank account: If you continue to make withdrawals without making any deposits, you'll eventually be overdrawn and the overdraft fees continue to pile up.

The way you insure your adrenal reserve is with the above nutrition and lifestyle techniques tailored to your specific situation. If you think this sounds like you, contact me for a free 15 minute phone consultation. Just making a few, targeted changes can improve how you feel every day and prevent future complications.

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