The secret to health isn’t found in a crash diet, ab-sculpting gizmo, or a magical fat-loss pill.
Lasting health is not a quick fix! If you’re out of sync with life, simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can make a profound difference in your weight, energy, and overall well-being.
If you’re suffering from weight gain, the key to getting lean is to reset your inner clock, not to struggle and starve. You can release weight and thrive!
We go through periods of time in our lives when the demands are greater, and the stress load is heavier. Regardless of the reasons – illness, relationship difficulties, work struggles, caring for an aging parent or ailing child – there can be a physical impact.
We may turn to food for comfort, or we may not nourish ourselves adequately. During times of stress there are actual physiological changes that happen in our bodies, one of which is weight gain. It may not happen overnight, but if we do not pay attention to our body’s needs, over time we may notice we are putting on the pounds.
Our adrenal glands govern our stress response, by secreting hormones relative to our stress levels. They help control many hormonal cycles and functions in our body. When the adrenal glands are overworked, the body prepares for disaster by storing fat and calories. We crave foods, we lose precious energy, and we gain weight. So how can we keep the heavier stress load from equaling heavier bodies?
I believe that our bodies talk to us. Our bodies send us signals to slow down, find more joy in your life and get off the rat race hamster wheel. Don’t believe me?
Normally when we feel begin to feel hungry, our blood sugar drops and the brain sends a message to the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol activates glucose, fats, and amino acids to keep our body fueled with energy until we eat. Cortisol maintains blood sugar levels, and insulin helps our cells absorb glucose. When we have long-term stress, both insulin and cortisol remain elevated in the blood, and the extra glucose is stored as fat–mostly in the abdomen.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Scientists have discovered that fat cells have special receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, and there are more of these receptors in our abdominal fat cells than anywhere else in our bodies! In addition, scientists have shown that belly fat is an active tissue, acting as an endocrine organ that responds to the stress response by welcoming more fat to be deposited! This is an ongoing cycle until we take steps to correct this adrenal imbalance. How do we do that?
Are you burned out?
You might think the majority of my clients come to me to release weight. Surprise, their biggest complaint is low energy. They expressively ask, “Why am I so tired all the time?”
Low energy can be a sign of adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalance or a low-functioning liver. Healing your adrenals will help to make your hormonal imbalances vanish and can help to make your liver function like a well-oiled machine. Everything is connected
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
It’s when your adrenal glands are so stressed and overused; they can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress.
Clients come to me expecting me to put them on a 1200-calorie diet. However, in order to raise your energy levels and help you release weight it’s not about the calories. It’s truly about your lifestyle, stress levels and eating real whole food that is not processed and full of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives. Counting calories never lasts.
You don’t just contract a disease all at once. When I was diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism, the first thing I noticed was super dry skin, extra fatigue and mildly itchy ears.
My life needed to be balanced. I did what any good workaholic would do; I chalked my symptoms up to the cold, dry weather and the extra hours I’d been putting in on the job and simply ignored the messages my body was sending me. I couldn’t hear the whispers and my body started screaming, “Listen to me, Kathryn!”
I couldn’t get enough sleep and most days I had to fake it through life because my eyes wanted to stay shut, my ears were crusty and covered with eczema, my hands felt like extra rough sandpaper, and I’d gained 10 pounds. It wasn’t pretty!
Body Symptoms are your body’s way of informing you that it’s not receiving the support it needs.
Finally, after the voice in my body got so loud, I went to see my doctor. She told me that my thyroid was imbalanced and wanted to put me on “just a little” bit of thyroid medication. The rebel in me knew that I could heal my body without a pharmaceutical.
I was lucky, I listened to my body, I refused the medication and decided to take matters into my own hands. I knew that the thyroid imbalance was only part of the problem. I needed to dig deeper and discover the root cause to my thyroid symptoms.
What I discovered was that it was not my thyroid that was causing the hormonal ruckus in my body, my poor little adrenals were burnt out, and they needed a reboot.
If you’re wondering where your adrenals are and what they do, let me give you the quick 911.
Adrenal fatigue is often diagnosed in the natural health community based on a specific pattern of symptoms, but it is often ignored by many doctors and the mainstream medical community. Like thyroid disease, the symptoms are very real to those who have it, but difficult for others to see, so many of those suffering from adrenal fatigue are told that they are just depressed, tired, or making it up.
The adrenal glands are walnut-sized organs that sit on top of the kidneys. Though small, the adrenals are responsible for many important functions in the body. They are vital to cortisol regulation, metabolism, keeping inflammation at bay, and energy levels.
The adrenals secrete stress hormones in fight-or-flight situations when the body needs these increased hormones to survive, but our modern lifestyle can cause the adrenals to over-secrete these hormones and eventually become “fatigued” or “exhausted” from this constant over-firing.
Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland—a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain—fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol. If ACTH output is too low, cortisol production drops. Eventually, the adrenal glands can shrink due to lack of ACTH stimulation.
In short, adrenal fatigue is a state where the adrenal glands do not make the correct amount or type of adrenal hormones. Some sources estimate that over 80% of adults struggle with adrenal fatigue in some form.
Belly fat: a common sign of adrenal fatigue
Modern-day stress may be more psychological than physiological, but it is also more constant. Many of us face chronic stress as a way of life, which means we have consistently elevated levels of cortisol. Now the body thinks it continually needs extra fuel, and typically stores that as fat around the abdomen, or as it’s commonly referred to, the old “spare tire.”
So many of the clients I work with are under a constant state of stress. Stress switches the adrenal fat switch to survival mode. Hunger increases, energy decreases, and food is stored as fat.
When we become stressed our bodies are busy working to return us to a calm and balanced state by producing cortisol (your main stress hormone). Your body doesn’t have time to digest food, and the excess cortisol and fat gets stored around our organs and in our bellies.
If you can’t release weight in spite of everything you’re doing “right” to get healthy, you need to take a deep dive, look at adrenal and liver health and the constant stress that is affecting your body and lifestyle.
If you are over stressed, releasing weight is no longer just calories in/calories out.
How Do You Heal Adrenal Fatigue?
The best treatment for adrenal fatigue involves reducing stress on your body and your mind, eliminating toxins, avoiding negative thinking, and replenishing your body with healthy food and positive thoughts.
Take my quiz to find if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. Score 1 point for each symptom you are experiencing:
- Do you have high or low blood pressure?
- Are you experiencing weight changes?
- Do you have cravings for salty or sweet foods that sometimes feel uncontrollable?
- Is it hard to get going in the morning without your cup of Joe?
- Are you unable to stop and always feel like you are on fast forward?
- Do you have ongoing fatigue, lack of stamina, and feel tired and wired?
- Do you feel overwhelmed and can’t deal with the day-to-day stress and regularly feel on edge regularly?
- Are you running on a very “short fuse”?
- Are you experiencing anxiety attacks and can’t reframe your thinking?
- Is your brain foggy or fuzzy and it’s hard to stay on one task because you have chronic racing thoughts?
- Do you have frequent infections or trauma that take longer than usual to recover?
- Do you have the inability to fall asleep or sleep well and wake up during the night for no reason?
- Is your libido low?
- Are our premenopausal and PMS symptoms worsening?
- Do you have blood sugar or digestive problems?
- Are you experiencing dizziness when standing up too quickly?
- Do you have thyroid problems or low thyroid production?
- Are you experiencing body aches?
- Are you experiencing depression?
- Do you have racing thoughts?
- Are you experiencing moodiness and irritability?
- Do you struggle to release weight?
- Are you experiencing bone loss or inflammation?
- Are you experiencing increased allergies
- Are you losing your hair?
- Are you gaining weight?
- Are your muscles tight?
- Do you have the inability to tolerate high-carb/potassium foods unless paired with fat and protein?
- Do you keep artificial light exposure in your bedroom at night?
- Do you overuse caffeine and stimulants?
- Do you have poor sleep patterns?
- Do you eat a nutrient depleted diet that contains a lot of processed food?
- Could you be suffering from environmental pollution exposure (in air, water, home environment, etc.)
- Have you had stressful experiences like the death of loved one, divorce, or separation?
- Have you had major surgery or physical trauma?
- Have you been the victim of a crime or lived in dangerous situations?
- Have you experienced prolonged stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or work environments, and other conditions that produce feelings of helplessness?
- Have you been a caretaker or parent?
- Do you talk to yourself negatively?
To have adrenal fatigue you do not need to have all of these symptoms. If you have more than 2 or 3, I invite you to consider that you may have adrenal fatigue.
If you are experiencing any of these adrenal fatigue symptoms, take heart, there are now many natural ways to treat and support your adrenal system and I can help.
Healing Your Body is Not a Quick Fix
Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is not a condition you can take a pill for and reverse overnight. In fact, because it is typically caused by years of adrenal-depleting factors, it often takes at lease six months (and often years) to reverse, and it must be done by nurturing the body rather than fighting it.
The good news is that even if you aren’t sure if you have adrenal fatigue, the things that help the body recover are generally just good common sense and great for your body. It’s estimated that more than 80% of American adults struggle with adrenal fatigue in some form, so it wouldn’t hurt to try these suggestions:
Adrenal Support Diet
These foods are considered especially supportive to the adrenals:
Here are some simple solutions using real whole foods that will help you to reduce the pesky excess pounds:
Eat more of these foods to reduce cortisol production and improve liver health:
Basil, beets celery, cacao nibs, and walnuts
Enjoy these foods that replace lost nutrients due to high cortisol:
Adzuki beans, almonds, kiwi fruit, lemons, and sweet potatoes.
Savor your food and improve your digestion by adding these foods to your diet:
Ginger, fennel, and cinnamon (I love to eat fennel seeds whole),
healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter, olives, fatty fish and grass-fed meats
Natural Salt/Sea Salt (and lots of it)- those with adrenal fatigue need the extra salt to help the adrenals recover and natural salts also contain beneficial trace minerals. Since adrenal fatigue reduces the hormone aldosterone, which is responsible for salt regulation in the body, many people feel better when consuming adequate levels of real salt.
Protein in the morning– I recommend at least 40 grams of protein in the morning to support the adrenals throughout the day.
Green and Brightly Colored Veggies– Eating lots of green and brightly colored vegetables will provide an array of necessary nutrients and help nourish the adrenals (and the rest of the body)
Eating Regular Meals– Those with adrenal fatigue should eat small meals throughout the day and not fast, as this can further stress the adrenals
Vitamin C Rich Foods– Vitamin C is vital for adrenal health, and many of us do not get enough. I love using Camu Camu supplementation (http://amzn.to/1WjM96m), this is one of the best forms of vitamin C.
Licorice Root (http://amzn.to/1NowGPJ)– Licorice Root will heal your gut and soothe your adrenals. Be cautious if you have high blood pressure use the form that has the high blood pressure properties removed, DGL (http://amzn.to/1TOKSRq).
B Vitamins – B-vitamins are also important for adrenal health, especially B5, B6, as well as B12 and folate.
Vitamin D– is also important for adrenal health.
Zinc– The adrenals depend on adequate levels of zinc in the body, and many of us are deficient. I focused on eating zinc containing foods like oysters and also took a natural zinc supplement.
Ashwagandha– An adaptogenic herb that is known to help balance the adrenals. I took this during my recovery, but it isn’t recommended during pregnancy or nursing, so check with a doctor first.
Magnesium– Experts estimate that 95% or more of us are magnesium deficient due to depleted soil levels and increased stress. The body uses extra magnesium during times of stress and requires added magnesium during times of adrenal fatigue. Since adrenal problems often go hand-in-hand with digestive troubles, I found that topical magnesium spray was much more effective for myself rather than internal magnesium supplements. My favorite is: Best Magnesium Oil Spray – http://amzn.to/278x6Ao
Probiotics– Because of the gut and digestive connection, I also benefitted from taking a natural soil-based probiotic (and still take this daily)
I took these supplements under the care of a doctor when I was struggling with adrenal fatigue. Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before taking any supplements, especially if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Lifestyle for Adrenal Health
In cases of adrenal problems, lifestyle can be just as important as diet. In fact, it can sometimes be more important!
These steps are typically recommended:
- Getting enough sleep each night and being in bed by 10 pm each night– Staying up past 10:30 PM will typically cause the adrenals to give you a “second wind” and make it more difficult to sleep. Those struggling with adrenal fatigue need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night and should also nap when tired if possible.
- Address Stress and find a way to reduce the factors that are leading to emotional or mental stress.
- Counseling– If stress is caused by emotional trauma in the past, counseling can be helpful.
- Hydrate Carefully– Those with adrenal struggles may have depleted minerals and may be mildly dehydrated. To help replenish the body, it can be helpful to add a pinch of salt to water before drinking it and make sure you are drinking fluoride free purified water.
- Don’t Exercise Excessively – Sounds counter-intuitive, but those with adrenal struggles can actually do more harm than good by exercising. Of course, mild things like walking or leisure swimming are fine, but most experts recommend avoiding high-intensity exercise during the first month or two of recovery. If you’ve ever had trouble losing weight, even when exercising regularly, this might be a problem for you, so you should consider resting for a month or two to see if it helps.
For more information on healing your adrenals, your liver and reducing belly fat:
Contact me for an initial assessment and consultation and let’s bring you and your adrenals back to Joyful Living!