Exhausted? Some lifestyle tips to get your energy back [Part 3]

In my previous blog I went through some dietary tips to help the exhausted adrenal glands recover and in another blog I spoke about the effects that ongoing stress has on the body and how it can affect the adrenals.

Are you constantly tired? Do you not wake up feeling fully refreshed? Do you feel like you are dragging a heavy ball of lead behind you all day long? Or are you ticking lots of the questions on this questionnaire? If yes, then you might benefit from the tips below.

When clients come to me with symptoms of adrenal fatigue, they often want a quick solution to feeling better. Unfortunately there is no one magic pill to take that will restore energy levels in a few days. Recovery is possible through making small lifestyle stages one step at a time. Think about the habits developed over time that may have brought you to exhaustion. Are you constantly worrying for days and months on end about a situation in your life? Are you pushing yourself to your limits at work? Are you in the midst of a stressful life event with no support to help you through it? Are you not sleeping properly and allowing the body to regenerate over night? Are you drinking lots of caffeine and eating lots of convenience and processed foods e.g. foods high in added sugar, salt and bad fats to help give you some artificial energy to get through each day? These habits take time to undo. And it takes time for the body to heal.

You can have the best nutrition plan in the world but if you are not implementing some of the lifestyle changes below you won’t be giving your body a chance to fully heal. I’ve seen it with some of my clients who have the best diets e.g. they’ve cut out all processed foods and reduced or eliminated alcohol and caffeine. However if they are constant worriers, perfectionists and don’t have some downtime or fun times then their adrenals can’t fully heal.

Lifestyle tips to restore the exhausted adrenals

  • Lie down during work breaks – (obviously not possible for everyone but aim to do this at least at weekends)
    Brief (15-30 minute rest) at 10am and
    Brief (15-30 minute rest) between 3-5.30pm
  • Exercise three times per week for 20-30 minutes or less depending on level of fatigue. This should not be high intensity (running, aerobics) as this can put further stress on the adrenals. Exercise can include brisk walking, swimming or yoga/pilates as this sort of exercise promotes and encourages balanced adrenal glands.
  • N.B. Sleep. Regular sleep patterns are a must. It is important to go to sleep by 10.30pm every night. This is because the adrenal glands kick in for a “second wind” to keep us going from 11pm to 1am. This puts tremendous stress on the adrenals. Between 10pm and 1am the adrenals work the hardest to repair the body. Sleep in until 8.30am or 9am whenever possible.
  • have_funLaughter – very important to healing (movies, books, humorous people, etc). If you are constantly working, looking after the family, pushing yourself to achieve targets with no time for some fun, then it’s time to build in what I call “Golden days”. So take a Saturday and plan for the best Saturday you’ve had in decades and do the things that you genuinely love doing.
  • Minimise worry. Worrying makes the adrenal glands work. Relaxing and thinking peaceful thoughts enables them to rest and heal. That’s why yoga and meditation are so good for you. Try not to worry about things over which you have no control. It’s the amount of worry and not necessarily the size of the problem that stresses your adrenal glands. If you worry a lot about little problems, you do as much damage to your adrenal glands as someone who really has a lot of stress. If you can control your worrying when under stress, you minimise the damage stress does to your health. A wise man once said that worry is interest paid in advance on money you haven’t even borrowed yet.
  • Do not get out of bed in the morning until you think of something pleasant – affirmations great to say first thing.
  • Daily break for enjoyment
  • Build in relaxation as part of your day for a minimum of 15 minutes – e.g. reading, bathing with lavender oil & Epsom salts, listening to music, massage.
  • take a deep breathBreathing exercises – do before eating and in times of stress. Check out Dr Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise
  • Locate the “energy robbers” in your life. It can be anything from a food to a perfume, an activity, a nagging memory, a co-worker or a spouse, a building, a room, a situation.
  • Seek some counselling to help deal with or relieve stressors
  • Try Yoga, meditation, prayer, Tai Chi
  • Use reframing techniques to shift your framework
  • Do relaxation response exercises regularly
  • Keep a gratitude journal

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Exhausted? Some nutrition tips to get your energy back [Part 2]

In my previous blog I mentioned the Hypothalamic-Pituitary -Adrenal (HPA) axis that controls how the body handles and responds to stress. Overstimulation of the HPA axis over a long period of time may lead to nutrient deficiencies especially magnesium, chromium, B vitamins (especially B5), Vitamin C and the amino acid L-tyrosine, all of which are needed for the adrenal hormone cascade. It can also lower thyroid and immune function as well as blood sugar balance issues, and if the body is unable to adapt to the stress, exhaustion and adrenal fatigue will eventually kick in.

How to support the exhausted adrenals
Unfortunately in the run up to exhaustion most people have been fuelling themselves with stimulants to help keep up that false sense of energy. Have you ever had that “wired but tired” feeling? Wired by stimulants but yet tired all the time. The common stimulants include caffeine, cigarettes and foods high in added sugar. I remember drinking 5 cups of coffee a day to keep myself going and craving a daily bar of chocolate to get my sugar hit! Little did I know at that time that this was only making things worse and accelerating my body into adrenal fatigue.

Fuelling your body to recovery
It goes without saying that a good well balanced diet is important but it’s also important to remember that we are all biochemically different and that your nutrient needs will not be the same as others. Your nutrient needs depend on your age, gender, health history, environment (e.g. living in a polluted city v’s country, stress levels at home/work). Learning to tune in and listen to your body is also important, and we need down time to do this. If you are rushing around, constantly busy or stressed then this will be a struggle. I will talk more about the lifestyle habits to focus on in my next blog, for now I’ll share some nutrition tips.

Nutrition tips to boost your energy

  • Combine good quality protein (red meat, fish, lentils, eggs) and oils (nuts and seeds) with unrefined carbohydrates (whole grains) at most meals. If you feel you cannot tolerate even wholegrains then talk to a Nutritional Therapist who can provide support to help heal your digestive system. Having protein at every meal slows down the rate at which the stomach empties its food into the next part of the digestive tract, so slowing the passage of the carbohydrates with it and slowing the release of sugar into the blood stream. As soon as you add a protein (animal or vegetable) to a carbohydrate you change it into a slow-releasing carbohydrate helping you to stay fuller for longer.
  • Use cold pressed oils on your raw salads – olive, walnut, flax
  • Increase vegetables (alkaline foods) aiming for 5-6 servings of veggies per day
  • People with adrenal fatigue often have salt cravings and can feel light headed or dizzy with possibly low blood pressure. Try adding a good quality salt e.g. sea salt, celtic salt, himalayan salt or sea salt with kelp powder to your food or water. Add 1/8 to ¼ tsp to a 6oz glass of water. As your adrenals improve your desire for salt will go down so you can then reduce it. If you have any heart issues e.g. high blood pressure then it’s important to avoid this.
  • Eat in a relaxed manner and chew your food thoroughly. Chewing food releases digestive enzymes that help breakdown food and increases nutrient absorption.
  • Eat small regular meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels, mood, decrease tiredness and fatigue, decrease cravings and decrease fat storage.
  • Avoid chocolate if you feel your blood sugar levels are dropping – have a handful of nuts instead or liquorice bars from your local health store. Liquorice supports the adrenals and you’ll sometimes find it in herbal remedies that support adrenal function.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, foods high in sugar as they stimulate the adrenal glands that sit just above your kidneys. People with weak adrenal glands often crave coffee and sugar in particular, as well as salt. Sugar and caffeine stimulate the adrenal glands. It’s as if you adrenal glands are two horses towing a wagon load of bricks up a mountain. Sugar or caffeine is the whip you use to get the horses to keep trying. What they really need to get to the top of the mountain is nourishment and a rest period.  Your adrenals need to rest to recover.
  • Foods with the following nutrients are particularly good for the adrenal glands: magnesium, Vitamin C, and the B vitamins especially B5 – all found in wholegrains, nuts, fruit and veg.

Disclaimer: The advice given in this article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should always consult your General Practitioner or primary healthcare provider if you require medical attention or have symptoms which are causing concern.

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Your stress response, what stage are you at? And can it affect your health? [Part 1]

My first light bulb moment – learning about stress & adrenal fatigue

When I had my first really bad bout of fatigue in 2006 I had never even heard of the term of adrenal fatigue. At the time of my fatigue my B12 levels were low and I was diagnosed by my GP with “Pernicious Anaemia”. The B12 injections and some rest did help initially but then I found that any time I put my body under extra pressure e.g. working harder, running or studying for long periods I would hit that wall of constant fatigue again. It wasn’t just my energy levels that were affected but my digestion, liver function and hormones. I will talk more on the impact it had on these body systems in another blog. For now I’ll explain more about the link between stress and the adrenals.

What’s the role of the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands sit just above your kidneys and secrete hormones called adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. All hormones that give us that get up and go! Cortisol has powerful anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties through its action on the immune system, and also controls the way in which body proteins and carbohydrates are broken down to produce heat and energy.

When should Adrenal Fatigue be considered?
If you have a history of traumatic events, long periods of stress or illnesses in your life it is worth reviewing the health of your adrenal glands.

3 Stress Stages – which one are you in?
1fight or flight response) Alarm Stage
If you experience any physical or mental stress (e.g. a stressful day at work, an argument with a loved one, a job interview, running a marathon) then this will trigger an immediate set of reactions, initially called ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This results in the adrenal glands producing extra amounts of the hormones – adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA that have many roles. This will help to increase the oxygen supply to your organs that are involved in the stress response, e.g. the brain, heart, lungs and muscles. Circulation is moved away from your digestive system and it stops performing many of its functions, for example producing enzymes that help breakdown food. The body thinks it is going to fight that tiger and it diverts the energy to the muscles instead so you can run away! The immune system also becomes suppressed and inflammatory responses are damped. After the stress factor has been removed, everything returns to normal.

2) Resistance (adaptation) Stage
This stage is your long-term reaction to stress. If the stress factor is not removed, the resistance (adaptation) stage will begin. Examples of stressors in this phase might include a stressful childhood growing up, anxious type with busy mind, threat of redundancies at work – high pressured job, unhappy marriage, poor diet and nutrient deficiencies causing stress on the body.

During this stage, cortisol levels continue to rise at the expense of the hormone DHEA, which initially stays stable but then starts to fall. Cortisol levels have an impact on our other hormones e.g. DHEA, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as the body prioritises cortisol production over these hormones. During this stage our hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal Axis is activated which helps us deal with stress.

Some symptoms of HIGH cortisol
• Fat around the middle
• Irritability
• Cravings for sugar & sweets
• Mid afternoon slumps
• Sleep disturbances

Blood sugar levels also increase to sustain energy (resulting in symptoms above) and raise blood pressure. Eventually, though sometimes rather quickly, we adapt to stress, and there’s actually a tendency to become more resistant to illness and disease. If this adaptation phase continues for a prolonged period of time without periods of relaxation and rest to counterbalance the stress response (e.g. are you overworking for extended periods with little play or relaxation?) sufferers become prone to fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy.

This phase of resistance might continue for several months or even years. It depends on the person – your physiology, life history. In my case this resistance stage lasted about a year before I hit the exhaustion stage. During the 12 months in my early 30’s I was constantly worrying about a situation in my personal life. I was running daily and not counteracting this with relaxation, and I wasn’t eating the right foods to help my body recover from the high impact exercise. My immune system started to weaken and I was getting chest infections that I previously had as a child.

If you can recognise the ongoing stressor in this stage and either remove it or learn to manage it, then you are preventing yourself hitting the exhaustion stage.

afternoon_slump

3) Exhaustion Stage
This occurs finally after the body has depleted much of its reserves, energy and immunity. You may feel that you can’t cope with anything mentally, physically or emotionally. You can’t cope with the slightest amount of stress that was never an issue previously. The adrenal glands become depleted and cortisol levels tend to remain low all day long. No-one experiences exactly the same resistance and tolerance to stress, but everyone’s immunity at some point collapses following prolonged stress reactions. By changing our body functions, stress disrupts the natural balance – the homeostasis that is so important for wellbeing.

Some symptoms of LOW cortisol:
• Tired all the time
• Hypoglycaemia
• Poor concentration
• Fatigued not relieved by sleeping
• Cravings for salt or sugar

A Nutritional Therapist or Functional Medicine Doctor can measure your Cortisol and DHEA levels through a saliva test, see gdx link below.

In my next two blogs I will cover some dietary and lifestyle tips to help prevent you reaching the exhaustion phase.

Further information

https://adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-questionnaire/
https://www.gdx.net/uk/product/adrenal-stress-profile

Disclaimer: The advice given in this article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should always consult your General Practitioner or primary healthcare provider if you require medical attention or have symptoms which are causing concern.

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The Power of belief to bring action

The-Power-of-BeliefIt wasn’t all in my head!
Before I was diagnosed by my GP with M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I went for endless blood tests to find out what could potentially be causing my ill health. What did show up in standard medical blood tests was low B12 and positive antinuclear factor. The positive antinuclear factor I realised afterwards was a good thing as it meant that my GP didn’t think I had an illness that was all in my head! A gastroenterologist said the good news is that nothing has showed up you just have a bit of IBS. At this stage I felt disillusioned by the standard medical approach. Ok so I was left with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue but I needed answers as to what was causing my long list of symptoms like muscular pain in legs, arms and back, headaches, digestive problems, poor liver function, fatigue unrelieved by rest, nausea, sensitivities to light and sound.

The medical professionals didn’t have the answers
Chronic fatigue is just a name for a list of symptoms. My GP acknowledge that he didn’t have all the answers and that I was best to look at alternative approaches. There was nothing he could do for me only give the occasional B12 injection and certify time off work to try and regain my stamina.

When I was at my lowest point of ill health in 2008, I had to take a year off work to try and give my body some time to heal. On most days I had about 2 hours of energy when I could get off the couch and do a few things. Thankfully I had my parents to fall back on, you could say they “watered and fed” me for the year so at least I didn’t have to worry about how I could find the energy to get to the shops and cook. On better days after resting more I could get out and about and meet friends for a drink (had to be caffeine and alcohol free as these drinks no longer agreed with me – my body was simply allergic to toxins of any kind as my liver function was poor) or do some research on how to recover. But then after these days of physical or mental exertion my body would crash immediately and back I went to lying on that couch again.

The moments of stillness that brought a new vision
On those days of no energy, no stamina or strength in my body to get up and what I did have plenty of was time to lie still and reflect and eventually my mind did go still. Back then I didn’t even realise it but I was naturally going into a meditative state. When I look back in the years before this I was quite the opposite, I never stopped. Always doing and always thinking. So lying there on that couch and staring at the four walls I began to form a vision of my new healthy self and believe that recovery was possible. I also remember a doctor asking me if I had hope of recovery, I see now why he asked that question. It’s those with hope and belief that have a much higher chance of recovery. The hope gets you through those bad days, it makes you seek out help, it gets you to move forward, to ask questions, to never give up.

Avoid the negative stories
If you have been given a label for an illness by a trusted medical professional, the first thing we do now in our world of technology is search for the term on the internet. Unfortunately what is found mostly are the worse doom and gloom stories. I was given a label for my illness and it was called “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or M.E.”. But this list was a name for a list of symptoms and I realised over time the best approach was to not attach myself to this label but to search for and find the root cause to them.

The challenging thing about having a label such as CFS is the lack of understanding of the illness. Ok so it wasn’t an illness that was terminal, but it was affecting my quality of life and the ability to do things that we take for granted like work full time, a clear mind to make decisions, energy to exercise, socialise and do the shopping. The medical profession say there is no cure, there is a lack of scientific evidence behind treatments to help recovery, and there is a lack of empathy and general understanding towards the illness as the person who has it can often look well on the outside – the illness is invisible. So why am I saying all this, it is because when you have lack of understanding, no immediate answers, then this is the time when it is so important to have belief that recovery is possible. It’s ignoring the negative stories from someone who has battled the illness for years and not recovered, ignoring advice that you have to accept it and learn to live with the illness. Instead believe that recovery is possible and you will attract all that is good to help make it happen.
dont-give-up

Belief” is how you find the way
I remember the days when all the hard work I put in to recovering would result in weeks of good health but then I would go back to my old ways and ill health would kick in again. What kept me going on those days that I faced setbacks? It was my determination to get up again, put the negative thoughts like “I have to live with this illness for the rest of my life”, “I will never be able to work full time” to the back of my mind and get on with life, creating a new vision and dream for my future and believing that recovery was possible. I didn’t know how long it was going to take but I believed that I would recover. It took 7 years for my health to recover fully and everyday now I’m thankful for my good health. I don’t take it for granted anymore and the journey gave me more confidence to follow my dreams, listen to my intuition and take risks.

So if you are facing a health challenge that is having an impact on your quality of life, I hope that my blog posts will encourage you to take action, to move forward, to ask questions, to make lifestyle changes, and have hope that recovery is possible.

If you want success in any area of your life be it health, wealth, happiness then this poem is one to remember!

The man who thinks he can [Walter D Wintle]
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost a cinch that you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost;
For out of the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can!

Caroline Seale BA Hons DipNT mNTOI

The run that changed my life

Quote

It all started back in April 2006 when I turned the last corner, on the last stage of a 10km charity race around the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Determined to cross the finish line in just under 60 minutes, I pushed my body to its then limits, and ignored the signs that my 33 year old body was saying, “Caroline don’t do it, you’re just about to push your body one step too far”. Little did I know as I approached that final hurdle that my life would totally change and take a different road into the future.

Didn’t realise the impact stress has on the body!
In the months leading up to this tipping point, my body was showing signs of fatigue as a result of a number of personal stresses that unfortunately all landed together in the space of one year. Little did I know during this time the impact that mental stresses like worry, anxiety, and fear can have on the body. They were causing physical fatigue where my energy levels and stamina were not the same as the year before and also my immune system had weakened. During the few weeks before the run I had developed a chest cold, taken antibiotics, and was just recovering from the infection when I ran that 10km race. I pushed my immune system to its limits by placing more physical stress on it with a long run.

After that race, I woke up the next day a different person. I suffered from constant chronic muscle pain that started in my legs and then followed into most of the muscles in my body. The fatigue I now had was chronic, it was not relieved after periods of rest and I had a long list of symptoms (digestive issues, poor stamina, brain fog, poor memory, sensitivity to light and sound, muscle pain, intolerance to alcohol, nausea) that resulted in my GP eventually diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as M.E. That race you could say was the final straw that broke the camel’s back!

Facing a future of uncertainty
I will always remember the first time I googled the term “chronic fatigue syndrome”, it was at my parent’s computer in their upstairs landing as I looked out their window at the beautiful landscape. Little did I realise how that landscape would change in the space of a few minutes as I opened the first webpage with a sad story of how a person described their life with this invisible illness. Tears strolled down my face; I wept alone, suddenly realising that there was no quick fix cure. All I could feel was a sense of hopelessness and despair as I was unsure how I was going to manage life into the future.

Taking lessons from life challenges
Looking back I believe that everything happens for a reason and the key is to take lessons from life challenges, grow from them and form a vision of how you wish to face the future. Some say you create your own luck, and looking back I firmly agree with this. Having said that I’m so grateful to the forces that be, that gave me hope and belief that I would one day recover my full health.

Health fully recovered
It took 7 years of research to learn what I needed to do to fully recover. My vision when I left my marketing career in banking in 2012 to set up a nutrition & health practice was to bring health, happiness and inspiration to as many people as possible, and it continues to be my vision to this day. Living with ill health for 7 years brought so many learnings both mentally, physically and spiritually.

Helping you to reach optimal health
I now work with people with all sorts of health problems – digestive, hormonal, weight issues and fatigue. My aim is to provide support to help get to the root cause of the health issue. The basis of my work is nutrition focused but I’m also a reiki master and energy healing is a therapy that I bring to my practice for those who are open to receiving it. Over the next year I plan to share with you what I have learned so far. So if you are interested in following then check out my blog posts here, for posts that I hope will help to fast track your health journey, and inspire you to follow the path to fully recover from whatever health challenge you are facing. I also send out a monthly newsletter, if you would like to subscribe to this just sign up under free updates here.

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs, but how high he bounces when he hits bottom”. George S Patton

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Caroline Seale 2016. This work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 2000, no part may be reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised without the permission of the author.