When Fatigue Isn't Caused By Lack of Sleep
GUYS. I think I may know the answer as to why every single person in our day and age is always tired.
The reason I feel so compelled to share this with you is because it directly affects me. I have been feeling so uncharacteristically tired, sluggish, lethargic, unmotivated, etc. lately and knew something was up. There was no way I should feel tired after getting 8-10 hours of sleep regularly, working out a good (but not too excessive) amount, eating so well, and drinking lots of water, only one (or so I thought...) cup of coffee a day, blah blah blah. Yet, I feel exhausted by like 6pm not to mention a huge crash at around 3pm where basically productivity was not even a possibility. The worst!
Anyway, that compiled with a host of other health situations going on in this bod (skin problems, digestion problems, etc...) I realized I needed to work with a practitioner and get some tests done to figure out what was really happening.
What did I test? My gut health (GI/Microbiome test), my hormones, and an MRT food intolerance test. While this was a lot of testing and a lot of $$, I definitely see the worth in it considering each test came back with something major I needed to fix to feel 100% Amylou!
To start, I'm going to share with you my results for the hormone test and what I'm doing in response, and why you should definitely consider getting your hormone levels tested as you never know for sure what you're dealing with and this is definitely related to something that our culture has a huge issue with: stress.
SO, the hormone test consisted of saliva tests at four different times during the day. Super easy, obviously super painless. Love that! I sent my little tubes of spit off into the world and awaited results.
This little guy here is a graph of my cortisol levels throughout the day. For those of you wondering, cortisol is known as the stress hormone. Levels should peak in the morning, then fall throughout the day so your lowest levels are at night. While I follow this pattern as you can see in this graph, my cortisol levels are LOW, without getting into the specifics. While still technically in the "OK" range, the low amounts of cortisol my body is producing is definitely indicative of a greater problem and shows my body on its way to full-on adrenal fatigue. The dark green section is normal, so you can see that my cortisol levels in the morning (when they're supposed to be highest) are still about where a normal adrenal-functioning persons's would be before they go to bed. This is a result of complete depletion of cortisol in my body and a sign that I'm "chronically fatigued" or on the way to that area. It basically happens when my adrenal glands were producing so much cortisol at one point that now they are depleted, and can no longer keep up with the demands my body places on them. Enter: extreme fatigue, dizziness, lethargy and more. It's not fun people!
Here's the thing: I do not consider myself a stressed person. Like, at all. I'm pretty lax about school work -- not in a lazy way, but in a way where I'm confident I can get stuff done adequately -- and I don't stress out about conventional things. That being said, there are a ton of "hidden stressors" in our lives that we often overlook. Over exercising, over consumption of caffeine, negative thoughts, negative people, overthinking, eating foods you have intolerances to, and other small issues constantly on your mind. Essentially, we're stressed out about more, and putting more stress on our bodies, then just anxiety about meeting deadlines. There's physical, emotional and mental stress, and when they all are happening at the same time, you can bet our bodies will FEEL it and our adrenals will be overwhelmed. That's when adrenal fatigue happens. Our cortisol levels rise so much that after a while we can no longer keep up and are burnt out.
Long story short, I'm in stage 2 of adrenal fatigue and feeling the effects. And I think it's something that at least 80% of the population (at least in the US/UK) is dealing with. It definitely needs to be addressed, as adrenal fatigue is also caused the disease of the 21st century. Our culture heavily emphasizes work, accomplishments, "work hard play hard" mentalities and other stress-inducing behaviors. Really. The "cause" of adrenal fatigue IS our modern day culture: caffeine, poor sleep patterns, bright blue light at bed (#guiltyyyy), pollution, consistent low-level stress, and nutrient depletion. If you suspect even the tiniest bit of adrenal disfunction, you should for sure at least try to implement some of my tips below (and some recipes!) into your daily life -- for better adrenal function and overall better health!
But I'm working to reverse my adrenal function to up the cortisol my body produces to a normal level so I am feeling myself again and so that my body can produce the right amount of hormones its supposed to. Protocols for adrenal issues are pretty different from the way I normally live, and involve slowing down and relaxing more, -- something I know I need but have a hard time doing, ya know? It may take months or years to reverse the damage but its worth it!
This includes lifestyle changes such as:
- Quitting caffeine -- all coffee, tea, etc (I KNOW.....more on that later, but I've found sufficient replacements)
- Working out less and at a lower intensity (that means more rest days to bring my body back to homeostasis)
- Meditation (longer and more frequently than I usually do)
- Slower, more intentional yoga practices & breath work
- Releasing mind stress/overthinking/excessive worry
- Early to bed (even if I get 8 hours of sleep, I'd like to be asleep before 11pm!)
- Supplements (my practitioner has shown me supplements to boost the adrenals)
- LOTS of healthy fats (coconut, ghee, animal fat, nuts, etc.)
- Less sugar
- Vitamin C & Vitamin B
- Herbs: turmeric, maca, ashwaghanda, Holy Basil
- Smaller, more regular meals (to stress adrenals less)
- Figuring out the smaller causes of stress and addressing it
- More mindful/relaxing time to hang with friends, read, or just do nothing.
Here are some adrenal-loving recipes you should DEF try if you're starting to feel stressed or burnt out:
That's about it! This is all very new to me, so I'll keep you all updated for sure! Stay tuned for more information on gut health (even parasites!!) and food sensitivities!
Anyone dealing with or dealt with adrenal issues?! Would LOVE to hear your experiences!