Thursday, June 9, 2016

Adrenal Fatigue

At the end of the summer last year I posted about how I was feeling certifiably unwell, just not myself.  I was absolutely exhausted all the time, though I wasn't sleeping well at night, and I would hit 3pm and feel like I was falling off a cliff, I would get angry, grouchy, snap at my kids, and I was going through ridiculous amounts of peanut butter and chocolate chips. Exercise in particular was very difficult for me; though I craved it, my body simply couldn't cope with it...exercise would suck every last drop of energy I had for the day out of me, and I would literally be trying to peel myself off the couch for the rest of the day.  I have always felt better when I exercise, but I had reached a new level of being unwell where exercise was actually detrimental to my body....and when you are trying to shed 40 pounds, it's so deflating.   It seemed as though my hormones were going completely haywire...and I have become pretty familiar with my cycle and how I feel during different weeks throughout my cycle.  My skin was breaking out like a teenager, I wasn't losing weight, my breasts had lost their fullness and felt empty (how's that for TMI on Blogger?), and a myriad of other small symptoms.  I had talked with an NP at work and she had suggested that perhaps I was low on progesterone.  I eagerly ordered some from Amazon, and for a time, I did notice a difference, I was at least sleeping a little better, albeit sweating like a pig at night.  But then things stopped improving and I was left back where I started.  It was frustrating to say the least. 

I kept scouring the internet every night for something that could tell me why I was feeling so horrible, and in a small blog somewhere in the middle of the oceanic internet, there was a reference to adrenal fatigue.  It hopped off the page at me because I had seen this condition last year when I was searching and didn't look into it any further.  This time, I did.  I typed in "Adrenal Fatigue" into my Google searchbar and finally found so much of what I didn't know I was looking for.   Every symptom, every little teeny tiny symptom I didn't think was anything, it was all there.  I devoured it all.

Adrenal fatigue is a tricky diagnosis, which is why it was hard to pinpoint.  Technically, there is nothing wrong with the levels of hormones and substances your adrenals are producing, nor does it have a disease process, so it doesn't fall into the category of Addison's or Cushings' disease.  Herein lies the problem with diagnosing and treating.  I continued to look up videos on YouTube about Adrenal Fatigue and the "Triangle" it forms with your thyroid and blood sugar.  Basically, your thyroid is in charge of healthy body metabolism and keeps the ship running smoothly when the waters are, well, smooth.  When the waters turn rough, and you are stressed out...your adrenals take over, they are responsible for keeping your body safe in a moment of "fight-or-flight" and stress.  These stress responses and the accompanying hormones/steroids released from your adrenals affect your blood sugar, causing hunger/cravings and associated binges...and the subsequent low blood sugar and crash...which then perpetuates the cycle.  This stress "Triangle" also adversely affects your sex hormones....considering that your adrenals are responsible for the production of just about every major sex hormone.  Can you read ABSOLUTE DISASTER?!

In the late summer of 2012, my dad became very sick.  His prostate cancer had returned after being in remission for about 6 years...that's the thing about cancer; it always comes back.  He began to have immense amounts of pain, and it was excruciating to watch.  Being a nurse, I was the co-pilot in his medical plan for treatment.  For many, many months, I fought a long and hard battle every day with someone...every day.  I can't even related to you how horrible those 10 months were before he died, it felt like the devil himself was flinging me around on a hellacious roller coaster.  I say this because I felt like I was living in a state of constant panic for those 10 months.  And my adrenals were overworked and my thyroid was shot.  I never had any trouble getting pregnant with our first two children, but we tried for seven months before getting pregnant with our third (after my dad died)....and I am convinced it's because of my adrenal fatigue.

At the end of February, I started a treatment plan for the adrenal fatigue.  Since I can't really afford to go to the doctor, I was hoping and praying for something I could take that I could get over the counter...anything.  And I found it.  A YouTube video from a physician who treats his patients for adrenal fatigue with....high doses of Vitamin C.  Yup, vitamin C.  I was almost blown away, I didn't think it could have been that easy...I mean, vitamin C is the most available vitamin out there!  This doctor recommends treating adrenal fatigue with between 5,000mg and 10,000mg of vitamin C per day, in divided doses.  Since vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, your body is unable to store it and will excrete what is not needed in the present moment, so you will need to take doses throughout the day.  I started off with 2,000mg a day, and have increased now up to 5,000mg a day.  I will  increase again soon until, as the doctor recommends you notice looser stools (I know, I know), and then back off by 500-1,000mg a day.  The reason for the Vitamin C is that its component is the basic building block for every single substance your adrenals produce, so you are feeding your adrenals and nourishing them from a previously starving and malnourished state.  When they have what they need to make what your body needs, they won't be nearly as stressed out or...fatigued.

I've been doing this now for almost four months, and the difference is night and day.  I wanted to at least take it for three months so I would have an idea of consistent effects, or any regressions.  I do still have bad days from time to time where I am exhausted, can barely peel myself out of bed let alone exercise, but they are no longer every day, which is huge!  I am sleeping better at night, I can focus at work, my memory is much improved, I don't have moments of rage, I don't feel like I am ready to kill someone at 4pm everday (that was a big one)....the change has been incredible.  The biggest thing is that I don't crave Diet Coke anymore.  On my rare bad days, I will feel the old pull for one, but daily, I don't need it...which is so liberating...I hated feeling dependent of that stuff!

While I haven't noticed a change in my weight, I am reminding myself to be patient with this process of healing.  I am not a patient person, and I am not used to cutting myself slack, but this has required me to do both of those things.  I have also gained a new found understanding for people struggling with weight.  I have never been overweight in my life, and finding myself in a situation where I technically AM overweight, and nothing I do changes that, it's very humbling to say the least.  I love that there is a genre of people that think hard work and discipline can make anyone thin...but I've learned it's just not true.  When your body is not well, you can't force it to do or be anything, and that is something you don't understand unless you've been there.  I still continue to exercise, and just recently I've felt well enough to start running (my nemesis).  I have to go slow and not exhaust myself and my body, but it helps me mentally to feel well, also.  I'll go to the gym three days a week for a little over an hour and my body is comfortable with that....any more and it begins to suck all of my energy away and I can tell my adrenals are warning me to take it easy.

In the meantime, I am so happy to feel well, to feel sane and normal again.  There's nothing worse than feeling like you are losing your darned mind and not knowing what the heck is wrong with you!  If you want to know more about adrenal fatigue....which I think many people struggle with and it is commonly mis-diagnosed as so many other things, I encourage you to check out some YouTube videos about Adrenal Fatigue, or Adrenal Fatigue and will find some great information!