This post follows from my previous posts and, having already explained what Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is and how to make sense of it from a psychological perspective, I would like to focus on how to treat and manage AFS. Firstly, I must say that I am still very much in this process. I am certainly no guru/know-it-all but I have learned a great deal from my own journey, as well as from many clients that have come to me with Adrenal Fatigue and related depression and anxiety.
In 2013 I improved a great deal but before I had really built some more reserves I fell pregnant again and went straight back into depletion. After a minor crash in 2015 and a big one this year I have spent the large part of this year really focussed on healing and restoring my body to balance and health. It may sound disheartening that it has taken so long but firstly, when you have spent years depleting yourself it can take a long time to build yourself up again, and secondly, when you have a very strong and willful daughter and a son with a predisposition towards destroying himself, others and objects and a desire to scale every conceivable structure in his vicinity, it takes longer to rejuvenate! However, I am definitely getting there and I am excited to share the knowledge I have in the hopes that it will be of benefit to some.
To focus on managing AFS I want to look at a number of aspects across different posts. Firstly, one has to seek a diagnosis and assistance from a healthcare practitioner and receive the correct supplements. Secondly, it becomes very important to SIMPLIFY life- and simply put this means looking at how can you expend less energy? Thirdly, there are lifestyle changes that need to happen in your daily routine and this includes how and what you eat. Fourthly, time management and perfectionism need to be looked at and balanced (This is probably the one that will cause the most resistance for many!!) and, fifthly, shifting your attitude and self-perception, and reaching out for help to do this, if needed.
Today, I am going to share what I have done in terms of my healing regime as recommended by a doctor who specialises in Functional Medicine. It is not going to be very helpful to go to a conventional medical doctor as they do not recognise AFS and use more inclusive ‘normal’ ranges for testing levels of hormones etc. A conventional doctor will generally only recognise adrenal deficiency at the point when the adrenals are drawing on their very last reserves, lying, panting, a few meters from the metaphorical oasis in the desert yet not able to restore themselves with some life giving nourishment! Please avoid getting to this point and if you suspect your adrenals are battling be kind to them and your body and seek the assistance of a naturopath or integrated medical doctor.
This is what I have had to do (bearing in mind this was based on my unique blood workup and how my doctor practices). I began supplementing with DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) – a bioidentical hormone – to rebuild my own DHEA reserves. DHEA is the precursor to other hormones and helps with Cortisol imbalance as well as indirectly supporting hormone imbalance caused by the adrenal and DHEA depletion. (DHEA is used when Cortisol is depleted and then DHEA becomes depleted, throwing many other hormones out of balance). I have been using adaptogens which are herbs that are greatly restorative. I use Metagenics Adreset as well as Megagenics Licorice Plus which helps with systemic inflammation. I was given a number of Vit C drips which also contained things like glutathione and magnesium as well as other ‘stuff’ that was depleted as a result of the AFS. This was when I was at my lowest. I then supplemented with high levels of Vitamin C, high levels of Vitamin D and received regular Vitamin B injections. I also took magnesium as well as Zinc as I was low in these.
As the adrenals became stronger we started to focus on healing the gut – essentially healing the lining of the gut to prevent ‘leaky gut syndrome’ where larger molecules of food enter the blood stream and are experienced as a threat to the body resulting in systemic inflammation as well as compromised immune system and food allergies. This can lead to AFS but is also exacerbated when adrenals are depleted. I have had to do the dreaded elimination diet to figure out what my body sees as a threat so that I can remove these for some time as the gut heals. These definitely include stimulants (caffeine, cocoa, alcohol), sugar, gluten, dairy and corn. I had to remove a whole lot more and have slowly added some foods back that do not cause a reaction. In the meantime I have started using a ‘green’ powder (spirulina, wheatgrass, algae and all that green stuff!) as well as Aloe Vera and colustrum powder which helps to heal the lining of the gut. Many people also take glutamine but this caused me to experience insomnia. Not good with a toddler waking for one to two hours at a time while cutting molars! Finally, I make my own broth using organic, grass-fed beef bones and have a cup day. This is excellent for healing the lining of the gut and contains many healing nutrients and amino acids.
Alongside, the above I have been seeing an acupuncturist once a week who helps me to restore my yin/yang balance (as my yin is very depleted due to the general depletion of my body and this results in undernourished blood as well imbalance in the organs). I have been taking some chinese herbs to support the nourishing of my blood and the needles help too! In addition, I have been seeing a cranio-osteopath who has been assisting with getting my body better aligned as the torsion in the pelvis and upper spine also impact on the nerves to/from the adrenals and spine and cause a ‘squashed’ digestive tract, resulting in more energy being needed for digestion and anabolism than should be the case. I suspect that many people who battle with AFS will be out of alignment as the ‘holding’ behaviour and attitude that often leads to AFS can manifest as tension and holding in the body (See my post on bodymind connection).
Now we have finally moved to the point where my adrenals are stronger and my gut is slightly stronger and I am able to do a liver cleanse. Please note it is very important before doing any cleanses and even doing the gut repair work to ensure your adrenals are strong enough to cope. I learned the hard way when I tried a parasite cleanse and that caused my adrenal crash at the beginning of the year. It puts too much stress on the body. I am now taking a multi-herbal cleansing supplement and one specifically focussed on bile production and liver restoration.
This healing regime points to how interconnected our bodies are and the importance of healing all aspects of the physiological processes involved, ESPECIALLY the gut which is integral to health.
I’m sure that in reading this the thought came up that this must have cost a great deal of money and that is true. I was fortunate enough to borrow some which I could pay off and to have had a successful practice this year (although I had to initially take a full month off work so I could recover enough from my lowest point). The next challenge was to balance my work output with my healing and that is where I have had to learn to simplify life and find as much balance as possible! Next up will be some thoughts and suggestions on how to simplify and find balance.