Adrenal Fatigue – Part 3
I have been doing CrossFit for 4.5 years with varying degrees of dedication. I would consider myself one of the “weaker” females in my gym. My 1-rep max deadlift hovers around 155# (that is this year) and has seen little improvement. The weak deadlifts have always been blamed on my running habits – quad dominant and weaker hamstrings; oh and my inability to activate my glutes. Well in April this chick hit a 200# sumo deadlift. SAY WHAT?! My body felt great that day, there was no “knot” above my right glute and that damn bar went up when I lifted it.
Honestly, I don’t think that would have happened if I hadn’t had a “break” from work. Since mid-February, work has been slow (late Q1 and early Q2 is our slow period), so I wasn’t as high strung out from work and was able to kind of relax.
Our adrenal glands produce hormones like cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol helps to maintain blood sugar levels to meet our body’s energy demands as well as a powerful anti-inflammatory. I honestly can’t remember a period that I truly relaxed. For the past 2-3 years I have been in a constant state of stress (mostly due to work but heightened by my workout regimen) which just leads to high cortisol output. Coritsol maintains your blood sugar levels by:
- Inhibiting the storage of glucose in your muscle tissue, fat cells and liver (would be helpful when exercising…)
- Initiates the breakdown of protein into amino acids from muscle tissue to be converted into glucose
- Converts fat cells into glucose
Therefore, by being in a constant state of stress, my body is demanding more glucose to stay alert. I often feel like I can GO GO GO, but the minute I stop…I crash and crash hard. I have absolutely no desire or energy to do jack squat.
Also, histamines are an inflammatory reaction that creates the symptoms we experience with allergies. The more histamine released the more cortisol is required to counter act the inflammatory response created by the histamine (cortisol is an anti-inflammatory). Beginning in college I developed seasonal allergies which have gotten worse every year. I would just have to deal with watery eyes, itchy nose/throat, sneezing, and a runny nose. Yeah it sucked but it was manageable with an allergy OTC drug. However, in December 2016, that rash around my mouth developed and I strongly believe it is because my body was no longer able to produce enough cortisol. Since it was winter chances are that there is something else triggering a histamine response other than pollen, just haven’t figured out what that other thing is…
Aldosterone controls the sodium and potassium levels within our bodies; which impacts our water balance within our bloodstream, cells, and the water between cells. Adrenal fatigue makes you crave salt because of the lack of adequate aldosterone. Additionally, individuals tend to feel dehydrated leading to an increase of water consumption. Excessive water consumption over dilutes the body’s electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride) in the blood. For a while, I can’t even remember when this started, I have consumed at least 100oz. of water daily. I have a S’well bottle (25oz.) so I would just drink 4 bottles throughout the day. With that much water, I was diluting my body’s electrolytes.
Here’s a few things I am doing to try to recover from adrenal fatigue:
- Water – I have cut my water consumption nearly in half and often add sea salt. This is a must after workouts this summer with the heat and humidity.
- Listening to my body – working out with friends helps with accountability and motivation. However, everyone is different and sometimes your schedules don’t align. Yes, I’d love to train with a buddy, but if I’m not feeling it that day or at that particular time, I’m saying no. Recently I’ve switched things up, I’ve been taking my sweet ass time in the morning and stretching then doing my workouts in the evening instead.
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV) – Since I’m having some sort of allergic response all year long, chances are it is food related (I also did palpate the HCl point and it is quite tender). The breakdown of protein occurs in your stomach by HCl, if you don’t secrete enough of it, the protein you consume is not getting broken down properly before entering your small intestine, which could lead to proteins/”foreign objects” entering your blood stream and causing a histamine reaction. As long as I’m eating a meal at home, I try to take a teaspoon of ACV before every meal to initiate the secretion of HCl within the stomach.
- Sugar – cutting out added sugar, except after intense workouts which for me isn’t many! Cortisol helps to maintain blood sugar levels to meet our body’s energy demands, in conjunction with insulin which is released by the pancreas. It triggers proteins and fats to be converted into blood sugar to compensate for any dips. However, with adrenal fatigue cortisol levels drop making it more difficult for our body to maintain normal blood sugar levels. If my body isn’t on a roller coaster ride from consumption of sugar then my adrenals will not have to work in overdrive to compensate for the crash that will happen shortly after consuming all that sugar.
- Breathing – Stop. Slow. Deep. I do this multiple times a day. It is a must. By changing our breathe we actively change our body’s response to a situation. Also, it turns off the alarm signal that drives our adrenal glands to overwork. Belly-breathing allows air to reach the lower part of our lungs where a rich blood supply is found and triggers a relaxation response within a few minutes.
- Reframing – this is the most difficult thing for me. I need to stop taking everything so personally, which is usually only due to the way I’m interpreting the event. Reframing is changing the way I see something which in turn changes how my body will respond to it and allow me to adapt to the situation in a more positive way and hopefully a less stressful response.
- Taking more time for myself and doing more of what makes me happy
Adrenal fatigue doesn’t have a quick fix, unfortunately. It literally demands you to chill the fuck out which is a struggle for me, but I’m trying. I know the things I need to do, I try every day to do those things, and most importantly I don’t beat myself up if I fail to do something I know I need to do for recovery. It’s going to be a while before I can say I’m “healed” but better to know now and work on recovery than continue on the downward spiral I was heading.