Monthly Archives: November 2013

Milk – Nature’s Perfect Food?

If you look like this little guy, replace the “?” in the title with an “!”. Because if you are a calf, cow’s milk really is nature’s perfect food for you. Nature designed it especially for you. It includes all the goodness you need to grow and develop into an adolescent and it will build the base on which you will transform into a strong, fully grown cow or bull. There really isn’t anything better. If you are a calf…

If you are not a calf but rather a human being, well, then there is still a perfect milk for you: Your mother’s breast milk. Again, nature designed it especially for you with all the nutrients that you need as a little baby human. Yet, we feed our children cow’s milk from a very early age and health services are running campaigns to persuade mothers to breastfeed their children.

And here is where it gets crazy. Wherever you go, you can buy milk. Cow’s milk that is. And you are being fed that story that it is ever so good for you. Even though you are not, yourself, a baby cow. However, an ice cream place in London was told to remove their breast milk ice cream because Westminster Council officers wanted to make sure it was “fit for human consumption”.

Fit for human consumption? It is breast milk. It is made for human consumption. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, is a different story entirely.

An argument to reduce the consumption of cow’s milk

The common sense approach

First and foremost, I would use the common sense argument: YOU ARE NOT A BABY COW! And then there is the whole question whether we are even able to digest cow’s milk. It certainly was not part of our diet until very recently (in evolutionary terms). Homo Sapiens appeared around 200,000 years ago. Maybe it is my lack of imagination, but somehow I just cannot picture an early homo sapiens chasing a wild buffalo around to milk it. Wild buffalo are fierce animals and a mommy buffalo is very keen on defending her baby. Any approach would have been seen as an attack. And taking milk and thereby stealing food from baby buffalo? I doubt mum would have looked kindly on that kind of behaviour.

Other humanoids have existed for a while  longer than homo sapiens and I doubt any of those would have been stupid enough to steal milk from mommy buffalo either.  Farming and the domestication of cattle only started around 10,000 years ago. That is barely a heartbeat in evolutionary terms and therefore not much time for our digestion and every other system in our body to catch up with the consumption of cow’s milk. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The Nutrition Approach

So why then do we still have milk? Well, there is a very strong lobby (of course there would be, there are money making businesses involved here). This lobby will tell you about all the advantages of drinking milk. Only they somewhat distort the facts.

For example, while milk is rich in some nutrients, it is severely lacking in others and many fruits and vegetables are higher in manganese, chromium, selenium and magnesium, which we humans need. It is very rich in calcium, however. That presents its own problems: our bodies need a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to magnesium. The ratio in milk is 10:1 and 28:1 in cheese. This means that your body uses magnesium that is already in our body to make use of the calcium, which can lead to magnesium depletion in our body, which in turn has been linked to heart disease.

The Nature Approach

Cows these days have little to do with what nature designed them to be. Extensive breeding has ensured that cows have udders so big they can barely walk, so they can hold more milk and hormones off the chart so they produce milk all year round. To ensure the milk keeps flowing, the dairy cows are almost constantly pregnant while never getting to breast feed their babies.

The cows are pumped full of hormones and medication while on a very unnatural diet. Cows are designed to eat grass. By eating other stuff, the cows no longer produce the milk that is so good and nutritious for their calves. The production is flawed from the onset.

The Hormone Approach

Cows are meant to give milk after they had a calf, so little baby cow has something to munch on to get big and strong. Humans have managed to breed cows so that they can give milk even while they are pregnant, when their bodies are full of oestrogen. By feeding the population with milk, we are oestrogenising them (another word I just made up) and putting their own hormone balance out of whack.

It is therefore not surprising that milk has been closely linked to certain types of cancer such as prostate and testicular cancer in men and ovarian and breast cancer in women. Is it a coincidence that the cancers milk has been linked to are all of the sexual organs? I believe the hormones in the milk have something to do with that.

Studies comparing the incidence of cancer to the consumption of milk have further confirmed that link. For example, the incidence of those “sexual” cancers are significantly lower in China, a country with very low dairy consumption (in large cities in which dairy has become more fashionable, the incidence of cancer was higher than in the rest of the country). When we look at survival rates from cancer, the results are even more dramatic. The chances of a woman dying from breast cancer in China is 1 to 10,000 compared to 1 in 10 in the UK. The incidence of prostate cancer in rural China is only 0.5 in 100,000 yet the prognosis for 2015 is that 1 in 4 men will have it in the UK at some point in their live.

The Environment Approach

Dairy cows produce a lot of waste and green house gases. Now almost all living beings do, but we keep many more cows than would usually live in such small spaces. An average dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of waste per day. To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to 24 people. And cows do burp and fart a lot. With 4 stomachs, each digestive stage creates its own little burps.

And if you have a soft spot for furry creatures, there is of course the happiness of the cows to consider. While I know of small farms that keep their cows in very humane conditions, most of the dairy production is done in factories with no regard for the animals. On a factory like dairy farm, the cow’s life expectancy is reduced from a natural 25 years to 4.

Conclusion

The reasons I have outlined to encourage you to consider reducing your consumption of dairy is by no means complete. Studies have also linked milk consumption to heart disease and infant onset diabetes. When fed to babies, studies have also shown an increased risk of milk allergy and intolerance. Many adults suffer from milk intolerance as many of us lose the ability to digest lactose (milk sugar) as we grow up (which makes sense since we would not be breast fed once we grow up and therefore naturally there is not need for us to be able to digest it).

Still fancy milk? I have replaced it with alternatives, such as almond and soya milk. There is a much wider range out there from oat milk over rice milk to all sorts of nut milks. With so many reasons to avoid milk, why not try one of the many alternative choices?

And remember, a reduction alone can improve your health, even if you do not cut milk out from your diet completely. Strive for better, not extreme. But make your diet a little better every day. And one day, maybe you leave it out completely.

What’s Lurking In The Breadbox? The Impact Of Food Intolerances

Now a kitty in the breadbox is pretty cute, apart from leaving hair all over you bread. But what if it is not a cute furry animal lurking in there but rather something that makes you ill without you even knowing it?

As a nutrition fanatic, I have started to cut out milk about 6 years ago. I go through phases of being religiously strict to much more lenient. Either way, I have dramatically limited my intake of cow’s milk and replaced it with a mix of mainly soya and almond milk. A few years ago, I did also go through a time when I cut out wheat and therefore gluten completely for an extended period of time before reintroducing it in much smaller quantities, only having wheat gluten once a week or so rather than several times a day. But over the years I slipped back into old habits and went back to enjoying bread and pasta, with the knowledge of food intolerances conveniently moving to the back of my memory.

Now battling with Adrenal Fatigue, I am now coming across this subject again repeatedly. Allergies and hypersensitivity to food can play a vital role in overcoming Adrenal Fatigue. As I have had several symptoms that I did not immediately relate to AF, such as having the worst skin of my life with more pimples in my face than I had throughout puberty,w hich makes my face look like a pizza, as well as the re-appearance of the eczema that I experienced for a short period of time as a teenager. So when reading about how to overcome AF and being reminded of food intolerances, I took another look at my current diet.

Adrenal Fatigue And Food Allergies / Intolerances

According to the charity Allergy UK up to 45% of the population in the UK suffers from food hypersensitivity. But what has that to do with your adrenals?

Well, when you have an allergic reaction or when you are hypersensitive to a food, your body will release histamine or other pro-inflammatory substances. As cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is a very strong anti-inflammatory, your adrenal glands react to the production of pro-inflammatory substances by producing more cortisol to take care of the inflammation.

And the effect of that is a double edged sword:

a) If you have food intolerances, the constant inflammation counter of the adrenal glands can cause them to fatigue, as they are continuously producing higher amounts of cortisol to counter act the inflammation that would be caused by the intolerance or allergy.

b) If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue, you will be more susceptible to food intolerances, as your adrenal glands will no longer be able to counter act inflammatory reactions. Therefore it may seem that you have more allergies or intolerances than you had before or that existing allergies have become worse.

You see this is a viscous cycle. Intolerances and allergies deplete the adrenal glands and fatigued adrenal glands can worsen the effect of food allergies and intolerances. So if you think you are suffering from some degree of Adrenal Fatigue already, it is time to identify if you have any hypersensitivities and eliminate those foods from your diet. Pronto.

Allergy Vs Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between the two is that an allergy is an immune reaction whereas intolerance is a digestive reactions.

In food allergies, a certain protein in the food you are eating is seen by the body as dangerous and antibodies are sent out to defend the body from this intrusion. The allergic reaction to the food is usually immediate or occurs within a very short time of eating the food, while the amount you ate does not seem to make much of a difference. This means that if you are allergic to peanuts, it does not matter whether you eat half a peanut or a bag full. Reactions are usually more severe than those of intolerances and can even be deadly.

Food intolerance is more chronic, less acute, less obvious in its presentation, and often more difficult to diagnose than a food allergy.The multiple causes for food intolerance include:

  • Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. Lactose intolerance is a common example.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic condition can cause cramping, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Food poisoning. Toxins such as bacteria in spoiled food can cause severe digestive symptoms.
  • Sensitivity to food additives. For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
  • Recurring stress or psychological factors. Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make you sick. The reason is not fully understood.
  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease has some features of a true food allergy because it does involve the immune system. However, symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal, and people with celiac disease are not at risk of anaphylaxis. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

The reaction to eating a food you are sensitive to can vary in severity, onset and depend on the amount you have eaten. There can be anything up to 3 days delay between eating a food you are intolerant to and having a reaction to it.

Symptoms Of Food Intolerances

The symptoms vary from person to person and depending on the food you are intolerant to. The symptoms often seem so unrelated to what you have eaten, it makes it more difficult to put one and one together and blame it on the food you ate. Below is a list of common symptoms as listed by Allergy UK:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Aches and pains
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diarrhoea
  • Eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • M.E.
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin problems
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tension
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing

Weight gain is another symptom that was not listed by Allergy UK.

Conclusion

I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about 10 years. During my time of optimal health, that disappeared, even though the doctor told me there was no cure for it. My IBS always used to be worse during times of heightened stress. I suppose during my optimum health, firstly I had dramatically reduced foods that I knew irritated my gut (in my case milk and gluten) and secondly I really was not very stressed. All the sports and especially the running I was doing was my form of meditation. It cleared my mind and calmed me down.

I have now cut out the milk and gluten again and have been particularly strict with the gluten.

It is a good idea to try this out and cut certain foods out for a period of time, preferably at least 2 weeks. This then gives you the opportunity to observe the reaction more clearly when you reintroduce that food as a trial. When I have milk, I notice that my belly bloats up to such a point that I look pregnant and I have painful cramps and a whole host of digestive discomfort. Since I have stopped eating gluten, my skin has improved significantly. The pimples in my face have started to heal while no new ones have appeared and the eczema is slowly healing off. When I do have wheat gluten, I notice that my heart starts racing within an hour of eating it and then the headache comes along with a significant dip in energy levels, which last for up to two days. With all the alternatives you can get out there, it really is not worth the trouble for me.

I think when it comes to intolerances, it is important to remember that cutting them out during times of illness and heightened stress is beneficial. This does not, however, mean that we can never reintroduce those foods. As mentioned, I used to be gluten free for a long time and then re-introduced the wheat with no problems. I did not consume as much gluten as I had previousy and as my body was at optimum health, I could handle small amounts of the food irritants. It is when our body is dealing with other issues that those become a pain. Literally. 

Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says – The Power of Positive Thinking

Thank you The-Optimism-Revolution for the image

Finding out about Adrenal Fatigue has been a revelation for me. Just knowing what the hell is wrong with me has given me the opportunity to improve. Just from knowing. It has put me back in charge! Because knowing has allowed me to take a long, hard look at myself and look at what I can do better to get better. And as I mentioned yesterday, changing the way I think was the most important part for me. 

For example, before I knew about adrenal fatigue I would beat myself up when I slept until 9am. Because I thought I am such a lazy cow, sleeping through half the day and if only I wasn’t so fucking lazy and would get my arse out of bed at a normal time, I would actually get stuff done. And then I felt so tired!!! Can you imagine waking up with that mind chatter? It makes me tired just thinking about it. Huh, it just dawned on me where that saying has come from…

When I understood how important sleep is for Adrenal Fatigue and that there is some adrenal magic happening especially in the morning hours of 7-9, my thinking was now very different. If I sleep until 9 am, I have an internal celebration going on – Woohoo, well done! Only just woke up and already done some important healing work for my adrenals. Oh yeah, I rock! And I get up feeling a lot better about myself and as a result of it, feeling a lot more energetic as well.

I gave you some examples of where I have already changed my thinking or reframed the self-talk to become more positive. Negative thoughts are poison. Because as the title says: Your body hears everything your mind says. So what? Well, if you have negative thoughts, they are stressful. And if you think stressful thoughts, your body goes into a stress response. And that has a whole host of negative effects on you. Especially if you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. As you just keep feeding the monster that is causing the problem to begin with.

“Only Perfect Is Good Enough” Vs. “Perfectly Good Enough”

I recently came across a wonderful article on the Huffington Post on perfectionism. I found it interesting because, well, I suppose I have to admit that I am a bit of a perfectionist myself. Everyone always used to tell me that I am, but I have spent many years denying it. Because in my head, perfectionists are the ones that do things perfectly. Whereas I never quite got there. Try as hard as I may, I always fell somewhat short of getting it just right. But of course that is exactly it with perfectionists. No matter how well you are doing, you never give yourself any credit because instead of seeing what went well, all you can seem to see is where it could have been that little bit better.

Another good example is my approach to exercise. How much exercise is too much very much depends on your fitness level. Going for a half an hour run can be barely achievable for some, especially if they have never run before. For me it used to be nothing. A half hour run is what I did when I had no time for a real workout. But of course now I cannot do that any more. And running for only 15 minutes seemed like failure to me. But the more I felt like failing at my workouts, the more fatigued I had felt. Because my body was listening! And as I said in my previous post Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea: Overdoing it will result in you doing nothing. And doing something is a hell of a lot better than doing nothing!

If you are interested, I would recommend reading the Huffington Post article on perfectionism, which you can find here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/why-perfectionism-is-ruin_n_4212069.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000070

Say A Great Big “Fuck It” To Perfectionism

I did mention that I like to swear. But actually, in this case, I am merely using a quote. One of the best things I have read in a long time was “F**ck It” by John C. Parkin. The idea behind the book is that if we stop attaching meaning to things, life gets so much easier. In the words of Hamlet:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

I have been wanting to start a blog for weeks before I actually did it. I was so worried about getting it right, about finding the right subject to write about and what if I was not writing well? But then I thought What is the worst thing that could happen? That nobody reads the blog? Maybe. And then I read another blogger saying If you enjoy writing it, your blog is already a success. So I decided FUCK IT! I am just going to do it. And now I am and the world has not come to an end. In fact, I do enjoy writing my blog.

Can you imagine if you said Fuck It to all the things that are holding you back? If you felt the fear and did it anyway? You would be UNSTOPPABLE!!! Imagine if you said Fuck It to everything that is bothering you. How much more mindspace would you have if you did not have to worry about it any more? Your husband leaves his socks in the sink all the time? Every time you get annoyed about it, you go through a stress response. The cost of that is paid only by you. Imagine if you could just say fuck it and get on with life. So what there are socks in the sink? In the great scheme of things, what does it really matter? I mean REALLY? Bigger picture, people.

Look at me talking… Truth is, I read the book about a year ago and I am obviously still not quite there. It is a work in progress. But isn’t everything? And every improvement is a success. Instead of trying to make today PERFECT, why not try to just make today better than yesterday. And if you do that every day, you get a little further every time.

If you want to read more about saying Fuck It and learn how to do it and where to apply it, read the book or have a look at John’s Fuck It website http://www.thefuckitlife.com/

 

I like that little story of the old Cherokee and the two wolves. The good thing is that if you keep feeding the good wolf, not only will you starve out the bad one, but as the good one gets bigger and stronger, it will fight the bad one for you and before you know it the good one will be there to respond before the bad one gets there. And in the meantime it can harm to just tell the bad wolf to go fuck himself!

Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue

I mentioned yesterday that Monday was a rest day. Today was not active either, hence the late post. I don’t suppose you noticed what I did with my wording here? Instead of saying that Monday was a bad day, I said it was a rest day. And this is how I have decided to see it now. I have spent most of today resting also. It is dawning on me that I may have overdone it just a tad last week. I probably got a little excited when I started to feel better, you see.

For your adrenal glands to recover from Adrenal Fatigue, there are many factors to consider. Below I have outlined a few tips and my experiences with those. As you might notice, for me it is mainly in the head. I mentioned before that I used to follow a very healthy diet and I have been trying to exercise ever since I came back from abroad 4 years ago, but that did not work. So what is it then?

The Good And The Bad

It is very important to know what is good for you and what is not. And it is very useful to write those things down. Make a list of everything that is GOOD FOR YOU and everything that is BAD FOR YOU. Select the top 3 for each out of that list and come up with an action plan to ensure you get more of what is good for you and reduce exposure of the things that are bad for you. I suggest the top 3 as a starting point. Rome was not built in a day. Improve on the top 3, then move on to the next top 3.

Jayne Morris, the amazing coach I have mentioned before, refers to these “bad for you” things as the Energy Vampires, because they literally suck the energy right out of you. When creating your action plan on your top 3 Energy Vampires, consider that you have 3 choices:

1. Change The Situation

Note that it is the situation you change. You cannot EVER change another person. If it is a particular situation that costs you your energy, change it. If it is a person, you may have to reconsider the relationship you have with that person.

Changing a situation can be simple. If the ever dripping tap does your head in, just call someone to fix it. If you are always fighting with your flatmates about cleaning chores, hire a cleaner. I recently did. Not because I cannot do the cleaning, but because I don’t mind cleaning but get super upset when cleaning up after others. So it is well worth the money. Think about it this way: Rather than wasting £20 or £30 on something that you can easily do yourself, you are investing that money in a harmonic home life. That is well worth the money, I’d say. And another beautiful  re-framing example.

2. Change yourself to adapt to the situation

While you cannot change another person, you CAN change yourself. In fact, YOU are the only person you can ever change. The changes you can make are usually straight forward (in theory):

If a poor diet robs your energy – eat more healthily. While I had a pretty good diet, I had some really odd cravings that I had been giving in to more and more. Mainly for very fatty, salty and sweet foods. I ate things that I would have never previously eaten, such as a meal at a self-proclaimed Burger Royalty chain. I am not proud of it and needless to say, it did not make me feel better. So being reminded of good nutrition was very useful and I went back to a better diet to help control blood sugar levels.  I also had a little reminder of that food allergies and intolerances can do to your body and those become more prevalent during times of fatigue or stress. For example, I am usually ok to eat wheat and gluten. I am German after all, I come from the country of bread! But whenever I am ill or very stressed, my body does not seem to handle wheat very well and I serve myself best by swapping normal bread for rye and pasta for brown rice during those times. That, of course, applies right now.

One thing that I found the most impactful was to drink salted water. I know it does not sound very nice, but tired adrenals love sodium and so every morning I drink about half a litre of salted water before even getting out of bed. When I feel a dip during the day, I have another glass and usually feel a little lift shortly after.

Another thing to consider are supplements. I am taking a high quality multi, high strength Vitamin C (adrenal glands’ best friend) and an omega mix. But why? Well, when your body is going through stress, your metabolism speeds up and your body burns through nutrition at a much higher rate. That is why a nutritious diet is so very important as well.

If the way you see yourself or others causes problems – change your thinking (for example through reframing). This was a biggy for me. But I am changing my thinking every day and that helps. You have already witnessed a re-frame in this blog when I mentioned in the beginning that I have decided to refer to last Monday as a rest day rather than a bad day. And I had another one today when I mentioned to an acquaintance today that I am “nurturing my adrenals back to health” when only a month ago I would have said that I am “kicking them back into gear”.

If your hectic lifestyle is at fault – schedule more time to relax. I started off in the first week by meditating for 20 minutes every morning. Unfortunately that has fallen by the roadside again, but I truly believe that it had a big part in why my second week was so darn good. Even just belly breathing for 10 minutes will bring down your heart rate and is a good way to relax. In fact, belly breathing has so many benefits, that I have just decided to dedicate a whole post on it in the near future.

If you do meditate, using a mantra or affirmation can be very useful. I made up my own to suit my history with Post Traumatic Stress: I said “I am safe” on the in-breath and “I let go of the past” on the out-breath. The theory in my head was that I am breathing in more of feeling save and breathing out the bad memories.

Other useful changes to your lifestyle is to go to bed earlier. I really noticed a difference when I was in bed by 10:30 rather than past 11, another thing that has slipped again in recent days. Try to be asleep before 11 and sleep in as often as you can. And do not underestimate the power of rest. When you feel tired, have a little lie down or power nap. Lying down for just 15-30 minutes will be more effective than sitting for the same amount of time (unless you meditate)

Exercise is also an important part, but as described in my post Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea, keep it fun, light and DO NOT PUSH YOURSELF.

3. Leave the situation

This is something that luckily I started before knowing I suffered from Adrenal Fatigue. Over years, I had tried to improve my working life by making changes. To the jobs at hand, to the people around me. But of course you cannot change others. And feelings of helplessness are killers for your adrenal glands, so eventually I decided to leave. And I feel it was the right decision for me.

By far the most difficult to get my head around are relationships though. Relatives, friends, colleagues… What if you used to be really good friends with someone? But lately, every time you see that person you come away feeling bad? For me, there have been a few people that I have slowed the contact with. It is not that I no longer like them or am no longer their friend. It is more about accepting that the friendship has changed and instead of fighting to keep what you had, you embrace a new type of friendship. While I did cut some of my old friends out of my life (not aggressively, but rather just by stopping to pursue the friendship), I have managed to keep most of them just by re-defining that friendship. This is not easy, but possible. And bear in mind that the most important thing in your life is YOU! And when you feel good and healthy, you can contribute so much more to a healthy, mutually beneficial friendship.

Why not try out some of those tips? Which ones work best for you? Let me know in the comments. And if you have questions, I will gladly respond.

 

A Bad Day Allows Time to Consciously Appreciate The Good Ones

Yesterday I missed publishing my blogpost. I already had an idea of what I wanted to write about. In fact, when I write a post, I usually have the idea for the next 3 or 4 which I briefly outline to myself in a few bullet points. That allows me to keep some kind of flow going between posts. At least that is what I aim to achieve.

So yesterday’s blogpost was outlined. I already had the idea. I just needed to write it. But yesterday was a bad day . I only managed to drag myself out of bed around 11am and spent the rest of the day on the sofa or eating on the sofa. Adrenal rest days are characterized by cravings, insatiable hunger and lots and lots of eating all day long.

Where did the day go? What did I do all day? Apart from eating… Well, mainly I spent the day staring into space. I was back to being so desperately tired, I could not even be bothered to sit up straight and type a post for my blog. It just seemed too much to ask of me or anyone who feels that way. And I did have a little “here we go again” thought creep into my mind. But I took a long hard look at that “thought gremlin”. Do you know “thought gremlins”? Those little lying fuckers that tell you all the shit you don’t need to hear, like you are useless, you cannot achieve something or you are not good enough.

Since I was not going to do anything but sit on my arse all day, I decided to reflect on the last couple of weeks since I found out about Adrenal Fatigue and the improvements I have made since then to help my adrenals back to good health. And immediately I did not feel bad about being so “lazy” any more. Because for one, I was being quite productive by thinking about all the good stuff that has been happening. And I realised that things have improved so dramatically over the last two weeks. I now had one day of lying around incapable of doing anything, yes, but after I had spent two full days over the weekend helping to facilitate training sessions and having spent a full day working on various things on Friday. Three full days in a row. How amazing is that? I have not managed to do that for about a year!!!

I would not even call yesterday a set back. Just a logical conclusion – a day of necessary recharge. My adrenals are getting noticeably better. And going from having a productive hour 2-3 times a week to 3 full days of doing things, being active and productive and after having hit the gym 3 times as well last week, I think that is quite an achievement.

Yes, yesterday was not a good day. I was tired. I could not think. I just wanted to sleep all day. But I am no longer hopeless. No longer accepting that this may just be how it is now, this is what life has become. Having those thoughts bashes your adrenals even more and feelings of being helpless and hopeless.

So my top tip to anyone who suffers from Adrenal Fatigue is: Be conscious of the good times and know that those can become permanent again. But not over night. So cherish them when they come along and be conscious and grateful for them when the bad times come knocking again. Cut yourself some slack. You won’t go back from 0-100 in a day. But while acceleration may be slow, it is also steady. When I started two weeks ago, I got a productive morning followed by a day in bed. But wow, I had a whole morning of feeling awake. Then last week, two weeks into the changes I have made, I had 3 whole days.

Yesterday’s bad day was not a reason to be distraught. It was a reason to celebrate. I had 3 full days. And I am feeling really good today. So after 3 days I needed 1 day rest. So what? Soon I will get 4 days and 1 day rest. Eventually I will only need half a day rest. And over time I will be able to do more and more without feeling exhausted while my body will be able to recover in shorter periods of time.

One thing is for sure, I will now always make time and space in my schedule to rest and recharge, even though one day I won’t feel the need for it any more.

Why Is A National Epidemic Not Being Recognised By The Medical Profession?

Thank you to Food Matter for the image

I say national, but actually I think this statement can be expanded for the entirety of Western society.

Of course we can spend some time discussing on whether there is an epidemic of Adrenal Fatigue in the Western World or whether it is wise to make such sweeping statements. Or we just accept that this is my blog with a representation of my opinions. Great – now that we have cleared that up, let me tell you that I believe it is an epidemic. And I am sure you will want to know why, so I shall oblige:

I’d say 90% of people I have worked with during my 8 years in a consultancy firm have complained about being tired. A lot. And now I understand how I got to suffer from it myself – mainly due to ignorance,mind.

Adrenal Fatigue can be easily prevented. But to do so, you’d have to know about its existence. And that is where the problem starts. Many moons ago, after adrenal fatigue was discovered over 100 years ago, it was a big thing for the first 50 years. It was being researched and studied. Then someone figured out that medication can’t really do much about it. Rather getting better requires healthy lifestyle choices. Now there is a shocker. And let’s face it, unless there is money to be made for Old Daddy Big Pharma, nobody is interested in it.

Anyone who is vaguely interested in nutrition may have heard of people who healed their MS or cancer purely through nutrition. You may have even heard of studies proving that very high amounts of Vitamin C (over 1,200 times the RDA) cannot only stop the growth of cancer cells, but heal it completely. And we have all heard about the impact of fast food, with a certain skinny bitch of a clown and Burger royalty receiving regular media attention. Yet nothing is really being done about it. In fact, the U.S National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, does not even index studies into the positive effects of “natural medicine”, such as curing cancer with Vitamin C (and this, dear haters, is why it is so blooming difficult to find them!).

I have to warn you before you read on – this next part will be a bit of a conspiracy theory:

There is no money to be made from dead people. No Shit Sherlock. But there is also no money to be made from really healthy people. Not in the medical sense. So what to do when the pharmaceutical industry is so immensely powerful. How can we keep them happy? And we do want to keep them happy!

Oh hang on, here is an idea: How about we keep the population just a little bit ill. Preferably chronically. Severely enough to have them running to a doctor and begging for relieve of their symptoms. But preferably without killing too many of them. And to make sure this model actually works, we just adjust the education system and make sure that a certain level of ignorance is being maintained in the masses. Such as telling everyone that Fluoride is good for their teeth, but just omitting the fact that it is also a toxic sedative. Adolf Hitler was a big fan – he used it in the concentration camps. And now it is used in our tapwater. Glorious!

Coming back to Adrenal Fatigue, www.adrenalfatigue.org (currenlty my favourite but not only source of information on this subject) states:

“Although there are no recent statistics available, Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, said in 1969 that he estimated that approximately 16% of the public could be classified as severe, but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the percentage would be more like 66%. This was before the extreme stress of 21st century living, 9/11, and the severe economic recession we are experiencing.”

Having taken the Dr Wilson’s test, my own rating suggested very severe Adrenal Fatigue, in fact it was not far off Addison’s. In Addison’s disease, the adrenals have stopped working all together and sufferers need to take medication to replace the cortisol that their adrenals are no longer producing. The NHS website states that Addison’s patients need to take cortisol for the rest of their lives. Go figure. They make no recommendations to how you can enable your body to heal itself, which IT IS DESIGNED TO DO by the way. However, at least Addison’s is being diagnosed. And if the medical profession acknowledges and treats Addison’s and Cushing’s, which represent the 2% extremes of each end of a bell curve (I have popped a nice little generic bell curve picture down there so you get an idea), does anyone seriously expect me to believe that the entire 96% in between those two extremes is normal and would have no effect on how I feel? Really? So forgive me when I come to the conclusion that the existence of medication is paramount in the acceptance of a condition in medical terms.

Bell Curve
Section F = Addison’s
Section A = Cushing’s
And according to the medical profession in general, EVERYTHING in between is just dandy.

What T. F. Is Adrenal Fatigue?

When I first heard about Adrenal Fatigue, I thought WTF is that? Some new fad? Some new scam to sell us whatever supplements or rubbish? Until I started reading and it sounded as if someone had taken notes when I was complaining about how I was feeling.

Below I have summarised some of the information taken from Dr Wilson’s website http://www.adrenalfatigue.org, which you can check out for further details.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. However, it is not as easy to identify it as other illnesses because of its array of perceivingly unrelated symptoms.

As the name suggests, the paramount symptom is fatigue that does not seem to be alleviated by sleep. While you may look healthy and may not even be able to quite pinpoint what may be wrong, there may be a sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray feelings”, similar to depression. Although I was not so lucky. I don’t just feel like shit, I look it too. Friends and family have repeatedly been pointing that out to me, as I have become increasingly paler and the rings under my eyes increasingly darker.

Adrenal fatigue has been known and researched by the medical profession for over 100 years and has been known under several names, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue.

The more severely fatigued the adrenals are, the bigger the impact it has on every organ and system in your body. The changes can affect the metabolism, thereby contributing to weight gain as well. Our bodies are amazing pieces of engineering (Mother Nature must be German…!) and so they try to make up for the under-functioning adrenal glands, but hat comes at a price.

Ugh, just a quick nap. About 8 hours or so…
What causes adrenal fatigue?

The adrenals are called into action each time stress is being put on the body, whether that be negative stress from grief or work or positive stress from exercise, for example. They are responsible to regulate the body’s response through hormones to stabilize the body’s health and functioning and to enable you to respond to those.

You may have noticed that your heart starts racing or your muscles tense up when your favourite boss screams at you from across the open plan office about that report that was due on his desk 2 minutes ago while you are still typing the last paragraph. Those feelings, that’s your adrenals at work.

During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain your body’s equilibrium because their hormonal output has been weakened. In extreme cases such as Addison’s disease, the adrenals cease to work completely, usually because of over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.

Who is susceptible to adrenal fatigue?

Anyone can experience it and there are many different levels to it. Whenever you have experienced trauma or prolonged stress, chances are you have worn your adrenals out. Interestingly, feelings of being trapped or helpless are a big drain on your adrenals. So if you tend to see yourself as a victim, you may be more susceptible. Lifestyle choices will also influence your adrenals’ performance, such as diet, substance abuse, sleep patterns, lack of rest and the way you deal with stresses in your mind (more on that bit in a future post).

How can I tell if my adrenals are fatigued?

Some common symptoms, which I experience myself:

  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Having trouble getting up in the morning, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Feeling rundown and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness (already had 3 colds earlier this year, each took ages to shift!)
  • Craving salty and sweet snacks
  • Feeling more awake towards the evenings (I barely got that. I was always tired)

When I saw this, I started thinking back to my “stress history”

  • Working long hours in a high pressure performance driven environment
  • Experienced a whole series of traumatic events while working abroad and after return, which resulted in post traumatic stress disorder
  • Taking on my employer through a grievance process and getting ready to possibly take them to court, talking to solicitors and worrying about upsetting old friends I worked with
  • Trying to force my way back into fitness and beating myself up for feeling tired

If you think you have some of those symptoms and may not have had a chance to recover from accumulated stress, you may want to take Dr Wilson’s adrenal fatigue test. Check out the questionnaire at http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-quiz

Continue to follow my blog to learn more about adrenal fatigue and how I am overcoming it by supporting my body to heal itself naturally.

The Leverage of Knowledge

Knowledge

 

I was talking about knowing your starting point to determine your route to your destination yesterday. Earlier last week, I discovered my own starting point.

Remember when I suggested that you do not stop looking for the answer just because a medical professional ran a test and did not find anything? You know your body best. You know best how you feel. If the test did not reveal what the problem is, it does not mean that there isn’t a problem. It just means that your GP ran the wrong bloody test.

When my blood tests came back and were all ok, I did have a long hard think about what on earth is going on. I even considered that maybe I was making it all up. So I tried to pretend as if I was not feeling tired. But that didn’t work. And it almost went pretty wrong when on a day out I felt very unwell, became dizzy and couldn’t even see properly any more. That freaked me somewhat out, which you may understand, and so I decided to start looking for answers myself.

I had been working with Jayne Morris, a Burnout Expert, just a couple of months prior, as I had been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after my work abroad and despite receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at London’s foremost Anxiety Clinic, I had not been able to quite let go of what had happened. Working with her was a tremendous experience and it helped me greatly. I barely worked since January this year and was signed off by my GP for most of this year. Finally, in September, after a long, drawn out process, I decided to move on from my employment as an IT consultant.

I fully expected that with this chapter of my life being over I would now be unstoppable in the pursuit of a new life. Except it did not quite work out that way. While Jayne had helped me to greatly reduce my anxieties and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking that are invaluable to start a new life, I was still awfully tired all the time. And I don’t mean the “I’d fancy a wee nap” kind of tired. I mean desperately tired. The kind where you sit on the sofa staring into nothing contemplating if anyone would notice if I wet myself because I didn’t want to get up to go to the bathroom. I NEVER actually did wet myself. Having that thought on a recurring basis is on it’s own alarming.

So I spent most of my day either asleep or on the couch in a somewhat vegetative state. I used to cycle to the stables, clean out the horse boxes, ride for a couple of hours, then go for a 10 mile run only to still be able to tear up the dancefloor in a salsa joint later that same night. Now I needed a nap after just having had a shower because it took so much out of me. All I did was eat and sleep. Needless to say, my food choices were not ideal for the most part and certainly nowhere near my usual standards. I was just too tired.

I spoke to Jayne about this in a follow up and being a Burnout Expert, she threw a few leads at me which gave me something to work with. Looking into different things, I came across a great book “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome™” by Dr. James L. Wilson. It has been a REVELATION. It all added up. The symptoms, my stress history, everything. You have to understand, stress has an accumulative effect on the body. Especially during times of prolonged stress the adrenals take quite a bashing and if there is no recovery time in between, well, it only gets worse. Having suffered post traumatic stress disorder, working 60-80 hours a week, going through a long drawn out grievance process with my employer which resulted in me leaving eventually, all of that had been eating my adrenals, chewing them up, spitting them out and dancing a particularly stompy version of Flamenco on them. In short, I had shot my adrenals to bits.

You might ask “Why self-diagnose?” A good friend asked me this unhelpful and discouraging question when I told her about what I was going through. But here is the thing: I do not need a doctor to tell me how I feel. I know that how I am feeling right now is not normal – FOR ME. I cannot speak for anyone else. Maybe some people are comfortable in a borderline comatose state on a permanent basis. I wasn’t and I knew that my body could do better. I knew that something was wrong. And as I have followed the advice given in Dr Wilson’s book for almost 2 weeks now and am seeing significant improvements, I don’t really care if anyone thinks that only a doctor can make a diagnosis. I used common sense, read, researched, tried it out and made an executive decision – I have finally found my starting point. And I AM ROCKING IT!

If you would like to know more about Jayne Morris and the work she does, check out her website on http://www.jaynemorris.com/

For more information on the medical site of Adrenal Fatigue and to take a test if you may be suffering, visit Dr James L Wilson’s website http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/

To Determine Your Route You Have To Know Where You Are

Yesterday I mentioned the importance of taking one step at a time to achieve a goal. To know what a step is, you need to know where you are stepping from.

So let’s say you want to go to Leeds (don’t ask why, just stay with me here). If I gave you directions from Manchester but you are in Glasgow or London, my directions would be pretty useless. And this is what I feel some nutritionists and trainers do. They just make an assumption of where you are. I did try training with the help of a PT, but he just pushed me to work harder and harder without any previous chat on where I was right now.

And for me, knowing my starting point was not as easy. I would throw myself into exercise and good nutrition again and again, injure myself, get frustrated, give up, start again and so it went on and on. Only this was not a viscous circle but rather a downward spiral. I felt worse and worse and this came to a peak at the beginning of this year. For a while I accepted it but eventually went to see my GP who ran a few blood test to see why I was always so very tired. Many days I barely make it out of bed. Just getting onto the sofa is an achievement.

The blood tests came back within the acceptable range so my GP told me that I am ok. Oh great thanks. Now that I know that, I suppose I will just wake up tomorrow morning and all my symptoms will have magically disappeared? That is just awesome. Only they didn’t. I woke up the next day feeling just as shitty as I have done for months.

But what do you do when your doctor is not very helpful? My answer is: READ!!! You know your body best. You know how you feel. If you feel like shit, chances are something is wrong there somewhere. No matter what the doctor says. You have to trust yourself and your own judgement and remember that your GP gets 15 minutes with each patient. Everyone puts how they feel into their own words rather than textbook terms and even a doctor, whilst highly educated, is only human.

So educate yourself, read, search online. Whatever is the matter, chances are it is not unique and there are others who have been through it already. Establishing your starting point is so important that you should not allow anyone to gloss over how you feel just because they cannot find the cause easily.

Read, see what sits well with you and then try things out. This is all I am doing right now and what this blog is about. Every day I will write about my trials and mis-trials, see what worked and what didn’t. And hopefully, if any of it resonates with you, my journey can help you on your own.

Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea

So yesterday I mentioned that you have to accept your current state. But actually, before you can accept anything, you need to KNOW what is going on with yourself. The natural state is to be fit, lean, energetic and clear-minded. And while I am not there, I have been working really hard to get it back. Hard work is what I am used to, it is what gets the results, right? And if I am not working hard, if I do not feel exhausted and almost constantly overwhelmed, then I am just not working hard enough. That is the only way to achieve anything, right?  Well, not always.

In fact, in my case it is the very reason why, after 4 years, I am not back to feeling so gloriously uber healthy. By constantly pushing myself beyond my new, much lower, limits I only contributed to not recovering and continuing to feeling tired.

Yesterday I mentioned that feeling tired or being ill was not natural. So being awake, fit and healthy is natural. And if it is natural, then shouldn’t it be easy? HELL YES!!! The natural state is the easiest of all. This is why we call it dis-EASE when we are ill. We are not at ease. Stress causes and contributes to pretty much all illnesses in some way or another these days. If you work hard to be healthy, you are just contributing to dis-ease!

And so what I have learned over the last 4 years of continuously failing at regaining my health, it is because I was trying to force it, rather than easing back into it. If you want to learn a language, you will start with learning your first few words, then the first easy sentences,  a bit of grammar and some more words. You continue doing that and you will be fluent before you know it. But start yourself off in a debate club of your chosen language and you will feel pretty frustrated straight away and possibly give up. The trick is to do a little bit at a time. Take it step by step. Introduce one new thing, like a new vocabulary, and keep rehearsing it. When it becomes second nature, you can introduce more and more. But do it all at once and you have single-handedly put yourself into a position where it is almost impossible to succeed.

As I mentioned yesterday, I used to work out a minimum of 2 hours a day. Now I go to the gym for 15 minutes at a time. Failure? I don’t think so. I tried to push myself and ended up not going at all any more, because I felt so ill afterwards for several days. So I would say 15 minutes is a hell of an improvement. It is not a competition. It is your life. Do what you can and you will naturally be able to increase it over time.