I have always been a learner. I've actually recently labeled myself as a "lifetime learner!" I have so many diplomas and certifications and still feel like there is so much for me to do and learn in this lifetime! I like to say, "If you're not growing, you're dying."
So, if I have learned so much and have so many accolades to my name, why was I so scared to do this next thing that I'm about to do?
Why did I feel like I'm not an expert at anything?
Why did I keep telling myself that I'm not good enough, that nobody wants to hear what I have to say?
Because I let that little voice in my head, you know her, the inner mean girl, tell me that I was not good enough. I let her tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. I haven't written a book. I have yet to make a six figure income in my network marketing company. I am not a world-renowned speaker, actor, or singer. I don't have a million followers on social media! So what makes me special?
Once I stopped listening to my inner mean girl and took a step back, I realized how much I have to offer.
I have survived medical school, a brutal Ob/Gyn residency, the birth of twins, multiple job transitions, a broken back, the prep of a competitive bodybuilder, a fellowship in functional medicine while working/momming/wifing, and the loss of my medical job resulting in a transition into a full time network marketer.
I have been depressed, adrenal fatigued, overweight, overwhelmed, and sleep deprived.
I have gone from a shower chair/walker yielding woman in a back brace on daily narcotics for pain to a shredded, bikini laden, pro card-earning bodybuilder! I have gone from a negative, self-deprecating, bitter, angry woman to a positive, self-caring, happy, meditated crystal lover who works on her spirituality and God-given intuitive talents daily! I feel like I have DONE IT ALL!
So why should I feel like I need more certifications to take the next steps in my life? I am more than qualified to share my life experiences and help others with their struggles. I have successfully made so many drastic transitions in my life which truly make me the expert and I don't need a piece of paper to make me legit! I am the real deal! The survivor!
And it's time I tell my ego to shut up and start helping people turn their lives around!
So get ready for the first edition of the new and improved me! Coming May 28, 2019, I will be launching "Love The Leap" with Dr. Renee, my very first podcast! I have wanted to do a podcast for a while now but didn't have the belief in myself to do it until now! It is completely in alignment with my mission and I feel like it's the best way for me to reach more people with my message.
I am an avid listener of podcasts myself. I find a tremendous amount of value in this FREE resource and I want to personally add to this value and continue to change lives with my story and life experiences (as well as with the knowledge I acquired through all of my schooling and coarses)!
So, stay tuned for the official launch!! I am so excitied (and scared, of course) but can't wait to take you all on this next adventure in my crazy life!!
Do you ever struggle with making friendships with other women?
When I became a full time working mother of twins back in 2007, the time I spent hanging out and nuturing my relationships with other women went down the drain! I was exhausted from sleepless nights and busy days at work so I preferred to spend any free time I had curled up on the couch with one of my littles, getting spit-up on my shoulder and changing diapers every 30 minutes (remember, I had two at once so there was a lot of feedings and diaper changes)! The dissipation of my female relationships was also compounded by the fact that I suffered from MAJOR mom guilt....how could I go out and hang with my girlfriends when I spent 50 hours a week (or more) at work, away from my twins?!
Fast forward 11 years. Pretty much any real female connection I had was gone. The only girl time that I had on a consistent basis was virtually with my fitness community. I kept blaming my husband for our lack of meaningful friendships. He's a homebody and loves our quiet evenings home alone, as a family. While I truly enjoy this quality time, also, I kept feeling that something was missing. I knew I needed to stop blaming him and take control of what I wanted. And it all started with a little nudge from one of my fairly new friends who sent me a message about a weekend all female conference that was within driving distance to my house! My gut said an immediate "yes" so I went with it and immediately purchased a ticket!!
Well, the two weeks leading up to the conference were chaotic, bordering on crazy! A whirlwind Spring break trip to Washington, DC and New York City followed by arrival home Easter weekend to find my dad in the hospital. If I had not committed already (and bought a ticket), I would have cancelled. The other thing that kept me in the game- my friend (and truly an inspiration in my life) was coming to stay with me the day before the event. So double commitment, exactly what I needed! My past self would have said that I'm way too busy (and stressed) to be going away for the weekend and I would have backed out, thinking that nobody would miss me if I didn't go. But now I HAD to go because others were relying on me!
To deal with the overwhelm, I set a small goal! I just had to make it to Andrea's arrival on Thursday. And all that was between me and some girl time was getting hair and nails done and spray tan (cause you have to look and feel good for girls weekend, right), cleaning the house, packing, and the most importantly, screwing my head back on straight!
I took a deep breath on my trip out to the Albany airport to pick up Andrea. I couldn't believe that I had made it without a major breakdown! Upon her arrival, I felt uplifted, happy and more energized! And the fun began!
Dinner out with Andrea and the family on Thursday! And then united on Friday with our girlfriend, Lorelei!! Off to the Herkimer Diamond Mines for a day of slamming rocks to break the gorgeous clear quartz crystals free to exert their power!! And then back in the car for our weekend adventure at the conference!
The Align and Rise conference put on by Ladies Aligned in Saratoga Springs, NY, was nothing short of amazing and EXACTLY what I needed to re-ignite my desire for REAL human female connection! Nobody came with an agenda... only to connect and find new female friends!! All women were authentic- showing up as their true selves.
And the weekend allowed us to tap in to who we are as women, show our vulnerabilities in a non-judgemental environment, and really commit to ourselves, each other and our futures in this world! I not only got to meet new women but I got to REALLY know the two amazing women who I went with! Sharing a room and drinking champagne in bed while sharing our childhood stories is called real connection- getting to know the core of the person who I call friend.
So why did I feel so connected to the women at this conference and feel so energized and happy upon returning home? Let me get all sciency on your for a second, because that is what I do as a doc! Hanging out with your girlfriends causes the release of a hormone called Oxytocin. It is the hormone that is released during pregnancy and also while in labor. But is also termed the "cuddle hormone" since it is released with contact, either human or even animals (like petting a dog)! It not only can strengthen the bond between a male/female couple but also enhance the connection between two women! So their is scientific evidence behind the feelings I had upon arriving home!
Check out THIS amazing article for the many benefits of having female relationships (it may be from 2005 but still very insightful)!
Do you know that close to 80% of Americans are not physically active, as defined by government standards? And there are others who are very physically active (maybe a little too much) because they are trying to outwork a poor diet!
Most Americans do not get enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. Most consume too much sodium (usually in the form of processed foods) and sugar consumption is at an all time high!
And we wonder why close to 40% of Americans are obese? They are either inactive, have poor nutrition or both! And our kids are not too far behind! One in 5 children is obese. This is unacceptable!
I hear so often "I eat healthy but can't seem to lose weight" and "I am gluten-free but I can't understand why I'm gaining weight"! So, the crowd that is eating healthy usually has an issue with portion sizes. Everything nowadays is "supersized" and "jumbo" so we have no idea what an appropriate portion size is! And gluten-free does not necessarily make it healthy. There are plenty of foods that are laden with sugar and crap and still gluten free! And we serve as role models for our kiddos so if we eat a certain way, our kids will think this is the norm and we only perpetuate the problem!
We need to do something about
all this nonsense! And it starts
with you making the decision to get healthy!
Will it be easy? Nope. It is much easier to eat donuts, sit on the couch and watch countless hours of television! If it was easy to make the change, we wouldn't have the problems we are facing now in the US!
But the good news is, it can be simple.
There are so many different plans, diet fads, and supplements that can make getting started so confusing and complicated. Even I get overwhelmed at the information overload pushed on us every day. It really doesn't have to be that complicated to eat food you enjoy without having to cut out entire food groups and restrict yourself.
To help you keep it simple, I am doing my part and creating a COMBINED fitness and nutrition group where I will give you a workout and not only give you a step by step nutrition plan, I will coach you every inch of the way so you completely understand it! I always say, I can lead the horse to water but I can't make it drink. Same with people. I can give everyone the tools and resources they need (including me to coach them every step of the way) but they have to commit to trying.
This is your chance to work directly with me as I coach you in making healthier food choices and give you a fitness program that is not only doable but fun! The workout is actually the very first program I did successfully after breaking my back and I got amazing results, even with doing the modifications! So it will be the same basic workout, yet effective, 30 minute workout but new and improved since we will be doing it together as it's being recorded LIVE!!
There will be a chance to be recognized as an ELITE member of my Virtual Gym if you put the work in to get the results you want and you can also earn a FREE Elite tank top! This will be the OFFICIAL test group for both the nutrition plan and fitness program so I would seize the day and get in ASAP!!
So let's do this together! Don't just do this for you but for your entire family and for future generations! The changes we make today will not only affect us but everyone we come in contact with! We can help influence our husbands, kids and parents to live a happier and healthier life. I have seen all come on board (in my family alone) with one simple choice to just do it for myself! Now it is a lifestyle for my entire family!
You might be wondering where I have been. Believe me, I would have rather be here chatting about health and wellness as opposed to what I have been doing.
For the past week, I've been dealing with the loss of my best friend... my first baby. My 15+ year old pup died last week. As I sit here writing this, tears are streaming down my face. It has been over a week and I still can't believe that I will never see him again. I have a Spotify playlist on that I have made for him and can't help but wish that he hadn't left me. The fact that I'm sobbing is probably one of the reasons why I have delayed writing this but a tribute from his momma right here on this blog feels right.
Charlie came into our life as a rescue dog at a little over a year old (or so we think). I called him our "pound puppy!" He did have some issues as many rescue dogs have... mainly separation anxiety, and little man complex (he was a small 30 pound pug mix but he showed all those big dogs what he thought of them. His personality was much larger than him)!! Despite his issues, we loved him right away and dealt with his unique needs the best we could.
Charlie loved running in the fields and hanging with the cows on my dad's farm so he was happy when we moved to the country in Central NY in 2008. He loved his daily long walks and more trips to the farm to visit his black and white girlfriends (the cows)!
Charlie lost sight in one eye 7 years ago and then went completely blind 6 years ago. Did that stop him from enjoying life? No way! His sniffer just got a lot better! And we were so cruel to move into a new house without him ever seeing it (they recommend you not do that to a blind dog but we had already bought the house before he went blind!) Did that stop him? Nope! He figured out his new digs in no time! Honestly his blindness affected we humans more than him. He kept on trucking along!
Then Charlie developed some weakness in his hind legs last year and we found out he had an old tear in one of his knee ligaments. Tough old dog! We never knew he had an injury! Then followed the onset of some bladder issues so a diaper became part of his daily routine! Still no big deal and not anything that we couldn’t handle! But, little by little, he was losing his doggy dignity.
My little 30 pound solid dog dropped down to a frail 19.5 pounds. Looking back at pictures, it was drastic but we saw him every day so he just looked a little skinnier. Something was taking over my boy's body.
Charlie stopped eating his boring ol’ dog food a few weeks ago but did enjoy some of his mommy and daddy’s chicken and rice. I knew there would be a problem if he stopped eating that! And he did ! He also preferred eating snow over drinking water but that, too, stopped!
On the morning of March 13, Charlie and I were alone and he made it quite clear to me that he was done being the strong boy that he had been for almost 16 years. He was tired. And it was time for him to go.
So, as a family, we had to say good bye to him that day. I held him in my arms, telling him how much I love him, as he went into his eternal sleep. Our hearts are broken and the tears won’t stop flowing but we are comforted knowing that he has regained his eyesight, bladder control and strength and is now free to go and play with all of his ol’ buddies at The Rainbow Bridge. He is back to being a puppy again, loving his life and waiting for us to be reunited one day.
If you've made it this far through my story, I have no doubt you love (or have loved,) a furry little soul mate. This is such a confusing time, learning how to move forward without our little boy, while embodying a healthy grieving process for our kids. I believe in my heart that we gave Charlie a warm and loving home, and he gave us the same in return. I hold so much gratitude in my heart for his wet little nose, his warm snuggles, and his endless energy.
I'd love to hear from you, have you lost a fur baby? What helped you heal? Your kids?
We love you, Charlie.
Many of you know that I used to be really involved with the Competitive Bodybuilding circuit. In fact, I even competed in three competitions within a two year span. I loved the passion and the drive I felt when I had such a huge goal on my horizon, and was so inspired by the commitment level of my fellow competitors.
That being said, in retrospect, I have some major regrets with how I handled my competition prep, and I feel that by sharing my story, I’ll likely help others avoid those same mistakes. It’s important to note that I’m not bashing the bodybuilding world and competition life, I may even compete again in the future, but when I do, it will be as a completely different person with more information and a better perspective on my side.
My biggest regret
Just so you know, this way of dropping weight didn’t always work and it definitely isn’t healthy. It often backfired on me because it would dehydrate me while making me bloated at the same time! It’s not healthy to rely on laxatives to go to the bathroom, it’s just not!
I didn’t go the laxative route often but it was always in the back of my head as an option.
This is the path that lead me to body dysmorphia which is a condition where by you can’t accurately recognize the reflection in the mirror as an appropriate image of yourself. I became obsessed over my body fat percentage, always pinching my skin to see how much fat was left, intent on making it go away.
A lot of bodybuilders go through this. We get this distorted image of how we look. You see, we look fit and defined to everyone else but somehow have this distorted image of how we look and only see the areas of fat or places that need improvement.
How I pulled myself out of it
I had to step out of that zone for a bit to heal myself and recover from that phase of my life. First thing I did was put the scale away until the negative emotions around it faded away. It took a few months, honestly. Sometimes my food obsession pops up again in my daily life, usually when my kids ask for food to share and my gut instinct is to keep it to myself since that scarcity mindset (never enough food) returns! I have to work through it for a quick moment and remind myself that there is plenty of food. And if there isn't, well then I can have more! Isn’t that crazy?
I’ve come a long way with these issues. My body dysmorphia is no where near as bad as it used to be, but there are still moments that I need to redirect those thoughts that pop up in my mind and replace them with truth. I really delved into personal development (Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and Like She Owns the Place by Cara Alwill Leybe,) and started practicing mindfulness through the use of meditation (I love the “Headspace” app as well as "Calm"!)
It’s all based on how you see yourself and everyone is differrent. I’ve had to do a lot of healing, especially with my relationship to the scale.A And I know the time it takes to heal from these kind of situations is different for everyone. I gave myself grace, put away the scale for a few months and had a nice long break from obsessing over that number, until I felt my mindset was more balanced and more accepting of the number that reflected back at me.
I’m in a different place now than I was a year ago. And I'm so happy I figured out how to help myself and snap out of it!
I may consider going back to the bodybuilding (much to my husband's dismay), but in a totally different mindset. I want to try it again in a way that is actually healthy and prove that it’s possible- to others and to myself.
There are so many great supplements out there, but it's hard to know which is the right supplement for your needs. That's why I love talking about some of the most commonly suggested ones in my functional medical practice. One fantastic supplement that I even take myself is called Berberine. It's derived from a little yellow flower and can do so much for our bodies- from anti-aging at a cellular level to enhancing or even replacing diabetes medication (WITH the help of a doctor, of course.)
Let's look at some of the other reasons I love suggesting Berberine...
Berberine is one of the most anti-aging compounds out there. It’s natural and plant derived. It has your body make less sugar, use insulin better, lowers LDL cholesterol, reduce infections and can even help with weight loss.
Blood Sugar & Appetite
In my functional medical practice, I suggested this for my patients who had a diet high in sugar and processed foods, and tested high in hemoglobin AIC (indicating potential high blood sugar.) I also taught them a healthier approach to nutrition, of course! Berberine helps your body become more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that puts sugar back into cells). Studies have shown that it’s comparable to many diabetic medications on the market such as Metformin. Patients already on a blood sugar medication may use this, but with caution, as it could cause blood sugar to become too low, unless they are being watched closely and tested by a doctor.
Because of its effect on blood sugar, it can also assist in weight loss. It also affects a hormone in your body called Leptin, which stimulates your appetite.
Berberine can also support cholesterol- by lowering total cholesterol numbers, LDL and triglycerides while raising HDL, which is your good cholesterol. While it helps with this, I don’t generally recommend messing with your cholesterol unless it’s necessary, due to it’s important role in hormone production within the body. I’ve seen too many men come in with testosterone issues due to medication to reduce cholesterol. Diet should always be the first focus, and is key in reducing "bad" cholesterol. The real cause of the build up on the walls of your arteries (leading to heart disease) is really poor nutrition which, in turn, causes inflammation on the vessel walls. This inflammation attracts the LDL cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol) causing the buildup on the vessel wall. So the true cause of heart disease is not necessarily the high cholesterol but a high degree of inflammation.
Berberine is especially helpful for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which causes an over-production of testosterone by the ovaries. Insulin support, reducing testosterone, and the added benefit of weight loss support are all vital for those suffering from PCOS.
Another really cool thing about Berberine is it’s antimicrobial effects. When patients would test high in their inflammatory markers (CRP) I would suspect an infection or inflammation somewhere in the body, even if we couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. It’s antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antiinflammatory properties would make it a go-to for me for these kind of patients!
Berberine can be taken in a dose of 500mg 1-3 times a day, with meals due to it’s effect on blood sugar. If you’re taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin, it’s important to talk to your doctor prior to taking this supplement. It can also affect other important medications such as antidepressants and beta blockers, so absolutely talk to your doctor before taking this to ensure there are no negative interactions with your current medications.
Talk to your doctor
While I have so much knowledge and experience with holistic medicine, I don't have experience with YOU and your specific body situation. Any information here is not meant to replace the expertise your doctor brings to the table. Instead, it's to inform you so you know how to talk to your doctor, and ask for recommendations specific to your needs.
Girl, wash your face
I wash my face (which immediately wakes me up) and brush my teeth! I often will have an inspirational Podcast playing while in the bathroom which quickly shifts to my preworkout tunes when I exit the bathroom on my way to get my workout in!
my secret weapon
With this blood pumping, upbeat music playing, I get ready for the next crucial part of my pre-workout routine! Time to take my favorite natural pre-workout powder. I have had so many issues with pre-workout powders in the past. Most cause me to feel short of breath and jittery because of the amount of caffeine in them! And bloated because they are full of crappy ingredients! Not the one I use! I love the lemon taste but a brand new fruit punch flavor just launched!! I can’t wait to try it!
Now most people dilute the powder in water and drink it! I used to take it this way! However, I found that all that water contributed to my having to stop multiple times during my workout to go to the bathroom (the problem of having a momma bladder) and it took a bit for the energy to kick in! So what did I start doing? I started taking the powder as a shot! Yes, you heard that right! I throw it back and wash it down with a little water! The effects are pretty immediate and I can start my workout right away! However, I usually dance around a bit in the kitchen as I enjoy the energy kick and then proceed to my basement to get the workout done!
Accountability is key
The other thing that I find is key is that I have a group of women who are expecting me to get my workout in! We report our workouts when they are completed so I know that if I don’t show up for my workout and my check in, my gals will be wondering what happened to me! Accountability is key to success in your fitness journey so this extra layer of motivation helps me everyday!
I also share a lot on my Instagram Stories, which both keeps me motivated and helps others get motivated too! I love getting comments and DMs from people about my pre-workout process! Wanna see me throwing back my preworkout powder straight? Connect with me and watch my stories!
What's your pre-workout process like?
I love my Happy, Healthy, & Holistic Facebook Community! That's where I unload a ton of my holistic knowledge, answer questions, and pour my energy into growing a healthy and informed community!
In my last blog post FOUND HERE I introduced a condition called Adrenal Fatigue and included some ways to manage it naturally, before seeking treatment. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, I suggest starting there! Here I’ll give you some treatments to consider, once you’ve reduced the stress, which may be triggering your adrenal fatigue.
I wish it were as simple as scheduling a regular doctor’s appointment. Unfortunately the conventional medical community does not recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical condition. And, actually, adrenal fatigue is a coined term to describe a condition whereby the adrenal glands are not working properly. The only time a condition of the adrenal glands is recognized as a medical diagnosis by my conventional medical peers is when it’s one of the extremes (Addison’s or Cushing’s Syndrome) in which the organs are either over-producing hormones or not producing any at all! These both are pretty serious medical conditions but rare. So when you go to your regular doctor with symptoms of adrenal fatigue, understand they may not take you seriously. They may laugh at you and tell you to stop reading things on the internet (I like to think that you’re just educating yourself)! Also, they rarely test for it and if they do, they don’t do the correct testing to diagnose it.
That’s why I find it so vital to educate others on how to advocate for themselves when slipping through the holes in modern medicine. I’ll share with you how I helped the patients in my functional medicine practice, from testing to treatment plans!
HOW TO TEST FOR ADRENAL FATIGUE
As a functional medicine doctor, my preferred form of testing for adrenal dysfunction is a four-point salivary cortisol test, which checks for the free form of the hormone (hormone that is NOT bound to other proteins.). There is a diurnal pattern to the secretion of cortisol. Your cortisol should be high in the morning to help you get out of bed and get going for the day. And throughout the day, it should decline slowly until bedtime. The four-point salivary test is done four times throughout the day to check for those variances. The first is about an hour after waking, the second late morning/early afternoon, the third around dinner and the last at bedtime.
If we were to do just one check, (which is common in regular medical practices and often checked in blood), it wouldn’t give us enough information to understand what’s happening throughout the day. Is it only high in the morning? Is it high all day? Depending on the results of the four-point salivary cortisol test, we can tell if it’s adrenal fatigue, and if so, which stage.
The four-point saliva test is done at home. It’s a kit with four vials, one for each saliva sampling, and includes the instructions to effectively collect the data. Activity is limited in the hour before each saliva test. It is recommended that there is no exercise, smoking, eating, or anything that could generally raise the cortisol and trigger false results.
Another way of testing for adrenal fatigue is a blood test, but I find it problematic because it doesn’t test for the free-form of the hormone, making the test inaccurate. Also, just the experience of being in a lab to get blood drawn, being late for work since the lab might be packed or actually seeing someone you don’t like at the lab can raise cortisol levels in the blood and lead to falsely high levels. I have heard of all of the scenarios which is why I give them as examples as to why this is not the best test for adrenal dysfunction!
TYPES OF ADRENAL FATIGUE
Stage one is when all the four points on the test come back with high cortisol. This is basically someone who is running on adrenaline. This is typically early on in adrenal dysfunction, but nonetheless, still very dysfunctional!! Oftentimes, I would also rule out Cushing’s Syndrome in these patients since a very high cortisol can be a serious medical condition long term.
Stage two is what we call wired/tired. This is the stage that I saw most commonly in my medical practice. These people usually have lower cortisol in the morning and higher at bedtime. They generally struggle to get out of bed in the morning and have a hard time falling to sleep at night so I often could make the diagnosis just by taking a good medical history! (This is the stage of adrenal fatigue I suffered from.)
Stage 3 are the real adrenal fatigue sufferers. They generally have pretty low cortisol levels throughout the day. In this stage, it’s important to then test for Addison’s Disease, which is an extreme adrenal condition that can be very serious.
It’s important to note here that you can’t fix the abonormal hormone secretion issue without addressing the stress first. I talked in my last blog post about different ways to alleviate stress on the body, and following these steps should be your first focus. Just like you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, you can’t out-supplement adrenal fatigue.
A good B-complex and magnesium supplement are the most recommended for most anyone. It’s largely due to lack of micronutrients in our food supply, but generally provides relief for so many ailments, including adrenal fatigue. In addition, I usually would supplement with extra Vitamin B12 since there is usually not an adequate amount in the B-complex. B12 helps not only with adrenal support but it is also helps bring down certain inflammatory markers, like homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that, at high levels, can cause inflammation in the body and is a known cause of heart disease.
Another supplement that is helpful for the treatment of adrenal fatigue is L-Theanine. It is an amino acid from green tea that calms you naturally and helps you focus without making you feel groggy or drugged! It’s an amazing supplement that I used to recommend for everyone (because who doesn’t need to be more calm and focused) and one which many of my family members take each night. This is ideal for Stage 1 sufferers to calm the high levels of stress throughout the day and also good for those with Stage 2 to help bring down their evening cortisol levels, especially when trying to go to sleep!
Next is something called an adrenal gland adaptagen. These are helpful for all stages. Bascially, an adaptogen helps lower cortisol if it’s high and raise it if it’s low. I typically would recommend Ashwagandha, Relora, and Rhodiola. This is one of the reasons why I love and drink Shakeology daily since it contains adaptogens to help me with my energy and stress throughout the day!
Another useful supplement for the treatment of adrenal fatigue is an adrenal grandular. It is basically an adrenal gland from an animal (usually bovine.). I know, it sounds unpleasant, but I would find when taken in the morning and at lunch, it would help my patient’s feel more energetic without feeling wired or jittery! Raw Adrenal is the brand that I would most commonly recommend FOUND HERE.
Phosphatidylserine is a supplement that is good for those with Stage 2 adrenal fatigue who have higher nighttime cortisol levels. If taken in the evening, it will help to lower nighttime cortisol in an attempt to prevent sleep disturbances and anxiety.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is hormonal support for the adrenals. It is a hormone that is produced in the adrenals but may be lower in those with adrenal fatigue and is naturally produced less as we age. It is a good supplement to support the adrenals in men since it can also help slightly with testosterone production! I would usually only use it in menopausal women (not women who are still having a regular menstrual cycle) since it may also raise estrogen levels, which can be beneficial in a woman who is only producing a small amount of estrogen naturally. I would recommend having your DHEA level checked by your doctor prior to starting supplementation.
In women who are still cycling, I would recommend 7 Keto DHEA. Women who have not gone through menopause (but are getting close), tend to be estrogen dominant (relative to progesterone). The last thing that I ever wanted to do was make her even more out of balance by giving her a supplement (like regular DHEA), potentially increasing her estrogen levels even more! For this reason, I would give 7-Keto DHEA since it is not thought to raise estrogen (and testosterone) levels like DHEA. And, again, I recommend having your DHEA level checked prior to supplementation.
Pregnenolone is an adrenal hormone that is known as the “grandmother of all hormones”! Basically, pregnenolone is made from cholesterol but then is the source for the production of all other hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, DHEA and other hormones! I would often see it very low in those with adrenal fatigue because of a phenomenon called the “pregnenolone steal.” Essentially, those who are super stressed and needing cortisol to keep functioning “steal” pregnenolone to make cortisol and compromise the production of the other above mentioned hormones! So a woman could have even lower estrogen and progesterone and a man with lower testosterone levels if they also have adrenal fatigue. So supplementation with pregnenolone would not only help support the adrenals but the production of the other hormones! I would, again, recommend having your pregnenolone level checked prior to starting supplementation.
Vitamin D should basically be taken by everyone. I have never tested a Vitamin D level on someone in the Northeast and found it to be “normal,” unless they were already on supplementation. It’s crucial for all hormonal support. I do recommend that you get your Vitamin D level checked since it has so many other important roles in the body! Most docs will check this for you!
I would rarely put someone on LOW DOSE steroids (like hydrocortisone) but this is a treatment. In my opinion, it is a band-aid and I would only use it in those who were completely debilitated by their symptoms. I found the biggest problem with using steroids is that I could never get my patients off of them once they started! They would feel instantaneous energy (and who doesn’t love that) but then would be less motivated to get to the underlying cause of their problems and fix them! For this reason, low dose steroids were not usually part of my treatment plan! I want to help people feel better, not keep them on drugs, masking their symptoms!
Talk to your Doctor
While I have so much knowledge and experience with holistic medicine, I don't have experience with YOU and your specific body situation. Any information here is not meant to replace the expertise your doctor brings to the table. Instead, it's to inform you so you know how to talk to your doctor, and ask for recommendations specific to your needs.
Six and a half years ago, before I became a functional medicine doc, I fell off of my horse and fractured four transverse processes in my lumbar spine (lower back). Essentially, I broke my back. Two years later, I was still struggling and had all kids of undiagnosed symptoms that were really affecting me, my lifestyle, and my family. I was misdiagnosed with depression and put on two different kinds of antidepressants.
I kept telling my doctor that they weren’t helping, I wasn’t feeling any better yet I had all the side effects from these prescription medications! My traditional doctor couldn’t figure out where all of these symptoms were coming from, she could only point to depression. It’s really not her fault, adrenal fatigue is often undiagnosed by conventional medical doctors. They either don't believe it exists or they have not been educated on the diagnosis.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a functional medicine doctor who brought up the idea that this could really be an adrenal issue. She promptly did some tests and found that my adrenal glands weren’t putting out an appropriate amount of cortisol and got me started on ways to remedy it. Boom. That’s when my symptoms finally started to get better- with the proper diagnosis and treatment.
This experience made me so passionate to share my story, because I went through so much to find the answers, and it was really so simple to correct.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a condition of the adrenal glands which are these very important, little pyramid shaped glands on top of your kidneys that release important hormones, including aldosterone, cortisol and sex hormones such as dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone.
For this particular topic, I would like to just focus on cortisol. It’s a stress hormone which was helpful back in the caveman days, for dangerous situations to increase reaction in times of stress to essentially protect the body from death. It was a very different situation back then with generally less frequent periods of high stress. Today we have very different kinds of stressors that persist throughout the day. All day stressors pops up in different forms, (e.g. relationships, kids, finances, jobs.) and just keeps coming at us in waves. So, basically, we are stressed 24/7!
One of the worst stressors we can go through is feeling trapped. To put this into perspective, there was a terrifying experiment done on mice where they did all these terrible testings to them include cutting off their legs, starvation, and entrapment. The highest indicators of stress in the mice were actually in being trapped, not the other situations that you would’ve thought.
If you translate these findings to humans, how many people feel trapped in their jobs? I used to see this all the time with the patients in my medical practice. They were overworked, underpaid, in toxic workplaces, working too many hours, all while being under-appreciated which lead to this entrapment level of stress. It was especially so when finances and obligations to care for family remove the option to get out of this extremely unhealthy environment. Not to mention relationship issues, drug dependency, and so much more, translating in our bodies as entrapment and therefore long-term unrelenting stress.
This is when my clients would complain of feeling tired, unmotivated, unable (or unwilling) to exercise, food cravings (salt and sugar,) weight gain, sleep disturbances, and mild depression.
Could you have adrenal fatigue?
There are all different degrees of adrenal glands not functioning efficiently. For example, Addison’s Disease is complete adrenal insufficiency, meaning the adrenals are not producing enough cortisol and aldosterone. This an extreme situation and relatively rare. Cushing’s Syndrome is the opposite, an overproduction of cortisol. These are generally the only two cases that conventional doctors will know there is a problem. The thing is even small discrepancies in cortisol amount and timing of release can wreak havoc on our bodies and produce symptoms, so why wait until it’s an emergency?
Timing is important for cortisol. Typically, in the morning our cortisol should be higher. It’s what triggers us to get up, get out of bed, and get going. It should gradually go down as the day goes on. But for some people with low cortisol in the morning hours, they feel more tired in the morning, and throughout the day, exhaustion compounds until nighttime when it can actually increase- causing sleep issues. This is completely opposite to how cortisol should be released and is caused by adrenal dysfunction, most likely from chronic stress.
If you have symptoms of feeling fatigued, low energy, lack of motivation, food cravings, unable to get enough (or efficient) sleep, it could be that your adrenals are suffering. So be sure to keep that in mind when your doc wants to put you on anti-depressants right away! You need to think outside the box and consider other diagnoses!
My adrenal fatigue was due to years of acute stressors such as being a very busy OB/GYN doctor running purely on adrenaline, not sleeping well due to work obligations, birthing twins (and the lack of sleep that is associated with having infants), relocation, changed jobs and eventually came to a peak with the injury from falling off my horse. My body just shut down and I was very symptomatic. It wasn’t until my functional medicine doctor thought outside the box that I finally found treatment.
A non-medicine, doctor approved approach to reducing adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is caused by stress. Because of this, it’s important to really focus in on relieving what stressors you can, and finding ways to reduce the effects of stress on your body when possible. Maybe you can’t yet get out of the job that is causing you significant amounts of stress, but there are tools to help you manage them, for your health, and to stop the cycle of stress from keeping you in this highly uncomfortable and unhealthy state.
When was the last time you felt yourself free from stress? What were you doing? What do you enjoy? For some it’s gardening or crafting. For others it’s reading a book or listening to an audio book. For others, it's exercise! It’s time to really focus in on the things that bring you joy.
Here are some things that I’ve found reduce stress for me and my clients:
1 Get enough Sleep
I have a trick for people suffering with adrenal fatigue. The most restorative sleep for people with adrenal issues is actually between 7-9am. These people should go to bed earlier and wake up later, even if it’s only on select days. I suggest a 10 pm bedtime (or earlier) and 9am wakeup. I realize this is not possible for many people on most days. But on days it is, doctor’s orders! ;) For those of us who are overachievers, I know it's hard to sleep in but it might be necessary early on in order to heal your body!
2 food that helps and FooD that hurts
Fueling your body efficiently is so vital to reducing stress on your body systems overall. In my Mindful Nutrition Mentorship, we talk a lot about finding joy in feeding ourselves, limiting the guilt that can come with having an occasional treat, and learning how our specific bodies respond to every single thing we feed ourselves. This process helps us find the foods that make our bodies start to feel better and which aren't helping at all. This is especially important for those with adrenal fatigue because sugars and caffeine, (which both sound energizing to someone who is struggling with getting moving and motivation,) are actually creating a vicious cycle. Both are sources of artificial, short lived energy but becoming even more addicting to those who have adrenal issues! Those with adrenal fatigue learn to enjoy the surge of energy after consuming sugar or caffeine, begin depending on it for their energy and never get to the root of the underlying cause of their problems.
3 Salt in your bath... and cup?
Salt has such a bad rap lately, and if we’re solely talking about your iodized table salt, I could understand. It’s been stripped of it’s nutrients. But sea salt (I love Himalayan sea salt) has so many restorative nutrients in it that I even suggest adding a little bit of sea salt to your water to boost energy and balance electrolytes! You’d be amazed how energizing this practice is! I even recommend adding sea salt to your evening bath in addition to epsom salt, whenever possible, because together they increase essential nutrients that you may be lacking and can increase your magnesium, and potassium levels too. The skin is the largest organ of your body so why not use it to absorb these important minerals and electrolytes! I recommend also adding some baking soda to promote alkalinity in your body!!
4 Glug, Glug
Proper hydration plays a key role in reducing stress in our bodies. The human body, when balanced, is 50-65% water. When out of balance all of the body systems are on alert to protect and potentially save your life. Staying well hydrated will improve your energy so maybe you can cut down on caffeine to help you stay awake and focused! Try focusing on proper hydration, which is half your body weight in ounces of water, (150 pound person needs 75 ounces of water per day.)
5 Get Moving
Exercise is a natural way to boost cortisol levels. And exercise can be especially calming when you get out in nature for things like walking, running, and hiking. People who are severely adrenal fatigued should probably stay away from high intensity cardio-based training and heavy weight training until they get to the point in recovery where they feel more healed and energetic. Hard, intense workouts in those who have severe adrenal fatigue can actually be counter-productive and delay healing. In those will severe conditions, I usually suggest more restorative workouts like yoga, until adequately healed.
6 Strengthening Your mind
I know this is a lot to absorb, and I've given you so many suggestions to get your body out of a state of stress. But I am proof of someone who had adrenal fatigue and overcame it. With the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, I got my life back. My symptoms were so bad that there were times I didn’t see the point of it all. I didn't see how I could continue on in life, living how I was living.
How many other people are stuck in that dark lonely place I was? Who don’t see significant improvement with antidepressants? I literally would not be here today, talking to you, if I didn’t stumble upon a functional medicine doctor who could actually find the problem and help me.
Stay tuned for my next blog post on how to diagnos and treat adrenal fatigue! In this blog post, I’ll share more about the supplementation side and additional treatments for adrenal fatigue. Until then, comment below and let’s brainstorm favorite ways to reduce stress! What’s your go-to?
Greetings from Aruba! I’m currently on vacation with my family, enjoying the sun and fun! However, just because I’m down here and I’m having an amazing time with my kids and my husband does not mean I forget about my wellness.
I’m still being mindful of what I eat and even working out! Fitness has always been a part of me, so I definitely find it beneficial to get up in the morning, get my workout on, and then get on with my day. Especially since I have a group I’m accountable to and I just feel better when I’m exercising.
There are a few different ways to trigger inflammation in the body. One surprising way is a significant workout, like working the legs. They’re a big muscle group and when you’re lifting with heavier weights, it leads to micro-tears in the muscle which undergo a repair process in order to grow the muscle. This causes inflammation around the muscle. Don't worry, this is a completely normal process and necessary to build muscle but it can cause that scale to go up!
Food sensitivity can also lead to inflammation in our bodies. In my Mindful Nutrition Membership, we really work on weeding out which foods each of our unique bodies respond to (both in a positive and a negative way.) In fact, we use the scale to learn which foods these are. One thing I learned through this process is that my body doesn’t react well to cauliflower. In a time when others are using cauliflower to make rice, pizza crust, and so much more, I don’t eat it unless I’m willing to go through the uncomfortable bloating (who would!?) So, while cauliflower is a very heathy food to eat, I avoid it since it obviously causes inflammation in my gut!
The good news is, the weight from inflammation is temporary. As the muscles heal and build from workouts and as food sensitivity is determined, that inflammation will melt away too, as long as you’re tracking it and being mindful of it.
Our bodies are constantly on the defense and when your body notices that you aren’t properly hydrated, it’s going to start holding onto water to make up for it instead of excreting it. Our bodies are 50-65% water and it needs to stay in balance for optimum results. One may think that being dehydrated would lead to a drop on the scale, but it tends to backfire when your body holds onto water as a defense mechanism to keep you safe (and alive)!!
CARBS + SODIUM
Did you know that carbs make you retain water? For every gram of carb you consume you can store anywhere to 400-800g of glycogen (storage form of carbs) in your muscle and liver and 2.5g to 4g of water. What does this all mean? You can gain up to 4.5 pounds just from having a higher carb day. So ask yourself, is that fat? No! It’s retaining water. It’s just physiology. It's what our bodies do.
It’s sometimes helpful to use this to your advantage. For instance, when I was competing, I would have higher carbs before a big workout (like leg day) to fuel my workout and I would burn most of those carbs instead of storing them. But inevitably, some would get stored and maybe my weight would go up the next day. But remember, it’s still not real fat.
Personally when I have a higher carb day, I tend to feel more bloated so I definitely know I’m retaining when I can physically feel it. I’ve been on my journey long enough that I know what I respond well to and what I don’t. I just know if I have a higher carb day (I just had some pretzels here on vacation,) I may feel a little more bloated later.
There’s especially a correlation between processed foods containing high levels of salt together making water retention even more significant. All of this water retention definitely leads to the scale going up. This especially impacts the kidneys, whose function is to maintain a very delicate balance between sodium and water. If it detects higher sodium, it will continue to maintain this balance and hold onto water to balance out the increase in sodium (salt). When your salt level goes back down, your body will respond by getting rid of the excess water!
I am not saying salt is bad (I especially love sea salt myself)! But there is a difference between the salt in packaged foods and using some sea salt to season your homemade meals! When your diet consists of mostly packaged, processed foods (or eating out frequently), you will definitely be challenged with water retention from a higher sodium level versus if you were to eat mostly home cooked, whole foods seasoned with sea salt!
Constipation. Let’s get real, if we aren’t pooping, the scale will go up. A lot of times dehydration and constipation go hand-in-hand. Proper hydration and veggies (yay, fiber!) will help you become more regular. If you’re not taking a magnesium supplement, check out my BLOG POST to learn how that could help move things along.
A topic my ladies are well aware of... hormones can definitely impact the scale! In the second half of your menstrual cycle, you can retain water due to the effects of progesterone and estrogen going up. If you haven’t read my WATER RETENTION BLOG POST yet, ladies, you’ll want to go read that ASAP!
3 WAYS TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS WITHOUT THE SCALE
3. Notice how your clothes are fitting
Notice how your clothes are fitting. I suggest having few key pieces from your closet that you try on weekly. Maybe it’s a goal outfit that is snug, but each week you can see it starting to fit a little better. Perhaps it’s a pair of jeans in your closet that you haven’t fit into for years! Keep trying them on and noticing the fit. When you see them getting looser, it’ll just give you so much inspiration to continue on!
I also love using clothes as a rewards system for reaching new goals. Buying a new pair of jeans when you go down a size is the BEST!
You're not alone
Accountability is key. When you have those frustrating days when the scale is going in the wrong direction, the pants are fitting a little tighter, or you generally can’t see your progress, this is when it’s time to lean in on your support network. By now you probably know that I am a HUGE fan of accountability groups and run a few of my own; The Virtual Gym and my Mindful Nutrition Membership. If you need access to one of these groups, email me at email@example.com and I’ll help you get plugged into whichever is the right fit for you.
Don’t give up, check in with your accountability group, track your photos, measurements, and notice how your clothes are fitting. Keep going! All those non-scale victories you get to win along the way: better energy, feeling better about yourself, making healthier choices for your body, they’re all so rewarding to achieve! And as moms, those choices are trickling down to our kids and husbands and inspiring them to live a healthier life in the long run.
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Imagine this: every single kind of workout you can imagine- yoga, strength training, plyometrics, balance, DANCE, and more- channelled right to your living room! If you're like me that means no venturing out into the snow or making sure the kids are taken care of. I simply hit play and achieved results worthy of several winning body competitions!
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