By Rebecca Rovay-Hazelton and Liz Koch
When challenged by weight gain, the first culprit to pay attention to is our stress level.
There are many potential stressors we face living in the modern world: chemicals and coloring in food, impurities in drinking water, synthetic chemicals in the home & office, pesticide ridden cotton or synthetic materials in our clothes, chemicals and perfumes in our laundry detergent, cleaning and body products, genetically modified foods, medications, heavy metals, EMFs, working long hours, not to forget the garden variety family and relationship stressors…my goodness, the list could just go on and on.
Essentially anything that disrupts our normal, healthy functioning, our body interprets as a stressor and some stressors are not easy to identify. For example, food intolerance, parasite, and pathogens can be quite difficult to identify without proper lab testing yet they can cause a slow but detrimental drain on your health. It is not necessarily any one stressor but the accumulative effect of stressors on our health day after day that eventually leads to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a red health flag frantically waving so that we make changes before a major disease sets in. It is also a great first step to focus on when challenged by weight gain.
The Signs of Adrenal Fatigue
- Extra weight around the middle of your body
- Difficulty losing weight even with increased exercise
- Blood sugar imbalance or diabetes
- Feeling exhausted, especially in the afternoon
- Low sex drive
- Reproductive issues
- Thyroid condition
- Low bone density
- Mood disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory
Restoring Adrenal Function
Restoring healthy function to exhausted adrenals takes work, yet the benefits are substantial and, quite frankly, essential to getting the weight off.
The first step is basic metabolic health. This means nailing down the optimal diet for YOU. Start with a food diary. Write down what you eat, how you feel right after you eat, and any mood changes that occur within the next two hours. Notice cravings between meals and jot them down; what do you crave and what do you actually eat? After a week or two notice the trends in your eating habits. What foods help you feel satiated and nourished? What foods lead to a feeling of exhaustion? If after eating a meal you immediately want to take a nap and/or you feel upset or irritated it can indicate a food that may be contributing to your list of stressors. Notice how much sugar you actually consume verses what you think you eat. Sugar and stimulants such as coffee and chocolate can tax your adrenals (high cacao content chocolate-over 70%-or raw chocolate powder is an exception). Also you will discover how often you are actually eating whole versus processed foods as well as how many servings of vegetables and fresh fruits you consumed rather than simply reaching for those crackers or chips. A food diary can open our eyes to unconscious eating patterns.
There are now methods for discovering what the best foods really are for your metabolism. Eating for your metabolic type increases your energy and digestive efficiency. There is a metabolic type test that determines the right foods for your type and tests for detecting food allergies and intolerances that take the guess work out of which foods are nourishing you and which foods are irritants. There are also tests available for directly examining adrenal function. Saliva tests are a better indicator of hormone bioavailability than blood tests that just identify levels of stress hormones circulating through the bloodstream. Moreover, adrenal function tests that measure your cortisol levels AND rhythm throughout the day are more useful than tests that measure total cortisol levels alone because it is possible to have “normal” cortisol output, but have fatigued adrenals. There are also DHEA tests, melatonin, estriol/estradiol (estrogens), and testosterone levels tests that convey valuable information related to the function of your adrenals. All of these tests can offer vital information; however, they require working with a knowledgeable health practitioner or functional nutritionist. Pin pointing the underlying disruptions can save you time and money.
Step two: Lifestyle is an important factor in restoring adrenal function. Eliminating at least half the list of stressors above is one place to start and can be easy to do. Read labels on everything you purchase (and demand that labeling information is required on GMO foods) will help to provide you with the facts necessary for making informed decisions. Shop at the farmer markets to get farm fresh organic produce and meats. Use simple cleaners such as white vinegar in water or baking soda for cleaning. Learn terminology, such as the buzzword “natural” which ultimately meaningless when it comes to exposure to chemicals. You have the power to change what is sold. When you choose not to purchase products that disrupt your capacity to be healthy, you send a powerful message to the corporations making these products. Support products and stores that create a chemical free environment by consciously choosing non-toxic building materials (Way of Life is a good example of such a store). Even the receipts you receive when shopping are full of the endocrine disrupting chemical BPA, so refuse it or shop where they use environmentally safe receipts (once again, Way of Life offers safe receipts).
The world we live in is becoming more and more technology based, not human focused. Technology can be a double-edged sword. Facebook is a great way of connecting but it can also be a time suck that distracts us from more important things such as sleep, face to face time with our friends and family, preparing healthy meals, and taking a walk outside in the fresh air.
Getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night, eating the right diet, drinking enough clean water, moving your body daily, and enjoying stress reduction techniques are all part of an adrenal repair protocol.
Step three: Herbal Support. The plant world offers an array of herbal support for rebuilding adrenal health. From simple fresh and dried herbs to complex synergistic formulas, you can nourish the adrenal health by exploring the gift of plant medicine. One-size doesn’t fit all, so ally yourself with a knowledgeable health professional who will help you navigate and find the best choices for you.