Adrenal Fatigue: My Story

Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Outcome via @familysportlifeFirst, thank you to everyone who wished me well during my week of rest and recovery. I will probably work that into my blogging routine on a more regular basis but it will be more planned out. Last week was kind of abrupt. Maybe this post will shed some light on the changes happening in my life. Maybe you have some big changes too. While most likely not the same as mine, there is still something to be learned through our collective experiences.

A few months ago I mentioned I would be seeing a Naturopathic Doctor.

Confession: For six years I have not been feeling well and battling what can only be described as extreme fatigue

Other symptoms were:

  • Inability to lose weight (no matter what I tried).
  • Very poor workout recovery (elevated HR, soreness, increased fatigue)
  • Iritability or moodiness.
  • Increase in skin breakouts.
  • Body temperature inconsistencies.
  • Very sluggish digestion.

I will say the two biggest and most frustrating symptoms were fatigue and inability to lose weight.

These two symptoms together made me think it was a thyroid issue. I have had my thyroid tested FOUR times in the last six years and doctors would say it is fine. Each time by a different Doctor because every time I left an office, I vowed never to return.

I don't want to bash traditional doctors but their responses to my symptoms were less than helpful.

Their advice would go as follows:

  • Well, what do you expect? You're a "tired mommy"
  • This is your body type, you have "thick legs." (Pardon my french but I sh*t you not. This came from a medical professional).
  • Stay away from bananas and nuts. They make you fat. (I don't really eat bananas.)
  • It's a simple math equation. Just eat 500 less calories a day. (This one actually got me to raise my voice at the Doctor.)
  • From a different calorie obsessed doctor came this lovely experience. "The older you get the less calories you should eat." Then the MALE Doctor took my hand, put it on his rotund belly, jiggled it around and said "See, I only eat one meal a day and I am still fat." (well, duh!)

Worse was what preceded this advice.

Each time I would walk into a doctors office, the doctor would tell me (based on my physical appearance), that NOTHING was wrong with me. "You are a perfectly healthy woman."

This is true.

My blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels are all things to envy. Perfection. So, I was immediately dismissed which was infuriating. They heard my symptoms as "I am fat and tired. Wah. Wah."

So I suffered as quietly as I could.

I was just happy that nothing was turning up to be fatal because I felt like DEATH. All the while, I just sucked it up. I sucked it up for my husband. I sucked it up for my kids. I sucked it up for my employer. I sucked it up for my friends. I sucked it up for me because I felt that was my only option. I stayed positive.  I pushed through. I faked the energy I didn't have.

I changed my diet. I eliminated. I added.

I tweaked until there was nothing left to tweak or try. Every dietary dogma was exhausted. And so was I.

About 18 months ago...

I started to get the feeling I was suffering from Adrenal Fatigue based on my own research. I took a self reported online questionare that told me I was at Stage 2 Adrenal Fatigue. Knowing I under reported symptoms I closed down the computer and buried my head in the sand. I will just tweak my diet again (I thought).

Twelve months ago...

I tried training for a sprint distance triathlon and couldn't handle the training. It obliterated me.

So, I decided to train for a duathlon. It obliterated me.

Disappointed with my "fitness level" I struggled to train for a 10K. Weekly speed workouts left me trashed.

None of this made sense.  Healthy people do these things!

Recently...

I trained for a 10 miler. I needed to prove to myself I wasn't an overweight, tired mommy.

Training was harder than I thought it would be. I was constantly battling my sympathetic nervous system driving me to fight or flight. I felt like my nervous system had a light switch and it was stuck in the "ON" position.

In March, the light switch burnt out. Whatever I was doing to myself weakened my immune system and I wound up with Pneumonia.

Just before the Pneumonia, I made an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor. I felt like I was out of options. I knew the other doctors were missing something because their training was to stick to the outdated reference range on the lab reports. Research suggests approximately 13 million people have undetected thyroid issues (resources are below).

I knew she would LISTEN to my symptoms and order tests the other doctors wouldn't because I "looked healthy." I also knew she would use the new standards with a narrower margin to detect my thyroid function.

And she did just that.

This Naturopathic Doctor LISTENED to me talk in detail about my symptoms while asking probing questions for 90 minutes. She ws pretty certain I had Adrenal Fatigue and it could be effecting my thyroid. She wrote a comprehensive list of blood tests I needed as well as an Adrenal Stress Test.

Immediately, without any test results, the Naturopath set me on a supplement, diet, and exercise protocol. It helped and it didn't.

I felt less fatigued but my anxiety from waiting for the test results and having to make life changes left me emotionally drained.

A month later, I received my test results which uncovered the following:

  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Hypo Thyroid (most likely caused by the AF)
  • "Obnoxiously low" (a real medical term) Vitamin D
  • Almost no Melatonin
  • Low Iron Stores

This is like one heaping dose of exhaustion. We added more supplements. My exercise and diet are pretty restrictive which is making me pretty grouchy. However, I know my success is going to be determined by my ability to make different lifestyle choices.

CONFESSION: Making these changes has been an uphill battle for almost two months.

Intellectually I know what needs to be done but emotionally I am struggling.  I coach people through having a clear vision, setting incremental goals, action planning, overcoming obstacles as a mechanism to win at life.  However, I am not winning right now.  Or maybe I am because I realize my struggle and I am taking steps to deal with my crap head on.

After a much needed breakdown today, I had a breakthrough.  I know the looping negative thought patterns are a danger to my success but somehow that is where I have been.  Focusing on all the things I can't eat and can't do.  Today I started focusing on what I CAN DO and what I CAN eat.

The runner in me wants to smack talk myself into gear with something like "head down, do the work."  BUT that is partly why I am here, too much work.

So instead, I am going to take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea, and put my feet up.

"All is well in my life.  Everything is as it should be."

Resources:

Thyroid Disease Far More Widespread Than Originally Thought, 13 Million May Be At Risk/Dr. Mercola

The TSH Normal Range.  Why is there still controversy?/About.com

How to Know if Your Thyroid is Working Properly with Blood Tests/Dr. Mercola

What is Adrenal Fatigue?/Adrenal Fatigue.org

RHR: Adrenal Fatigue, Glutathione Status, and Rheumatoid Arthritis/Chris Kesser

What changes are you facing right now?