Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adrenal Fatigue and Metabolic Damage. Where I am at today.

  Over the last year and a half I found myself at a crossroads.  I was sick.  I was tired and it wasn't the old adage of being sick and tired, I truly was miserable and I didn't know why.   I was running and running a lot. (this is supposed to be healthy right) I was working out and busy all the time. I created stress for myself and I took that stress and shoved it down inside to fester.  I looked great but I was slowly loosing energy and not getting it back.  I was the ideal "healthy" and yet I was sick.  WTF!!  The crossroads was this, stop everything and rest and research or keep trying to exercise out of it, which was clearly not working.

  I have struggled with MS for years now and some of my recent downfall was probably that I was having a flair up.  What caused the flair up?  I think it was doing too much and gave myself Adrenal fatigue which taxed my body overall and the massive stresses triggered the MS.  I am not convinced however that this last year has been all due to MS.  If I was to put a percentage on it, it would be 75% adrenal fatigue and 25% MS.  I treat them both the same as far as supplements, foods, etc.

 Running and working out are great and mandatory for a person to be healthy but too much and it takes more than you get from it.  More does not always mean better.  In a lot of cases of athletes it is damaging even though they look fabulous on the outside. 

  For me It all started in July of 2010 when I first had anemia during marathon training.  Marathon training is no joke and especially for women as they are more prone to anemia.   I was working and mothering and working out and not managing my stress well.  Stress can make you sick. Mental, emotional and physical stresses are all stress.  That is the baseline lesson in all this. 

  Fast-forward to May of 2011 when I was in NYC for the Vivobarefoot coaching course I felt horrid but I kept quiet about it.  I had numerous bouts of dizzyness and terrifying anxiety every day. I was taking anxiety meds just to get through the day.  I can't believe I managed not to just bail on the whole trip.  I would be in class and get dizzy and worry that I would pass out.  But I kept telling myself that in NYC I would just be another tree in the forrest and be ok..... Then right after the week long class I took a train to Rochester and ran a 12 hour timed ultra and pulled off 38 miles.  It was fun and the recovery wasn't too bad but what everyone doesn't know is that I was having horrible bathroom accidents while running and was really scared of the dizzyness and anxiety that I just ignored and ignored and ignored even when that little voice inside was telling me to wake the fuck up.  I have a tough mind and when I want to do something I can push through on will power.   I am tenacious but to a fault at times.  I was hurting myself.   

  During that spring, my sex drive was non existent which put a rift between the super hero and I.  I was lethargic and depressed and not a melancholy blue depression but a "leave me alone, lay down and stare at the wall" depression and yet I kept trying to run the bad feelings away.  

  In hindsight I see the hormonal issues and metabolic damage being done here but at the time I didn't know what the hell was happening to me.  My periods were coming closer and closer together and heavier which was causing even more anemia.  The iron supplements tear up my stomach so I was just in a nasty vicious cycle.  I kept it all to myself and didn't share online. 

After that NYC trip, I didn't run as much and eventually quit all together for a while.  Today, I'm ok with that but at the time it hurt my heart and ego something fierce.   I really had to re-examine what it is that defines me.  I saw my friends running and meeting goals and doing bigger and better things.  I felt like I was slipping away and I wasn't relevant anymore.  Slowly, I was loosing my health and loosing sight of the fact that my health is not my own.  It is my families because they need me.  NEED ME to be healthy and there for them. 

  I thought I was having heart issues because my anxiety was causing so many chest sensations and yet all tests came back normal.  I was told my heart looked "beautiful" by numerous doctors.  I had ongoing bouts of pleurisy which causes inflamation of the lining between the lungs and the rib cages and hurt like hell and then of course make anxiety worse because we are supposed to take chest pain seriously.  I had lingering infection and on top of that chronic stomach pain. all. the. time.  Which of course, you guessed it, created more stress.  ugh. 

  I would crash every day(crashing to me means an urgency to lay down or a drastic immediate loss of energy) , like clockwork, at 10:00 am and 6:00 pm and then wake in the middle of the night from a whacked out cortisol imbalances.  Broken sleep and tired during the day and I was living on coffee, sugar, bread and anything easily digested and fast just to stay afloat. 

  I was not tested by a doctor (naturopaths are not covered by my insurance)  but I am a smart girl and can read and research ( )and what I found were clear signs pointing to adrenal fatigue and metabolic damage. The hard part was implementing the change and stopping the coffee, sugar, stress, and exercise as Dr Lam suggests.  

   I was also having thyroid and girl hormone imbalances as well.  The adrenals, thyroid, and ovaries are all connected and mine were whacked out.  From running.  I did this to myself because I would not listen to my body, exactly what I spout off as a barefoot runner, I completely ignored.  I was just doing  too much. Pushing too hard and stressing way way way too much.  And for what?   

So, what did I do?  After I was diagnosed with MS officially, with MRI scans and my prior history,  I had my vitamin and mineral levels tested.  I decided that getting those numbers up was a solid place to start being proactive. MS is just a label.  They really don't know what causes it.  They know what it is but not how to stop it or what causes it.  The medical treatments my neurologist wants me on, in my case, are more debilitating than the disease.  I wasn't as sure of the adrenal fatigue as I was of the MS diagnosis so I went with that and moved forward looking to improve my health overall.  Easier said than done while depressed but I watched Dr Wahl's TED talk video and implemented her advice.

 For a while there I isolated myself.  I stopped coaching runners.  I stopped running.  I just felt like a big pile of poo with no will to do anything.  The upside to that is that I was forced to slow down.  I didn't have a choice.  I had zero energy to do anything but slow down.  When I would go to the store and was terrified when a bout of fatigue takes hold and I am scared that my husband might have to carry me out or the embarrassment of having to ride the electric cart at the store.  I did however choose to embrace it and I decided that I want to be out in the world with my family even if I have to ride the cart.  I even told myself that if I felt especially low I would just wear my streampunk goggles and combat boots while riding the cart.  If you want to stare at the young fit looking girl riding the cart then I will give you something to stare at. 

The vitamin and mineral imbalances and my depression from my situation were feeding off of each other and of course the heart palpitations from stress did not make things easier.  I kept researching.  I decided to stop isolating myself.  Although the coming out of isolation was after I  changed my prioritized and reestablished a deep connection with my family.  The upside of depression was the stark reality of how very precious and dear my children and husband are to me.  

  I am working on a post about what I have done to treat adrenal fatigue as well as MS.  Really its not different in how I have chosen to treat both issues.  Basically it is rest and sleep as much as you can.  Balance out vitamin and mineral levels.  Eat whole healthy foods but in balanced levels.  When I was really bad off I had to eat bread or simple carbs to keep me from "crashing".  Hypoglycemia would set me back for days.  Once I got stronger and stopped crashing so much I then, and only then, could go for more sweet potatoes and quinoa instead of the bread.  Some exercise is ok but only after a long long rest.  I didn't do anything for months. I wanted to get a bit more information and data gathering as to what has happened over the last couple of years before I even considered regular exercise. 

So, being depressed forced me to realign my priorities and put my family first.  I also slept more which is exactly what I needed.  Because I felt like crap, I rested all the time, which is exactly what I needed.  I discovered a passion and love of yoga which is just an extension for me of barefoot running.   I have learned self control and how to perfect skills and work at being healthy instead of push push push and power through, now I have finesse and a greater appreciation of detail and long term work.  

I had to stop. STOP. stop trying to exercise my way out of it.  Running more was not helping.  It was hard to admit.  Cutting calories and trying to be lean was making it even worse.  I had to let go of what I thought I knew and try something different.  I had to sleep, eat, and slow down.

Look for my upcoming post on what exactly I am doing to treat both adrenal fatigue and my MS.   This is a learning experience and an ongoing process of attaining better health so its not an end all list.  Please let me know if you have experienced issues with adrenal fatigue or weight gain, crashing hard after working out, loss of sex drive, whacked out menstrual cycles, depression etc.  I would love to hear your story.  Ask any questions of my that you want!!!

As I sit here and type this I am feeling pretty good.  I have some weird pain in my back but I feel pretty good otherwise.  Its always something right :)  These days I  can do some yoga and ride my fitdesk and go for walks but I am very aware that I am not too far from being out of the woods and need to continue to go slow and steady.    I can put myself in a creative state and I want to talk and interact with people.  I have much more of a reserve to deal with my 4 crazy spawn and my sex drive is slowly coming back which my super hero is pleased about! 

It gets better and I believe we have the ability and resources to heal ourselves if we will just choose to do it!

Two quick links to great resources that I love.
 Doctor was one of the first and has continued to be the best online resource I have found for helping me treat and learn about adrenal fatigue. 
Danny J from Sweaty Betties has had similar issues and there are so many other women out there working themselves into a very unhealthy and dangerous place.  

Angie Bee


zapmamak said...

After my first two ultras I had about three days of pretty significant depression. Nothing long term, though. I had to text my coach to find out what was going on and he informed me that running stupid miles will jack up your hormones. He recommended I do some research on the endocrine system and ultra running. I did a little but since it didn't really become a huge issue for me I kinda dropped it. Here's one of the articles I bookmarked:

I think it needs to be talked about. Luckily I don't train like most people so I'm not putting the stress on my body most ultra runners do but people (women especially) need to know about how the continual stress of running can effect such an intricate system and possibly defeat the purpose of exercising in the first place.

I think people need to be smart about the way they train and educate themselves on what they are doing to their bodies when they do any kind of endurance sport. We focus on health so much - the way we eat, the way we sleep, we really need to be better informed on what our training is actually doing for us.

My coach says that if I'm sore that's no reason to take a day off, but if I'm fatiqued that's a warning sign and that I need to rest until my body is ready again. Its been very good advice.

Robbie said...

Thanks so much for this post. I am looking forward to hearing how things are going for you. I was diagnosed (naturopath) with adrenal fatigue, ibs, and post gall bladder removal syndrome all at once about 6 months ago. I am still muddling through the eating changes. I haven't been doing a very good job of avoiding coffee and sugar. I have found that giving up running (for now) is the hardest.

KovasP said...

It's so great how you took care of yourself, then your family, and then returned, as it were, to society. Very brave and I think the right process. Continued success!

Anonymous said...

Angie, we're backwards. ;) I have lived -and felt- like this for years. (I've tried all sorts of things, some of which actually help). It is my goal to eventually, RUN, and RUN, and RUN, and RUN. I long for it and I can see it clearly... That is why I am here, you inspire me. (Cute Mom, largish family, if she can do it I can too.) First, though, I have to figure out how to feel well enough to make it around the block without ending up back in bed for a week. - Surprised you ended up where I started!

Anonymous said...
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The Sweaty Betties said...

Love that you posted this and I love the "Super Hero" nickname ;)
Sighhhhh I can relate so much... different stories with the running and fitness but virtually the same thoughts and outcomes.
Im proud of you for this post and Dr. Lam's site is also on my list of resources, good stuff..
I will love to hear about your continued progress!

Unknown said...

I had to learn the hard way and no one was talking about it. I thought more was better. I know nkw and want to be open about it. Very important for women in particular.
So glad you have your knowledgeable coach :)

Unknown said...

How hard for you Robbie! It gets better and although its hard to believe, i feel so much better without the coffee. It takes a whike though to feel leveled out.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your support Kovas :)

Unknown said...

I am so sorry you feel like this. Have you tried creatine and getting your D and B12 levels checked? They are ones that I think everyone should monitor. They are just blood tests from a primary care MD.

I love and miss running long and will run more eventually but its been hard.

Unknown said...

I couldnt keep quiet any longer. I want there to be an awareness so people can catch it early. You are such an inspiration Danny J!!

Jennifer P said...

The pretty much describes 2012 for me too. It was a random Google search for me that tipped me off to hormone imbalance, ultra running and depression. All year I've been doing this crazy long distances and instead of feeling better, feel worse. I've hardly run this month and although I don't feel any better (yet), I don't feel worse. I'll take that.

THANK YOU for your honesty.

Sally said...

Wonderful post precious Angie.It is a very important and hard lesson to learn.I posted on your fb wall that I have been on thyroid med for about 8yrs and it has helped tons. A lot of what you have described is exactly like menopause-which I realize you are way to young for- but the reason I bring this up is that this is all stuff I was forced to learn during menopause.I refuse to use my age as an excuse,yet I have to learn to accept my limitations too.There is nothjing wrong w/ embracing one's limitations as long as they are not an exuse! I may never run an ultra and i still can't do your one certain awesome yoga pose thingy -that I swear I will do someday- but I still have the GOAL of an ultra! I know healthy eating , rest and listening to your bosy are the key. By the way -I am still not off caffiene-ok-I need help for that!! BIG BIG HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am SO proud of you !!! You are such an inspiration!!

Elle said...

Glad you are at a place where you are feeling better and listening to your body and giving it what it needs. I am interested in your upcoming posts! Thanks for being brave enough to share all of this. It is so helpful for others who might be in a similar position - not the same symptoms/ailments as yours, but who need to wake up and pay attention. We are all there at some point, in different ways.

Unknown said...

I had no idea! I do hope you feel better soon. I really suggest cutting out all caffeine (even though it seems counterintuitive) and getting as much rest as you can. Make sleep a priority and deal with stress in a proactive way. The adrenal fatigue can be reversed quickly if you get on it in the early stages. Thank you thank you thank you for your support and I really would love to hear of your updates and what you figure out :)

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

You are such a lovely friend :) Thank you for your support!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment Elle! It would have been so lovely if I had known others were going through this too. I want to be open and honest and get people thinking about listening to their bodies

shel said...

mama, i knew something was up, and i wished you'd have reached out to us. but the need for privacy is understandable, and the "shame" of watching everyone "run away"...well, i get it. i wonder how many of us who came through the early exciting days of BF running have experienced something get swept up in the excitement, to feel pressured to be ambassadors, keep up with the speed and distances of everyone else, and if you couldn't you were a loser or no good or not worth anything. i've felt it from some of the others. the biggest lesson i've learned over the last 4 years is to just "do me". be my best shelley. that is enough. whatever i feel like running is enough. whatever i feel like being is enough. if i can't today - i can't, and i am not apologizing. you cannot sacrifice your body and sanity to keep anyone happy or thinking you are super human. part of the problem of being a blogger or putting yourself out here and having a presence and high profile is that you feel like you owe everyone something - you gotta keep up the facade or become irrelevant. in a sense that it true - but i have come to believe that i'd rather be irrelevant than enslaved by all these strangers.

shel said...

at one time you were someone that people looked up to for running and fitness advice. now you can have a more valuable voice in the world - for health and wellness, for people with MS and food intolerances, depression and anxiety. be proud, and focus on what you can offer now. love you!

Unknown said...

Ah Shel, I adore you and that brilliant mind and kind heart of yours :) I feel like you "get me" and I love that.
I am working to be the best Angie I can be and am loving the contemplative nature of yoga that has helped grieve not running like I want to. I am tight with my family and know who my friends are and Im cool with that and so very fortunate.
It seems that if I just put myself out there its enough for some people and I hope to inspire in any way I can.

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