Adrenal/Chronic Fatigue – My Recovery Story

2015-05-12-exhaustedImage by Scott Keffer

Disclaimer

I am not affiliated with any companies or manufacturers of supplements. Through my research I found supplements, effects of the supplements and treatment types that logically fixed the problems outlined in this article. 

1) Each person has their own story of how they came to have the effects of adrenal fatigue. Because of this, many people believe there is no one size fits all ‘cure’, and that everyone’s road to recovery is unique, however this isn’t proven. I took a holistic approach to recovery, logically covering all bases. The things I outline in this post significantly improved my health, and I would except they would do the same for yours, but I cannot make any guarantees.

2) Many people say that adrenal fatigue is part of chronic fatigue, or that it can lead to it. This study indicates that the name of chronic fatigue could be shifting to adrenal fatigue. I personally feel they are interchangeable. Regardless, both are similar in terms of symptoms and possible causes and thus should have similar ‘cures’.

About Adrenal Fatigue

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue syndrome is a debilitating illness that can cause a persons quality of life to decrease significantly. Many people may be living with early stages of adrenal fatigue without knowing it. If left unchecked, a sudden onset of many symptoms may arise, leaving the person confused as to what happened. Doctors may mistake it for a viral infection, however if it is adrenal fatigue the symptoms will linger for months or years. At this stage, the persons case would be defined as moderate to severe.

Here are a list of primary and secondary symptoms.

If you are unsure as to the specifics of adrenal fatigue, here is a fantastic overview.

A number of tests to help diagnose adrenal fatigue are found here. (I failed the iris contraction test which is how I diagnosed myself).

How do you get adrenal fatigue?

My research leads me to believe the causes of adrenal fatigue are; a high amount of emotional and/or physical stress including vigorous physical exercise and viral infections coupled with a poor diet and poor quality of sleep. Over an extended period of these things cause the adrenal glands to become hyperactive.

The adrenal glands can’t sustain the high output for a long period of time and disruption of hormones produced by the adrenal glands, specifically cortisol causes some physical symptoms and starts a negative chain reaction in the body. This page shows the role of cortisol in the body and logically explains the relation of cortisol to the symptoms.

Other physiological conditions in patients with adrenal fatigue

According to this study, leaky gut syndrome is prevalent in a significant number of patients. Leaky gut syndrome can cause IBS, swollen lymph nodes and reduces the efficacy of the digestive system. Leaky gut is linked to candida overgrowth and both of these conditions have their own harmful effects on the body.

Thyroid function can also be affected and cause its own specific problems. A list of problems caused by the thyroid can be found here.

My Story

The Discovery

I’d been to the doctor around 6 times in 4 months. My physical symptoms were constant, fairly painful lymph nodes in my neck and under my arms (it is unknown how stress can cause this, but it is known that it can), a slightly swollen left tonsil, extreme fatigue, a sore throat (only really painful twice at night), difficulty swallowing and difficulty sleeping. I was also extremely anxious and had mild depression.

I noticed all these symptoms got significantly worse for a week or more after any vigorous exercise or  stressful situation. Along with this, I had a constant general pain in my muscles and joints, possibly fibromyalgia. Doctors kept telling me it was a viral infection.

I finally had blood tests that ruled out STI’s, common allergies and showed normal white and red blood cell counts. They did reveal that I’d had glandular fever in the past, something I wasn’t aware of as I didn’t have the traditional glandular fever experience.

During these few months, my anxiety began spiraling out of control. I kept trying to push through the fatigue when my body was saying no and ended up a nervous wreck. Some days I struggled to get out of bed because and I couldn’t see an end. Most of the time I couldn’t go out and socialize because the fatigue was so bad and I began to feel lonely.

By this time, I’d taken to google and thought I had chronic fatigue. I was finally referred someone who confirmed my suspicion and was officially diagnosed with post-viral fatigue/chronic fatigue syndrome. He then prescribed me with anti-depressants to treat it. I was determined to treat the cause of the problem, rather than try and keep some symptoms at bay using the anti-depressants and started looking for natural solutions.

I went back to google and couldn’t find any cures for chronic fatigue, and due to the similarities with adrenal fatigue, I began researching that. Adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue both explained my symptoms, and as I stated earlier I think they have the same cause. The only difference is adrenal fatigue had more comprehensive information as to what it is, what can cause it and what it does to the body. It’s interesting to note that western medicine doesn’t have an official cause of adrenal fatigue/chronic fatigue, and many practitioners still don’t recognize it as a real condition.

How I approached treatment

I started reading peoples success storied on forums read how they were treating themselves. There was lots of helpful information, and the hope of recovery boosted my mood and subsequently reduced some symptoms. This allowed me to see that stress was having a major impact on my health. 

I began to feel like I could overcome this. I started researching what foods, supplements and treatments are used to treat help restore adrenal function, fix leaky gut syndrome, boost the immune system, kill viral infections and remove candida, as well as reduce stress.

The things I attribute my recovery to are; Stress reduction techniques, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), listening to my body, a healthy diet, use of specific supplements and Chiropractic Treatment.

My Recovery Plan

Stress

Recognizing Stress

The first step was recognizing what my stressors were. At the time, I was dealing with a breakup, hadn’t had a relaxing holiday in years, was as studying full time and working part time at a job where I had all the time to think about things and feed my anxiety.

All I could see was what was wrong with the world, and I wasn’t letting myself accept it. There had been changes with my Grandma’s health, one passing away, the other debilitated by dimensia. All this combined took its toll. Every little thing triggered an anxiety attack, and stress on my adrenal glands. It got the point where customers putting their bank card in the machine the wrong way triggered the fight/flight response.

Even though I was only working part time, my job was a major stressor. I had some time off and felt significantly better, only to return to work to feel worse again, so I decided to quit. Just being able to see the end improved my emotional state.

To start my recovery, I had to learn to live with what I couldn’t change and change what I could. knew I had to change how I perceived external information. I knew I was burnt out and going to have to make sacrifices, at least in the short term. The first step in my recovery was accepting I couldn’t push it. I had to take it easy.

One major thing that stops people’s recovery is using the fatigue as an excuse. This is not a mindset you can have if you want to beat it.

Reducing Stress

I started doing relaxing, yoga 5+ times a week after which I used Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)/Mindfulness to reprogram my brain to be the best version of myself. The best version of myself didn’t include letting small things stress me, or having adrenal fatigue, and the CBT helped me overcome these things. This reduced the constant stress on my adrenal glands, which allowed the recovery to start.

I’ve since adopted the motto “the time is now” and have found it has increased my ability to adapt and reduces my stress about problems that hadn’t arisen yet. Being out in nature, or going on walks with a friend helped a lot too, even if they started as short walks.

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present – Lao Tzu

Whenever I felt an anxiety attack coming on, I would take 5 deep, focused breaths and laugh at how silly I was getting stressed over something small.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Acupuncture

Unlike western medicine, TCM recognizes that symptoms of adrenal fatigue are caused by imbalances in the body, and aims to fix these imbalances by stimulating Qi. Many people may be skeptical about acupuncture, as it isn’t what they’re used to, but I assure you a good acupuncturist can be a life changer.

My acupuncturist used navel acupuncture, which is a relatively new acupuncture technique. It yields superior results over traditional acupuncture, although many people have success through traditional acupuncture too. I was told to only eat foods that had a cooling effect on the body such as lemon and orange, and stay away from foods like ginger and garlic, which have a heating affect. Here is a list of foods and their effects on the body according to TCM.

My diagnosis according to TCM

My acupuncturist told me I had a kidney deficiency that was causing fatigue. After a few treatments, my energy levels improved drastically. He also told me I had a spleen deficiency and thyroid problems. I am still receiving treatments to fix other minor problems, but after almost religious treatment for around 2 months, my health has increased by more than 90%.

Note: You may receive a different diagnosis and different instructions. Recovery times will vary based on how long you have been dealing with the symptoms and how often you get treatment.

Listening to your body

To reduce physical stress, I suspended my gym membership. I ate when I needed too, and gave into my cravings for red meat, something I hadn’t eaten in years. The only cravings I didn’t give in to were processed sugar/caffeine cravings, as these can stress the adrenal glands.

Instead I ate fruits when I felt like sugar. I also made sure I moved around after sitting for too long. If I was too tired to go out, I would stay in and know my limitations. All this could get frustrating at times, but short term frustration for a better quality of a life in the long run is worth the trade-off.

Supplements and diet

Colostrum – I discovered this study on colostrum and its ability to cure leaky gut. This study shows how it can help with candida overgrowth. Taking probiotics further helps improve digestion and absorption and helps with IBS. This provides a healthy environment for supplements and a high quality diet to be absorbed and ensures maximum benefits. It also helps reduce the strain on the immune system by stopping unwanted things leaking through the gut into the bloody, triggering an immune response. You can purchase colostrum here.

Magnesium and KSM-66 – I started taking magnesium powder with ksm-66, an extract proven to reduce stress and anxiety. The magnesium also helps with muscle pain and recovery. Here is the powder I used.

TryptophanTryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. The tryptophan helped increase my mood and improve my sleep. I took this on an empty stomach with a B-vitamin complex to help the tryptophan absorb. Care must be taken when taking tryptophan with prescription medication that affects serotonin. You can purchase tryptophan here.

Coconut Oil – I used coconut oil while cooking, started drinking coconut water and consuming 3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties as well as other positive benefits found here. Consuming high quantities of coconut oil at a time, or on an empty stomach can result in nausea. It may be best to spread your 3 table spoons throughout the day. I purchased my raw, unrefined coconut oil from ALDI, as it was the cheapest option, but it is available at most health food shops.

WPI protein shake – Provides the body with all the amino acids (including tryptophan) to give my body the building blocks to repair any damage. I used this protein, however I would have used this protein if it was available.

Vitamin D – I started spending more time out in the sun instead of taking supplements, although supplements are a good idea. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and reduces fatigue.

Vitamin C /immune system booster – To help keep your immune system strong during recovery.

Marijuana – Marijuana helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep as well keeping the body in stages 3 and 4 of sleep. This study shows the effects of marijuana on sleep. This is the time the body does it’s healing and recovering. It does this by stopping the brain entering REM sleep, which means you most likely won’t have dreams. Marijuana helped reduce muscle pain and alleviated some of my fatigue. I vaporized the marijuana as it the one of the least harmful ways to take it. If you choose to use this, check if it is legal in your state and be aware of the possible associated risks.

General dietary guidelines – I cut out all caffeine, processed sugar and processed foods and increased my fruit (especially lemon and orange), verge and healthy fat intake. In a more general sense I at foods high in anti-oxidants, vitamins (especially B and C), minerals and iron. If possible consider switching to organic food to reduce the amount of toxins, such as pesticides entering  your body.

Chiropractic Treatment

The type of chiropractic treatment my chiropractor used was the Gonstead approach. Chiropractors aim to align the spine and believe that many problems can be prevented by correct spinal alignment. If the spine is not aligned correctly, the nervous system doesn’t function as it should and a variety of health problems may arise. This chart shows the relationship between the spine and areas of the body.

I used the chiropractor towards the end of my recovery and felt instant relief. After a few treatments, it took me from feeling 90% myself to back to who I remember I was. If I could have a do over, I would definitely start chiropractic treatment sooner.

If you run your fingers down each vertebrae with a bit of pressure and feel a tender spot, it’s a sign that your spine needs adjusting.  This

My daily food/supplement routine

30 mins before breakfast – 1 shake with 2-4 spoons of colostrum powder, 1 scoop of magnesium powder with ksm-66, a scoop of cacao powder. 1 tryptophan tablet, 1 Vitamin B complex and 1 Spirulina tablet.

Breakfast – eggs w/ avocado and ham on whole meal toast or organic muesli with almonds, cacao powder, black chia seeds and goji berries. To drink, a honey and lemon tea, using the whole lemon.

Lunch – A healthy meal and 3 table spoons of coconut oil.

Afternoon tea – A WPI protein shake with 2-4 spoons of colostrum powder, 1 scoop of magnesium powder with ksm-66, a scoop of cacao powder and a tryptophan tablet. Can eat some berries or kiwi fruit.

Dinner – A healthy meal, a glass of 100% pure orange juice.

Before bed – up to 1.5mg of tryptophan or a sleep aid supplement, and marijuana.

My healthy meals included salmon, fresh salads, fresh wraps with leafy greens and tuna, sandwiches, brown rice, chicken, different types of lean red meat, whole meal breads, walnuts and almonds.

Where am I at now?

Currently I am living a next to normal life. I have grown a lot as a person because of this experience, and am continuing to eat healthy, supplement, partake in yoga and CBT and keep up with acupuncture treatments (which can help prevent lots of illnesses). I have been able to go to a 4-day music festival and my recovery was no longer than that of someone not affected by adrenal fatigue. I have started exercise again but haven’t been pushing as hard as I used to, yet.

Conclusion

Medical conditions including adrenal fatigue all have a cause, even if it’s not recognized by western medicine. Reducing stress, supplementing and dieting, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments and listening to my body were all equally important, as they all worked together to help improve my health. I couldn’t tell you what made the most difference because I started them all at the same time (except chiropractic), as I didn’t want to prolong the symptoms to experiment with what worked.

It is fairly costly to do all the things in this article, but what is money if you don’t have the health to enjoy what it can buy. It’s important to keep in mind that trying to continue to lead a normal life with this condition can make it worse and prolong recovery. Some people that push are eventually forced to reduce their work hours or quit all together and have a very poor quality of life.

I hope this information gives hope to those out there that can’t see an end to their poor health, and provides somewhere for those who want to improve their health a place to start. Good luck with your recovery!

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5 thoughts on “Adrenal/Chronic Fatigue – My Recovery Story

  1. Hey,
    Congrats you have a good thorough article regarding adrenal fatigue.
    How long was the recovery period?
    During your recovery did you use any drugs (apart from Marijuana of course) and what effect did it have?
    Cheers!

    Like

    • Hi Jezza,

      Thanks for the comment – Sorry it took so long for me to reply.

      My recovery period was 3-6 months, however I started treatment within a year of noticing low energy levels. The only thing that lingered (for another 2 months or so) was the fear of burning out due to overexertion. This prevented me from doing a lot of activities, and I had to learn how much energy I could spend again (without pushing it). Walking and yoga turned in to playing frisbee and light weight sessions and after confidence in my physical ability was built back up it was business as usual 🙂 Now I’m in the best shape of my life!

      As part of the reason for fatigue is emotional/mental and I wasn’t in the greatest thought patterns, MDMA helped kick-stared my brain in to seeing and feeling love and positivity again – something that was lacking in my life and causing me to lack motivation. A psychologist said that even though these feelings were induced by MDMA, that based on neuroplasticity theory they sounded to be beneficial experiences. He couldn’t ‘confirm’ anything, but I can definitely say it was a kick in the butt I needed.

      LSD and mushrooms helped me gain perspective on life, love and a lot of other existential questions thats lack of answers had a negative impact on me – My best fit answers weren’t healthy/positive answers, and through the different perspectives came more positive answers and a greater appreciation for life and its complexities in general.

      The connections felt with people while under the effects of substances amplified the connections, which helped me feel human connection in all its glory again. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time which was contributing to my fatigue.

      Hopefully this reply finds you and if you’re on your path to recovery, I’m here for support!

      Cheers, Luke

      Like

      • Thanks for the detailed reply Luke, and now it’s my turn to apologise for the late reply 🙂

        Good to hear your recovery has reached a high 😎
        The fear of overexertion is a good point, it definitely is tricky working out where the line is between safe exertion and overexertion and probably one of the things that hold up recovery to begin with. I’ve begun walking and yoga and now introducing light cycling and light weights when possible.

        I’ve been taking B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium/Zinc, Fish Oil, Super Greens and i’ve begun taking some adaptogens (Ashwaganda, Ginko, Licorice Root) worth noting that the adaptogens curbed my ridiculous hunger which could be interpreted as them calming the stress response causing it.
        After re-reading your article I’m probably going to add tryptophan and look into the chiropractic side of things.

        It’s funny when it comes to recovery for Adrenal Fatigue, I am someone who researches things to death when I’m trying to find answers – probably to the point of confusion. But with adrenal fatigue it isn’t really beneficial to follow a strict regimen, it is better to go with the flow on a day to day basis doing what you feel capable of.

        I don’t think i’ll venture into MDMA anytime soon as it was stimulants that got me here, but i’ve considered micro-dosing with some LSD…purely for scientific reasons as to the effects on the adrenals…because science hah.

        Cheers again, Jezza

        Like

      • Sounds like you’re on the road to recovery! I never came across a way to actually find the overexertion limit, but I remember not being sure if it was where I thought it was or if my brain introduced a kind of mental block/defense mechanism to prevent me from reaching it. The only way to know is to test, and it appears your doing so and your level keeps raising 🙂

        Those are great supplements and definitely helped balance my body chemistry – especially the ashwaganda for its effects on cortisol levels. Interesting to note your change of appetite due to reduced stress! Awesome observation.

        Have you looked in to colostrum? That made a huge difference for me as it ensures a healthy gut and maximum vitamin absorption. Plugs all the holes in the bucket before it fills up haha. Tryptohphan is a good idea, especially if there is a history of stimulant use that affects serotonin levels.

        Alignment of the body is one of the biggest factors, especially in prevention of illness. A lot of issues are caused by misalignment, and a lot of the time we’re only treated for the symptoms rather than the misalignment. Yoga and Qi Gong help keep the body in good shape once aligned, but sometimes a little extra is needed to get back to 100% alignment. Here’s a link to one of my favourite Qi Gong routines. (The morning one is also incredible): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9kvYnWKG3g

        Can totally empathize with the researching to the point of death, I did the same thing haha, but that’s how we got here isn’t it!? I agree. All of our bodies are unique and we must learn to listen to what they need. They give us the feedback, all we have to do is be in tune with it.

        Micro-dosing is pretty interesting haha. Tryptohphan will ensure there’s serotonin for the LSD to bind too haha.

        Keep doing what you’re doing Jezza!

        Like

  2. Awww thanks so much learnt so much on your journey..very similar to mine and I will implement few of your solutions to mine and prayers. #irejectstress
    Let my email in case you have more info for me.

    Like

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