Tag Archives: vitamin D

Some ideas to help deal with Adrenal Fatigue, naturally

Adrenal what?

Yeah, I know, you may not have heard about it before, and if you haven’t well, lucky you.  I have noticed a distinct upswing in the number of people I know who are dealing with it recently.  That could be the people I am hanging out with (a lot of us have fertility issues and adrenal fatigue can be a contributing factor),  but after doing some research about it, I think adrenal fatigue is being caused by our modern lifestyles as well.

adrenal fatigue

What is it?  Effectively, it is the body burning out.  Adrenal fatigue is characterised by a disruption of your adrenal glands ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right time in response to stress.  Basically, it is your flight or fight response, and because it has been used soooo much, your body just can’t deal with it all any more.  Your adrenal glands (on top of your kidneys) are kicking out cortisol all the time, and it becomes background music in your chemical composition.  Your body can’t tell if it a sabre toothed tiger or that mountain of paperwork you need to run away from.  The adrenals keep pumping out the cortisol but the rest of the body pays it no attention.   So, why is it a problem?  Well, the adrenal glands are the bodies hormonal powerhouse.  They form the nexus of the feedback loops in the body co-ordinating the production of nearly every hormone in the body.  If they are overworked, then the hormonal balance in the body is going to be out of whack, pure and simple.

exhaustion

According to my research, there are three levels of adrenal fatigue.  The first level is the wired and tired stage.  It is characterised by high cortisol levels especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain.  Often sufferers feel energised but in an edgy and wired sort of way.  The second level is the stressed and tired stage.  The sufferer will wake up early, like 3 am early, and then no be able to fall back to sleep.  Later in the day stressors kick in and they feel more awake.  According to the medics, in this stage, the cortisol level peaks early, then flattens out but there is generally a rise midday or in the early evening.  The third, and most serious, stage is burnout.  This is characterised by exhaustion, regardless of hours slept, a completely flat cortisol curve and in some cases low DHEA (a hormone which acts as a neurosteriod, among many other things) and thyroid hormone levels.  It is a dangerous place to be, not just because you feel mentally woolly and unable to think straight, but it is also associated with a higher risk of autoimmune disease.

lightbulb

Personally, I think I have been in each of these three stages at least once in my life, and quite possible more than that.  The disruptive sleep patterns and hormonal imbalances ring very, very true for me, not to mention the insulin resistance and the abdominal weight gain.   Every time I go to the doctor and they take their barrage of blood tests, they always come back telling me that everything is in balance… but I have been diagnosed with asymptomatic Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome – which is also characterised by insulin resistance and a real difficulty in losing weight.  Hmmm.  I know self diagnosis is risky, but this is ticking some serious boxes for me.

vegetables

What can I do to turn this adrenal fatigue around?  Well, a change of diet is essential.  My research reveals that eating a diet high in brightly coloured vegetables, lean and clean protein and whole grain carbs will really, really help the levels of inflammation in the body.  If there are food you know you are sensitive to, but are still eating, then get them out of the diet as well.  One item it was interesting to find was that if you cut carbs entirely, then it will actually exacerbate adrenal fatigue, and not fix it.  Well… that explains my reaction to the Atkins diet and its variants that I have been on over the years!

You should also go to bed early… and by early I mean before 11pm.  Ideally before 10pm if you can manage it.  I have been trying to manage it since I began living on my own nearly 20 years ago… and so far I have not managed it.  You need to have lots of B vitamins in your diet.  If you are not getting it from your diet (green leafies and lean proteins), then by all means take a supplement.  B vitamins are food for the adrenals.  You need to cool inflammation in the body – you can do that by making sure that you get Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet along with lots of vitamin C and curcumin as well.  All these are known to lower systemic inflammation.  You need to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs.  Vitamin D, Selenium, magnesium, zinc are all incredibly important for thyroid and adrenal function.

water drop

Everyone knows you need to stay hydrated.  This is even more important in adrenal fatigue.  Adding some lemon juice to your glasses of water might help matters as well.  Plus it makes it taste a bit more interesting into the bargain.  You might want to consider using Adaptogenic herbs.  Herbs like ginseng, liquorice root and Astralgus are really good at counteracting the effects of excessive cortisol.  My research also suggests that you need to build rests into your day.  I am really bad at this.  I keep going until either I am at the end of my to do list, or I am nearly dead… whichever happens first.  One thing you should steer clear of though, is a lot of high impact and high energy exercise.  It is not going to help.  Exercise needs to be stretching and calming.  Restful.  A nice stroll in the spring sunshine, yoga, or tai chi sounds just the ticket.

change your perspective

And finally?  The best way to start treating your adrenal fatigue is to change your perspective.  It is actually possible that your definition of success might be killing you.  In modern times it is easy to compare your own life to the edited highlights of every one elses life, and you can sometimes feel that it is so important for you to do things better, harder, faster than everyone else.  Hello cortisol overload.  Changing how you define success might be the quickest and easiest way to start to revolutionise your life.

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Going a little crazy(er)…

Not at the moment… I have too much going on to be going crazy really. Not only are we waiting for a match for the adoption, but I have a humungous pile of jobs to do in the house and the garden and then there is the whole #NaBloWriMo thing into the bargain.

crazy

However, I am aware that in some regions where this blog is read, they have had the first snowfall. I always think of getting cabin fever when I think of the first snowfall. It only happened to me once, but once is more than enough.

 

What is cabin fever? Well, the idiom was only coined in 1918, but the term can cover all levels of things from feeling like you want to hibernate and being a bit grouchy to having a totally claustrophobic reaction to being kept in the house and not being able to go outside.

 

My book of reference for this month “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor” reckons that it is probably a form of SAD, which I have written about recently. However, my own personal experience, and what my research has turned up is a definition which encompasses a much deeper and more visceral reaction to having to stay inside due to inclement weather.

cabin fever

Symptoms of cabin fever are a need to sleep more than is usual, to sort of enter a kind of hibernation state, extreme irritability, restlessness, even paranoia about the people they share a living space with, an urge to go outside regardless of the weather, just to escape. It is understandable that people might associate this with being snowed in, but my experience was in the depths of summer.

 

I was living in Woking at the time and had been struck down with a fever and vomiting bug. I was living on my own in a bedsit which was painted purple (I loathe purple on the walls, and especially the dirty purpley sort of colour, purely down to that place). I was cut off from everybody and everything for 3 days. By the end of that 3 days I was climbing the walls. As soon as I got out of the place though and took a walk up and down the road (because I was too weak to go far) I immediately felt better.

raking leaves

That is one of the suggestions of how to cure cabin fever. Get outside. Obviously, dress for the weather. No point going outside in shorts and a t-shirt when it is 20 below zero with a 10 degree windchill, because you are asking for trouble. And frostbite. But getting into the weather appropriate garb and getting out there to top up the Vitamin D is worth the fuss.

My reference for the month also suggests putting fluorescent lighting in the rooms you spend most time in, finding company in some way (thank you social media and book clubs), and even working creatively inside can really help matters.

It is interesting.  I think I suffer from cabin fever a lot more than I thought.  The best medicine for me is to go out and get the gardening done.  On that note… I am off to sweep up more leaves!

How to stay happy through the gloom…

In the UK, we have just moved our clocks back and we are once again on Greenwich Mean Time.  It means, of course, darker mornings, the evenings drawing in, the cold months of the year are here in some parts and on the way in others.  For some people, it also heralds the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

clocks changing

SAD is more than just feeling a little gloomy when the days are short.  It is actually a recognised depressive illness.  If you feel you have the symptoms of depression, which have started since the clocks went back then I would urge you to get in touch with your health professional and get some help.  In the meantime, if you think it is merely low mood you are suffering, I might be able to provide some help for you with this blog post.

Yesterday I ventured into a local health food shop.  I don’t do this very often because invariably I walk out with lots of stuff.  It was no different yesterday and I came out with some Light Tahini Paste (my home made hummus is going to taste AWESOME), two boxes of herbal tea (Echinacea and Cranberry and Apple and Cinnamon), two bottles of Bach Rescue Remedy Night (I need something to help me sleep through) and a copy of the Health Food Chain’s Magazine.  In that, I noted an article about how to “Stay Summer Happy”.  Before I tell you about it, I want you to know that this is NOT going to be a cure for SAD if that is what you have.  But if you are feeling glum, lethargic and a little blue, then these tips might just help you.

autumn

The basic gist of the article is that although everyone feels better in the summer than they do in the autumn and winter, everyone’s mood takes a bit of a dip at this time of year.  It is fine for that to happen.  In fact, it is natural to happen.  If you think about it, a tree losing its leaves is a change, and that happens naturally at this time of year.  However, instead of resigning ourselves to feeling morose from October to March, it is important to inject some joy into the darker months of the year.  We need to make a conscious decision to get into the swing of the new season.  The article quotes Psychologist Ingrid Collins, who says;

“Autumn is a time to review and reflect: to build on the work you have done so far this year, now that you’re recharged after a summer break; and to plan for the coming year”

reflecting

Now, that struck a chord with me.  This is what I am doing with planning the garden and with Operation Chrysalis as well.  The article goes on to give 5 tips to embrace year round well being.

The first is exercise outdoors.  Luckily, I have a dog who needs walks, and a big garden to attend to (with lots of work to do in it into the bargain), so that isn’t so hard for me.  Even if you just take a quick promenade round the block, getting out of the centrally heated house will help you feel invigorated.  Exposure to sunlight, even through cloud, is better than being stuck in an artificially lighted environment.  30 minutes per day is ideal, but start small and build it up if you can.

Taking a vitamin D supplement might also help matters.  The body requires sunshine to make vitamin D, and if the weather is awful, then taking a supplement might help you improve your mood.

staying social

Another mood lightener is staying social.  Plan getting together with friends and family (if you get on with them), hunt out a book club, join a crafting circle, go for coffee with a good friend.  In some ways it is easier to be social in these months than it is to be social at any other time of the year.  Holidays are great, but they can totally mess with the schedule!  Don’t forget exercise classes.  You will have a social experiences, and will feel better from the endorphins into the bargain.

If you are suffering from SAD, you might need to use a Light Box.  It mimics sunlight and has been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms in 85% of sufferers.  You need one of 5000 lux (which is a unit of illuminance apparently) and ideally, it needs to be used for an hour a day.

Their final tip was to set goals.  You can use getting to the goal as a kind of marker for getting through the season and if gives you a focus for the period of the year as well.  My goals are to be nifty and thrifty for Christmas this year, and of course, Operation Chrysalis as well.

I hope these help you… but please, please remember… if your mood is lower than “just a bit glum”, please go and seek help from your preferred medical professional.

Why does sunshine make you feel so much better?

I know that the weather in the Northern Hemisphere this winter has been beyond weird.  Put it down to climate change if you want to, but one thing is for sure, when the Polar Vortex is in effect, or when the Jet stream insists on shifting and dumping huge amounts of rain on the British Isles, people’s moods are definitely lower.  We have, as a nation, been decidedly grumpy since Christmas.

sunshine

At the moment, in England, the weather is gorgeous.  Sunshine, unseasonably warm (at least it is in Nottinghamshire, where I live) and I have noticed a real upswing in people’s moods.  There are more smiles.  There is more activity.  People’s facebook statuses are a less about how bad everyone is feeling and more about things to look forward to.  There is a lot of talk about spring, springing.  Is it because of the sunshine?

 

Well, yes, it might well be.  Sunshine helps the body to create endorphins, which are the body’s happy drug.  Also, sunshine makes vitamin D in the body and vitamin D helps to support the creation of serotonin.  Serotonin helps you feel awake and alert, energetic even.  Not only that, but after a winter of being huddled under raincoats, several layers and Wellington boots, it feels amazing to be able to get out in the sunshine in a t shirt and feel the sun on your back as you get the garden looking better.

hollyhocks

Apparently it all goes back to our biological antecedence.  Most animals are sensitive to light.  We all have circadian rhythms which help to maintain sleep and wakefulness cycles.  It all comes down to a complex relationship between sunlight, serotonin and melatonin.  When the sun comes up and hits the optic nerve, serotonin is produced.  When the sun goes down and it gets darker, melatonin is produced.  How amazingly cool is that?!

 

Now we all now that too much sunshine is dangerous.  If you are going to be out in the sun for a long time, make sure you wear sun protection factor.  However, to maintain good levels of vitamin D you need to make sure you are getting at least 15 minutes per day of unprotected sun contact on the skin.  Today, that looks more than possible.

gardening fun

If you need me, I shall be in the garden.  Smiling!

A light at the end of the Fibromyalgia tunnel… possibly

Today, while cruising around the Health Internet media I like to scan every morning, I found an article which peaked my interest.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140117090504.htm

painbehindkneecure.com

painbehindkneecure.com

What is Fibromyalgia?  It is an incurable condition characterised by chronic pain, fatigue, disordered sleep, morning stiffness, poor concentration and  mild to severe mental symptoms such as anxiety and depression.  Unfortunately, there is no way to deal with ALL of the symptoms, so the general treatment is to try and lessen the symptoms and watch.  I have seen what it does to people, because my Father had it.  It is a miserable condition and anything that can be done should be shouted from the rooftops.

Researchers have found that Calcifediol, which is the active form of Vitamin D in the body, can help decrease the level of pain experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers.  It is known that a lack of Vitamin D in the body causes pain, and usually fibromyalgia sufferers have a low level of Vitamin D.  The researchers thought that perhaps increasing the level of Calcifediol might help with the chronic pain.

wp.hepb.org

wp.hepb.org

The results in the 30 women in the study would seem to hold out some hope.  All of the participants reported a marked decline in the level of pain when they were treated with the Vitamin D.

Although the numbers in the study may not be huge, it is a treatment which shows promise.

So how do you get more vitamin D into the system?  Supplements are an obvious choice, but chose one with added calcium in it as Calcium is required for the metabolising of Vitamin D.  Also, get 15 minutes of sunshine every day, in all weathers.  Unpopular solution, but necessary.  Also, lights used for the treatment of Seasonal Assisted Disorder could be useful.

Other alternative therapies for Fibromyalgia are acupunture and hydrotherapy to help with the pain and stiffness, and Tai Chi to help with movement.  Also, using a TENS machine, which is better known to help pregnant women with labour pains, can also help with the chronic pain.  I know these work because at various times my late Father used these methods.

What about diet changes?  Vitamin D is present in Butter, Margarine, Cheese, Fortified Milk, Healthy Cereals and fatty Fish.  This is not license for you to go out and gorge on cheese and butter.  That can cause more problems than it solves.  Everything in moderation!  But you will still need sunshine to create the right levels of Vitamin D.

Do you suffer with Fibromyalgia?  Are there any alternative therapies that you use with some success?