Tag Archives: adrenals

How to avoid those daily afternoon crashes

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Do your eyelids droop and does your energy flag every afternoon around 3 to 4 p.m? Is your answer to energy crashes a soda, coffee, energy drink, or sweet snack to sustain you until dinner? If so, you’re making a bad situation worse.

Even though it’s fairly common, the “afternoon crash” isn’t normal. Instead it’s a sign of unstable blood sugar  which wreaks havoc on the rest of your body’s systems. The afternoon crash means your blood sugar has dropped too low for your brain and body to function normally, causing you to become drowsy, mentally foggy, tired, and unmotivated.

The first thing most people reach for is a quick fix — caffeine or sugar. These may wake you up for a while, but they send an already imbalanced blood sugar system into another roller coaster ride of peaks and plunges. When this happens on a regular basis (several times a day for most people), it sets you up for chronic blood sugar imbalances including hypoglycemia and insulin resistance, a precursor to adult-onset diabetes.

How to avoid the afternoon crash

Wondering how to survive until dinner without a croissant and tall double mocha?

1. High protein breakfast: Eat a high-protein breakfast with plenty of healthy fats such as olive, avocado or coconut oil; a minimum of carbohydrates; and no added sugars or sweeteners. This provides your body with the necessary nutrients to bring it up to speed after a night of fasting (thus the word “break fast”), and allows your blood sugar to stabilize and get on a steady plane for the day.

Two examples:

  • Turkey sausage with steamed greens and sweet potatoes.
  • Smoked salmon or two eggs with sliced avocado, sauteed vegetables, and half a baked yam.

The idea of a savory breakfast might sound strange if you’re used to cereal or toast, but your body will quickly thank you for it. You’ll also notice a difference at 3 p.m.!

2. Minimize fruit, high-carb foods, and added sugars: Every time you eat fruit, high-carb foods (such as white rice, bread or noodles), and added sugars, you spike your blood glucose and the body has to struggle to bring it back into balance. Do this too often or too dramatically, and you can damage your body’s ability to handle glucose properly, causing hypoglycemia and/or insulin resistance (yes, you can have both at the same time). Blood sugar imbalances also create a hard-to-fight cycle of craving and bingeing. 

TIP: Always eat a bit of protein or fat when you have something sweet to slow down the uptake of glucose and a blood sugar spike.

3. Energy crash? Eat smart: If you find yourself slipping into the afternoon blahs, don’t reach for stimulants or sugar, no matter how much your brain shouts for them. Instead, grab a snack high in protein and healthy fats, with perhaps a bit of healthy carbs included. This powers your brain with useful nutrients and avoids the blood sugar crash that follows a caffeine or sugar binge. And don’t forget — if you have a mid-morning snack, the same rules apply. Two snack examples:

  • A quarter cup of pecans and a handful of plantain chips.
  • A boiled egg with sliced carrots and avocado.

TIP: prep your morning and afternoon snacks each night before bed, so you can bring them to work and avoid the panicked rush to the café or candy machine.

4. Caffeine in moderation: Caffeine is hard on your adrenal glands, the glands that manage how you deal with stress. If you would rather give up your right arm than your daily cuppa, just make sure you drink that coffee early in the day, and make it a single shot. Even better, learn to love a healthy, brain-energizing drink such as kombucha or a veggie smoothie. They make great conversation starters at the water cooler, too!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll find yourself easing out of those afternoon crashes. Your energy will be more consistent throughout the day and you won’t feel the need to resort to snacks that spike and crash your blood sugar, brain function, and energy level. Feeling doubtful? Try it for a week and then decide.

Seven reasons exercise recovery can be difficult

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If recovering from exercise is so difficult it feels like it’s ruining your days and sapping your motivation, you may be suffering from loss of exercise tolerance. Exercise is supposed to make you feel better and give you more energy, not make you feel worse.

The occasional off day is nothing to worry about, but if you find you’re consistently having a hard time handling your workouts, it’s important to find out why.

Symptoms of poor exercise recovery

  • Can’t complete normal workouts
  • Difficulty recovering after exercise
  • Need a nap after exercise
  • Unexplained depression
  • Loss of general motivation or enthusiasm
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Aggression or irritability for minor reasons
  • Weakened immune function
  • Loss of menstrual cycle
  • Symptoms of leaky gut

Seven things that can cause poor exercise recovery

1. You’re overtraining: It’s possible you’re simply taking too much on during your workout. Anyone can make this mistake. Try backing off for a couple weeks; if your symptoms change, overtraining could be your answer.

2. Your body wants a different kind of workout: Ways to exercise include extended aerobics, high intensity interval training, and weight training. Try a different form of exercise for a few weeks and see how you feel.

3. Insufficient protein intake: The U.S. RDA for protein is .08g per kg of body weight per day (1 lb = 2.2 kg). Macronutrient requirements vary depending on age, health, and diet, but for some this may be too little to recover. Many active people feel better eating protein at rate closer to 1.4 to 1.8g/kg daily. Do the math and experiment with your protein intake.

4. Inappropriate carbohydrate intake: How many carbohydrates one should eat is a controversial topic, but at the end of the day we’re all unique. If you frequently feel run down you may be eating too many carbs…or too few. Too many carbs can cause blood sugar to skyrocket and plummet so energy levels crash. Too few can short you on fuel so that energy lags. This is especially true if you have adrenal fatigue and are struggling to adapt to a low-carb diet. Experiment adjusting your carb intake with healthy produce-based carbs, such as sweet potatoes.

4. Not enough sleep: Sleep is key to exercise recovery. Are you getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night? If you’re having unexplained sleep problems, ask me for advice as many health issues can cause poor sleep.

5. Micronutrient deficiencies: Staying well nourished can be difficult if you’re busy. If your body is low in vital nutrients such as Vitamins D and B12, iron, and other minerals, it can affect your ability to recover from exercise. Ask my office about making sure you’re meeting your micronutrient needs.

6. Low adrenal function: Your adrenal glands are the walnut-sized glands atop each kidney that manage your body’s ability to deal with stress. Americans are stressed out and as a result many people suffer from compromised adrenal function  This is a common cause of constant exhaustion and an inability to recover from exercise. If you’ve lost your get-up-and-go, adrenal function is one of the first things to consider.

7. Chronic inflammation: If you have an autoimmune disease that is not being managed or that is constantly flaring, or if you suffer from chronic inflammation, this will hamper your ability to recover. Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, or psoriasis. Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include joint pain, digestive difficulties, inflamed skin, or brain fog. If your body is already struggling to function in the face of chronic inflammation, exercise will put it over the edge and recovery will be difficult.

These are some common factors that can hamper exercise recovery, although there are many more, such as compromised thyroid function or a defect in your MTHFR gene, which plays a role in detoxification and metabolism. Untreated MTHFR can affect energy levels. Fortunately, it’s easy to diagnose and treat.

Any time you notice a change in your energy level or ability to recover from exercise, there is a reason. Don’t push it, and don’t ignore it. Ask me for support in helping you find underlying causes of poor exercise recovery so you can feel and function better.

Suffering from burn out? Look at adrenal health

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The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys and that can make the different between being bouncy and energetic or run down and burned out. This is because they release stress hormones and the hormone cortisol, which, among other things, gives us energy.

Unfortunately, the adrenal glands are under siege by our stressed-out modern lives. In addition to stress, blood sugar swings, gut infections, food intolerances, chronic viruses, environmental toxins, and autoimmune conditions tax the adrenal glands. The body interprets all of these as threats, causing the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones to meet the demands of the stress. What should be an occasional mechanism is a daily thing for most.

Symptoms of adrenal stress include fatigue, weak immunity, allergies, low blood sugar, being groggy in the mornings, crashing in the afternoon, sleep problems, and more.

Adrenal imbalances are one the most common health problems we see in functional medicine thanks to high-stress lifestyles, high-carb diets, and a toxic environment.

Adrenal problems always secondary to something else

Poor adrenal health is always caused by something else. Blood sugar imbalances are a very common cause of adrenal problems. The adrenal hormone cortisol raises blood sugar when it drops too low, which, when it happens repeatedly, exhausts the adrenal glands, as well as the brain’s control center over these functions. Constant cortisol production weakens the lining of the intestinal tract, making it more susceptible to bad bacteria, inflammation, and leaky gut.

Other factors that can contribute to adrenal problems include autoimmune disease, food intolerances, chronic infection, chemical sensitivities, and hormonal imbalances.

Lab tests to assess adrenal health

We can measure adrenal function with a salivary panel. The most important thing to know about the panel is that one test is not worth much. It is the follow-up test that shows whether a protocol is improving your health. If it’s not, we dig deeper.

You take the test kit home and collect samples of your saliva in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, and at bedtime to measure cortisol at each time. It should be highest in the morning so you feel alert and lowest at night so you feel tired for bed. This is called your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Chronic stress eventually disrupts the circadian rhythm. An abnormal circadian rhythm can cause high cortisol at night and insomnia, or low cortisol in the morning, which makes it hard to wake up.

Adrenal problems can cause hormone problems

When adrenal stress is high, the body steals a hormone called pregnenolone from cholesterol to make more cortisol — a phenomenon known as pregnenolone steal. Normally, the body uses pregnenolone to make sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. As a result, pregnenolone steal causes hormonal imbalances such as PMS, infertility, male menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Avoid adrenal Stimulators

If you are serious about restoring your adrenal health, avoid the things that tax it, such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, foods to which are you sensitive, lack of sleep, over exercising, over working, bad relationships, and other stressors.

Stabilize blood sugar to support adrenals

Stabilizing blood sugar is paramount to supporting the adrenals. This is especially true for those with low blood sugar who get irritable, shaky, or lightheaded if they go too long without eating. Eat a protein breakfast and then eat small meals frequently to keep your blood sugar from crashing. Avoid relying on caffeine or sugar for energy, and do not skip meals.

Schedule relaxing things

Find ways to relieve stress and remain calm. Learn some relaxation techniques, do yoga, walk daily, take time off, socialize, and other things that support your well being in a positive and healthy way. Just knowing you have something fun and relaxing planned is half the battle to lowering stress.

Ask me for help in supporting your adrenal health.