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chronic fatigue

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Low Energy? Check Your Liver


So, let’s face it. Most people these days walk around feeling perpetually tired and a little overwhelmed. In fact, one of the biggest issues my clients talk about is feeling fatigued and unable to muster the energy to accomplish everything they need to do. Often women tell me they can barely make it through a movie without falling asleep BUT as soon as they hit the pillow at night they can’t turn their brains off, which leads to yet another exhausted morning. Can you relate?

 

In today’s post, we’re talking about how one of your most important organs, the liver, plays a starring role in energy production and how supporting it might be the missing link in your otherwise healthy regiment.

The liver is an amazing organ and has hundreds of jobs to do daily. You cannot live without it and it’s the only organ which will regenerate itself if it becomes damaged. It’s THAT important! So what does the liver do? Well, it’s main job is to act as a detox organ filtering out all of the incoming toxins and chemicals we deal with on a daily basis. Two of it’s other highly important jobs include blood sugar regulation (keeping blood sugar steady between meals) and hormone de-conjugation – in less fancy words, making sure hormones are broken down and excreted from the body so they don’t build up in excess. All three of these systems, or functions, impact our energy levels. If you’ve ever been a victim of low blood sugar, you’ll know that your energy goes way down before you get your hands on some food. Similarly, when our hormones are imbalanced, one of the first symptoms we see pop up is fatigue or low energy. And finally, when we are bogged down and swimming in a pool of unfiltered toxins and gunk, well, you can see just how energy draining that can be.

 

Since getting rid of the toxic build up we incur is the main job of your liver, other functions will take a back seat in the face of incoming junk.  This means that both the systems of blood sugar and hormone regulation will be receiving the last, tired, half-assed efforts of your liver leading to even lower energy levels.

 

When I see women who are feeling like they are doing everything right and yet still struggle with low energy and motivation, or feel like something still isn’t clicking, I tend to look to the liver for clues. Often, by supporting this hard-working organ, we see pieces of our health fall into place that we couldn’t quite nail down before.

 

So, here’s the thing. Most of us don’t feel like we are walking around feeling extraordinarily toxic. Unfortunately, we live a world these days that sneaks man-made chemicals into our lives without us even noticing. The question isn’t “Am I toxic,” but rather “How toxic am I?” To get an idea of the areas of our life causing us the most strife, let’s look at the possible sources of toxicity.

 

Environmental toxins such as vehicles fumes, air pollution and industrial pollution

Home Toxins such as cleaning supplies, cosmetics and beauty care, perfumes, paint, mattresses and clothes with flame retardants, fragrant plug ins etc…

Processed foods, preservatives, food dyes, pesticides and herbicides.

Plastics from foods, water bottles, appliances containing harmful BPAs and PCBs.

Pest control chemicals and weed killers.

Alcohol and prescription or recreational drugs

 

While list seems small, it’s important to keep in mind that the average woman is exposed to 126 different chemical ingredients every single day JUST in her personal care products. Add in all those other categories and that’s quite the tall order for your liver to process.

 

But look, it’s not all doom and gloom. The really good news is that your liver was made especially for this process. The not so good news is that it wasn’t necessarily designed for a burden this large. So, our job is not to entirely live a toxic-free, bubble-boy style life. Our job is to reduce the damage as much as possible and then include lots of supporting foods and supplements as we begin to feel the negative consequences of all this exposure. The equation is: Remove the stressors and strengthen the defenses. So, how do we do that?

 

One of the easiest, and gentlest, ways to support the liver is by including lots of fresh green foods in your diet. The phytonutrients we get from plant foods are extremely helpful in helping the liver do its job effectively and have been shown to provide energy to humans as well via chlorophyll. It’s like a two-in-one since our focus today is, in fact, energy levels.

 

Some of the best for liver include:

 

Leafy greens – kale, spinach, chards, micro greens, broccoli sprouts, watercress, collard greens, cabbage, leeks

Brussel sprouts

Broccoli

Beets

Green apples

Grapefruit

Lemon

Garlic

Green Juice – Low sugar ones or homemade (shoot for 6 or less grams of sugar when doing store bought)

Cranberries or cranberry concentrate

Bone Broth

Artichoke

Asparagus

Nettle

Peas

Sea vegetables

Fresh herbs – parsley, basil, cilantro

Superfoods – Chlorella, chlorophyll, barley grass, Spirulina or other algae, chia seeds, flax seeds.

 

Try adding in two or more servings of these foods daily when focusing on liver health. Not only do they benefit the liver, but they provide tons of other nutrients as well which will have an effect on energy. The next thing we can do is to take a look at the products we purchase and aim for more less harmful alternatives. The Environmental Working Group has a great app for your phone that allows you to scan in a product and see it’s toxicity level right away. I’ve used this lots when I’m out shopping and unsure or unable to decipher a tricky product label. Opting for more natural cleaning solutions and beauty products is one of the quickest ways to reduce the toxic load on our liver. Trying to purchase organic food as much as possible will go a long way in lessening our load and looking for free-range or pasture raised meats and eggs will ensure that we aren’t dealing with hidden antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or other unknown gunk in our foods.

 

Making time for stress reducing practices is a huge part of supporting our liver. Detoxification is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it can only happen when we are in a state of Rest and Digest, NOT Fight or Flight. When we refuse to take time to relax or unwind, we do our livers a huge disservice. If you’re the type of woman who has a hard time giving yourself permission for self-care, consider this your permission slip! By taking time to unwind, eat well and support your liver, you’ll actually end up with more energy and vitality for the ones you love most. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like the best, rested version of ourselves more than the tired, fatigued, irritable, exhausted version?

 

Lastly, adding in some key supplemental support can help your body to do the jobs it’s already doing better. Two of my favorites include chlorophyll and Milk Thistle. I personally take them on a daily (well, mostly) basis, especially during times when I’m not eating, sleeping or exercising as well I could be. They are pretty standard supplements and can be found at your local natural grocery store or sometimes even vitamin shop.

 

Supporting your liver can be a long process, but these suggestions should give you a place to start. As you begin to incorporate more healing foods and reduce personal exposures, energy levels will begin to rise giving you even more motivation to continue your awesome new habits. Until next time.

 

Much love,

Sy

 

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What IS Adrenal Fatigue Anyway?



So, there’s a term that’s been floating around for a couple years in the health and wellness sphere, but it’s still not one you’re likely to see plastered on the pages of magazines or even books for that matter. The term is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and if you’re a woman who feels tired, overwhelmed and generally “off” there’s a good chance you’ve got it goin on. Before you panic, though, keep in mind that Adrenal Fatigue is NOT a disease nor is it something sufferers are plagued with for life. Rather, it’s a syndrome, which essentially means it’s a name for a bundle of symptoms that no one can quite put a finger on.

The name Adrenal Fatigue is actually a misnomer, as it implies that your adrenal glands (which sit on top of your kidneys/renals) are tired, which in fact they are not. However, I personally think it does a wonderful job of explaining just how adrenal dysfunction feels, because at the end of the day there is an intense fatigue of both the body and mind. A better, more correct, title is actually HPA-Axis dysregulation which stands for Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and describes the chaos that occurs when those three main organs responsible for your stress response are out-of-balance, overworked and unable to cope with the demands placed upon them.

So, while I’ve talked a lot about adrenal fatigue in posts, I realized that it may not be exactly clear what I’m referring to and wanted to throw together a description to avoid confusion. Before we move on, I’m going to list out the common symptoms of Adrenal dysregulation, but please be aware that stress in the body can take on hundreds of different faces, and this list is by no means exhaustive. If you have several of these symptoms mixed with some others not on this list, I would highly suggest speaking with a practitioner about the possibility of adrenal dysfunction, hormonal imbalance or digestive problems.

 

Symptoms:

 

Feeling burned out, overly stressed or unable to unwind

Bloating after meals

A burning or gnawing feeling after meals

Excessive hunger or no appetite at all

Any and all digestive issues including heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation

Moodiness and irritability

Lightheadedness, particularly when going from sitting to standing

Harsh PMS or menopause

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar swings)

Frequent nausea

Feeling unmotivated or “lazy”

Intense fatigue

Brain fog or feeling spacy with an inability to concentrate

Joint pain, muscle aches or sensitive skin

TMJ or jaw clenching

Anxiety and depression

Cravings for sugar or salt

Feeling tired but can’t sleep – Tired and wired

Frequent colds or flus that lasts for weeks

A feeling of shaking or vibrating on the inside

Feeling abnormally cold or hot

Flushing easily, particularly during winter

Dizziness or feeling disconnected from conversations and activities

Intolerance to caffeine or alcohol

Weight loss resistance or “spare tire” despite lots of exercise

Low sex drive or inability to orgasm

 

So, what causes adrenal fatigue? Well, in a word: Stress. But I’m not just talking about emotional, or perceived, stress. I’m also referring to physical stress which is just as harmful to the body as mental stressors. Essentially, your adrenals are the organs in your body responsible for managing the stress response in your body, whether it comes from external or internal sources. Some of the main external sources of stress I see are food intolerances, over-exercising, environmental toxins, and eating a diet high in sugar. Some internal sources include negative emotional experiences, worrying or apprehension, perception of fear or anxiety and internal inflammation. When your brain registers stress of any kind, it sends a message down to the adrenals to release stress hormones, mainly cortisol and epinephrine. For purposes of this post, we’ll mostly be focusing on cortisol, but it should be noted that the effects of epinephrine take several days to exit the body and is highly stimulating. Not a state we want to be walking around in consistently.

Cortisol gets a bad rap, but it’s really very vital to our survival. Cortisol has several functions, but three of the most notable are to raise blood sugar, raise blood pressure and to work as an anti-inflammatory substance. The first two are key players when we are under stress becausestress is known as expensive. What does this mean? It means that when we are stressed (again physically OR emotionally), our body requires more nutrients than normal to function. This means that we are using up blood sugar faster, which is full of nutrients we get from our food. So, cortisol signals to the body to produce more blood sugar out of stored energy found in our muscle and liver. This is how we continue to produce energy during activities like exercise. Cool, right?

Well, yes and no. If we only triggered this response every once in a while, things would be great. Cortisol would do its job and then a negative feedback loop would turn production off body allowing us to come back to center. Unfortunately, we are being bombarded by stressors these days, particularly environmental and food stressors, and are triggering this response almost all day long. From traffic accidents to sugar donuts for breakfast and fights with our boss or spouse we are under constant attack. Chronic elevated cortisol leads to raised blood sugar and raised blood pressure – for a while. And here is where adrenal fatigue sets in…

 

Eventually, in the presence of all this sugar in the blood from cortisol doing its job, the cells become resistant because they’re packed to the brim and don’t need anymore. Basically, they push the plate away and tell us they’re full. At this point, we may have plenty of circulating cortisol, but it’s messages are not being received and we actually see blood sugar begin to decline and blood pressure as well. It’s like someone put a cement wall up between cortisol and the cells and no communication can take place. This is in the later stages of adrenal dysfunction and what contributes to symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, feelings of insatiable hunger or weakness and hypoglycemic episodes. Now, we have a cycle where we are stressed to the max and still pumping out cortisol but not feeling it’s effects because the cells won’t let it in. So, we continue to pump out more and more essentially “exhausting” or fatiguing the adrenal organs and the entire stress response.

 

As with any syndrome, disease or condition, these details are more nuanced then we can describe in one measly blog post. But hopefully it gives you an idea of how Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is essentially a stress syndrome of the 21st century. Never before in history have we been bombarded by so many external and environmental stressors or been able to explore our emotions beyond survival. While this has afforded us many opportunities and growth, it’s also opened up a whole new can of worms when it comes to our tolerance levels for stress. So, what are some of the biggest ways we can make a dent in our stress cup?

 

Here are the ones I see most in practice that are really putting a burden on people’s bodies:

 

1.     Food intolerances and poor digestion. Eating something your body can’t process every single day is stressful. Period. It will be nearly impossible to clear up imbalanced cortisol without also addressing digestive function and food choices because every cell in your body is dependent upon those nutrients, so I highly suggest taking on some sort of elimination protocol or hooking up with a practitioner who can guide you through the process.

 

2.     Over-exercising and training. You remember how we mentioned that cortisol raises blood sugar and pressure? Well, it’s main job is to do this during intense activity, which also includes exercise. Assuming you have no other stressors, this would be fine. But pile it on top of everything else going on in your life and it’s a recipe for disaster. Try cutting down on intensity, duration or frequency to give your adrenals the rest they’re craving or add in some gentle exercise in place of your regular routine.

 

3.     Lack of sleep. The body repairs and detoxifies while sleeping. If we aren’t giving it the rest it needs to do these jobs, it will become congested and backed up which leads to things like recycled chemicals and hormones. This is stressful for the body as your toxic load builds up. Sleeping does more than just make us feel good and it’s important to respect the processes of repair just as much as the others. Hacking your sleep will be on the best decisions you can make for your health.

 

4.     A negative emotional outlook or self-loathing and perfectionism. Ok, so this one is really much larger than one sentence can sum up, but taking a serious approach to shifting your mindset is the most important key to clearing up adrenal fatigue. Sadly, this piece is missing in most protocols because we get so caught up in the nitty-gritty physical aspects of healing and miss out on all the juiciness that comes with the spiritual, energetic growth. Many people say that they were never able to shift out the adrenal fatigue cycle until they finally began some sort of emotional stress reducing practices.

 

5.     Not making any time for connection and fun. Bluntly put, I know this can be hard when you feel like shit. You may not feel like connected with friends and family or you may not have a whole lot of interest in activities that used to bring you joy. That’s ok. Do them anyway or find some new ones that agree with your symptoms more. Eventually, when you are feeling better, you will be amazed at the growth and strength of your relationships for having weathered the storm together. Writing in a gratitude journal can very soothing to the body as it releases feel good hormones and allows us to step outside of our mind’s chatter for a moment. Even if you only find a moment’s worth of peace, cultivating authentic, vulnerable relationships will go a long way in making the healing process easier and more enjoyable. And if you’re worried, try having a conversation and letting those around you know that you may not be fully yourself right now and could just use a little support. Most people are very willing, loving and accommodating if you give them the chance to be. Remember, they love you too.

 

 

So there you have it. A generalized look at what this thing called Adrenal Fatigue actually is and some ways to help mitigate the nasty symptoms that come with it. Again, if you are reading this blog and feel like you might be experiencing this condition, never hesitate to reach out to a practitioner or do some research. There are so many valuable resources online and some great practitioners who are aware of stress’ harmful effects on the body. It is very real and very important so don’t let anyone tell you it’s all in your head or that you just need to “try harder” to feel good. Until next time.

 

Much love,

 

Sy

 

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