Healing adrenal fatigue, a personal story
Soooo, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update on what’s going on with me and I’ve learned so much this year about the body, and more importantly, my body. After all my testing last December that showed I was deficient in vitamins D and B12 along with a slower than “normal” thyroid and major adrenal fatigue I think I’ve finally begun to get a handle on it this fall.
I know so many of you have the same symptoms I do, and while our causes may or may not be the same, I thought I’d finally share a few things I’ve figured out in hopes that it might lead to some inspiration for you as well.
photo credit – IOFOTO on canva.com
Let’s recap real quick where I’ve been, as I know a lot of you are new.
I was diagnosed (based on symptoms) with PCOS when I was about 23, ovulating only once or twice a year if I was lucky. It took a year to get pregnant with our first and we almost lost him due to low progesterone. And no, I was never given any supplementation, yet only found out about it last year when I asked for my medical records.
Side note – it is REALLY important to have a copy of your medical records or to get specific numbers from your doctors when you have any testing done.
After he was born I began to do a lot more reading and researching and found information about increasing fertility with a whole foods diet. I began transitioning to eating 90-95% whole foods and every symptom of PCOS that I had began to disappear, I lost weight, and the most important for me was that my ovaries began working regularly for the first time ever! And this led to our second baby.
After her birth I came under some personal and business related stress that lasted for over a year and began to deal with mild adrenal fatigue and I had to work hard with diet, supplements, and chiropractic care after she weaned to get back on track.
With my body healthy and strong again we soon found that we were expecting our third baby, a baby we had to say goodbye to when I was 11 weeks pregnant. And the physical, hormonal, and emotional stress I went through for a few months sent me right back in to adrenal fatigue again, this time even worse. So I spent a good six months resting, de-stressing, and did a cleanse to help facilitate healing. I was eating well and taking my supplements and yet I was still dealing with insomnia and major fatigue. Eight months after my miscarriage I put a call in to my OB, hoping to get some thyroid testing done.
And I had to end up canceling the appointment and she couldn’t see me for another 10 weeks. So I made an appointment with my family doctor six weeks later.
He got sick that day.
So I counted my pennies, sucked it up, and called a holistic DO in town (not covered by my insurance) and was able to see her the following week. I’m really glad my other appointments had failed because she was the one that ordered the tests I really needed and wouldn’t have thought of asking for. (and the other two wouldn’t have ordered)
I was put on a methyl B12 and folate supplement which is taken sublingually (under the tongue – absorbs better) and I began to sleep well for the first time in over a year. The really cool thing was that I began to dream again as I had noticed that I never remembered my dreams anymore after a lifetime of crazy dreams every night. I had no idea that B vitamins could be associated with dreaming! I also felt my hormones shifting and that was also a good sign.
(The sublingual supplement I use I purchased from my DO’s office, but you can also find it on Amazon – Douglas Laboratories B12 Plus*)
Finally the healing began as the sleep was much-needed. It had been over a year at that point where I had gotten over 5 hours of sleep at night as I had only been sleeping from about 2am to 6 or 7 am, not helpful in healing at all. I began to have a bit more energy and things were looking up. I did the Thyroid Detox in January and my own cleanse later that spring.
We also tested my adrenals with a 24 hour saliva test and found that my cortisol levels were drastically low all day long, never rising enough to have energy at all. So I also purchased the book Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. James Wilson (available on Amazon) and began focusing on adrenal health.
My healing adrenal fatigue protocol:
- Slept as much at night as I could, meaning I’d go to bed an hour earlier, take a nap mid-day when I could, and sleep in whenever possible, especially until nine AM if I could convince Todd to get up earlier with the kids.
- If I couldn’t nap, I took at least 15 minutes each day to lay down with my feet up while I read a book (or played on my phone….)
- Worked a LOT less, cutting my writing/blogging time easily in half.
- Weekends and Wednesdays were no work days and very little social media.
- I took Dr. Wilson’s supplements religiously, even buying one of those pills boxes and scheduling reminders on my phone
- I also drank salt water everyday, especially in the morning, about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon per 12-16 ounces of water
- Giving up coffee was not my idea of fun since I used it each day as a mood booster, but it had to go in order to give my adrenals a break.
- Good food was pivotal, but so was not stressing about food. So I ate as well as I could manage (hard to do when you’re constantly exhausted and overwhelmed) yet allowed myself plenty of grace when we ate something that wasn’t “real food approved”.
And then it stopped getting better. No worse per se, but I knew I wasn’t feeling as good as I should and my hormones were still not behaving correctly. I also noticed that I was not dreaming as much as I had in previous months. We experimented with progesterone supplementation which wasn’t helpful. i tried adding more supplements to no avail. I tried reducing my supplements which REALLY wasn’t helpful! I was finding that even after five or six months of major supplementation that the supplements were just keeping me going each day, and I had to keep taking them or be exhausted.
Over the summer I also mentioned that I began to see a massage therapist who worked with Mayan Abdominal Massage as well as Medical Massage and Manual Therapy with Mind-Body Integration. I went about 6 times over the course of a few months and found the changes in my body fabulous. There were things that were tight and misplaced that I never knew were tight or misplaced! I also learned about the many parts of the body that were associated with different organs and even different emotions, which was quite interesting and eye-opening. Christine also works with herbs and I began taking one of her tinctures, which was horribly gross as many tinctures are! My body felt good, but my hormones were still not playing along.
(No, that’s not an acronym for a swear word like I originally thought. I first found out about MTHFR on infertility forums years ago and I thought the ladies were just really mad at this specific gene mutation!)
Since last fall I’ve wanted to get tested for the MTHFR gene mutation, but the costs of working with my holistic DO had put that one test on the back burner until July when I finally sent in my saliva test. (I ordered it from 23andme.com* for $99.00.)
While I was waiting for the results (they take about a month) I began to do a bit more reading on the subject and found out an important little piece of information about the sublingual vitamin B supplement I was taking. Many people with certain versions of the MTHFR mutation don’t absorb or use B vitamins well, women are often times given large doses of folic acid to help sustain a pregnancy as these mutations are common in miscarriage/multiple miscarriage, so there is a lot of information out there about Vitamin B and MTHFR. But the important little part I learned while researching was that when you take sublingual vitamins you’re supposed to let it sit for at least 30 minutes under the tongue!
I had started out with maybe 10 minutes and slowly began to let it sit under my tongue less and less, down to only a minute or two.
The next day I put it under my tongue the moment the alarm went off for Todd and I went back to sleep and let it dissolve on its own. Within a week I could feel my hormones shifting. I obviously really needed this! So each morning. without fail, I made sure to take my sublingual methyl B’s (available on Amazon) for 30-60 minutes each time. And then I got my genetic test results from 23andme.com (you can buy your own test here) and ran them through Genetic Genie to get my results in a “common person can understand this” way.
Turns out I have 1 heterozygous mutation on the MTHFR C677T gene.
This means that while it’s not the “bad” variation since only one part of the gene is mutated (genes come in pairs)(some doctors don’t even consider this one an issue which is really unfortunate), that it could reduce the way my body uses B vitamins (as well as other nutrients) by 10-40 percent depending on how the rest of my genes are functioning. I also have other genetic mutations (Which is one reason I liked the 23andme.com test – it tells you all sorts of stuff!) but at this point I don’t think they are causing me problems, I’m just glad I know so I can look into it if need be.
MTHFR is a genetic mutation that causes the enzyme that drives a process called methylation to be reduced. This can impair the methylation cycle by approximately 15 to 80%, depending on the type and severity of the mutation.
What the methylation process does:
- Turns on and off genes (gene regulation)
- Processes chemicals and toxins (detoxification)
- Builds neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, etc.)
- Processes hormones (estrogen)
- Builds immune cells (T cells, NK cells) -DNA and RNA syntheses
- Produces energy (by producing CoQ10, carnitine, ATP)
- Produces/repairs protective coating on nerves (myelin)
MTHFR associated conditions:
- repeated miscarriage
- autism/sensory disfunction
- high blood pressure
- delayed speech
- muscle pain
- memory loss
- brain fog
- tingling or numbness in extremeties (neuropathy)
- migraines (especially with aura)
- autoimmune disorders
- heavy metal accumulation
- chronic infections
- heart disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- digestive disorders
- having a MTHFR gene mutation also means that the body cannot properly absorb and utilize B vitamins.
Within a month or so after taking my methyl Bs “properly” I finally felt great and was able to reduce and then stop taking all of my adrenal supplements within about six weeks. I began sleeping really well almost every night (with dreams again!) and began to not only have more energy (enough to finally start working out again!) but I began remembering things that I had previously forgotten to do, like pay people the money I owed them….
I don’t know exactly when my MTHFR gene became “expressed” or if it’s always been an issue for me (just because you have a gene mutation doesn’t mean it’s causing you problems), but I do know that I have a variation of it and the methyl B12 and folate (available on Amazon) is working well for me.
So far my update ends with really great news as well. (Please stop here if you’re in a tough spot due to infertility and/or loss and need to stay away from announcements)
I’m really beyond excited to say that we’re expecting a baby come May. I’ve shed a lot of happy tears over the last few months, everything has been going well up to this point, and we have our 20 week ultrasound next week already. It’s still kind of surreal at this point.
This baby is due exactly two years after our miscarried baby was due, so it’s also been extra anxiety inducing to be experiencing all of the same fall activities during the same exact weeks as last time. I was sicker than normal this time around due to bioidentical progesterone supplementation and it also caused once, if not twice weekly migraines which put me out of commission for at least six weeks this fall. (Thank goodness for contributors or the blog may have very well gone silent during that time.) But it’s also been a joyous time as well, we feel very blessed to be used yet again to facilitate the creation of a new life.
It’s really hard to know when to say something or mention this at all. Many times over the last eight or nine years, I’ve struggled with pregnancy announcements. Especially over the last two years, many times it throwing me into full-blown panic attacks and increased anxiety, and I so want to shield people from that type of pain. And yet I also want to share my story with others so that maybe it can provide hope that while healing may take a long time, that it can be possible to overcome health and hormone issues.
My story hasn’t ended yet and I’m sure at some point I might be “back to the drawing board” with one health issue or another as I move through different stages and circumstances of life, but I’m so pleased that I’ve found a way to feel like myself again.