Hello goddesses (and gods)! I am writing to you from one of Boulder's best coffee shops after spending the morning at the farmers market, grabbing food from my favorite food truck and meeting up with one of my soul sisters. Pretty much the perfect Saturday morning. After launching my elixirs at Hanuman Festival this past weekend, I've been slowing down, catching up on email and today, I went through some Instagram messages that had built up over the last month. There were quite a few of you who requested information and support regarding adrenal issues, so I decided to make it into a blog post so that I could address all of your questions!
Adrenal fatigue, high cortisol levels and imbalanced hormones are all things I see regularly with clients and they are also things I've worked hard to overcome myself.
Some of you may have attended or tuned in live to one of my Stress + Food workshops in which I talk a lot about this. It is something I am extremely passionate about and choose to focus on within my practice because it is such an epidemic. The truth is is that I could give someone the most beautiful and supportive meal plan, the best of the best supplements and if we haven't addressed the stress and fatigue in their life, my plan will only get them so far. It is a holistic approach that of course includes the meal guidance, supplements and herbs... but also lifestyle and an awareness around contributing factors to stress.
So what is adrenal fatigue? In short, adrenal fatigue occurs when your stress hormone, cortisol, which is secreted by your adrenal glands, is too high for too long and from that, various stages of adrenal fatigue occur. There are several phases of adrenal exhaustion. In holistic health we identify these phases as Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and adrenal burnout. Elevated cortisol in the body can be a result of numerous things and is likely an accumulation of several things. Emotional, physical, chemical and dietary stress can all be at play.
For me personally, my issues stemmed from a history of overexercising, emotional stress from past body hate, unknowingly living in an apartment with toxic black mold and having a very sick parent for a period of time. This is a prime example of what can be underlying an adrenal related issue. It's not black and white. These things eventually added up to wreak havoc in my body. Fortunately, I was finishing up school for holistic nutrition and new exactly what was going on when it began to manifest into various symptoms. That said, most people are unaware of the contributing factors to their current state of health. Adrenal issues are important to get a handle on, as elevated stress in the body is the number one killer in developed countries and the underlying issue for so many diseases. For women in particular, adrenal issues are often linked to and under active thyroid, causing weight gain, hair thinning, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, low energy, anxiety, etc.
I have yet to work with a client who didn't need some sort of support in this area. This is no surprise when you look at the pace of our society and the constant demands of our jobs, families, etc.
Side note: Many women I see in my practice have severe adrenal distress simply from a poor relationship with their body. They end up creating so much additional stress within their physiology due to hate, guilt and shame; punishing themselves with restriction and exercise and never quite being content with what is. If we want to heal ourselves, we must pay attention to the relationship we have with ourselves and our bodies. Coming from a place of love and nourishment and understanding that there is nothing to "fix." Addressing this is crucial for overcoming any level of adrenal fatigue.
SOME SIGNS YOUR ADRENALS ARE COMPROMISED:
- You have under eye circles
- You carry weight primarily in the abdominal region
- You work out and eat well yet you have a hard time toning up and building lean muscle
- You feel "tired but wired" when trying to go to sleep
- You wake up between the hours of 2am and 4am
- You feel a crash around 2-4pm in the afternoon
- You struggle with blood sugar issues + crave sugar
- You experience anxiety, racing thoughts and a nervous stomach regularly
- You feel on edge and/or shaky with normal amounts of caffeine
- You crave salty foods
- You're always hungry OR have little to no appetite
- You have various hormonal imbalances
- You struggle with thyroid issues
- You struggle with digestive issues
- Working out either makes your incredibly fatigues OR incredibly wired
- You wake up fatigued, even after 7+ hours of sleep
So what can be done to begin to rejuvenate the adrenal glands? Let me begin by saying that everyone is different and assessing what is at the root of your adrenal issues is critical for healing. I recommend seeking out a holistic practitioner to guide you through this process. That said, the following are some general guidelines that I would recommend nearly anyone experiencing adrenal related imbalances consider.
- Remove gluten, dairy, refined sugar and hydrogenated oils. There are likely some additional foods that would need to be cut, per individual, at least for a period of time, but these four must absolutely go.
- Include plenty of good fats like avocado, coconut, ghee + butter from grassfed cows, pure extra virgin olive oil, nuts + seeds and fatty wild caught fish (salmon and sardines)
- Include quality protein from organic + humanely raised animals, wild caught fish, sprouted grains and nuts + seeds
- Include mineral rich foods such as leafy greens and sea vegetables
- Switch from table salt to full mineral salts, such as pink Himalayan or Celtic salt
- Include omega-3 rich foods
- Drink bone broth for gut healing
- Avoid overly processed foods and choose organic whenever possible
- Include foods rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, probiotics and magnesium
- Avoid caffeine
Keep in mind that there are various supplements to consider, again, depending on the individual. I've included the basics, but I recommend being under the care of a holistic practitioner (nutritionist, naturopathic doctor or Chinese medicine doctor) for dosing and to determine which supplements will work best with your bio-individuality.
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D3
- Stress B-complex (important to check for MTHFR gene)
- Vitamin C
- Adrenal cortex
Every individual responds differently to different herbs and therefore, being under the care of a practitioner is important. However, the following are some specific herbs for nourishing the adrenal glands. As a practitioner, I would not recommend being on all of these at once. Less is more and finding the right herbs to support you and your biochemistry is important.
*Adaptogenic herbs are known for their ability to nourish the adrenals, as they work to lower our stress hormone, cortisol, while balancing the endocrine and nervous systems. I created my line of adaptogenic elixirs for this very reason, with YOU in mind. The Lunar + Bliss elixir specifically targets adrenal health. That said, each elixir is incredibly rejuvenating to the health of the adrenals. You can shop my adaptogenic elixirs here. I have also listed some of my favorite single adaptogens for adrenal health below:
- Ashwagandha (keep in mind that though ashwagandha is the number one herb for adrenal support, ashwagandha is also a nightshade which could be problematic for some)
- Medicinal mushrooms: reishi, chaga, cordeceps, lions maine
Additional herbs for adrenal nourishment:
- Consider switching to more gentle forms of exercise like walking, yoga and pilates. When our adrenals are compromised, intense exercise, especially cardio, actually ends up increasing cortiol and working against us.
- Eat a quality protein at dinner to encourage a restful nights sleep
- Switch to natural cleaning products, beauty products and body care products. Chemicals will add to the total load making it even harder for your body to process stress.
- Rid your home of any candles, air fresheners and synthetically scented products. Switch to essential oil based candles, aromatherapy, etc. to freshen the air.
- Establish awareness around the stressors in your life and do what you can to begin to detox them (relationships, an over packed schedule, job, etc.)
- Make a list of things that bring you back to your center and when you're feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, etc. pick a few things from that list to center you in that moment. For me, it's burning palo santo, brewing rose tea, verbally listing things I'm grateful for, putting my legs up the wall and stepping away for a little bit to be alone.
- Adopt a meditation practice. Meditation was an essential piece in healing the health of my adrenals and balancing my cortisol levels.
- Turn off screens and electronics 2 hours before bed and begin to turn the lights low and wind down around 8pm
I created the elixir recipe below for myself and my clients to enjoy daily while rebuilding the adrenals and balancing the endocrine system. You can sip it at any time of the day. Many of my clients find that it serves as a good afternoon pick me up, or evening treat to help them wind down and prepare for sleep.
CREAMY ADRENAL LOVE LATTE:
1 tbsp. By Erika Elizabeth Adaptogenic Rose Elixir
1 tbsp. organic chia seeds
10 oz. non dairy milk (coconut, almond, hemp, etc.)
1 tbsp. almond butter OR coconut butter
In a small sauce pan, heat milk + 1 tbsp. rose elixir over medium heat
Transfer rose milk to a blender with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth + frothy
Pour into a mug and enjoy