Adrenal Fatigue, Coffee and Exercise: Finding Balance


I wiped out my adrenals first about five years ago. I had just started my new “real” job in the city, had a close to two-hour-each-way, stressful commute everyday, became hyperthyroid and wasn’t eating enough. Coffee was my crutch, and my one cup a day habit quickly morphed into a steady stream of java all day long, at least until 4pm.

When I learned about adrenal fatigue and first saw a naturopathic doctor that could do testing, my  cortisol levels were pretty much a straight line. My adrenals weren’t completely destroyed, but there was not dramatic rise in the morning and fall in the evening like there should be.  

After a long, long time (about 3 years) of trial and error, I finally got my energy levels back to perhaps 80% of what they should be, and I decided I to sign up for something that had always been on my bucket list as a runner: a half marathon.

I chose the Ocean City half that goes from Assateague Island to the inlet, a nice, flat run. Literally no hills except for the bridge when you cross from Assateague to the mainland.

I began my training, working up to  about an hour/hour and a half  everyday with long runs on Saturday. I didn’t follow a training plan, but I outlined the minimum number of miles I needed to do on my long runs to prepare.

As a type-A overachiever, I always did more. I overtrained, I didn’t take enough rest days. If I didn’t run one day, I felt guilty. And I still likely didn’t eat enough, but sugar, carbs and caffeine increased as I looked for ways to fuel my runs.

During the height of my runner’s highs I thought perhaps I’d actually train for a full marathon, and just use the half marathon race as practice. Two weeks before my half, I ran 18 miles on my  long run. I barely tapered before my race.

At this point, a runner might expect me to say I crashed during the race, or didn’t hit my goal. Actually, I beat my goal by 12 minutes, and gained speed during the last six miles, passing a hundred or so people. I could have started faster.

I took a minor, couple of days break from running and tried to get back at it.

But then something happened. I just couldn’t. I reached a point of physical and mental burnout and my body would literally not let me run.

I could barely walk.

What followed was about a year of adrenal exhaustion and exercise intolerance. I knew running was not what my body needed, so I began to weight train to keep lean muscle mass, and switched to just walking. Some days, my 20 minute morning walk would leave me exhausted.  

I knew coffee was playing a part, so I limited myself to one travel-size mug during the week and tried to stop drinking it by 2pm, 3 at the latest.

Insomnia had also been playing a huge part and I finally made some progress on getting sleep. I’ll cover that in another post.

Somewhere during this I switched to the Paleo diet, upped my fat intake and upped my protein intake. My body loved this.  

First, a miraculous thing happened to my brain. I started having moments of clarity. The fog was lifting. Not every day, and not all day, but it was happening.

Then, I found my body telling me I could start moving it more, but it was limited. I made gains in my weight training.  A few times in the past couple of months I tried running. Each time, I could go for a few minutes and then felt I needed to walk.

One of the worst things about trying to balance adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, and a need to exercise is truly listening to your body.

Was my body telling me to actually stay in and sleep because I needed it, or was I just being lazy and the blankets were warm?

Some mornings, I would get up, put on my workout clothes and have a 10 minute mind battle with myself where I tried to discern what I should do. I still struggle with it, I did this morning.

But a couple of weeks ago, something told me “run”. Part of it had to do with my mood, which was pretty low. “You’re much happier when you run,” Alex told me. I knew he was right. Walking and weights just didn’t improve my mood like running did.

So the one day I got the urge to run, I did. And I ran for 30 minutes straight. I felt good. The next day, I did the same. Soreness occurred, of course, but the exercise intolerance I had before was gone. I’ve been running again ever since.

Right now, I’ve limited myself to 30-35 minute runs, only 2-4 times per week. I’m making sure my coffee and sugar habit stay under control and am getting enough sleep. The last part that I need to take care of to really make sure I keep my adrenals healthy is stress relief, but that’s been the most difficult so far.

Anyway, if anyone reading this is struggling with adrenal fatigue, please be patient with your body. It took me over three years the first time and over a year the second time to get my adrenals back to almost normal. The second time I had to do very little cardio exercise and incorporate dramatic diet and lifestyle changes.

Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.



Zinc for Leaky Gut

The systemic symptoms of SIBO are very real.

Fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, headaches and even depression and anxiety can all be caused when the body mounts an immune response against endotoxins and foods that have entered the blood stream.

In a healthy gut, only select nutrients are allowed through the tight junctions of the intestines. But during SIBO, the bacteria can damage the intestines to the point where it actually becomes more permeable. Then, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream along with food particles and other toxins that are ingested.

Once in the bloodstream, the immune system mounts an attacks against the foreign particles and can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Foods that have never bothered me in the past can now wipe me out with brain fog, fatigue and anxiety.

When the gut is too permeable, there’s usually not just one or two food intolerances. All food can be problematic.

If you have SIBO, noted food intolerances, or chronic inflammation, you almost surely have a leaky gut. I discuss the connection between leaky gut and heart disease in this post.

The first thing to do is avoid things that can increase gut permeability. I’ll cover this more in another post.

Then, there are some specific nutrients that have been shown to be extremely healing for the intestinal lining and can help protect against and even repair a leaky gut.

Bone broth, glutamine, and the topic of today’s post: Zinc.

Zinc is absolutely crucial for immune function and cellular repair, yet most people aren’t getting enough.

And a specific kind of zinc, called zinc carnosine, has been shown in multiple human studies to be beneficial to the lining of the GI tract. It’s been shown to help heal stomach ulcers, inhibit h. pylori, prevent heartburn and acid irritation, and relieve gas and nausea.

It’s also extremely effective at keeping the small intestine healthy.

One human study showed that zinc carnosine  prevented the increase in intestinal permeability caused by NSAIDs. Another human study demonstrated that it repaired damaged to the small intestine.

It really is a powerful nutrient. In fact, its actually used  a prescription in Japan as a treatment for stomach ulcers.

I started taking zinc carnosine about three months ago and I’ve noticed a  very marked improvement in  some of my gut symptoms. But mainly, I’ve noticed a major improvement in the systemic symptoms I was getting.

My fatigue has improved, my headaches are less frequent, and food doesn’t always make me extremely tired or cause massive brain fog like it used to.

I don’t always remember to take it every day, but I always take it if I know I’m going to ingest any alcohol that day, since alcohol has been shown to be extremely damaging to the gut lining. It seems to have helped improve my hangovers, too, since not as many toxins are getting into my bloodstream.

I’ve also noticed that my skin is breaking out much less than it used to because less toxins are getting into my system and trying to detox through my skin.

If you’re suffering from SIBO or systemic issues that could be caused by a leaky gut, I highly recommend you give zinc carnosine a try.

I use the Pepzin GI brand and I get it from Vitacost, they have pretty good pricing.

Homemade Kombucha

Awhile back I wrote about how GT’s Kombucha was helping with my SIBO symptoms. It was, and still does, but there’s one big problem with it.

It’s freaking expensive.

Even buying it by the case and getting a discount I was paying about $3.50 per bottle. That adds up quickly.

So I finally decided to bite the bullet and try making my own kombucha at home.

I had been nervous to do so, fearing mold or harmful bacterial growth, but decided to give it a shot.

My fiance’s mom gave me a great brewing vessel for my birthday, and I ordered my Scoby from Kombucha Kamp. (SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, and its what eats the sugar in the sweet tea solution to make fermented kombucha.)

The process was simple and the instructions provided were clear. With a couple days, a new baby Scoby had formed on the surface of the tea, just as it should. After waiting patiently for seven days, I finally got to taste it.

It tasted like sweet tea, not kombucha.

Another week passed, and I tasted again.

It had a slight tang this time, but still very, very sweet.

I kept tasting every other day for the next three weeks, and even though it got a bit tangier each time, it still was much to sweet for my liking.

I did a bit of research and  found that the problem might be it is much to cold in my apartment for it to ferment properly. My apartment hovers around 70 degrees, sometimes going as low as 63 at night, and Scobies prefer 75-85 degrees.

So I started a second batch with the mother and baby Scoby, and ordered a heating strip. It’s been 3 days with the heating strip and I now have found the right position to keep the booch around 78-80 degrees.

It hasn’t done much more fermenting yet, but growing my own kombucha has been an awesome experience so far. It’s a bit like a science experience you can taste, and I think it may be playing some part as to why my SIBO symptoms have been greatly reduced. I drink about a shot’s glass worth everyday as I taste it to see how the fermentation is going.

Enzymes for SIBO…or maybe its SIFO

I’ve been having good symptom prevention lately by taking candida-fighting enzymes. Specifically, YST Management from Vitacost.

It’s a combination of enzymes that supposedly digest candida and break down it’s cell wall so that the immune system can attack and remove it.

I had used these enzymes a couple of years ago when I thought I had candida overgrowth. I didn’t notice that they did much.

But, since they are powerful enzymes for digesting cellulose and other carb and starchy things, I thought they would be good to take before I eat vegetables, to help prevent the bloat, and they are working quite terrifically for that. Much better than any other enzyme supplement I have tried (and I’ve tried many!)

I also take two in the morning with water or my green juice to try and attack and candida that may be there, just in case.

I’m actually have such good symptom relief I’m wondering if I have a case of small intestine fungal overgrowth (SIFO), in addition to the SIBO.

The NOW peppermint gels have still be working for me as well, for the most part, and the combination of the two have really helped me live a nearly symptom-free life for the past couple of weeks.