How Jada Pinkett-Smith saved my life

January 17, 2016 0 Comments

How Jada Pinkett-Smith saved my life

You may have noticed that I've been laying very low lately. The end of 2015 left me feeling deflated, used, abused and discarded. I went to bed at 8:30 on new years eve and woke up more tired than the day before. I had been waking up like this every day lately, and now even my morning cup of coffee was doing very little to get me going. I would push myself to go and workout, squeezing out the tiny amount of energy my body had allotted for me to get through the day, after which I would return home and be on the verge of collapse.

Clearly this is not normal. My diet hadn't changed, I was still the same neurotic stress head as I was a few weeks ago, but for some reason my fatigue was getting worse and worse. Soon I couldn't even make it to the gym and would send my son to the in-laws because I just needed to sleep despite having had adequate sleep the night before. My eyelids and other muscles started to twitch uncontrollably and my right trapezius muscle and neck had become so tight I was in constant pain and agony.

What was happening to me?

Am I falling apart at the age of 30?

Could it be adrenal fatigue, a condition I have been telling my clients to avoid for years?

If you haven't heard of adrenal fatigue it's a bit of a "controversial" condition often shunned by western medicine because it's not "backed by science". While it is understandable that some quacks may take such a mystery condition as an opportunity to peddle potions to vulnerable sufferers, for me this condition is very real.

I knew I was in trouble and needed help to get back on track. I have been recommended an integrative GP in Brisbane and urgently called to make an appointment. The lovely receptionist advised me that unfortunately the doctor is no longer taking on any clients however I was more than welcome to write an email about my health concerns and pray that he would make an exception. To my amazement my plea had worked and I have been accepted to have my first appointment in early February, a 45 minute initial consultation, which with a GP is unheard of.

Until then I had to do something to try and stay awake for my family's sake. So I started with the basics.

What is adrenal fatigue?

The adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands) are tiny thumb-sized endocrine (hormone) glands that sit above the kidneys. These guys produce and regulate over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, so to say they're kind of a big deal is an understatement.

The adrenal glands play a crucial part in stress response where they reduce hormones to help you deal with stress. They release adrenaline to help you react, and corticosteroids to slow down "non-essential" functions like digestion and your immune system.

Your adrenal glands are also responsible for balancing hormones such as

  • Glucocorticooids that balance your blood sugar and help with energy and food metabolims.
  • Mineralocorticoids, hormones responsible for healthy blood pressure
  • Estrogen and testosterone - needed for healthy sexual function and desire

When the adrenals are "fatigued", the body may experience a number of different symptoms including:

  • Body aches
  • Poor concentration
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Excessive sweating or perspiration from little activity
  • Lower back pain and/or knee weakness or pain, especially on the side
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Muscle twitches
  • Low blood sugar
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sensitivity to light, or difficulty seeing at night
  • A craving for salt
  • Low stamina for stress, and easily irritated
  • Excessive mood responses after eating carbohydrates such as pasta, breads and sugar
  • Chronic infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, yeast)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tired but wired feeling
  • Poor sleep
  • Cravings for sweets and carbs, intolerance to alcohol
  • Premature aging
  • Dry, unhealthy skin with excess pigmentation
  • Lack of libido
  • Negative response to thyroid hormone

I can pretty much tick every one of those symptoms. I look and fell like shit. I am grumpy, tired, sore, constantly craving sweet foods, forgetful, and depressed.

The most rational thing to do would be to cut out anything that's adding more load on my overloaded adrenal glands.

This include:

  • Stress - cutting out physical and emotional. This is far easier said than done. I cut back on the amount of high intensity exercise I have been doing in the mornings and do more Pilates, yoga and walks. I start doing more conscious breathing, burning candles, taking baths, and other things that help me unwind. I start practicing being less reactive to "stressful" situation. I also ditch Instagram and other non-essential things in my life. Instagram in particular became an addiction to post on a regular basis and get my likes. Scrolling through my feed created more negative internal dialogue than positive plus I developed a bad online shopping addiction which I'm guessing was a self medicating response to find some sort of happiness. So I deleted the app. I'm sure I'll get back to in soon, but for the time being it's not really necessary.

    TV was also on the cull list. Not that I watched much of it in the first place, but I've limited my TV viewing and swapped to reading or going for a walk and listening to an audio book. I'm enjoying my audio books so much that I'm listening to them in the car instead of the radio too.

    I've also decided to not start any new projects in 2016 and limit any business activity that will add to my stress. Instead I'm focusing of tying up loose ends so to speak and finish anything I started and having had time to finish like my Bachelor of Health science degree, unfinished books, journals, daily practices - things that I know sit in the back of my mind and add to my guilt and stress levels.

    A messy house also adds to my stress and depression levels, or is a reflection of how I feel so I'm more conscious of laundry and dirty dishes piling up, and keeping a general sense of tidiness at home.  Hubby has been kind enough to treat me to a Dyson hand held vacuum which has been a dream in keeping our floors clean. We all get involved and as a result I feel happier.
  • Caffeine - good bye coffee, tea, and chocolate. Although good bye is not forever, it's important to limit caffeine during adrenal recovery because when you drink a cup of coffee, your brain send a very urgent message to the pituitary gland, which release a hormone that tells your adrenals to produce adrenalin and cortisol triggering the same response your body uses when you're being changed by a sabre tooth tiger. So tata for now! Although I was only having 1-2 cups of coffee a day, giving these up came with a barrage of symptoms including the good old detox headache. It only lasted a day.
  • Sugar & Sweeteners - my cravings for sweet things had become uncontrollable. I was craving something sweet after every meal, especially now that coffee was out of the question. Excess sugar is bad news for Adrenal Fatigue because you will struggle to produce the necessary hormones to regulate blood sugar levels. I have since cut out all high fructose containing foods, limited my fruit intake to berries and the odd pear or apple and limited my food intake. So no more juices, smoothies with loads of fruit, acai bowls and "healthy treats". They were all quite literally killing me.

With all this taking out something had to go in. I've simplified my diet to protein, good fats and lots of veggies. I've removed anything inflammatory like wheat, most grains, and dairy. I also only eat 3 times a day (unless I get really hungry), this will help my digestive system to recover and stabilise my blood sugar levels.

A typical day on a plate looks like this:

Breakfast - poached eggs, avocado and sauerkraut or a Young Coconut Smoothie with water and flesh of a young coconut, frozen organic blueberries, a whole egg and a scoop of chia seeds.

Lunch - generous portion of protein like a piece of grilled fish or chicken with salad and sauerkraut.

Dinner - the same as lunch but with a different protein.

To my surprise I am actually very satisfied and capable of making it to the next meal. This practice has made me more in-tune with my true hunger which is your body's signal to say that it's ready to process the next meal.

I've bought some supplements including Cod Liver Oil for high omegas to reduce inflammation and for better brain function, Zinc and Magnesium because they are essential for so many bodily functions and get depleted when your stressed, and a good quality probiotic to help my gut do it's thing. Hydration is also pretty important, so I not make sure I get adequate water throughout the day.

It's been 3 weeks so far and I feel so much better. I can get through the day without feeling like a complete wreck. I am happier too, and calmer. My family has noticed the difference to as I am more patient and less explosive.

Recovery times vary for adrenal fatigue depending on their severity which can be anywhere from 6-18 months. Time will tell for me as well as finding out what the doc has to say about my self diagnosis.

I write this because I know I'm not alone. I actually remember my mother going through something very similar in her early 30s where she would spend days in bed. Stress is killing us and is linked to so many problems. While we can't avoid it, we can learn to manage it and help our bodies deal with it. I hope this post helps some people start their own journey towards recovery and do more research on this mystery syndrome. It's actually often misdiagnosed as  Metabolic Syndrome syndrome because the symptoms are so alike.

My overall message is take the steps to change. You can't keep going like this forever. You will eventually collapse and everything you are fighting so hard to keep up will crumble around you. Is it worth it? Not at all.

You can't pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of you. This journey was inspired by an amazing YouTube video a friend shared by Jada Pinkett-Smith on Taking Care of You, first. And so the journey goes....

 Beautiful image from found via Pinterest on

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