chronic fatigue syndrome

Adrenal Fatigue and the Vagus Nerve

What is the Vagus Nerve?

If you’ve been at this adrenal “stuff” for some time, most likely you’ve heard of the vagus nerve. You know it’s important, but you’re not sure EXACTLY why.

Well, it’s CRUCIAL that you understand this FOR YOUR RECOVERY.

Are you ready to find out why this is said to be the most important nerve in the body?

When you understand the connection between the vagus nerve and all the symptoms you’re feeling, I imagine it will be a big motivator to start incorporating practices that keep this nerve functioning at it’s best.  

The Skinny on the Vagus Nerve

The Vagus nerve is one of our 12 cranial nerves. These cranial nerves start in the brain and are each connected to different organs in the body. When these cranial nerves become compromised it impacts the associated organs and that organ’s function/s.

The vagus nerve is said to be the most important nerve for 2 reasons:

1.   It’s the only nerve controlling our ability to decrease stress. It’s in charge of controlling the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest state.

2.   The nerve involves so many organs (not just the gut) and their level of function. (which is why symptoms are so vast)

How do Cranial Nerves Become Compromised?

These cranial nerves become compromised for various reasons; traumas and stressful situations in our lives; physical, mental or emotional. This includes abuse, addiction, divorce, the death of loved one, surgeries, illnesses and even a high-stress lifestyle and addition to stress.

Vagus Nerve, Adrenal Fatigue and Gut Connection

The vagus nerve starts in the brain and travels to the gut. But what many don’t know is that on the way to the gut, the vagus nerve goes through the heart, the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidneys, ureter, spleen, lungs, female sex organs neck (pharynx, larynx, and esophagus), ears and the tongue. No other nerve in the body has such a broad and far-reaching effect as the Vagus Nerve.

So can you see that when this nerve is compromised it can cause many health issues, such as…

1)   Either feeling wired or tired, no in between

2)   Food sensitivities

3)   Anxiety and/or depression

4)   Poor digestion

5)   Poor nutrient absorption

6)   Trouble detoxing

7)   Brain fog

8)   Poor sleep

9)   Chronic inflammation

10)  Migraines or headaches

11) Heart disease

12) Poor circulation

13) Fibromyalgia

14) Autoimmune conditions

15) Blood sugar imbalances

16) Mood swings

and more…

Do you see why you want your vagus nerve functioning at its best?

If you're stressed constantly, your stress response is overstimulated, and you’re in sympathetic overdrive. This makes your adrenals pump out more cortisol, which exhausts the adrenals and create an imbalance of hormones. You need the vagus nerve functioning at it’s best - in order to balance and heal the nervous system.  

Benefits of a Healthy Vagus Nerve

·        Helps control anxiety and mood

·        Increases stomach acidity and other digestive enzyme production - low levels of these are correlated to the root cause of gut issues

·        Controls heart rate variability, heart rate and blood pressure

·        It controls blood sugar balance

·        In the liver it controls bile production and detoxification

·        Controls bile release to help break down fats

·        Promotes general function including water balance, glucose control and sodium excretion which helps control blood pressure

·        Controls voiding of urine

·        Reduces inflammation

·        Controls fertility and sexual pleasure including orgasms

·        Controls ability to taste and saliva production through salivary gland control

·        Activates tear production in the eyes

So you’re probably starting to see the connections here. And possibly wondering, what can I do to love up my vagus nerve and get it working FOR me, ASAP…

How to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve?

Here are two simple exercises to stimulate the vagus nerve.

1.   Deep and Slow Breathing

This sends a signal to our brain and the vagus nerve to lower our heart rate and blood pressure. This lessens the flight or fight response and increases the rest and digest response.

Make this a part of your daily life.

Do this upon rising every morning: Inhale for count of 5, allow the belly and rib cage to expand out slightly with your breath, hold the breath for the count of 5 and then exhale the breath for the count of 8-10. As you push the breath out completely you will notice a drawing in of the belly toward the spine and rib cage back to center. Enjoy this intended movement of the diaphragm.

2.   Singing, humming or chanting

Singing, humming, and mantra chanting all increase heart rate variability and works the muscles at the back of your throat, which helps stimulate the vagus nerve. So next time you feel like singing your heart out in the shower or car, do it, it’s great for your health and your vagus ;)

And if you’re tired of hearing these suggestions, they seem too easy and/or they just don’t work…

You’ve maybe tried them here and there (without noticing a difference). But, I’m curious have you honestly given these types of practices a go for longer than a couple days or a week? Have you been consistent?

If you want your adrenals to actually heal and your hormones to balance out (and you want them to stay that way for the rest of your life), start incorporating practices that stimulate the vagus nerve on a daily basis. I challenge you to add 5-10 minutes of slow, deep breathing or chanting to your morning routine. I believe you will see shifts almost immediately.

I’d like you to open your mind to the fact that it can be that easy. With consistently, these exercises do work. It can be that easy. We just have to break old patterns.

Here’s another way to start loving up the vagus nerve - start reacting differently to life. And this is a habit that’s hard to break, right? This is about interrupting the stress pattern you have in place and probably have had in place, for a very long time. Interrupt it, stop it in it’s track and create a different pattern or pathway in the brain.

“Stress Pattern Interrupt” Practice

Find a simple word or phrase that is calming to you and embodies what you want to create instead of stress. When you’re start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, repeat the word or phrase until you feel less resistance or you feel lighter. Or you can ask a certain type of question (question examples below). You can also think of something you are grateful for.

A few examples:

  1. SLOW

  2. CALM

  3. All is well in my world

  4. I am safe

  5. I am grounded

  6. What would it take for me to have more ease or calm in this moment?

  7. How can I experience more peace right away?

  8. I acknowledge I’m not feeling great right now, but I’m so grateful for…(my home, my children, clean water, healthy food…)

  9. I acknowledge I’m not feeling great right now, but each day I’m getting better and better.

Be the energy of the word, phrase or question. (Trust you know how to do this).

Questions, comments? Please share below in the comments and after a week of stimulating the vagus nerve report back.

To your amazing vagus nerve,

Angela (& Danielle)

Holidays with Adrenal Fatigue: 5 Tips to Survive and Thrive

Why is it that when we are supposed to be celebrating tradition and spending quality time with family and friends we find ourselves ridiculously busy, stress and on the verge of burnout? The holidays can be a challenging time even for the healthiest of people. When you have adrenal fatigue the added stress that the holiday season brings can lead to major adrenal burnout and flare-ups. Here are 5 secrets to surviving the holidays with adrenal fatigue (and make sure you stay till the end, we want to give you a special holiday gift. It's a lifesaver).

Tip #1 byof

Bring Your Own Food. The holidays are filled with get-togethers focused around food. If you are suffering from food intolerances or allergies as a result of your adrenal fatigue, you most likely have had to give some foods up along the way. If so, you know how frustrating it can be to go to these gatherings. Bringing your own food means that you can still enjoy food and you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out the entire time.

If you’ve been following me for a while you know that on my adrenal fatigue healing journey I gave up many foods. Actually, the only thing I never gave up eating is vegetables. I gave up dairy, meat, sugar, gluten, grains, you name it I tried it. Not just for a couple weeks, but for months and sometimes even years at a time. And just for the record I am not suggesting that or believe you need to give up a bunch of foods in order to heal your adrenal fatigue. But I get what you’re going through and that’s why I always bring food with me, wherever I go.

I am not suggesting that or believe you need to give up a bunch of foods in order to heal your adrenal fatigue. But I get what you’re going through. That’s why I always bring food with me, wherever I go.

What are your favorite alternative food choices that you don’t want to live without during the holidays? Do you have a good or funny story about sharing your specialty foods with your loved ones?

Tip #2 Boost Your Immune System

During the holiday we do more traveling to the mall, to the supermarket, to events and get-togethers which all bring opportunities to come into contact with germs and other icky bugs that might be lurking around. And because as adrenal fatigue sufferers we already have compromised immune systems, we might be more susceptible and find ourselves constantly “under the weather” at this time of year.  Not good! Getting sick would put a huge damper on our capacity to celebrate.

Be pro-active about your health this season.  Keep yourself healthy by doing a few things to boost the immune system. Go to sleep just a bit earlier than usual each night. Cut down on the sugar intake when you aren’t out celebrating and (this is one of my favorites) use essential oils to protect yourself. Personally, I use the Doterra Oil called Onguard. This oil can be used internally to support the immune and respiratory system and can also be used externally as a non-toxic cleaner to protect against environmental threats. I use it at the first sign of the sniffles or as a preventive by diffusing it in the house or adding a few drops of distilled water and spraying down germ-infested areas like the airplane seat or grocery cart. I am not saying to walk around being a germaphobe to the point where you create anxiety for yourself or others, but simply being prepared can reduce your risk AND make you feel more in control and empowered.

My other favorite immune boosting ritual is drinking Echinacea tea or taking an Echinacea extract, which you can find at a health food store. Some people like Emergen-C or Airborne which are also great options. What essential vitamins and supplements support your immune system? Make sure you don’t forget to take them.

 

Tip #3 Don’t Fall Into the Crazy Trap

When everyone around you is running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done it’s easy to feel like that is what you are supposed to do too. Just because our society buys into the belief that this time of year has to be crazy, doesn’t mean that it’s true, or that it has to be true for you—no matter what the people around you are doing.   I am telling you that it is possible to avoid that trap. What if you could be that person in line at the supermarket or at the mall while everyone else is huffing and puffing, saying rude things to the checker or just acting annoyed, who is stays cool, calm and collected? You can be an example of what else is possible. And as Gandhi would say “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Tip # 4 Do Your Shopping Online

We have such a luxury now that didn’t exist even 10 –years-ago where you can pretty much buy anything online that you need. So unless you enjoy being out and about this time of year or you have a great deal of patience consider doing all your shopping this year from the convenience of your own cozy couch. Get yourself a cup of your favorite tea, put on some calming music and shop away.  There are lots of options for online shopping these days—it’s not Amazon or nothing. So if you like to shop small or local, check to see if your favorite physical shops have websites…these days you’d be surprised at how many do!

Tip #5 Emotionally Prepare for Your Loved Ones

No matter how close we are to our loved ones or how much we love seeing them during the holidays, it doesn’t negate the fact that family has the ability to bring up a lot of our old “stuff” including limiting beliefs about ourselves, insecurities, failures, etc.

Prepare yourself emotionally by taking some time before you see them to center yourself. Say positive affirmations to yourself. Remind yourself how amazing you are and that your old choices no longer define who you are. Get plenty of sleep and visualize yourself having positive and loving interactions with these people.

I have just given you 5 easy tips to surviving the holidays with adrenal fatigue.

Now I’d love to hear from you. What things do you do to guarantee more fun and less stress during the holidays? How do you avoid flair up during the holidays? What has been the most helpful piece of information shared here?

Please share this blog with friends, family and/or colleagues you feel could benefit from this information.

All my best,

Angela

Avoid Adrenal Burnout & Flare-ups This Holiday Season

3 Reasons Why Skipping Meals Is Bad For Your Adrenals

If you're exhausted and stressed-out, your day probably looks something like this:  You wake up in the morning feeling exhausted; you hit the snooze button several times hoping a few more minutes will make you feel better. You stay in bed till as long as you can and then you don't have time to "break the fast". Or, if you do eat breakfast, its on-the-go and it might not be the most nourishing choice to kick-start your busy day ahead. Maybe you depend on your coffee to not only wake you up, but to satisfy your hunger. Then your morning is so busy that you don’t feel you have time for lunch so you skip it or delay it an hour or two. Instead, you rely on sugar or other snacks to get you through. Sound familiar? Believe me, I get it. I've been there. But let me share with you 3 reasons why skipping meals with adrenal fatigue is bad news.

1.Slows down your metabolism  

Skipping meals gives your body the message that it needs to conserve energy by storing calories as fat.

2. Causes Your Blood Sugar to Drop

When you skip meals it allows your blood sugar to drop. A drop in blood sugar puts added stress on your adrenal glands because the adrenals are responsible for maintaining your blood sugar levels. So your adrenals, that are already exhausted, to begin with, have to work even harder now.

3. Limits Glucose Production  

When you eat, the body breaks down your food and produces glucose. Glucose is the primary source of energy for your brain and your nervous system. So when you don’t eat, the glucose in your brain decreases, which means less energy. This lack of glucose impairs your concentration, focus, mood and memory.]

I just gave you 3 important reasons why skipping meals with adrenal fatigue is a bad idea. Here are a few tips to help you avoid this.

4 Tips to Avoid Skipping Meals:

  1. Make eating a priority. Eat every 3 hours (meals and snacks in between or 5-6 small meals.)

  2. Go to bed at a reasonable time, preferably before 10 pm in order to wake up a bit earlier.

  3. Wake up 30 minutes earlier than you do now, in order to make and eat breakfast

  4. Stock up with lots of healthy snacks on Sunday. Bring several pieces of fruit, some veggies and/or an energy bar to eat for snacks in between meals.

Why Adrenal Fatigue Makes You A Hypochondriac

 A hypochondriac by definition is someone who is abnormally anxious about their health. If you’ve been suffering from adrenal fatigue chances are you’ve felt this way at some point. Or, maybe your friends and family members have suggested you’re a hypochondriac. You’re not crazy! Here's why adrenal fatigue makes you a hypochondriac:

4 Ways Adrenal Fatigue Makes You a Hypochondriac

1. Mystery Symptoms

Because adrenal fatigue is often overlooked or misunderstood by mainstream medicine often people experience many symptoms, have chronic pain or irritability, and are constantly exhausted without an explanation. The “unknown” can make anyone abnormally anxious as the future seems uncertain and somewhat scary.

That was me before I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. My symptoms all across the board, something was physically wrong with me, and I knew that, but doctors couldn’t find anything. I was beginning to feel as though they thought I was making it all up, but I knew my symptoms were NOT in my head.  I felt frustrated and hopeless.

2. Basic Needs Aren’t Being Met

It’s hard to think of anything else when your basic needs aren’t being met. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, based on the idea that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on. The most basic needs being food, water, shelter, sleep, etc. Next in order is protection, security. After that are the “higher” needs like love, friendship, intimacy, personal growth and so on.

When you have chronic health issues often times you’re basic needs like getting enough sleep and having good health aren’t being met making it hard to focus on other “higher” needs. This means you’re missing out on so much. Your life is consumed with your illness and your ability to be happy and focus on “higher” needs is seriously compromised.

Maybe your friends notice that you are preoccupied or anxious about lots of things and that is why they're calling you a hypochondriac.

3. Have to Watch What You Eat

Every time after I ate, I felt horrible. I would feel itchy and tingly. At first, I thought I was just allergic to everything: gluten, dairy, sugar…

Little did I know, I had low blood sugar. Adrenal fatigue often contributes to blood sugar imbalance because the hormones produced by the adrenal glands play an important role in the way we metabolize and regulate blood sugar.

When you have low blood sugar it can cause many symptoms like blurry vision, rapid heartbeat, sudden nervousness, unexplained fatigue, shaking, skin tingles and trouble concentrating.

It’s easy to think these symptoms are a reaction to what you just ate, that you must be allergic to it. This might not be “it” at all. The symptoms you are experiencing could be a result of a blood sugar imbalance.

Again, how could you ignore symptoms like this, especially when they are happening every day?  Anxiety seems like a normal response to a prolonged struggle with the basic practice of eating!

4. Seems Like Your Sensitive to Everything

At the height of my untreated adrenal fatigue, my allergies became so severe that I couldn’t breathe through my nose or taste, or smell for months at a time. I became hyper aware of the environment around me because I was afraid of what I would react to; trees, plants, pets, dust, chemicals, intense smells…I was never sure what would set off a mild or a severe reaction.

I had to avoid people’s houses with pets. During allergy season, I would choose to miss out on outdoor activities rather than deal with the aftermath. I had to avoid certain beauty products and clothing that caused allergic reactions.  People noticed, and I’m sure their feelings were hurt when I stopped coming over or participating in events, but I had to take care of myself.

Nevertheless, I am sure that without a full appreciation of the ongoing discomfort and pain I was experiencing every day, it was easier for them to think my behavior was “excessive” or “crazy”.

In fact, it was simply a matter of doing what I needed to do to keep myself safe and functional.

These four examples are all excellent reasons why you might feel anxious about your health even if you are not usually an anxious person.  Any anxiety you feel given these challenges is completely justified and it’s important to remember that.

But how can you cope with the daily anxiety or the pressure that comes from judgment, even if it is rooted in loving concern?

I am about to give you 5 Simple ways to deal with this.

5 Things to Do About It

1. Stop Caring What Others Think

If your family and friends don’t understand what you’re going through, it is natural for them to feel confused, which can often resolve itself in judgmental behaviors. Try to explain what you're experiencing in an effort to help everyone. You will get more support from people who don’t think you’re crazy, exaggerating or just like to complain.

If they don’t get it, don’t waste your precious time and energy worrying about them. Save that energy for your healing. If you believe in yourself they will come around.

2. Get Support

If you find yourself without enough (or any) supportive friends, find some.  It may help everyone if you explained to them the basic challenges you’re facing in your life: perhaps they will be willing and able to help provide for some of those more basic unmet needs, freeing you up to enjoy those “higher levels” again!

Make an effort to reach out to a friend or family member you think will listen while you talk about what you’re going through from your own perspective. You can also work with health coach like me or another health professional who recognizes adrenal fatigue and is dedicated to your healing journey. There are also support groups on Facebook such as Holistic Healing from Adrenal Fatigue.

3. Give Yourself Some Credit

I applaud you for seeing the warning signs and listening to your body. Symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Ignoring them is only going to make it worse.

But, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you focus all your energy on what is wrong. That’s only going to make matters worse. Instead…

4. Start Asking Questions

Get ready because I am going to be real HONEST with you. You might not like it, but it’s necessary. At this stage, complaining won’t help. Each time you notice you’re feeling sick or sorry for yourself, don’t beat yourself up—break that habit! Instead, document your symptoms and ask yourself a few constructive questions in order to shift your focus from your pain to your healing:

  • What could this symptom be telling me?
  • What can I be grateful for in this moment?
  • What is the next best step for me?

5. Stay committed To Your Healing and Trust

Whether you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue or another illness that results in chronic fatigue, don’t give up hope. You’re not alone and you’re not crazy.

You deserve great health, we all do. Stay committed by envisioning great health and trust you will find the answers in the right time

Now I would love to hear from you. Do you feel like a hypochondriac? Or have others suggested you are? How do you deal with it? Please share in the comments below.

Lots of Love,
Angela

Image Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_nastia'>nastia / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

 

Improve Adrenal Health & Manage Stress - 5 Strategies

As you probably know by now, adrenal fatigue and stress go hand-in-hand. The very root cause of poor adrenal health is stress. When we encounter stress whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, the same chemical reaction occurs. It looks something like this.

1. Our adrenals release and shower our bodies with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline

2. In response, our heart beats faster and harder, our blood pressure rises, our breath becomes shallow and weak and our blood rushes away from major organs (ie: organs of the digestive tract) and into our muscles so we can fight or flee from the stress, appropriately.

There are so many situations in our external world that have the potential to be stressful. Whether you have experienced a traumatic event in your life, you lead a high-stress lifestyle, have a habit of over-committing, or choose to burn the candle at both ends, without self-care and proper rest and relaxation, your adrenals will become depleted and your health will suffer?

So the question is, how do we make the necessary changes in order to improve our adrenal health?

The truth is, we do have control over how we react to stress. 

If we do not learn how to cope better with stress and take life down a notch, (even just mentally) we will never truly recover from adrenal fatigue and our health will continue to suffer.

And to further prove my point of the deep connection between stress and our health, new research reveals that 80% of all diseases may actually be stress related. But, it’s not all bad news.

The good news is there are ways to teach your body and mind to cope better with stress. And there is science behind this.  There is a powerful hormone that is able to lower cortisol (the stress hormone), balance the body after the stress response and as a result, improve adrenal health.

This hormone is called Oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called the stress ‘off-switch’ or the ‘love’ hormone. In order to produce oxytocin, we need to engage in certain activities that trigger a relaxation response both in the brain and in the body. During the relaxation response, our mind clears, our muscles relax, and our heart rate and blood pressure lower.

Oxytocin is mainly released in three ways; during an orgasm and for women during labor and when breastfeeding. You might be thinking, that's it?

Thankfully, there are several ways we can trick the body into releasing oxytocin and heal the body from stress.

5 Simple Ways to Release Oxytocin

1. LAUGHTER

Did you know there is science behind the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine?” When we laugh, our bodies produce Oxycotin. Laughter is also known to help boost your energy, your immune system and even reduce pain.

This can be genuine or fake laughter, the brain doesn’t know the difference.

  • So either spend a few minutes laughing by listening to your favorite comedian during your commute to work or while exercising
  • Surround yourself with people who make you laugh
  • Or just start laughing

2. HUG SOMEONE

  • Embrace someone, it’s best when you hug someone you love
  • Enjoy that hug and stay a little longer than normal and feel the effects
  • If you don’t have the opportunity to hug someone you love than imagine you are hugging someone you love or that you are being hugged by someone you love
  • Cuddling has the same effect

3. TAKE A WALK

  • It doesn’t have to be long, even 10 minutes is beneficial
  • Walking, and walking outside is recommended and is statistically correlated with higher levels of oxytocin
  •  If your day is full of meetings, perhaps you can suggest a walking meeting with a co-worker, you might be surprised that when walking and talking business you can experience more inspirations, creativity and ah-ha moments!

4. DO SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOURSELF DAILY

  • We often over-extend ourselves by trying to do and be everything. Especially as women, we learn to do this at an early age and then it becomes a habit that is hard to break. This busyness just becomes our new normal. As a result, we end up deleted ourselves and our adrenals.
  • Make a commitment to do something special for yourself every single day. For example, take a bath, walk in nature, book a massage, go to a movie by yourself, plan a date with a friend or treat yourself to a special treat

5. BREATHE DEEP

  • When our bodies are stressed we breathe shallowly and fast.
  • Breathing deep is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body which slows down your heart rate and decreases your blood pressure
  • Ideally sit comfortably, close your eyes, set a timer for 2-3 minutes and just allow yourself to inhale and exhale, each for the count of 5 seconds. Try not to judge yourself for being distracted when distractions come up. Our brains are just doing their job. When distracted bring yourself back to the breath. And just keeping doing that over time it gets easier. But know that we all struggle with it, even those that have been practicing meditation for years.

Well, there you go. I just gave you 5 strategies to improve your adrenal health and manage your stress naturally. I don't want to stop there. Here's a great tool to help you take ACTION...

Now we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Which strategies would you like to incorporate more of into your day? Keep yourself accountable and tell us what action you’d like to take this week. Your share will inspire others on their healing journey. So take a moment to drop us a line below.