Whether you’ve been stressed about your health, suffered losses, tired of the quarantine, had financial stressors, working long hours or had a relationship breakup, stress has become a constant irritant for many of us. If you’re struggling with binge eating, emotional eating or food addiction, your eating behaviors may be the first sign that you are stressed to the max. When the situation goes on for weeks or months, and the stress becomes chronic, the adrenal glands burn out from chronic production of cortisol and may cause what is called adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS).
In this Podcast, you will learn:
1. How can you tell if you have adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS)?
2. What causes adrenal fatigue?
3. How do stress and adrenal fatigue cause binge eating, food obsessions and emotional eating?
4. What can you do about AFS?
Links mentioned in podcast:
Schedule a free consult to discuss your food and body image issues: https://findingyouranchor.as.me/CONSULT
To learn more about The Anchor Program a 12-week non-diet program offering ONLINE group and individual sessions for the treatment of binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction and compulsive overeating. Want to learn more about the Anchor Program? https://AnchorProgram.com
Supplements and free meditation mentioned on the video:
• For sleep: magnesium at bedtime or the homeopathic remedy Calm Forte
• Take vitamins – vitamins C and B5 help with cortisol production, vitamin D can help support the immune system.
• Download a free meditation here
Get a chance to win a copy of “The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook”! Just visit carolynrossmd.com
Hi, everybody, welcome to episode number 84 stress, fatigue and bingeing. This, this is going to be a really good podcast for many of you who have been, or like many of my patients and the people in the anchor program have been complaining of just being tired all the time and also feeling overly stressed and overwhelmed. So I’m going to give you some really important things that you can do right away to help yourself start feeling better. So stay tuned.
Well, I hope wherever you are, you’re safe, you’re still taking precautions because we’re not out of the woods yet with this darn, this darn pandemic thing. So and I also hope you’re starting to have more fun and enjoyment in your life, but I don’t know of anyone who has an experienced more than the usual amount of stress over the past year and maybe longer than a year. I know we just hit the one-year mark for the pandemic. So much has happened, whether you’ve been stressed about, you know, COVID fears or just the exhausting quarantine, maybe you’ve suffered losses, loss of loved ones or loss of jobs or loss of friendships even, or you’ve had financial stresses, or you’ve been working long hours to make ends meet or have had relationship issues.
Stress has become a constant irritant for many of us. If you’re struggling with binge eating, emotional eating, or food addiction, your eating behaviors may be the first sign that you’re stressed to the max. So I want to talk about how some of the effects of stress and what you can do about it, because you can’t just change your eating behaviors without addressing how you’re managing your stress. So I want to talk about the stress response. We know that, whenever you’re stressed, I’m sure most of, you know, the adrenal glands, which are those two little glands that sit on top of our kidneys, put out adrenaline for acute stress. And you know, it may be someone has threatened you or you’ve, you’ve had an incident at work and that stresses you out and you’ll find yourself with your heart racing. You may be sweating, your hands are sweaty, short of breath and maybe have stomach upset. Well, that’s the fight flight freeze response that you’re going through. So we either get our bodies either get ready to fight or flee, or they really shut down and you “play possum” which is how possums deal with stress basically. So anyway, however, when the stress goes on for a long period of time when it’s chronic or when you’ve had multiple big stressors, one on top of another, on top of another, then it makes your body doesn’t have time to recuperate and that’s when you can develop something called adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Let me tell you one more thing about the adrenal glands. We know that they produce the hormone adrenaline for acute stress, but they also produce another hormone called cortisol when you are under chronic or repeated stress. And not only cortisol and adrenaline, but they produce over 50 hormones, including the, which I, you know, I think it may be surprising to many people that the adrenal glands produce 40% of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and 40% of male hormone testosterone. And overall they produce over 50 different hormones. Because of this any depletion in the adrenals can cause dysregulation of a number of very important hormones. So, you know, if you’ve had an acute stress stressor and it’s resolved quickly, then your adrenal glands can get a break and the rest of your body gets to replenish itself. But when the situation goes on for weeks or months, and the stress becomes chronic, the adrenal glands burnout from that chronic production of cortisol and that’s when you may be at risk for adrenal fatigue syndrome.
So let’s look at what the causes are in more detail. I’ve already mentioned that it’s caused by chronic or long lasting stress. So that’s one thing, but, I’m going to break it down a little bit more for you. So stressors could be something like positive stressors, like having a baby, i.e. especially during a pandemic, that’s a wonderful stress to have having a baby or getting married or any of the other positive things that can happen in your life can also be stressful or it could be negative stressors, like being laid off, especially during a pandemic. So here are some of the, here are three of the main causes for adrenal fatigue syndrome. Number one is emotional and physical stressors. So these include, you know, emotions that we have trouble dealing with. Things like fear and shame, guilt, anger or grief. Now I know for individuals who are in the anchor program with me, uh, and have binge eating or food addiction, for example, they may struggle with a lot of shame or guilt around their eating behaviors. So they may have a binge and then that leads to feelings of shame, and that then puts more stress on the body. Well, what about physical stress? Well, isn’t it good to exercise? It’s a way to cope with stress. Yes, it certainly is. However, if you’re over-exercising or if you’re exercising, when you’ve been ill or you’re exhausted, then that actually causes more stress on the body and can lead to adrenal fatigue.
All right. The second cause of adrenal fatigue syndrome is poor dietary habits. Now I’m not talking about like, Oh, you know, she’s eating all the wrong foods and she should cut out sugar or whatever. As you know, I don’t believe in deprivation and I don’t believe in restricting what you eat. That’s not what we do in the anchor program, for example, but overeating in general and dieting tend to put stress on the body. And one thing that most people don’t recognize is that I’m not eating all day, which I mean, if you have been cheating, you probably recognize what I’m going to say. Well, you could say it before me, which is say you’ve had a binge the night before, then the next day you decide, well, I’m not going to eat anything all day until dinner time. Well, that can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Which can also be caused by being on these crazy low calorie fat diets or eating foods that don’t agree with your system. And that then can put more stress on the body and put you at higher risk for adrenal fatigue syndrome.
And finally, number three, intense stress followed by chronic infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, parasites, or COVID-19 can also tax your adrenal glands and many of you have heard me talk about my experience of having COVID 19 a year ago, and it’s essentially taken me nine months to recover. And even now, if I push myself too hard, I will find that I am exhausted and I have to step back, manage my stress and take care of myself. The other thing that can be a problem under this category is overuse of antibiotics, which can reduce cortisol production and therefore make it harder for your body to deal with that chronic stress.
So the question is how do you know if you have adrenal fatigue syndrome? Well, let me give you some of the symptoms that are most commonly associated with adrenal fatigue, and that could be, we can start with salt and sugary food cravings. So if you’re craving salty chips or, you know, sugary dessert foods, then you may have adrenal fatigue syndrome. I mentioned exhaustion or feeling tired, especially when you wake up in the morning, say you’ve had a good eight hour sleep, but you wake up and you’re still feeling tired and this kind of fatigue doesn’t get better with sleep. You may also find that you’re having difficulty coping with stress. You may have depression and anxiety, trouble thinking clearly, or what we call brain fog, increased energy in the evenings, which is interesting. Like you may be tired all day and then the sun goes down and now you have a lot of energy and you can’t go to sleep. Many people start overusing caffeine and other stimulants because they are so tired, but that puts you in a vicious cycle where, you know, you’re using caffeine and caffeine stimulates the stress system so it puts more wear and tear on your ability to cope with stress. And then there’s also a compromise of the immune system. You may have frequent colds, yeast infections, herpes outbreaks, et cetera. Sometimes people notice that they feel cold all the time. Like they’re the only one in the room who is wearing a heavy sweater and everybody else’s is feeling warm. There may be hormonal imbalances, including, cause remember I told you the adrenal glands are, you know, 40% of female hormones are made by the adrenal glands. So if your estrogen or progesterone are off, that can cause irregular periods or even fertility problems. You may also have dry skin. So we know that some of the, the brain fog is to the fact that 20% of the energy you consume from food goes to the brain to do its regular basic functions and when you’re either restricting food or eating the wrong kinds of food, it, your brain may not be receiving enough the necessary vitamins and minerals and amino acids that it needs in order to make those feel good, neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine and so on. So what’s one of the other symptoms that we see related to this is nervousness, sweating, cold shakes and I mentioned brain fog and symptoms of anxiety. And these side effects can result from that adrenaline excess that happens in acute stress, but think of it like this, you know, sometimes you have, uh, a stressor that’s really big that lasts a long time, like an illness where you’re caretaking someone, but sometimes you have a series of rapid series of acute stressors. So then you’re more in the adrenaline surges, which again is causing a wear and tear on your body. And also sends you into that food seeking action.
So, how does it do renal fatigue syndrome affect binge eating food addiction, or emotional eating? Well, it is thought for example, that the release of cortisol increases appetite stress can also affect what you want to binge on or overeat on. And it’s thought that high insulin levels, which are, you know, common and people who are living in larger bodies and high cortisol from stress, that combination leads to craving foods that are high in fat and sugar or both what we call comfort foods. Right? So stress can also lead to excess use of alcoholic beverages and it can be associated with getting less sleep and with low physical activity, all of which have you know, a negative impact on our eating behaviors. So, as I mentioned, one of the common cravings that people with adrenal fatigue syndrome have is, is craving foods that are high in salt content, like chips or French fries. And these cravings can be pretty dramatic. I’m testifying from personal experience, especially relating to the French fries craving. But the adrenal, the adrenal gland, which I said, as I mentioned, produces cortisol, the stress hormone cortisol also releases another hormone called aldosterone, that one responsible for regulating water and getting rid of minerals in the body. So aldosterone is you know, when the adrenal gets overworked, when you have adrenal fatigue syndrome, you may have to then pee more frequently and that can cause losses of, you know, salt and potassium, which are flushed out of the system. I hope that’s not too graphic for some of you, but anyway, that said you get hunger pains then for salty food, because your body needs that salt and salt is very important in recovery from adrenal fatigue treatment.
Another craving that I mentioned is sugar cravings. And if you’re constantly in that fight or flight arousal, that again is causing the body to produce more cortisol and this causes sugar or glucose in the bloodstream, it increases the glucose in the bloodstream to help you deal with the stress caused by the fight or flight mechanism. And later on, your body will just keep telling you need more sugar, need more sugar to fulfill or refill what what’s been used up. So, you know, don’t reach for if you can avoid. If you’re gonna, if you have cravings for salt or sugar, just think about eating the smallest amount possible that will satisfy your cravings.
Again in the anchor program and when I work with clients with binge eating food addiction, and emotional eating. The worst thing you can do is deprive yourself of what you’re craving, because that just sets up that deprivation vicious cycle you may hold on, hold on. Not eat it, not eat it. And then you’re going to binge on it at some point. So just eat the smallest amount possible to satisfy the cravings. And as I always say, don’t judge yourself for any of that eating behavior.
So what can we do about adrenal fatigue syndrome? How can it be treated? So if you think, you know, if you think you might have that, if you have some of those symptoms that I mentioned, I would highly recommend that you work with a naturopathic doctor or an integrative medicine doctor. Because they are the ones who can provide the testing and testing is usually easy. It’s done usually you get a kit in the mail and you have to, it’s done, done on saliva. So you just collect so samples of saliva at different times of the day, and then you mail the kit back and your doctor can get the test results. And I have used this test a lot in my practice. I think it’s very helpful for giving you a picture of what’s happening to your cortisol levels and whether they’re under the normal range and then it’s important to make a commitment to taking care of yourself. I mean, so many of the people I work with are so wrapped up in taking caretaking other people that they’re, they don’t have enough time left to take care of themselves. So these I’m going to give you some simple things you can do right now, but the underlying theme is you, it, you know, this is an opportunity to learn, to take better care of yourself.
So the first thing you can do right now is practice relaxing. You can use meditation, guided imagery, you can do breath work. In the notes I’m going to provide for you a link to a free meditation, two free meditations you can download. One is the relaxing beach meditation, and the other is the loving kindness meditation. And when I say meditation, I’m not talking about sitting still for you know, 30 minutes or an hour, you can listen to these meditations while you’re walking in nature. They’re not very long and there it’s just a way to center and ground yourself. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry about it. Just do something that gives you joy and makes you feel at peace. It could be anything from dancing in your bedroom to painting a lot of people like journaling, take a hot bowl, bath, read a novel that’s my personal favorite, whatever it is though. Give yourself permission to just take a moment, take a moment for yourself, even if it’s just five minutes to replenish your spirit and just relax and let go of some of the heavy burdens that we’re all carrying around right now.
Number two, make sure you’re sleeping well. So sometimes eating, you know, like a healthy carb, about five hours before bedtime can help to normalize cortisol and improve sleep, sleeping, you know, you should shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And that’s, you know, to restore the healthy, cortisol rhythm. So as well, practicing good sleep hygiene, going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time, making sure your bedroom is dark and comfortable temperature. You know, I have a bedroom that’s almost on well on two sides has very large windows, so there’s a lot of light. So I actually had to wear a sleep mask just so I can get a normal amount of sleep.
The other thing I’d recommend and I’ll, again, I’ll put this in the notes for the podcast, a link to NeuroMag, which is magnesium. It’s a particular kind of magnesium that helps you with sleep. So just check in the show notes and you’ll see that link and as well, cum forte, which is a homeopathic remedy to help with sleep. I would also recommend that you drink, choose your beverages wisely people. And here are some of the drinks that will help your adrenal glands. You can drink ginseng tea, or green tea, a V8 juice has a place here and don’t get the low salt one because remember your adrenals need salt, unless for some reason, you’re like if you have severe hypertension, you’re on a low salt diet. Also any, anything with licorice in it can help. And you want to eat well. And when I say eat well, I mean, eat, you know, fresh and naked. You don’t have to be naked when you eat, but your foods should be naked. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, protein, and fiber. And even if you don’t feel hungry, Start eating breakfast at least within an hour of getting up and make sure your breakfast has protein in it. And this can help you have more energy during the day. You can even make a smoothie if you, if you don’t feel like eating a meal, make a smoothie and put some protein in there. Anyway, as I mentioned, low blood sugar is puts a lot of stress on the body and really taxes your adrenal glands. And it’s, you may not realize that going all day without eating is so detrimental because you feel fine for a while. As a matter of fact, people who do those crazy fast often feel better for a few days or a week or a month, but overall it is stressful for the body. And then finally, I will also put this in the show notes, take vitamin C and vitamin B five, because those are critical for cortisol production and then vitamin D can help support the immune system.
Finally and most importantly, as I always say, give yourself some grace, be gentle with yourself, give your mind and body a chance to heal because with time and with good self-care, you can regain your energy and your sense of wellbeing and that’s important.
All the best Dr. Carolyn signing off. Oh, one last thing before I forget always going to forget this. I want to just let everybody know that there’s a book sweepstakes going on. You can look on Facebook or my Facebook page or on Instagram and I’ll be giving away a copy of “The food addiction, recovery workbook”. So check out the sweepstakes. You can also go to my website, carolynrossmd.com and you can see the sweepstakes on there. So enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a free copy of the food addiction recovery workbook. All right, now I’m signing off Dr. Carolyn, thank you for listening.
I hope this podcast was helpful and that any of you who are struggling with symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome, we’ll take some of the recommendations that I’ve given you, including seeking professional help with the natural path or an integrative medicine physician. I’ve also given you, you know, some very specific things you can do on your own, but sometimes that’s not enough. And so in that case, You know, get the help that you need. That’s important. Adrenal fatigue syndrome does not get better on its own, so you will need some nutritional support, maybe some support with supplements. But I’ve given you a place to start. I want to just let you know that next podcast will be podcast number 85, and I’ll be talking about how food has been engineered to be addictive.
So join in for the next podcast on how food has engineered been engineered to be addictive. Thanks so much for listening. Please subscribe on whatever platform you listen to the podcast and please, please, please share the podcast with anyone you think might be interested. Help me get the word out. Dr. Carolyn see you next time.