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Adrenal fatigue: What it is and what it’s like to live with

Katie shares her experience with adrenal fatigue, and explains how changing her diet made all the difference.

Katie, 27, was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue around 18 months ago. She describes what it is like to live with.

How did you discover you had adrenal fatigue?

I had a lot of crossed-over symptoms and I had no idea what was wrong. I went to see a nutritionist because I’d been struggling with IBS and hormonal imbalances for years. That’s when I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and gluten intolerance.

It only took a couple of weeks for the nutritionist to see the problems and then it was probably a month of trial and error to see the best diet combination that worked for me.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue basically means that your body has been in a state of constant stress and stimulation.

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and produce cortisol (the body’s main hormone to cope with stress). When you suffer from adrenal fatigue your body’s ability to make this hormone is now impaired.

Cortisol plays an important role in a number of things your body does. For example, it:

  • Manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats and proteins
  • Keeps inflammation down
  • Regulates your blood pressure
  • Increases your blood sugar (glucose)
  • Controls your sleep/wake cycle
  • Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward.

More on adrenal fatigue from Web MD.

What is it like to live with?

Day to day effects can vary a lot. Some days I feel great but I still get tired out really easily. My vision zones out and I can’t focus at all. It can be frustrating but I just have to get some sleep in and try again.

On a bad day if I’ve been doing too much, not getting enough sleep or eating some of the foods off-limits, I really struggle.

The best thing I can compare it to is the flu. Feeling unable to get out of bed, my brain completely shuts off and my whole body just aches.

I manage it by getting at least nine hours of sleep a night. I have no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten, dairy or meat in my diet. Occasionally I’ll eat the odd egg but I shouldn’t really. I meditate often to help manage my stress levels and just try to keep my blood sugar as stable as possible.

My advice

Advice to other people with adrenal fatigue is that I know it’s tough but don’t rule out the potential your diet has to help manage illnesses.

For any condition, diet and nutrition is one of the best paths you can explore it has a much bigger impact than you could ever imagine.

If anyone is concerned I’d say to just examine your lifestyle, record all your symptoms and the way you’re treating your body. That’s the best place to start and might help you get some clarity.

Some days I have a lot of guilt and negative thoughts that I can’t do things, particularly around work, but I have to accept the fact that I’m doing my best, which is all any of us can do.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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