In Part 1 I covered problem areas with which we are confronted when trying to understand, and better, our health and lifestyle choices.
This instalment focuses on some of the changes I made to combat adrenal burnout, and they started with what I was putting in my mouth.
Early in my career, I drank at least three cups of coffee a day. That number later jumped to five espressos a day. I could drink a cup before bed because it felt normal to be in a constantly ‘hyped’ state. A lot of the time I would be reaching for coffee before I had had anything to eat.
Eventually I became so immune to the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine that I just chased the high – which was becoming increasingly short-lived with every sip.
Eating on the run? No problem. Eating the most convenient thing I could get? Also no problem.
When the doctor told me I had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in addition to burnout, I was not surprised
IBD, not to be confused with the more commonly diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), is an umbrella term which describes gastrointestinal disorders including Crohn’s disease and various forms of colitis.
Just a few short weeks before that diagnosis, I had landed in the ICU with stomach ulcers. The only things I could keep down were coconut milk, bananas, carrot juice, and cabbage juice. Even water was a struggle.
Once I thought I had recovered, I decided to have an apple. Big mistake: the burning in my stomach made me double over in pain. I remember sitting at my desk drinking coconut milk straight out of the tin in an effort not to throw up when a colleague walked past and laughingly said, “I wish I had stomach ulcers so I can lose some weight.”
At least that remark made me focus on something else than my seemingly red-hot insides.
My body had given me plenty of warnings
I had had serious blood sugar and blood pressure lows, I had had insomnia, I had had blackouts, but I stubbornly and relentlessly pressed on. My body would just have to handle it all – and it did, until it couldn’t anymore.
In addition to everything else, I also had severe vitamin deficiencies (including vitamin D, and researchers have found that vitamin D deficiencies are a starting point for some forms of cancer). My adrenal glands – the glands which produce adrenalin and the stress-regulating hormone cortisol – were barely functioning. In combination, these physical imbalances also left me clinically depressed.
I hadn’t even noticed, but I knew that I had to clean up my act and my plate
With the support of a dietician, I managed to replace the foods which caused distress with suitable alternatives. I’m not perfect by any means, but once you have the experience of feeling truly unwell, you never want to repeat the experience. The bottom line is: listen to your body, it knows what it needs and when it needs it.
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