Adrenal Fatigue, Revisited

My sleep sucks a few times a week.  This is one of those nights.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about adrenal fatigue, and I’m starting to think that chronic stress – physiological, emotional, dietary – has gotten me to where I am now, in the throes of metabolic syndrome, no libido, tired.  My cortisol testing over the past few years confirm this.  My body shape – excess belly fat, skinny legs – also confirms this.  I’m glad I learned all I did about my gut situation – it has taught me what I need to do to avoid falling into a pit of despair.  However, nothing I’m doing is going to help until I get my adrenal situation under control.

I’ve learned throughout the last several years of experimentation that carbohydrates actually do lower stress hormones, as Ray Peat says.  If you feel terrible when you eat carbs, chances are there are stress hormones covering up a problem that needs to be addressed.   Low carb eating – over my adult life in general, but over the past year in particular – has caused additional stress on my body.  I’m not sure if people vary in this way, of if they’re just not burned out yet.  When I was in my 20s and 30s I could get away with low-carbing and multitasking and I still looked great.  Are there old low-carbers who still have a lot of energy?  How many years of calling on your adrenal glands for energy does it take before your blood sugar will no longer stabilize and you can’t go more than 2-3 hours without eating after a normal meal?

I’ve decided to phase out the hormones I’ve been supplementing.  A little research (here’s an example) indicates that licorice root, which I’ve been taking since February, isn’t great to take if you have high blood pressure and shouldn’t be taken long term.  My blood pressure has been not well controlled lately – averaging in the 140s over 90s, despite still taking 2 medications to treat it.  DHEA, which I’ve also been taking for 10 months, can cause hair loss.  I’m less concerned about this one because I’m taking a pretty low dose.  The bottom line is I’m not having the effects I want from these things so it’s time to get off of them.  Ray Peat says pregnenolone is safe, even in high doses and even long term.  I’m inclined to believe him so that will be the last to go.

I recently read Alan Christianson’s book The Adrenal Reset Diet, after hearing him on a podcast.  He recommends eating carbohydrates – specifically low-glycemic starches like beans and brown rice – in increasing quantities throughout the day, as well as using specific supplements, saying no/avoiding stress, and avoiding food intolerances in order to heal adrenal dysfunction.  I like the theory behind it and I’m taking steps to implement his suggestions.  He and Ray Peat are the only ones I’ve heard talk about how low-carb diets are stressful to the body, and of course this matches up with my own experience.

So my immediate priority – for now – is determining which supplements I can get rid of, avoiding stress, and learning to eat in a way that gives my body a break.  For me that will mean avoiding the things my food intolerance test said were problems (basically eggs and dairy), accepting no additional projects or assignments at work (which I tend to do to keep things interesting), and eating some starchy carbohydrates at every meal.  I’ll start doing yoga again too.


Summing Up and Some Tests

I’ve been experimenting a lot.  Here’s what’s been going on.

I’ve been continuing to eat starchy carbohydrates at every meal.  My blood sugar is stable, and firmly in the PRE-diabetic range. This is in direct contrast to when I was following a Ray Peat inspired diet and consuming orange juice and other forms of sugar,  and during which my fasting blood sugar was hovering around 160 every day.  Here’s the data:

Monthly BG

In February 2015 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  That got my attention and I knew I needed to change something.  It was soon after that that I went low-carb, for the 523rd time in my life. That brought my blood sugar right down and I felt awesome for the first few months.  However, my labs at that point indicated I was dehydrated, low in potassium, and my thyroid health was suffering.  I didn’t care though, because I felt good and I was losing weight.  “Screw you, Thyroid!” I screamed into the cold dark night.  I continued on and got really tired of eating nothing but meat and vegetables.  I became fatigued and my hair started falling out. The weight loss stopped and I became irritable.  A couple months ago I started eating starchy foods and sugar occasionally – mostly because after 6-7 months I desperately needed some variety in my diet, but also because Why The Fuck Not – I already felt like crap, I might as well enjoy my dinner again.  Surprisingly, I began to feel a little better.

So my love affair with carbs was reignited, and amazingly my blood sugar has been stable.  It jumps up when I eat a lot of sugar and fat, but not much when I just eat starchy foods.  The only downside to eating a variety of starches is the depression that comes when I eat foods that are high in resistant fibers. My brain becomes poisoned by the effects of endotoxin, which is a byproduct gram negative bacteria dying.  I’m not really clear about how this works, exactly.  Does the resistant starch cause beneficial bacteria to thrive which kills the gram negative bacteria, causing the LPS toxicity?  If it weren’t so AWFUL I’d try to just white-knuckle through it in the hopes that it would pass.

Over the past 2 months I’ve been doing more experimenting with what I can and can’t eat without suffering from endotoxemia.  Turns out I can eat some things with insoluble/soluble fiber – avocados seem to be just fine, for example.  They have a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber – 10 to 15 grams per fruit, 2/3 of which is insoluble.  I can eat cooked or raw greens.  I can’t eat beans or brown rice – fresh or cooled – but newly cooked white rice is fine.  I can’t eat nightshades  – they make my muscles ache.  I’m looking at a lot of meat, greens, and rice in my future.  That’s not so bad.

I forgot to mention, I had some food sensitivity testing done a few weeks ago.  Here are the results:

Life Extension Food Sensitivities - cropt 1 copy

Life Extension Food Sensitivities2 cropt copy

Weird results, right?  Moderate immune system reactions to beef, eggs, pumpkin, and whey.  And Candida.  What the hell does that mean?  Does that mean I shouldn’t eat yeast?  Like in bread?  Or does it just mean I have high yeast?  Dunno.  I’ve had food sensitivity testing a few years ago and no sign of egg intolerance at that time.  I guess this is new.  Since I got these results I’ve been eating less beef, fewer eggs, limited dairy.  I never ate much pumpkin.  Interesting that I’ve managed to DEVELOP intolerances since I’ve begun my quest for health almost 4 years ago.  I’ve eaten a LOT of beef and eggs in 2015 – these were my staples when I was low carb.  I suspect I have a leaky gut and just the persistent exposure over the last 9 months has caused the immune response.  It can probably be reversed.

Hey, wanna see some other test results?  I had a Lifeline Screening a few months ago – exactly 3 years after my previous one.  They do carotid artery scans to check for plaque, as well as Atrial Fibrillation screening (my 23 And Me results indicate I’m at high risk for A-fib), and others (see below).  Here are the results of my scan in 2012:

2012 Lifeline copy

Not too bad…everything in the normal range.  Now let’s look at August 2015:

2015 Lifeline copy

Hey look – I’m developing heart disease since I started my journey toward optimal health!  I now have a “MILD” amount of plaque in my carotid artery, compared with no plaque 3 years ago.  Where did I go wrong?  Was it the stress of moving to California?  That is, after all, when I developed hypertension.  Was it following Ray Peat’s ideology?  That’s when I developed diabetes.  Was it following a very low carb Paleo diet?  That’s when my hair started to fall out and my thyroid labs tanked.

The bottom line is this. I don’t know what has caused my cascade of metabolic dysfunction, but I know that NONE OF THE THINGS I’VE TRIED YET HAVE PREVENTED IT.

Taking a deep breath…

…and being thankful today that I’m still here to fight another day.



I’m so sad about the events that occurred in Paris last night.  Today I can’t bring myself to think about the petty things I write about on this blog.  What is one’s health worth when monsters are executing innocent people?  I know this is nothing new.  It has just hit closer to home.

Bean Fail. Gluten Fail.

On Friday, in an effort to test out some low glycemic carbohydrates that I haven’t had in a very long time, I ate about 2 tablespoons of baked beans.  Felt good, so the next day I did the same thing, only this times the beans were leftover from the night before so they had been refrigerated, a.k.a. cooked and cooled.  Again, I had about 2 tablespoons of them.  This time they didn’t sit well with me, causing gas and discomfort.  Then Sunday was ruined – I was depressed, tired, and anxious all day.  Endotoxin.

I’m not sure if it was the fiber inherent in the beans or the resistant starch that built up overnight when they were cooled.  It’s worth another test I suppose, even though the potential cost – a day of my life – is very high.


And let’s look at this realistically.  Am I really going to successfully incorporate beans into my life without ever eating leftovers that had been refrigerated?  I used to make big pots of chili – my husband still laments that we no longer have it – and I remember the first bowl was always great.  It’s when I had additional bowls over the next several days that I’d start having digestive trouble.  At the time – 5 years ago or so – I figured something bad was happening that was building up.  Now I realize it was just the resistant starch from refrigerating the leftovers that was causing me problems on days 2 and 3.

So I have to cook every starch fresh – no leftovers – to avoid the resistant starch problem.  I am now in the habit of making rice fresh every morning.  Canned beans might be ok for me to eat, to keep low-glycemic carbs in my diet, I guess, but I’m not likely to cook beans fresh every morning.

I have completely given up eradicating this monster pathogen that is ruining my health.  I tried months of antimicrobials, ate no sugar or starch for months, and spent months taking probiotics, and The Beast doesn’t seem to have lost any steam.  I’m now just trying to work around it.  I feel like I’m always walking on glass with my eating – Can I have a cracker?  Does it contain resistant starch?  Is this banana still too green?  This rice has been in the fridge for 6 hours…can I still eat it?  I would really love to be able to just forget about food and get on with my life.

My daughter had testing a couple years ago that indicated she had food sensitivities to everything.  I think that gluten intolerance was causing a leaky gut, and she had developed sensitivities to everything else.  At least, that’s my theory because I have to feed her something. She’s been on a gluten free diet for 2 or 3 years.  She’s in kindergarten now and she’s confessed to stealing, begging for, and trading for other kids’ food.  I knew it was happening because she develops skin problems and asthma when she is eating gluten.  How do you reason with a 5 year old?  She’s never seen a person die or develop an autoimmune condition.  She just thinks, “that tastes good.”

I can’t tell you how tired I am of thinking about food.

/end low carb life

I’m permanently done with low carb eating.

I continue to be freaked out by losing hair.  I wonder how long it’s going to take for this to stop.

N2P, I know you told me not to go low carb.  I had to try it. It’s like a ratty old security blanket that I’ve come back to year after year since I was about 20 years old.

I remember my first low carb experience.  I dropped 5 or 6 pounds quickly and was very motivated and excited to continue, but I was running across a busy street one day, probably a couple weeks into my low-carb experience, and I noticed my legs felt really heavy and tired.  It took a lot more effort than it had previously.  This was 1989.

Flash forward to 1997.  Boyfriend tells me, “Oh no…you’re going on another low carb diet?  You’re cranky on low carb.”

Flash forward to 2002.  Lincoln Park Athletic Club in Chicago.  I always wore a heart rate monitor, and had been taking spin classes for a couple of months. It was common for me to get my heart rate up to 140 or 150 during the class, and I loved the exertion.  Then I went on my 428th low carb diet – you know, because the previous 427 had worked so well – and suddenly my heart rate wouldn’t go over 125 without becoming too tired to continue.  I remember tapping on my monitor…because, you know, this thing must be broken.

Flash forward to 2006.  Place: A hair salon in Buttcramp, IL.  The stylist told me my hair is falling out.  I ignored him and never went back, silently blaming him for my lack of lustrous locks.  But I never forget that he had the guts to tell me that.

Why did I keep going back to low carb, given this pattern?  Well, I always felt “better” on low carb.  More energy.  Less tired.  Carbs always made me feel exhausted.  I now realize the carbohydrates were lowering my stress hormones, allowing me to feel my true fatigue.  The same thing that was keeping me alert was making my hair fall out and killing my sex drive. Cortisol and adrenaline.

I assumed a Ray Peat lifestyle in 2013 and within about 6 months my hair grew in nice and thick.  Went back to low carb in February 2015 and now my hair is falling out again.

At least I know what to do to turn this around. I’m going to eat carbohydrates at every meal for the rest of my life.  Now…which carbohydrates can I eat, being T2 diabetic?  I’m formulating a new plan.

Thanks to my awesome commenters for reminding me that low carb isn’t right for me and for pointing me in a better direction.

Quick Update

Just a quick update.

I’m still flailing around, uncommitted to any one path at the moment.  Weight is stable, but that’s only because I’m still eating lower carb.  As soon as I eat higher carb for a few days my weight starts to climb.  As it is I’m at 197 – about 10 pounds over my lowest weight last spring, but still 10 pounds lower than where I was when I was eating carbs every day in 2014-15.  I know weight doesn’t mean everything, but my body is so awkward when it’s overweight that it’s difficult for me to find clothing that fits.  My boobs, waist, and hips are 3 different sizes.  And when your clothes don’t fit it’s hard to be comfortable.  I don’t feel attractive and I don’t want to be seen naked, which interferes with my sex life.  So it’s much more than a preoccupation with the scale – this is about trying to be a functional person without being distracted by my body 20 times a day.

My carbohydrate intake has increased, mostly because eating low carb for me now is like trying to hold back a dam.  At some point I weaken and eat carbohydrates.  I think a low carb diet is ok for a month or two, but should not be a way of life.  My hair is still falling out.  I’ve increased B vitamin intake, including 5000 mcg of biotin daily, 1000 mcg B-12 and 400 mcg folate, in addition to what’s already in my methyl-friendly multivitamin.  I’m thinking about adding extra B1 as well, since I heard about the benefits of it on two different podcasts yesterday, so maybe it’s a sign from the universe.  I still have my B1 supplements from back in my Peat-y days of micromanaging every micronutrient.  Sure was nice working part time for a year and a half, affording me the time to do things like that.  Now, no way.   I can’t sit around and cronometer myself to health anymore.

My mood has been good.  I’ve figured out what I can and can’t eat to avoid the endotoxin monster.  Fresh rice – yes.  Yesterday’s refrigerated rice – no.  Bananas – yes, but not every day, and they need to have brown spots, not green.  Gluten-free mac and cheese that’s been sitting around in the fridge a couple days – no.  Basically nothing cooked and cooled.  Some kinds of fiber are ok – like Avocados.

After low carbing for six months I was having heart palpitations every day.  Labs indicated low potassium, and I was coached to eat more potassium rich foods, but I was at a loss because everything was either high in sugar or causing bloating.  So I supplemented with a potassium powder, which helped a little, but really I needed much more potassium than is recommended in supplement form.  I recently added avocados back in, and hooray, no bloating now.  Since I’ve been eating carbs again I’ve added dried apricots and bananas, and the problem has been fixed. No more heart palpitations for the last 2-3 weeks or so.

Hot flashes – still having them, regardless of what I do.  I was taking Black Cohosh, and that seemed to help a little, but they came back.  I started having symptoms of too much estrogen, including uterine bloating, twitching, and discomfort.  Stopped taking it and those symptoms have gone away.  I’ve tried adding progesterone and that didn’t help.  Quit all of it.

I seem to have a yeast overgrowth since my heavy antimicrobial use last Spring/Summer.  I was hoping it would just go away, but it doesn’t seem to be doing that.  I took high-dose probiotics for 2 months and just stopped last week.  I think they may have helped with my gut health because I can tolerate more foods now.  They didn’t help get yeast back in check though.

/end quick update.