On Monday I listened to a webinar with Brendan Brazier, vegan triathlete and author of Thrive and Thrive Foods. Much of it was a repeat because I’ve read Thrive and have studied vegan nutrition for years. But it’s always good to get a refresher and get updated on anything new in the world of nutrition and fitness. One thing that really stood out for me was the discussion on adrenal fatigue. This is something so widespread that no one understands it’s happening to them. You can’t get out of bed in the morning, you need stimulants to get through the day, you crash around 3pm and run for the vending machine, you have more energy in the evening and have a hard time going to sleep, you’ve become addicted to exercising at night. Does this sound familiar?
Another issue that is very common among vegans and raw foodists is candida. This condition is an overgrowth of yeast in the gut and can spread all over the body. It can cause symptoms like yeast infections, fatigue, fogginess and inability to concentrate, food cravings, skin conditions, weight gain, and general feelings of blahness. Does this sound familiar? Ricki has the most comprensive FAQ on candida and if you are looking to treat it naturally and vegan her website is your new best friend.
One thing in particular that I was concerned about was over the last year dark circles under my eyes became more visible. In Chinese medicine your face shows what’s going on with your organs, so I knew this must be a sign of something. Turns out it is a sign of kidney weakness and adrenal fatigue. Kidney weakness comes from eating a diet that is too cleansing and too cooling, i.e. smoothies, raw food, juices, sugary foods and from eating too much protein/not a balance diet. Sound familiar?
I see these issues all around me, especially in the vegan, raw food and fitness communities. But what I don’t see is a desire to heal these ailments or even to have a discussion about it. Most people will continue eating whatever they want and/or exercising too much, sending themselves into a downward spiral. And people like me; authors, wellness coaches, etc. don’t address it because we espouse the benefits on the vegan diet and do not want anyone to think that something is physically wrong with us. Well, I feel like I should speak out about it so that others may benefit from my dietary experiments.
Some people eventually get help and are told they must eat animal foods to recover from these conditions. When I had an inkling that I may be affected by adrenal fatigue I saw a macrobiotic counselor and a student of naturopathic medicine. Both said I must eat animal foods, particularly fish and eggs. When I told them I wasn’t going to do that and compromise my ethics I was told that I could put a band-aid on the situation but it may never get better. In the words on Barney Stenson “Challenge Accepted!”.
So how did I know I may be affected by candida and adrenal fatigue? For the last year I have had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I used to literally jump out of bed at the same time every morning without an alarm clock. Also, my sugar cravings were through the roof. I couldn’t go a day without having something sugary (including natural sweeteners). I was foggy and my memory was seriously lagging. I started working out a ton, preferring high impact classes like boot camp and would spend hours at the gym (and I could run circles around everyone in class). I got huge amounts of energy after 5pm and then couldn’t get to sleep at night. These are tell tale signs that something was not right. So that’s when I sought the help of two different kinds of alternative healers.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like what my recommendations were so much; my macrobiotic counselor told me to stop eating so much raw, cooling foods (bye-bye smoothies), to eat more grains and a balance of protein, grains, and veggies. I needed to stop doing so much high impact exercise and add more oil and fat into my diet. The naturopath told me I needed to eat more protein for candida (at least 75 grams per day), but it couldn’t be from soy or beans (uh??), I needed to reduce the amount of complex carbohydrates I was eating (total opposite of macrobiotic recommendations), and no sugar or fruit or caffeine (well duh). I also needed to start taking supplements every day (b12, D, probiotics, oregano oil, gaba and serotonin precursors and possibly: zinc, selenium, l-carnitine). I hate taking supplements.
So what do I do with all this? The first week I did exactly what my macrobiotic counselor told me. I ate more whole grains and a balanced diet with no sugar, no raw foods or smoothies, miso soup every morning, and tons of veggies. I started cooking with oil again. I cut my workouts down to one high impact and 1 low impact class. By mid-week I felt amazing. I was able to sleep soundly and woke up feeling refreshed. But by day 6 I starting baking a ton of desserts and binged on them. Fail.
The next week I tried a variation of what the naturopath student recommended. I started supplementing, eating more protein and less carbs (in the form of two protein shakes per day, lentils, more nuts), lots of veggies, ate snacks throughout the day like nuts or rice crackers with peanut butter so my blood sugar didn’t drop, and continued to work out less and opted for yoga classes and spinning rather than the high impact boot camp class.
How do I feel? I feel pretty good. I think I’m going to continue a combination of these recommendations. I’m eating whole grains one meal a day, sometimes two, two protein shakes a day, and lots of veggies. I’m cooking with more oil. I’m trying my hardest not to have fruit or any sweetener (though I made cookies yesterday made from quinoa and peanut butter so they were protein cookies!). I’m supplementing every day with b12, D, and lots of good stuff that is in my protein powder and greens powder. I’m fine not exercising as hard and I still feel really strong. We will see what happens!
I encourage everyone to evaluate your diet and how you feel, to experiment with eating different ways. I know that juicing and green smoothies and raw foods are all the rage, but sometimes that’s actually not what’s best for our condition. And like I always say, what works for you today, may not work for you tomorrow, next week or next year. If you are feeling any of the symptoms I’ve talked about today, they are not normal. Seek guidance from someone you trust. And if you need help or someone to hold your hand, I’m available for consulting via phone or Skype.
Thank you for letting me share my personal journey with you. It’s hard to be so open and frank about your health, but I feel it’s important so we may live the mostly blissful, healthy lives. Please leave comments here of your own experiences so we may learn from each other. And happy eating!