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adrenals and fertilityHappy Fertile Friday … at least it’s Friday-ish, I’m currently in Australia and it’s Saturday here, but I’m sneaking a post in while all the kids in this household are asleep.  I’m at my sister’s house, and she has two daughters and one son, and Valentina has been having a ball with her cousins these past couple of days.

I just thought I’d write a bit today on the potential role of adrenal health on fertility, which may well tie into our story too.  A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I had a consultation with a lady known as The Baby Maker (TM).  She’s a naturopath in Australia, and I was told about her by a lovely midwife I met in Perth at a conference last year (thanks, Julie!). Julie had had success with her program, and I read numerous testimonials of people who had got pregnant through her protocol, even when they hadn’t had success with IVF.  When I heard of her I thought we had nothing to lose, so we scheduled and had our first appointment via Skype.

One of the things Stacey asked me to do was get an adrenal test – a salivary cortisol test taking measurements morning, noon, afternoon and night.  I told her that I’d done it a couple of years ago and it was fine, but I went to her to get fresh eyes on our situation, so I’m certainly going to do what she requested of me.  I run hundreds of those tests on my patients too, so it was no big deal to get the kit and do it.

Well, friends, I am completely screwed in the adrenal department.  Like, I have no cortisol.  Now that’s a bit hard for a naturopathic doctor to admit (second only to “how had I not thought to do this test recently of my own accord”), as I feel there is an expectation that as naturopathic doctors we should all (1) know better; and (2) take better care of ourselves.  But alas, no, my adrenals are poor, tired little sods.  Not just tired either … exhausted.  Knackered.  By way of example, healthy morning cortisol range is 13-24, mine is 4.8.  It’s embarrassing to even write it.  Afternoon levels should be 4-7, mine is 0.8.  Ouch.

How did this happen?

I admit, I do a lot, I have a lot of responsibility, I have a lot of balls in the air.   I realize this, but as I reported to Stacy, “I really don’t feel stressed”.  She made such an insightful comment in response to my denial, which has really stuck with me since and which I’ve pondered over and over.  Her comment was “I know you don’t feel stressed, but people like yourself have a very high stress tolerance; so while you don’t feel stressed on a day-to-day basis, you are still under a tremendous amount of stress, and that impacts your body”. That really got my attention.  It’s astounding to me that I just didn’t even see it (a patient – in a loving way – told me the other day that I should read my own blog … she wasn’t kidding!).

The strange part is that for most people with adrenals as shot as mine, there would be other symptoms – fatigue would be the primary one that comes to mind.  I run 3 miles a day, and have great energy throughout the day.  Other than not being pregnant (which is a state of being and not a disease), I feel that my health is really good on a daily basis.

So what’s the point here?  For me obviously it’s that I have to do a complete reevaluation of my life and the things I’m doing.  I wrote a book this past year, I run a practice/ business, I have the responsibility of working with very sick patients which can be extremely stressful, I have a toddler, I teach classes on essential oils on the side and I write this blog.  Does something have to go?  Or can I keep up all of this if I put more effort into taking care of myself?  Thankfully the book is coming to a close so that’s naturally one big thing off the list.  I’m not going to give up my practice; I love writing my blog; and I’m certainly not going to trade in my toddler!  (my husband doesn’t appear on this list because thankfully I don’t have to ‘take care’ of him!).  Taking better care of myself … what would that look like?  I’ve already started 20 minutes a day of meditation, but I’m sure some yoga wouldn’t go astray, nor a massage every couple of weeks.  Back to green smoothies every day, not just most days?  Yes, probably.

The real point as it pertains to all of us is that stress is insidious, we don’t have to think we have it to be impacted by it. It’s also that adrenal fatigue may not always manifest in ways we would expect, like fatigue or weakness or depression.  I also saw in my other hormone labs such as thyroid and progesterone, that those levels are struggling a bit too – more so than a few months ago when I last checked them.

The odd thing is, I’m quite excited to have discovered this imbalance as it finally we have found something that might explain why we’re having a hard time getting pregnant.  Finally, something I can “work” on, and by work I  mean “not work”!  We chat with Stacy in a couple of weeks so I’m sure she’ll adjust my herbs and give me a prescription for taking my own advice.  I know now that even though I feel that the juggling I’m doing isn’t impacting my health in a negative way, it really is, and that’s a profound wakeup call for me.

It’s nice having a couple of weeks away to ponder all of this – there’s nothing like the perspective you get when away from home/ work/ routine … I get to take stock and see what things I can say “no” to from here on; see how I can mitigate the stress of running a practice while still doing the work I love; and see how I can slow down, rest and regenerate and take better care of myself moving forward.  Whether or not we get a baby out of it is actually moot, the bigger issue is that having adrenals that are completely exhausted is a set up for a bigger issue such as a serious chronic illness.

I brought a book along with me on this trip called Essentialism by Greg McKeown – it’s all about how to pare one’s life down to essentials so that you don’t feel constantly like a hamster on a wheel.  That’s probably timely and I’m sure will have some good perspective and ideas.

So there we have it – the naturopathic doctor who eats super healthy, sleeps 8 hours a night, and doesn’t “feel” stressed is actually in complete adrenal burnout.  The naturopathic doctor who makes a living guiding other people in their health is now admitting on her own blog that she’s completely worn herself out.  I guess this is one of those voluntarily vulnerable moments!!

I’ll report back in a couple of weeks the strategy that Stacy and I come up with together to help rebuild my poor adrenals.  In the meantime I’m on vacation so I’ll be getting plenty of R&R, and I know you’ll forgive me if I write less for the next couple of weeks!

I’d love to hear what your stress-management techniques are … what has worked best for you in the past in terms of therapies/ modalities, habits and lifestyle choices you can make?