How I Survived Adrenal Fatigue (with 5 kids, pregnant, and homeless)23 min read

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I’d like to give you fair warning that this post is much longer than what I typically write.  I considered splitting it into multiple posts but felt it made more sense to keep it all together.  If you have been searching the internet for information on adrenal fatigue, you may be pleasantly surprised at the brevity of this article considering that many others are much longer. 

My Story

I was at the beginning of my second trimester of my pregnancy with our sixth child.  We were homeless and had just lost our farm and our business.  I had felt miserable from very early on in the pregnancy.  This was strange for me because I normally get through my first trimester with no morning sickness and just a bit of extra tiredness.

Feeling Awful

I don’t remember much of the months that surrounded this time, except for the fact that I felt (and pretty much physically was) useless.  Hubby packed up most of the house and made sure we all ate while I just tried to get through the day.  I remember the few things that I did do to contribute were so painful and exhausting; I couldn’t even stay on my feet.  In order to pack up our kitchen, I had to bring the items out and set them on the floor.  I then sat down to load them all into boxes.

In addition to the exhaustion, my heart rate would randomly spike for no reason.  I also found it incredibly difficult to deal with the slightest amounts of stress.  Things that were generally no big deal became unbearable.  I remember one point when my oldest son got a bloody nose, and it sent me balling uncontrollably to the couch where I curled up into the fetal position for a good half hour.

What’s Going On

About a month after moving out of our home, I was working with my midwife to figure out why I was not feeling any better.  I should have been well past the tired phase of pregnancy, but yet I could not stand up for more than a half a minute without feeling like I was going to pass out.

Walking was a little better, but I could not do much without feeling winded.  I was not in excellent shape, but we had farmed before this and I did plenty of physical labor – there was no reason why I should be getting winded after walking a minute or two.

We ruled out any iron issues and made sure that diet or blood sugar imbalances were not a problem.  With my fourth, I had to eat every 90 minutes, or I got dizzy and would pass out.  This was not the same because my symptoms would come even shortly after eating a meal.

Hubby and my mom kept telling me that I must just be getting “old, ” and this is apparently what pregnancy is like for me at this age.  Our sixth and our fifth are only two years and two days apart, so I found this unlikely to have such a different experience without too much time passing.

A Diagnosis

At around 18 weeks pregnant, we finally discovered that I was suffering from a severe case of adrenal fatigue.  We made this discovery towards the end of my prenatal appointment with my midwife.   She gave me a variety of supplements and a little instruction that I don’t remember much about.

Honestly, I can’t say I thought too much about it – I had no idea what it was, so I figured it must not be a big deal.  I was thankful for an explanation but figured that was all it was.

Looking back, I remember telling my mom about our plans for the week, and “oh, by the way – I found out why I feel so crappy… I have adrenal fatigue.”  She kindly suggested that it might be a good idea for me to look into this more and reconsider my plans for a busy week.  I somewhat dismissed this for the moment and went on with things.

Realization Sets In

A little while later, I started looking into adrenal fatigue – what it was, how it starts, and how to fix it.  I remember sitting in the living room of a vacation rental home (we were still homeless) realizing how devastating the situation was.

I had five children ages 8 and under that I homeschool, I was pregnant with our sixth, we still had no place to live – all of our belongings were in three storage units, and the few pets we were able to keep were being cared for by friends.  My husband took a job and was working almost an hour away from the only place we could find temporary housing.  Thankfully, he had flexible hours and could do a lot of work remotely.

In order to survive and not put my unborn baby at risk, I could do NOTHING.

I remember the hopelessness I felt when I was finally able to comprehend what laid ahead of me.  I remember looking at my beautiful children realizing that I had put myself into a position where I was now incapable of giving them the care they needed.  As their mom, who was supposed to love on, protect, and care for them.  For so long I had done so without thinking twice about it… Taking for granted the ability to stay up late with a teething baby or comfort a toddler in distress.

Now, I couldn’t even muster the energy to discipline them when necessary.  I couldn’t cook or clean.  I couldn’t play with them or do much anything else other than cuddle on the couch.

It’s Serious

I ultimately saw three different professionals and all gave the same diagnosis.  With how bad things had progressed, and me being pregnant, I was essentially put on unofficial bed rest.  Anything I did physically put not only me, but also my growing baby at risk.

I was not able to find much information about having adrenal fatigue while pregnant, but what I did learn was that once the baby was old enough to produce his or her hormones, a mother’s body could effectively feed off of the baby’s hormones and use them to help replenish her own diminishing supply.

Many times this can make a pregnant woman start to feel better and have a little more energy around that twenty-week mark.  For this reason, I had to be extra careful not to go off my perceived energy levels and remember that they were artificial.

The research I had done told me that recovery from adrenal fatigue could take anywhere from six months to two years.  My doctor then informed me that the recovery period does not begin till after I gave birth and recovered from that.  During the pregnancy, my body did not have any additional resources to use to recover and everything went towards growing my baby.

Adrenal Fatigue

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Let me back up a step just in case you have never heard of adrenal fatigue.  Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome resulting when your adrenal glands are not functioning properly.  The most prominent symptom is fatigue, which is not relieved by sleep.

Some of the other common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, getting lightheaded when rising, tendency to gain weight, difficulty dealing with slightly stressful situations, mild depression, hypoglycemia, insomnia, digestive issues, and more.

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and their job is to help you deal with stress.  One of the hormones your adrenal glands produce is cortisol.  Cortisol is responsible for normalizing blood sugar levels, suppressing the immune system, dealing with stress, regulating blood pressure, and reducing inflammation.

When your adrenal glands are not functioning properly, they do not produce enough cortisol, and your body is unable to deal with stress.

Sadly, even though adrenal fatigue knowingly affects millions, and is one of the most prevalent conditions, many conventional doctors do not recognize it as a real syndrome.

How Do You Get Adrenal Fatigue?

The most common cause of adrenal fatigue is excessive stress over time.  Stress can be caused by sleep deprivation, anger, depression, chronic fatigue, chronic illness, toxic exposure, excessive sugar or caffeine, poor diet, etc.

When your body is constantly having to respond to stress (and produce high levels of cortisol), it gets to the point where it can’t handle it any longer because the adrenals can not keep up with the demand for cortisol.  Once you get to the point where your adrenal glands are failing (not true Addison’s disease), there is a long road to recovery where they will function normally again.

How to Reverse Adrenal Fatigue

I am not a doctor or even an expert in this field.  I don’t feel comfortable telling you what you should or should not do if you have or suspect you have adrenal fatigue.  What I can do is share my story about what I did to get better, in hopes that you may be able to take away some information that helps you.  If you don’t struggle with adrenal fatigue, I hope this provides an incentive to take care of yourself now so that you never have to deal with it in the future.

If you don’t struggle with adrenal fatigue, I hope this provides an incentive to take care of yourself now so that you never have to deal with it in the future.

The Practical (living in survival mode)

I spent the first nine months that I was aware I had adrenal fatigue in survival mode.  Being pregnant took everything that my body had to give.  With five other little ones to care for and a move (we finally found a home about a month after I was diagnosed), we had to get creative to figure out ways I could just get through the day.  Some things we did to get by:

Some things we did to get by included:

Don’t plan on doing anything extra

Know what NEEDS to be done and stick to it.  Even if you feel like you have a little extra energy, save it for your body to use for healing.

Throw standards out the window (for now)

I like to have a clean and well put together house.  This is something that I had to let go.  I relied on Hubby for anything that needed to get done and dealt with the fact that it just had to wait till he got home from work.  Other things, I had to just let go of and understand that he could only do so much.

Use the TV

I don’t like the idea of using the TV as a babysitter, but when you are exhausted and have five kids to watch over, it can do wonders.  I tried not to keep it on all day every day, but I will be honest and say that sometimes the only time it got turned off was during meals.

Simplify Meals

Focus on quick meals, easy meals, pre-made meals, and having hubby or older children cook.  We got pretty good at working out a meal schedule where I didn’t have to cook much.  We had a few meals that the kids could make (the two older ones were eight and six at this time) and Hubby got into the habit of either working around meal times or doing most of the prep work before heading off to work.

This is where we came up with the idea for our meal baskets.  A few times that I went to make a meal only to discover that we didn’t have all the ingredients on hand.  As I mentioned, I was not very good at handling stress, and this just about did me in.  I would go from standing in the kitchen ready to make a meal, discover one ingredient was missing, and I’d be on the couch for the rest of the day.

Accept Your Reality

I had to figure out a way to understand that things are the way they are.  I took a day to mourn the life and energy I used to have.  Got over it, and moved on.  If you can not accept the way things are and that you need to rest as much as possible to get better, you might just stay sick forever.

No Exercise / Limit Physical Movement

In severe stages of adrenal fatigue, physical activity can make things worse.  I had to stop hiking, limit my general up and down around the house, and even make sure that I limited the number of times I went up and down the stairs to once a day.

Get a Fitbit

A Fitbit is a great tool to keep you accountable.  I used it to track my steps to make sure I was staying under 1000 steps a day.  It also tracked how many levels of stairs I climbed.  I kept track of my heart rate and was able to see a vast improvement when I started taking some supplements that my midwife suggested.  Most importantly, it tracked how much sleep I was getting.

Sleep

You are supposed to aim for 10 hours a day when recovering from adrenal fatigue.  I don’t think I was ever able to hit that number, but I did my best to get as close as I could.  I also took regular naps – at least once a day while the kids either had quiet time or watched a show.

Cut Stress

I figured out anything and everything that was causing me stress and I did my best to eliminate it.  My work stopped when we lost the farm, so that was taken care of for me (a real blessing from God).  Everything else in my day to day life, I shared with Hubby and we found ways to get around it.

Get Hubby On Board

This part is so important.  I don’t think I would have stayed out of the hospital if Hubby was not as supportive and helpful as he was.  Not only can he hold you accountable, but it also helps if he understands from an emotional standpoint what you are going through.  Make sure he is well educated on your condition and understands its severity.

Find a Practitioner That Has Experience With Adrenal Fatigue

I am so thankful that I was working with a midwife and that she caught that I had adrenal fatigue.  Had I not been pregnant, I don’t know how much time would have gone by with me just dealing with the excessive fatigue and not knowing what was causing it.

There are so many resources online, and you can see what works through trial and error, but I think it is much better to be working with someone who knows more about adrenal fatigue and that can test you to see what you might need to get better.

Many traditional doctors do not deal with adrenal fatigue, so try visiting a chiropractor, naturopath, or Functional Bio-Analysis.

Utilize Muscle Testing

Both my chiropractors and my midwife were able to use applied kinesiology (muscle testing) to read what my body needed.  It is beneficial to be able to treat what needs to be addressed rather than just trying out supplements to see what works.

Lots of Fats & Proteins

Although a complete diet overhaul is ideal if you are not eating well to begin with, taking on this big of a change when in the severe stages of adrenal fatigue can cause more stress and make things even worse.  We did not have an awful diet at the time I found out I had adrenal fatigue, but it certainly was not great.  I choose to wait some months after I gave birth to make any drastic changes.  While pregnant and in “survival mode,” I did my best to add in as many healthy fats and protein as I could.

 

Fix Your Health (recovery mode)

Once I got to the point that I could somewhat function, I started doing a little more to help promote my health and healing.  For me, this came about three months after I gave birth.  I think that two months would have been sufficient, but that would have put me right in the middle of the Christmas season, which I just wanted to do my best to enjoy.

Makeover Your Diet

I slowly worked into cutting sugar completely.  It took a few months, but I finally got to the point where I was not consuming any sugar at all (not even fruit).

If you drink caffeine, it is a good idea to cut this as well.  I am thankful that I did not turn to caffeine at any point when I was feeling tired from the early stages of adrenal fatigue.  I am more of a tea person anyway, so it’s not hard for me to stick to herbal (caffeine-free) teas.

We don’t eat much in the way of processed food, but if you do, this is something you will want to get rid of altogether.  It is also a good idea to eat pasture raised (and organic if possible) meat, and raw dairy (if you are consuming dairy).  Organic fruits and veggies are also ideal if possible. {check out Door to Door Organics and get $15 off your first order.}  You should also throw out the low-quality vegetable oils and stick with healthy alternatives like coconut oil, grass fed butter, and ghee.

There is a bit of debate on what particular diet makes the most sense for adrenal fatigue… when I cut out all carbs, I noticed a decline in my healing progression.  Some people believe that carbs are necessary for the adrenals, where others say that a keto diet can be beneficial, as long as you are getting enough fat.  I have not given this a solid try yet but might do so at some point.

Easy On Your Digestive Tract

One of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue includes digestive issues.  This is because stress can negatively affect your digestive system.  I tried to eat things that were easier to digest so that my body had to put forth less effort, leaving more energy to go towards healing.  Up till a few months ago, I had to avoid raw veggies, nuts, and dairy.  Everything had to be cooked heavily so that it was easy to digest.

Eat Consistently

Since cortisol is responsible for regulating your blood sugar, you can ease the stress on your body by eating fairly often.  Try to keep healthy snacks on hand that are easy to eat often.  Homemade jerky, peanut or almond butter, and fat bombs are perfect for this.  If your gut can handle it, soaked nuts are also easy to keep on hand for munching.

Supplements

This is one area that I will suggest seeking the advice of a professional rather than just taking a stab at it.  Many will tell you that you surely need magnesium and calcium, but I was doing fine with these and was very deficient in potassium.

In addition to potassium, I took a variety of other supplements including a few designed specifically for adrenal support.  Most of my supplements came from Standard Process or Thorne Research, both of which are only sold by healthcare professionals.
For over the counter supplements, I use Garden of Life prenatal multivitamin (just one a day as my body did not like the extra vitamin B) and the  Oceans Mom Prenatal DHA (two a day even though the suggested serving is one).
I also use Dr. Christopher’s Female Reproductive Formula and will probably continue to take this till I am well done having kids.

{if you sign up for Amazon’s Subscribe and Save, you can save 15% off of supplements and other items}

Cold Laser

I used a cold laser directly on my adrenals for two minutes each almost every night.  A cold laser is supposed to accelerate healing in cells by stimulating the mitochondria.  I have not done an excessive amount of research on this, but there was a period that only one side of my back got lasered, therefore only one adrenal gland.  When my chiropractor tested the strength of my adrenals, he noticed a significant difference between the two – the one that was not getting lasered much weaker than the other.

There are also some other uses for a cold laser, so we considered it a worthy investment.

Bone Broth & Fermented Foods

Both are healing to your gut and provide an excellent source of nourishment.  I prefer to make our bone broth from pasture raised chicken bones, but also sometimes use the Bone Broth Protein by Ancient Nutrition.

As for fermented foods, we love kombucha and water kiefer at our house.  My kids don’t even care about soda and consider these a favorite treat to drink.  We also do sauerkraut, fermented pickles, raw cheese, and homemade raw milk yogurt.  These all contain probiotics that can help improve digestion and they may even lower stress levels.

Have Fun

Find ways to have fun and laugh with your family on a regular basis.  Laughter truly is healing to the soul.  Making sure that you are having a good time on a regular basis can also help deal with the depression that often comes along with adrenal fatigue.

If you can, take this up a step and do something fun with your family outside.  This will get you out in the sun to absorb some beneficial vitamin D.

Continue to Sleep!

If you are starting to feel better, you still need to sleep as much as you can.  It is so easy to back slide in the process of healing if you are not careful.  Try and do less activity than the energy you have available as often as possible.  This will help you heal faster.

I continue to track my sleep using my Fitbit to make sure I’m getting enough.  Remember that this tracks your actual sleep and not just time in bed.  With a nursing baby that I co-sleep with, my in bed time is generally quite different from my asleep time.

I have found that I feel good when I get at least 7+ hours of sleep.  This usually means being in bed for almost 10 hours.  The 10 hours includes family reading time, my personal reading time, and my bible reading in the morning when I wake up.

Meditate

As I started to feel better and getting enough sleep at night, I found it harder to fall asleep and take a nap during the day.  I tried to make sure that I was just sitting and relaxing for a half hour or so in the middle of the day during the kids quiet time, but I easily got distracted and turned that time into an opportunity to hop on my phone.

In order to be more intentional with this downtime, I used the app Headspace to start meditating.  I found that in just 10 minutes of meditating, I felt refreshed and re-energized… more so than laying on the couch for a half hour.  This also has helped me improve how I deal with stress in general.  I highly recommend it.

Continue to Reduce Stress

Always look for ways to keep your stress level down.  We live in a society where stress seems to just be the norm, however bad it is for us.  Be aware of how you respond to things and if anything you do brings on stress, find ways around it.

This is a skill you need to establish and keep throughout the rest of your life, not just in your healing process.  Sometimes this means big life changes, and sometimes just adjusting one little thing can make a difference.

I have found that for me, working too close to a deadline stresses me out.  I can, however, work just as long on something that is not due for a couple of weeks and feel great in the process.

Learn what sets you off and how to prevent it.

Herbs

There are some herbs that can help support your body during adrenal fatigue.  Ashwagandha is supposed to be excellent at regulating cortisol, but it is not suggested to take for those who are pregnant or nursing.  Licorice Root helps promote hormone production and maintain energy levels.  Rhodiola Rosea is also beneficial as it helps with depression and fatigue.  Among others is Astragalus which can affect blood pressure, inflammation, growth hormone levels, and blood glucose.

You can generally find herbs in capsules, a tincture, and powder form.  I prefer to use the loose bulk herb and make a tea from it.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are another great way to support your health when you have adrenal fatigue.  I put together a combination of 5 drops each Basil,  Rosemary, Clove, and Lavender essential oils in a roller bottle and filled with fractionated coconut oil.  Each morning, I applied this to my back right on top of my adrenal glands.

I also regularly use a blend by doTerra called Elevation.  I generally will use this in my diffuser or use in a roller bottle and put it on my wrists so that I can bring them up to my nose and inhale often.

{If you have not used essential oils before but are interested in giving them a try, please let me know.  I have a variety of different brands I use and would be happy to discuss the options and send you some samples.}

Prepare To Give It Time

Remember that it takes time to recover from adrenal fatigue.  I have to remind myself of this regularly.  An average of six months to two years, and again, the time I was pregnant doesn’t even count as recovery time.

In October, my sixth baby who I was pregnant with when I found out I had adrenal fatigue will turn one.  I have come a LONG way from where I was a year ago, but I still have time to go.

 

If You’re Pregnant with Adrenal Fatigue…

If you are pregnant and suffering from adrenal fatigue, please feel free to reach out to me at any time.  You can comment on this post or use the contact form to email me privately.
I know how scary it can be, and how painful it is (I didn’t even get into the excessive pain I went through from about twenty weeks on).

I was TERRIFIED that I was not going to have the strength to give birth and that I was going to end up in the hospital.  All of my babies have been born at home and I have actually never been to a hospital for myself, so the idea of going there is probably one of the scariest things imaginable for me.

On the day of my baby’s birth, I went into labor early in the morning, but completely psyched myself out and did not give birth till the evening.  I fought the contractions so hard!  Once I gave into them, Zayden was born within ten minutes and everything went great.

I almost immediately felt better after giving birth – the chronic pain in my legs and pelvis went away and I quickly felt like I had more energy.

I did my full two weeks at home doing nothing but healing from the birth and caring for my new little guy. Then I jumped right into more healing from adrenal fatigue.

 

 

If you would like to learn more about adrenal fatigue, whether or not you may have it, or how to recover from it, check out http://adrenalfatigue.org/

Please share if you have methods you used to reverse your adrenal fatigue and how long it took.  If you are still recovering, so am I, and I feel for you.  You can do it, mama!  Be strong and rest so that you can be there for your kiddos in a much better way down the road.  

Contact

Feel free to drop me a line with any questions you may have!

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