Friday, March 18, 2016

My Journey through Adrenal Fatigue

A painful vision of me (green tank top) at mile 59 of the Angeles Crest 100 2014 while my bestie laughs at my misery (I love you Sarah!!) 
If you have found your way to my blog you have either googled adrenal fatigue in some capacity or you are a trail runner like myself, and are curious about the title of my post. For the most part I have only mentioned a number of times through social media about my health situation the last 2.5 years, and kind of kept private about the whole thing. People ask. People talk. I chose to just not really publicly sound the blare horns about it. Why? Well first off if you know me then you know what a genuinely positive person I am. I have a gigantic passion for life, living, running, and all that goes with it. I love everything about my life, and my adrenal fatigue (although sucked), I knew was a first world problem. I strongly believe affirmations that the more we speak of something the more we manifest it. I have a darn strong faith, and I honestly knew eventually I would get better. I believed it 100%, and just focused on that. So there you have it. There is my cleaned up sparkly version of what it has been like to battle adrenal fatigue, and why I have never written about it before in such lengths. I love my life, and knew I would get better someday. Then this last few weeks things started to change for me. I was approached by one of my sponsor's to write about it, and it's been eating at me that I owe more of my story to the running community. I see more and more people affected by this daily, but I also see massive amounts of people mis diagnosing themselves, and giving this illness to themselves when really they shouldn't be. Its very serious, and will effect every aspect of your life. So here goes the long winded and very detailed version of how it all started, how I knew what it was, all the treatments I tried, and what finally really worked for me. Yes folks you can get better. So brew a pot of coffee and pretend like you have nothing better to do but read about my life. I hope it helps someone out there looking for answers!

The first thing I would like to point out is if you are not a competitive or elite athlete your healing time will be much faster than someone trying to race and win ultra's or some sort of competitive sport. So if that is not your goal, but you feel you have adrenal fatigue that should give you huge hope. The average person can get past this, and heal within 6 months(in my opinion) if they seek the correct treatment. I will dig into that process later. 

A brief, but necessary history of me. Sorry, but its important in all of this. I promise I won't go as far back as fourth grade and being bullied on the playground. So in 2008- 2010 I was charging after it in the sport of ultra running. Really starting to find my competitive legs. Had a great year in 2010, and continued to do so in 2011 (minus a couple normal running injuries). I followed up those years in 2012 with a super great racing year, and had an ok year in 2013. It was during 2013 things started to get a little off for me. It started with my very first race of the year at San Diego 50 mile, and continued at Old Goats 50 Mile in March of 2013. What I noticed the most was I just didn't have the energy I had once before at races. It was like every mile seemed like two. Early on I was getting passed by people I normally would be a bit ahead of at a race. Things were drastically harder then they ever had been before. My finishing times were much slower than what I should have been doing, and it was taking me weeks to recover from anything. So in late April of 2013 I pulled out of any further races I had planned, and just took about 6 weeks off. I went to the gym allot, biked a few days a week, and rested. I just thought I needed a small break from running. In July of 2013 I jumped into Cuyamaca three peaks 50k after taking quite some time off, and had a super fun day. My time sucked, but it was fun. I thought I was ok, and all was better. I continued to train at high mileage, and decided to do the Chimera 100 that Fall. Leading up to that race I never felt 100%. Ever. My long runs were always a shit show, and a struggle to get through. But being the super hero that I was (insert sarcasm) I continued to train. I raced and finished Chimera 100 Nov 2013. Still to this day I have no idea how I finished that race. Every step was a mental and physical struggle. Meaning this: what should have been enjoyable and life changing was miserable and beyond hard. I remember at one point during the race laying down on the side of the trail and just closing my eyes. My pacer rubbing my back and reminding me we only had 20 more miles. Crying like a baby as I got up and hobbled on. I could go on and on about that day, but I won't. It was hard. Period. After that race I think I slept for two weeks straight. Things were never the same for me. I pushed myself so far over the edge, and now it was to late. 2014 I DNF'd from like three races. The exhaustion was beyond anything I can describe. I am not kidding. Racing was not an option. Trust me I tried, and failed miserably every time. So then began my ever so fun world of really figuring out what was wrong with me. Things were not right. Had not been right for sometime. I had to make sure I was ok. 

It started with the basic western medical doctor's. Hey I am the first person to try any herb you give me, and have even been known to let a bunch of leaches suck on my legs (ok thats a lie...truth is that was at HURT100 and I didn't mean for that to happen at all). I was concerned though about my actual health so I went to my family doctor, and asked for every test in the book. I got my blood cell count checked, anemia, and even got tested for lime disease. Had a mammogram. You name it I was checked for anything that can be tested in accordance with western medicine. That last sentence you read is VERY important. Not once did anything ever come up about adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout. I got the clear hat I was in great health. Well lucky me! This was all in my head, I just needed some time off from running again, and I would be back to normal again in no time. Took about 6 more weeks off, and then did what I always did. I ran, and felt like crap. Again, and again. This time though I spent many days in bed after long runs. If I wet for a run that day you better believe I was working from my bed and not my desk anymore. My bed actually became my desk. For almost all of 2014. 

I was fine though. Nothing was wrong with me. It was all in my head.... 

In 2014 I also started having other changes within my health. I would get very dizzy when ever I got up quickly from doing anything. It would happen while running to. This became more often than not, and was not fun. A few times(ok like every time) when I leaned down to tie my shoe while on the trails I almost passed out coming back up from dizziness. I also became VERY sensitive to the cold. To be perfectly honest almost intolerant to any cold. Other people would say it was nice out and I would be in my down jacket. I was having to carry jackets with me anywhere I went in case any place had the AC on. Going to the movies became like getting bundled up for a snow day. It was obvious something wasn't right. My calves were always sore. Really sore. On every run. Incredibly tight. This went on for 18+ months. This was also the same for my lower back. I had never had any sort of these issues before, and my lower back would just ache and ache. My hair became very brittle and dry. Just breaking off, and falling out constantly. The thing I noticed the most was my mood swings and severe sadness. I have never had anxiety or depression issues in my life of any kind, but I definitely saw a change with all of these things. Somedays I would just cry and cry. I would be so sad. I had no reason to be, but I just would. I remember this being most prevalent in 2014 and early 2015. I was easily angered, and would get frustrated at the smallest things. I honestly started to loose my joy for life. Everyone was putting me out, getting on my nerves, and just invading my space. This got really bad. I noticed a very large difference in my capacity to handle any sort of stress or life stuff. I just didn't have the space or tolerance for anything. I NEVER ever used to be like this, but I was so damn tired that it just became my whole focus. 

I was fine though. Nothing was wrong with me. It was all in my head.... 

Dying to find out what was wrong with me I started to google around the internet, and came across an article on adrenal burnout. From there I read a number of different articles, and continued to research. Then in June of 2014 I was at Western States 100 with my fiance' Jesse and I had a chat with Aliza Lapierre. She told me in the past she had a long battle with adrenal fatigue, and it sounded like that was what I was going through. I decided that day that adrenal fatigue was what was going on with me, and to do everything I could to get better! I was on a mission to get healthy. 

So I saw many acupuncturists, herbalist, irridologists, and every non western adrenal healing doctor in Southern California. I took more herbs and adrenal supplements know to man.  Had blood test after blood test done,  scaled back my running to half I used to do, and ate very clean. Nutrition will come up later, but I need to point out that through all of this I was incredibly healthy. My diet was gluten free, soy free, dairy free, preservative free, and just down right healthy compared to most people I knew. I LOVE to cook, and made all food from scratch. I don't drink coffee or any hard liquor, and for the most part made very clean and healthy food choices. 

One thing that stayed constant was every naturopath and my irridologist telling me I was over loaded with sugar. My blood work even came back with very high blood glucose levels. Like as if I was slurping down 10 soda's a day. I rolled my eyes and thought this is nonsense. I am so healthy. I don't eat sugar. I never eat sweets. This was complete noise. Since apparently I am a doctor I can make these assumptions and ignored everything they were telling me. On with sucking down gels on every run, enjoying my occasional (ok on lots of occasions) red wine, and naturally sweeting everything with raw agave. 

In early 2015 I toed the line of the HURT100. I was actually pretty rested for the race considering I just couldn't train much due to my exhaustion. I went there with one goal, and that was to finish. I had a fire lit under me that I had not had in years. I was determined. I knew I could power hike 85% of the entire race, and finish in the cut off's. So that's exactly what I did. It was great. I hiked almost the entire HURT100, and finished. It's one of the toughest 100 milers in the United States, and I finished!! I didn't care it took me like two days to do it. I have never been so happy in my life! Then I got home. 

In 2015 after HURT100 I did not race at all. As a matter of fact that was the last race I completed to date. All of my symptoms got more severe, and that was that. I didn't even try to race after mid June of 2015. I took a few months off, did a cleanse under the super vision of a great irridologist, and spent the Summer trying to get better. After my cleanse (not the best thing you can do if you have adrenal fatigue BTW) I worked my way back to regaining strength, and slowly started back running. By September 2015 I have to say I was feeling allot better. I had completely cut out all red wine, all caffeine of any kind, and was determined to get back to my old self.  Man you gotta give me props! It had been almost 2 years since I had been me. I still had hope. I never gave up. I wasn't by any means feeling great, but I was feeling better. Many of the symptoms I had before had gone away, and my energy was a little better. I was taking all kinds of herbs for adrenal fatigue, and eating cleaner than I ever had. Of course I was going to feel a little better. I had put a 100 band aids over my wound. They helped, but I was not healing completely. 

This is where that whole part about being a competitive athlete comes in. I really mean this. If I had been a normal person who maybe exercised once a week, and just lived an awesome, but average life I would have felt better, and thought I was 100% healthy. If you take all kinds of adrenal supplements and herbs, and really take care of yourself and body through nutrition and omit caffeine and alcohol for sometime you will get much better. Not fully better, but all of this is vital to healing, and it will help!! If you want to toe the line of a competitive sport of some kind, and podium...well then you are out of luck. In order to do that (especially ultra running) you need to be at your best. 100% in great health. Not a single band aid in the world can do that for you. 

Important side note. I am not someone, nor have I ever been to just settle. I will go to the means of the earth to find a solution, and come out on top. Lets put it this way. Six years ago I was co-race directing the Leona Divide race, and was hoping to be able to take it over some day. I now not only own that race, but made it into one of the largest races on the West Coast. I also have created(from the ground up) 7 other races which are all some of the larger trail races on the west coast, started a huge year round coaching program/ trail running team called the Dirt Diva's and dude's, own and operate nation wide women's nutrition and running camps, and am in the process of creating more events. I just want you to get an idea of the kind of person I am so that you know how many things I tried in the process of getting healthy. 

So here I sit. March of 2016. After I failed to finish the HURT100 this year, and literally could not cover 2 miles an hour after mile 20 I knew I wasn't better. I dropped at mile 30, went home, and made some very drastic changes in my life. Very drastic. No its not the leech therapy thing. I swear. So here goes. Many of you will have your opinions on this. You will have your thoughts. Totally fine by me. I understand, but for me it has worked so I am writing about what has worked for me, and what I will continue to do as I heal from this. 

I also wanted to state that stress is a HUGE cause of adrenal fatigue and burn out. We all have stress, but its how you handle it that matters. I had massive amounts of big stress hit me in late 2012, and all of 2013. I was terrible at dealing with it all. Stuff that I won't go into detail here because its personal, but it had a huge impact on my health. I of course got through it all, and came out like a little rose...but it really affected my health and could indeed be at the root cause of all of this. This year I have really focused on how to properly handle stress, and I am also learning to appreciate life more. Life is a gift. You could be gone tomorrow. Don't sweat the small stuff. If you are stressed out and pissed off all the time put yourself in check. Do you have two working hands, arms, legs, eyes and ears? Well then you have allot more than most people. Do you have a job? That's more than most people. Count your blessings, and remind yourself daily that what ever the problem is it can be handled. It will all be ok. No one is dying. You will get through it. 

I also really focused on connecting back to my higher power. For you this might be Buddha, Allah, God, or Woody Allen for all I know. I don't care. Just make sure you are staying focused on the fact that we all have some sort of higher power that is watching over us, and its perfectly ok to pray and ask for strength, guidance, and support. For me personally I have a very strong faith, and I prayed like crazy. My faith is a huge part of my life, and it helped me tremendously get through all of this. My fiance' also has a very strong faith. This is key. Find someone to share this with. If you aren't on the same page as your partner then eventually you will start changing those pages without one another. 

I also had to omit a few people form my life that were toxic and drama chasers. This was a vital change for me. You don't need to announce it to the world that you are giving yourself distance from certain people, but you must do it. Just start to be a little to busy for them, unfollow them on FB(they will never know), and just slowly but surely pull away from them. The draining, complaining, and emotionally bearing people will start to weigh on your stress levels. It takes allot of energy to hear about and deal with other people's crap. Put yourself first! Love yourself more than anyone else, and only surround yourself with positive and great people. You need every ounce of energy to get healthy. This step is very important. 

Next I had a hair analysis done by DR. Alex Tuggle. The whole process was pretty fast. I emailed him, sent the sample, waited a few weeks, and he was able to tell me the exact state of my adrenal glands. Do not waste your time and money with a saliva test! Hair test is much more accurate and easier. He specializes in adrenal fatigue, copper toxicity, and many other ailments. He is a bad ass superman doctor that will get you better! He is affordable, and is an angel sent down from heaven. Here is his website, and email address: 
Email: alex@goldenwellnesscenter.com 

Next thing I did was I removed my copper IUD. This is very personal for me, but if it helps another woman I will write about it. I am drastically better since taking this out. Dr.Alex told me to due to the high amount of copper it releases, and a fun little thing called copper toxicity it needed to be removed.  If you have one in get it out ASAP, and then work on removing the copper from your body. It takes a few months, but its 100% reversible. Don't go online to any forums and read about crazy women saying crazy things. Just take it out, and reach out to doctor Alex. He will help you. Excessive amounts of copper in the body can cause adrenal fatigue. Pure and simple facts. Plus if you plan on having children in the future you don't want one of these in you as it can dump copper in your body, and be harmful to unborn babies even after its removed. I had no idea about any of this, and was happy to take it out. 

I also did not race or try to race for a long time. I had to stop for like 11 months. This was very hard for me. 

I also read this incredibly amazing book by Jen Sincereo called 'You are a Badass". One of the best books I have ever read. Buy it. Read it. Then read it again. I am reading it for the third time right now. 

On Jan 20th I changed my diet drastically thank's to my Patagonia team mate and dear friend Jeff Browning's advice. I went from being mostly no animal products to eating a fat adapted diet. Its to long of a story here to explain all the details of how it came about, but below is an exact list of what foods are in my diet. The largest thing I had to COMPLETELY take out of my diet was ALL sugar. Yep. All sugar except from fruit. Here is the craziest thing of all. I started this new lifestyle/diet in January. A bit down the road  I started working with Dr.Alex and he requested I stay eating exactly like I was. So the changes I had made were correct, and would help me get better! That's where I like to thank my higher power.... but that's just me. The dots connect now. I see it all. 

Ok so here is what I eat.... 

Meats and animal products I eat: 
Organic Buffalo (ground, steaks, tri tip)
Organic wild caught fish 
Organic free range soy free eggs and egg whites 
I have not been able to eat organic turkey yet, but working up to it.. 

Veggies: 
I have never eaten more veggies in my life. Ginormous amounts with every meal. I make huge salads every night with home made dressing, and tons of veggies. 

Fats: 
Avocado everyday, lots of coconut oil, red pam oil, organic ghee, pumpkin seeds and oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and sunflower seed butter and oil 

Fruits: 
I eat a couple oranges a day, and lots of berries. All fruits are great! I use frozen berries with a little coconut cream, and make ice cream every night in my food processor.  

Carbs: 
I eat 3/4 of a cup of quinoa a day or a yam or sweet potato a day. Just depends. 
*This was very hard for me. My diet in the past was almost all carbs, but I had to get better so I made the leap. As of right now I feel great, and do not even miss all the carbs I used to eat. This took me about 6 weeks to get used to. 

*I go through lots of coconut milk, coconut cream, raw almond milk, and use stevia to sweeten stuff. 

Flours I use: 
Coconut, Cassava Root, and a little quinoa flour. I sparingly use almond meal and hazelnut meal, but I do use them. I make amazing home made tortillas with coconut flour, cassava root flour, & coconut oil.

Vibrant Health - Maximum Vibrance :
I started taking an this amazing product everyday. I do two scoops a day. in my shaker cup. I love it. Its a super food green powder, taste delicious, and has helped me with my energy a ton.

Shakeology- Green Berry flavor: 
I started doing two scoops in a shaker cup everyday of Shakeology last month. This has helped me a ton. I love this stuff. Thanks Heather Hettinger for helping me find this product. I am hooked!! 

During long running: 
Vespa (love this stuff), Plantain chips, Carbo Pro(after two hours I go through about a scoop every hour), Simple Square bars on long runs, and salt pills if I am going longer than 5 hours. If I am going longer than 4-5 hours I will maaaaaybe take a gel. This took weeks to adjust to, but I feel great now! 

I have buried myself the last 50 days in every cookbook and blog recipe I could find, and have found a whole new way off life. Jesse immediately jumped on the same diet and its awesome. It took about 6 weeks, but I slowly started to feel better. Then everyday I just got better and better! I am back to feeling full of energy, buzzing around and doing things all day long like I used to! No more sadness, or anything, and best of all I have been running long again! I know I still have a long way to go, but I can honestly say I am about 90% better. I am hoping to do the San Diego 100 this year. At this point I feel great, and am very excited about it. 

One of my favorite bloggers for recipes is this: 


So for now that is where I am at. Everything I have been through, and going through to get better. The lesson in all of this? Appreciate your health. Love your accomplishments. Someday it could all vanish. I have spent more days crying and praying in the last three years then taking breaths, but today I can say I am on the other side of this mound. I had forgotten what it felt like to be me! It feels so great to be back. Healthy. Full of life. I missed her so much. Keep in mind you will get better. The body can heal itself. This isn't permanent. It just takes time. 

The best part? In less than 6 weeks I will be Mrs.Jesse Haynes... and I cannot wait for that! You never know what life will give you. As for now I am happy to take what it has given me, and get back to racing this year! 

Have a blessed and amazing weekend my friends! Now that I am feeling so much better I will try to keep up on my blog every once in a while. To be honest I forgot I even had one. Ha! Nice to be out of my tired cave. 





10 comments:

  1. Wow, Keira. I knew you were trying to recover from this and it was rough, but I really had no idea. I am so glad you shared this. We all care so much about you, and please know we'll take the bad with the good - it's important to have the support group you need and if anyone doesn't want to hear it forget them. ;)

    And OMG beautiful little runner babies!!!!!! I am so excited for your marriage! It's going to be just a beautiful unity. All my love Keira!

    Diana

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  2. I Love you always my fierce sister ❤️

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this!

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  5. Thank you for sharing. I really like reading this blog. It is informative as well as inspirational. megafood adrenal strength

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  6. Hi Keira, I'd never heard of you until I just listened to your interview on the Trail Runner Nation podcast. Great interview! Inspiring!
    This is a great and open article on your journey through dealing with adrenal fatigue. I went through similar issues and found a great nutritionist who got me on to a higher animal fat based diet with bovine adrenal supplements. I also completely transitioned to a fat adapted diet in the past few years. I also just ordered the Vespa Power products last week and look forward to them arriving.
    Here is a link to my write up on my journey through adrenal fatigue, sleeping pill addiction, fat adaptation, etc. https://businesshealthresults.com/2016/05/28/run-for-life/
    Now that I know about you I look forward to following you! One day I'll do an ultra. Right now I just enjoy doing really long runs when I can.

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  7. Keira,
    I just read your story and I am amazed at your resilience. I too, am familiar with adrenal fatigue and all things that go with is. One of the closest people to me struggled with a combination of chronic fatigue, adrenal burned out and a host of other undiagnosable problems for 10 years. After doing extensive , and I mean EXTENSIVE, research and study, many many trials and errors, many more doctors and naturopaths ( most of which rendered useless), he eventually found this doctor, who has absolutely changed his life for the better. Now this guy is totally legit, very accomplished in his field (used to teach at Columbia medical school), and has multiple books on the subject. If you are interested, please reply to this message, and I will PM you on your FB with the details. I would love to help you in any way I can. Wish you the very best,
    G

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  8. I'm listening to your TRN podcast and nearly in tears. I have gone through nearly the same path as you with Western medicine telling my for years nothing was wrong with me. It wasn't until I started running marathons that I realized something really was wrong. I'm now in a diet very similar to yours (two weeks in) and taking adrenal supplements as well. I'm working closely with my Naturopath who is a female hockey badass goalie to get through this and hopefully on my way to a 2018 first Ultra! Thank you, thank you for sharing your story.

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  9. Hope someone is still looking at this blog. 2 weeks before running boston in 2016 I fell apart..fatigued, weak and just miserable.in a matter of weeks I went from running 30k to not being able to run 5k. After many blood tests I was diagnosed with post viral fatigue from my Dr. Prescribed rest. Naturopath says adrenal fatigue. After 10 months I'm able to work but still unable to run any distance. Fatigue,heavy head and plugged ears are my main problems...not sure what to think as Dr does not believe in naturopathic pills but I'm no better and fed up.

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