Adrenal Fatigue Case Study

Restoring vitality from adrenal fatigue

by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist

Client name and identifying information changed

When 60-year-old Joan first came to see me in clinic she was so exhausted that she walked in sluggishly, hunched over and spoke slowly, as if each word exhausted her. Interestingly, the more she spoke the more the speed increased.

She explained how she was very athletic and full of energy for most of her life and could fit much into her day. She disliked lazy people and now felt very frustrated with herself because she thought she was being lazy and would often push herself to do things, but would then be left totally exhausted and unable to do much for the next three days.

You could say she has a type ‘A’ personality. It was even difficult for her to reach out for help by making an appointment with me.

It was difficult to determine what triggered her condition as there seemed to be many things that could have started the process, and then her driven personality would have pushed her over the threshold to exhaustion.

She remembered getting sick with fevers and vomiting after eating something that didn’t agree with her on an overseas trip, but she ‘recovered’ and went back to work after two days off (post-holiday). Although her energy was not the same, she pushed on.

Then she was shocked from being demoted at work, which she thought was because of her failing performance, which drove her to work even harder. Later she was retrenched, which created financial stress, and was depressed for a few months.

Joan managed to get a new job and was happy with that, but her fatigue was increasing. She ‘needed’ three to four cups of coffee a day to keep going and a nap in her lunch break, but didn’t do that often as she had errands to run.

On weekends, she looked after three grandchildren so her daughter could work. Basically, Joan was not getting the recovery time needed, but she loved what she was doing and didn’t understand why her body couldn’t keep up.

I knew Joan wasn’t going to take notice of me telling her that she needed to do less and give herself time to relax, unless there was scientific proof to show her why she was feeling so exhausted.

A hair mineral analysis showed very low levels of four major minerals – calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. This is a pattern of adrenal fatigue. Adrenal exhaustion is commonly defined medically as potassium depletion.

Joan’s four adrenal saliva test results taken throughout one day showed very low cortisol for each sample. The cortisol levels indicated that the stress on her body had been going on for a long time – her holiday was nearly two years prior to seeing me.

We also tested for her good and bad bacteria levels which showed that her good bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, were low and she had an overgrowth of Candida organisms.

It is possible that her overseas infection, which was treated by antibiotics, killed off the bad bacterial infection but the antibiotics may have also killed off her good bacteria. This can allow the Candida species to thrive as they are not destroyed by antibiotics, and in fact thrive in that environment.

This alone would have made her feel tired, but to ‘keep her energy up’ Joan consumed more coffee and sweet foods, which fed the Candida even more. She was using up more nutrients in her body, which further depleted her energy. The extra stress, without allowing recovery time, compounded the problem, further depleting her body of vital minerals.

I asked Joan to follow an anti-candida diet along with some anti-candida herbal teas and gave her a strong probiotic to start with. After a few weeks, we changed her over to a diet very rich in minerals to restore her mineral depletion while keeping her sugars low.

Even more importantly we discussed how she could have more relaxation time in her life.

I shared the importance of listening to her body and knowing when it needed rest rather than ‘pushing through’. The push may have worked when she was an elite athlete but now she needed to channel her energy into self-healing. Joan diligently followed the plan and three months later was back to her vital self.

I found the main issue was to help Joan overcome her need to keep doing so much, which invariably resulted in a relapse into exhaustion. Asking Joan to come in every three months to re-enforce her commitment to her body helped tremendously.

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