Keep calm, slow down, eat clean, detox. We’re getting real with some expert advice from Amie Valpone, wellness expert and author of her first book, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body (released March 8th).
Amie’s story of personal healing is remarkable. She’s been through quite the journey and we’re thrilled to bring her insights on overcoming a few of these modern health conditions to our readers. All month long, we’ll be taking a closer look at what to do when one of these conditions comes barreling it’s way toward you. First up, let’s talk about adrenal fatigue. Learn a bit about Amie’s journey and get her tips with where to start the healing…
Throughout the last 10 years I’ve suffered from a dozen debilitating health issues that left me on disability from my corporate job and bed-ridden at the ripe-old age of 22. Fast forward an entire decade of figuring out how to learn how to be healthy in a real way – and now I’m in perfect health. I’ve overcome everything from Lyme disease and adrenal fatigue to candida, C-diff colitis, PCOS and more.
How did I do it? I learned how to address the underlying imbalances in my body and get my body working for me instead of against me. In my new book, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, I talk about my journey, what has helped heal my body and how I detoxed my life.
After eight years of being a guinea pig to Western medicine doctors, including an entire week at Mayo Clinic running every medical test imaginable, I decided to choose a different path; I went back to school for integrative and functional nutrition. I learned about specific conditions that Western medicine did not address or understand such as candida and adrenal fatigue. I’ve learned how to build back my depleted adrenals to optimal levels through research and trial and error on my own body.
Adrenal fatigue (and adrenal burnout) manifests in symptoms such as exhaustion, sugar and/or salt cravings, feeling tired but wired, anxiety, trouble sleeping, feeling dizzy when you stand up and more. Your adrenals help you respond to the daily stress in your life – everything from work to family to toxins that we’re breathing, eating and absorbing through our skin. After many years of healing my adrenals, I’ve learned that when you suffer from adrenal fatigue (and adrenal burnout), the root cause is often in another underlying health issue such as Lyme disease or hypothyroidism, both of which I had. When you learn how to support your adrenals and heal your body by clearing up the underlying health issue(s), your adrenal fatigue symptoms will start to fade away leaving you feeling like a normal human being again.
The First 5 Steps: How To Deal With Adrenal Fatigue
Find a Functional/Integrative M.D. These medical doctors are different from your everyday Western medicine doctor who focuses on standard blood testing and giving pharmaceutical drugs to ‘cover up’ your symptoms without addressing the root cause of why you are experiencing symptoms. Functional and integrative doctors look at our bodies as a whole and address the underlying issues that are causing unwanted symptoms in your body. Instead of giving you a Band-Aid approach to symptoms such as an over the counter or prescribed drug, these doctors take the time to figure out what’s going on inside your body and address issues such as heavy metals, mold and toxicity. They also do extended testing for your gut, thyroid and hormone health as well as look at the stress in your life, all of which western medicine does not address. My best advice is to find an expert who understands adrenal fatigue and who can work with you to address the underlying issue. What I’ve discovered throughout the last 10 years is that you need a team of doctors to help you get well. In my experience, there was not one doctor that helped me with every health issue; I had to find a specialist for Lyme disease, one for my adrenals, one for my gut health, one for my thyroid and one for my hormones. It’s expensive and time consuming, yes, but too many years of just going to one doctor and not seeing results in all of my symptoms, taught me the hard way. Build a team that can help you get your body working for you-not against you. Make sure each specialist understands (and has significant experience) with all of your health issues! Everything in our bodies is connected so it’s important to look at our bodies as a ‘whole’ instead of as individual parts.
Get Your Adrenals Tested. I’ve done my fair share of adrenal tests throughout the last few years. The gold standard for testing your adrenals is through the 24-Hour Adrenal Saliva Kit. This will help you get an accurate reading as to what is going on with your adrenals. Blood tests will not give you accurate results, so it’s important to work with a functional/integrative doctor who understands why saliva is the gold standard testing and who can read and interpret your saliva test results. This test helps your doctor see the connection between your adrenals and your cortisol levels. If you have high cortisol or low cortisol, that’s an indication that your adrenals are out of whack. You can work with your doctor to treat you with herbal treatments that will help get your body back into balance as well as help you relax through mid-body practices on a daily basis.
Slow Down. I live in Manhattan. I’m a ball of energy, so it’s no wonder I burnt out my adrenals in my 20s – add to that toxicity from not eating organic, drinking tap water, Lyme disease and other health issues that were taxing and stressing out my body and it’s no wonder I ended up feeling exhausted every single day. My best tip is to start to slow down your life. Much easier said than done but if you want to heal, there’s no other way. Learn how to breathe from your belly and not from your chest, this will help activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will help your body relax vs. breathing from your chest which activates your sympathetic (fight/flight) nervous system.
Eat Clean and Eat More Healthy Fats. Eating clean means eating whole, organic, one-ingredient foods. That’s my philosophy. What’s in an apple? An apple. What’s in an avocado? An avocado. Eat the foods that work for you. There’s no need to put a label on yourself as vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc. when you can simply choose whole foods and eat what your body wants. I’d rather my clients eat whole foods to nourish their body than to put a label on themselves and eat processed foods that our bodies cannot identify, assimilate and absorb all the nutrients from.
My website and my book, Eating Clean, both feature recipes that are plant-based and free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, refined sugar, peanuts, white flours and other inflammatory foods. That doesn’t mean you can’t add a piece of organic chicken or organic eggs or organic dairy to my recipes, if desired. Each of our bodies works differently and everyone heals in different ways from different foods. That’s what makes us all unique! The point of eating clean is to eat what works for your body and what makes you feel good while focusing on one-ingredient whole foods. One thing that helped me tremendously with my thyroid (and balancing my hormones) was adding more healthy fats to support my adrenals and entire endocrine system. It’s important to focus on eating anti-inflammatory healthy fats instead of inflammatory fats. Adding more healthy fats will help you balance your blood sugar, which is key for healing adrenal fatigue. In my new book, I talk about simple swaps you can make to remove inflammatory ingredients and use anti-inflammatory ingredients in your meals and snacks every day. Some examples of anti-inflammatory healthy fats are avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, raw walnuts and ground flaxseeds. Another easy swap is to remove inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, which can tax your adrenals, as well as refined table salt and refined vegetable oils such as canola oil. Instead of table salt, reach for real sea salt and instead of canola or refined vegetable oils, reach for extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Furthermore, white flour is incredibly inflammatory. In place of white flour, choose almond or coconut or chickpea flours, which are full of protein and nutrients – these are the only flours I use in my cookbook!
Detox from Chemicals. Reducing your body burden from chemicals on a daily basis is vital for healing your body. Our skin is our biggest organ! This shocks many of my clients. Learn how to remove all the chemicals from your cleaning supplies, beauty products, personal care products and your home environment because all of these chemicals enter our skin and get into our bloodstream. I never thought that the chemicals in these products were affecting my health in a negative way until I removed them from my lifestyle. Because my body wasn’t burdened each day with toxins, I started to notice my bloodwork improving (especially my liver). We can’t avoid every toxin every day and we have to live our lives and enjoy ourselves. I’m not suggesting that you live in a bubble, however, it is important to be mindful of what changes you can make in your lifestyle to lessen the burden on your body and speed up your healing process.