By Sari Huhtala
Squeezing lemon juice into a mason jar, then adding a touch of apple cider vinegar, Kerry Foreman prepares her morning elixir before tackling the day ahead. She long ago kicked the java habit, after realizing chronic stress had pushed her adrenals to the brink of failure, and that cup of coffee was just one more reason her body was in a constant state of fight or flight – thinking it had to escape from a sabre tooth tiger when all it really needed was to restore a state of balance.
Adrenal fatigue had crept up on her like a silent robber in her 40s, stealing away every last ounce of energy she could muster up at day’s end. It had become the enemy that would strain relationships, and, had she not managed to get a grip on it before hitting menopause, she’d likely be exchanging stories of night sweats and hot flashes from hell.
Instead, she “sailed through menopause” not quite understanding what all the fuss was around hot flashes and night sweats, she says.
“You’re a bit of an angry lion (when adrenals are exhausted),” Foreman says. “Once I healed my adrenals my moods were much better, I was calmer with people and my relationships improved.”
“I started feeling (symptoms of adrenal fatigue) in my 40s, but by my early 50s it was really taking a toll on me,” says the 58-year-old Muskoka-based business owner. “The closer I was getting to menopause the more important it was for me to address my adrenals because my adrenals would have to pick up yet another job” trying to create hormonal balance.
“The adrenals try to take over the job for us when we hit menopause; now the adrenals work even harder, so that’s why a lot of women at menopause, although they might have been flying under the radar for years, they hit that point and everything’s wacko.”
The thing is, when it comes to the cumulative effects of chronic stress, despite how health savvy one may be, one often vacillates between knowing what needs to be done to restore balance and actually putting it into practice, and Foreman was no exception.
As early as her teenage years she had been exposed to the world of holistic health and the benefits of sound nutrition. In the early 80s she had embraced a gluten-free lifestyle, as well as practices like yoga for a balanced body and mind. She had studied the endocrine system in her 20s when she was studying aesthetics. She understood how the adrenals produce multiple hormones which are vital to life, and regulate functions like blood pressure, blood sugar levels and metabolism. Putting it all into practice at times of high stress is another story, says the self-proclaimed workaholic.
Being a single mom and day spa business owner, as well as a landlord, coupled with the stress of ongoing mental abuse and 12-hour work days, created “a lot of tension and stress,” in her life back then, she says.
“It got to the point at the end of the workday at 5 p.m. I couldn’t get off the couch; there was just nothing left in me.”
Her family doctor referred her to an endocrinologist, but conventional cortisol level blood tests came out normal, so she still had no answers to her failing health.
“I was at the point of burnout and went to see a holistic doctor in Huntsville. The holistic doctor did tests on my adrenals and I scored so low I was almost at the point of adrenal failure.”
“I was advised back then to not even walk up a hill because it was too much for the adrenals to handle.”
Stronger health protocols and prioritizing of meals with proteins to stabilize blood sugar levels, along with eliminating wheat, sugar, dairy and coffee from her diet were first steps to healing the adrenals, she recalls.
“When you have coffee, it acts like epinephrine in the body – it causes your body to release cortisol. It now has you on high alert, on guard, in fight or flight, but there’s no lion chasing you.”
Coffee then pushes your adrenals to produce norepinephrine, a hormone that causes blood vessels to
contract and heart rate to increase.
“Those poor little adrenals are working hard just to try to compensate because you had that coffee, and if you want to further make your adrenals work, throw in menopause.’’
“You want coffee more and more, and reaching more for it. The more I did that, the more I found by late afternoon I was crashing.”
Not only are the adrenals more stressed by drinking coffee, coffee is also a diuretic and “our bodies need to be properly hydrated to be in a good state of balance.”
Ready to wean off coffee or reduce daily intake? Try a dandelion coffee blend like Nutrimax caffeine-free instant dandelion coffee blend, Foreman recommends. The combination of dandelion root and chicory root in this blend combine to create a coffee-like experience, without the caffeine. She suggests adding a small amount of dandelion coffee to regular coffee, then increasing the amount bit by bit, while decreasing the regular coffee until it’s only dandelion blend.
Healing her adrenals meant boosting essential vitamins and minerals. She began consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C, and started weekly high-dose intravenous vitamin C and B for 12 weeks, and “had amazing days after an IV session.”
‘’It takes a long time to build those levels when you still have stressors in your life, but with the IV, around the third or fourth session, my energy levels started to feel normal.”
“I was taking a ton of vitamin C,” Foreman says.
“Adrenals love vitamin C so I was making sure I was pushing my limits on that, taking about 1000 mg to 2000 mg per meal.”
Her iron levels had also plummeted. Although she had years ago given up vegetarianism, after studying the book Eat Right for Your Blood Type, excess coffee intake could be the culprit behind low iron levels.
A 2018 study in the Chonnam Medical Journal found drinking coffee reduces the absorption of non-heme iron, the type of dietary iron found in plant-based foods. The study found serum ferritin was reduced by 18.8 per cent in females and 8.4 per cent in males who drank three cups of coffee a day compared with those who drank one cup of coffee a day. Drinking coffee with meals also reduces the bioavailability of iron. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported one third of the iron store is non-heme iron, and “coffee intake reduced the absorption of non-heme iron by 40 per cent.”
“I got to the point my iron levels were so low I was sitting in with the chemo unit at the hospital getting iron injections.”
After consulting with the holistic practitioner, Foreman was reminded of the need to make protein a priority throughout the day to ensure blood sugar levels remain stable to support the healing of her adrenals, as well as improve her mental health. She sparked up conversations with spa clients who were confronting similar adrenal fatigue issues, and found many cited lack of time as the biggest barrier to prioritizing meals. From her experiences sprouted the idea to create No Yolking™ – a 100 per cent egg white protein powder made with Canadian, hormone-free eggs. Egg whites are essentially water and protein, she explains, and are a complete protein, with a profile of 21 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids – the protein building blocks your body needs for health maintenance. One tablespoon of the egg white protein powder contains 16 grams of pure protein. She launched the product in 2017 under her business Muskoka Mornings.
Her mornings now consist of a cleansing drink and a protein latte with egg white protein. Her morning elixir is made with the juice of half a lemon, one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, a shake of cinnamon powder and enough pure water to fill a 16-ounce mason jar. Apple cider vinegar fires up the stomach acids, boosting hydrochloric acid and enzymes for gut health, while the lemon juice helps ensure the organs of elimination are flushing properly.
A course of probiotics from time to time is good gut health practice, she adds, and starting the day with fermented foods that feed healthy gut bacteria helps to keep gut health in check. She also adds prebiotic powders for a lunchtime smoothie occasionally.
A morning shot of water mixed with one teaspoon of psyllium husk gives the added fibre kick to help flush out the colon. For an extra cleansing boost, she mixes a tablespoon of chia seeds in water, and, after about five minutes of gelling, drinks it down.
Always focusing on strengthening her state of health, Foreman continues researching and adding new protocols as she sees fit. A more recent find, mimosa pudica seeds, is yet another way she intends on deep cleaning the lining of her intestines for the next month. This spring she started a parasite cleanse. A live blood analysis revealed some presence of parasites, and, since she is a pet owner, who also enjoys sushi, a parasite cleanse seemed like a practical protocol to implement, she says.
No adrenal health regime would be complete without addressing mental and emotional health, she says.
“Find some quiet time for yourself; get outside for fresh air.” Try to be where there’s nature to calm the sympathetic nervous system, she urges.
A regular practice of restorative style yoga was also a game changer for her, along with immersing herself in nature during morning walks.
“I don’t believe yoga should be calisthenics. A slow-moving yoga that allows the body to relax into positions is the only type of yoga if you’re dealing with adrenal fatigue.”
Download and experience a 10-minute yoga Nidra, or meditation daily as a way of creating space for silence, she recommends. Yoga Nidra is sometimes referred to as yogic sleep as its practice can induce a state of deep relaxation and rejuvenation.
“Now I’m running three businesses and I could easily get to the point where I don’t put myself first, so I always have to keep it in check, and put myself back on the wagon if I feel myself slipping.”