How I Healed My Adrenal Insufficiency

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How I Healed My Adrenal Insufficiency

Happy New Year! I wish you all an INCREDIBLE 2017 full of health and happiness! Are you someone who sets goals or resolutions? I personally love setting goals, and my biggest goal for 2016 was something that most of you probably didn’t even realize that I was dealing with. My goal was to heal my body from Adrenal Insufficiency.

I had no idea how I would actually heal my adrenals, especially given the fact that in the beginning of 2016 I was going on five years since my diagnosis of Adrenal Insufficiency, but I knew that I would, because I would do whatever it would take.

 

In order to explain how I developed Adrenal Insufficiency, let’s rewind time a bit.

 

When I was 12 years old, I was told that I had Crohn’s disease, and that my diagnosis came without a cure. It was something that I couldn’t comprehend at the time, nor did I have any idea of the intense struggles that I would face because of this disease. I was given multiple medications that would forever change the course of my life, with one of them being Prednisone. Let’s just say I had a love-hate relationship with this particular medication.

On one hand, Prednisone saved my life multiple times. On the other hand, it flipped my world upside down by causing life altering side effects. The first few days on Prednisone were the absolute greatest. I would always go from barely being able to get out of bed because my Crohn’s symptoms were so severe, and not being able to hold any food down, to feeling like I could run a marathon and eat everything in the entire fridge, all while getting hardly any sleep.

On high doses, Prednisone made me hungrier than I ever thought could be possible. My mom used to joke that feeding me was a full time job, and I would dream of lunch while I ate breakfast. At 12 years old, I would go to the kitchen at midnight to make myself pasta, because hunger consumed my mind.

After several days of taking high doses, the dreadful side effects would start to take over. I had uncontrollable mood swings, became deeply depressed, and the ever so lovely “moon face” appeared. These were just a few of the dozens of side effects that I experienced.

Fast forward to the day of my very last surgery, February 4th, 2011. This was the day that I had my entire large intestine (colon) removed, and the day that my life changed more than I can even put into words. During surgery I was placed on 100mg of Prednisone, which was the highest dose allowed (for me at the time). After surgery, I was tapered off of the medication, as it isn’t meant to be taken long term.

One month after my surgery, I started to feel like I was getting worse again. I could barely hold down more than a sip of a smoothie each day, I had absolutely no energy, and I was feeling extremely depressed. It took me another full month to say anything to my doctor, as I had hoped the symptoms would simply pass.

On April 1st, 2011, I nearly collapsed after walking up the stairs in my house. It was in this moment that I new something was horribly wrong, and so I finally called my doctor. My doctor scheduled me to come in the next morning. After running some tests and not finding the issue, it was with luck…or a divine intervention, as I believe, that a resident doctor happened to take a look at my file. She noticed the pattern of Prednisone use and immediately suspected that I had Adrenal Insufficiency. She was right.

 

Up until that day, I had barely even heard of the adrenal glands, or what they were responsible for. Now, it would feel as if they controlled my entire life.

 

I spent the next five days in the hospital and was told that Prednisone had caused my adrenals to stop producing cortisol. I was immediately placed on 40mg of Prednisone, and was told that I would taper off and would most likely be fine in a couple of months. That was the only advice I was given. Not once was diet, stress or lifestyle addressed – all things that I’ve discovered to have a massive impact on my adrenals.

Fast forward five years later, and I was still taking Prednisone to make up for the lack of cortisol that my body was not able to produce. It felt as if Prednisone controlled my life and held me back from my true potential. Each time I attempted to lower my dose, I became extremely ill. It seemed to be an endless cycle of attempting to taper off of the medication. I was now onto my 3rd Endocrinologist, who I still have never met in person.

 

My doctor told me that he didn’t think that I could get off of Prednisone and that I would most likely live my entire life with Adrenal Insufficiency. This is the exact moment that changed my life forever. The moment that I decided that I would do whatever it took to heal my adrenals.

 

Over the course of 8 weeks I had completely tapered off of Prednisone, without any outside assistance.

 

During the time that I was tapering off of the Prednisone, I wrote out exactly what I knew I needed to do. I focused on rest, especially whenever my body was “telling me” that it needed it. I learned to manage stress better than I ever had before. I learned to be smart with my workouts, and never run myself down. I deeply listened to my body and did my best to provide what it needed. I was in it to win it, without letting any excuses get in the way. I maintained a positive mindset, knowing that I could and would heal my adrenals. In fact, I fully believed that they were already healed.

On Saturday, August 13, 2016, I took my final dose of Prednisone. This was the final medication that I released from my life. I cannot tell you the feelings of joy I have that this no longer holds me back. My adrenals are BY FAR the healthiest and happiest that they’ve ever been, and I am beyond grateful.

Healing my adrenals taught me to take care of myself like I never had before, and I believe that this will prevent me from becoming sick again in the future. While having Adrenal Insufficiency was one of the most challenging times that I have experienced, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

Healing my Adrenal Insufficiency completely also healed my relationship with Prednisone. I have nothing but love for the lessons that this medication has taught me. It has humbled me and shown me another side of life, which I may not have seen otherwise.

 

While I was in the hospital, just after being diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency, I entered the deepest and darkest depression, and I wasn’t sure how I would move forward, but I did. I made one small step at a time, and then bigger and bigger steps, which have led me to where I am today. For so long it was so incredibly painful to look back on that time, but now I look back and smile and even laugh.

Throughout my life, I have been told over and over what others think that I can and cannot do. I have had all of the odds stacked against me, and yet, I have proven otherwise to each and every one of them.

Getting my health back was the hardest yet most rewarding thing that I have ever done. It didn’t come in the form of a pill or magic quick fix. It came with thinking outside of the box, not listening to others limiting beliefs, and learning to trust my own body again.

We all face challenges and struggles, in one-way or another. Your struggles do not need to define you, and someone else’s limiting beliefs do not need to become your own. While we don’t always have a choice in what happens to us, we do have a choice in how we respond.

 

Whatever challenges you face this year, know that no matter what, you’ve got this! It may not be easy, but I believe that it will be worth it.

 

With love,

Kristen

 

NOTE : I had switched to Hydrocortisone (a slightly more natural form of Prednisone) in November 2011, although I only used Prednisone throughout this post, to keep things simple.

22 Responses

  1. Julie Ragains
    | Reply

    This is amazing, Kristen! I cannot imagine how you must feel. I too have adrenal insufficiency caused my a tumor destroying my pituitary gland. After my surgery to have the tumor removed in February 2015, I was started on a very high dose of hydrocortisone. The side effects followed – moon face is the worst! I have since tapered off greatly and am down to taking 15mg per day, which is much lower than what my endocrinologist ever thought I could do. Most of the side effects are gone, and yes, my face looks normal again. I greatly attribute this to diet and nutrition, but know that I can still make improvements. I am completing the January Whole30 in an effort to do just that. I have also been told that I will be on this medication for the rest of my life, and that may be true since my situation is a bit of a different. However through doing exactly what you have described in this post, I am hoping to get my dosage as low as possible. Congratulations on such an amazing achievement. You are so strong and such an inspiration! This post has helped renew my spirit and provided me with even more motivation. Thank you so much!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Your comment gave me chills, Julie. 15mg is awesome! The lowest I was able to get to before my final taper was 20mg, and I definitely understand how big of a difference 5mg is. Wishing you the absolute best, I just love your attitude about everything! <3

  2. Jen
    | Reply

    Sis, tears of joy! I love you so much, and am so inspired by your journey and outlook on life! You are incredible!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Love you sooo much sis!! Thank you!!

  3. Deanna
    | Reply

    I remember talking with you about this way back!!! I knew you told me you were okay with it, but that you believed one day you’d get off it! And knowing you, I knew you would too!!!!! So happy for you!!!!!!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      I remember that too!! Thank you for your constant support, Deanna! xoxo

  4. Lemons 'n Lyme
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Kristen, but I felt like you really didn’t describe in depth how you ACTUALLY healed your adrenals, just sort of discussed your story overall. I’d love a post on all the specifics you did to heal your adrenals, as I’m dealing with the same problem due to Lyme disease. Thanks!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Hi! This paragraph that I wrote best sums up exactly what I did –

      “During the time that I was tapering off of the Prednisone, I wrote out exactly what I knew I needed to do. I focused on rest, especially whenever my body was “telling me” that it needed it. I learned to manage stress better than I ever had before. I learned to be smart with my workouts, and never run myself down. I deeply listened to my body and did my best to provide what it needed. I was in it to win it, without letting any excuses get in the way. I maintained a positive mindset, knowing that I could and would heal my adrenals. In fact, I fully believed that they were already healed.”

      We’re all different, but what finally worked for me was completely changing my mindset and my beliefs. It was a very intuitive process where I learned to listen to my body like never before. Prednisone/Hydrocortisone was a huge mind game for me, as I was so used to it making me either feel normal, or feel terrible. Once I let go of the idea that it had any control over me, and truly believed with everything that I had that my adrenals were healed – that is when they healed for good. In the years prior, I tried strict rules for adrenal healing, and everything supplement that I thought may work, but in the end, all of that only left me more stressed – which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. I wasn’t super strict with anything (bedtime, workouts, etc), instead, I was kinder and more forgiving to myself than I ever was before. Again, I’m not saying that my way is the right way to healing, I’m only sharing my experience.

      The only supplement I did take while I tapered off Hydrocortisone was Ashwaganda, as I did feel that it helped at the time. I hope this helps to explain things better, and I’m sure I will write another post to continue the adrenal conversation. Wishing you the very best! <3

  5. Cindy
    | Reply

    Hi Kristen,
    I was wondering, if your taking anything for strengthening your bones, after all that medicine you were taking, or just diet and exercise? Crohn’s for 39 years,now diagnosed with Osteoporosis.
    Thanks,
    Cindy
    Okberryman

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Hi Cindy! I don’t take anything to strengthen my bones, although I do have my labs checked every so often (maybe once a year or so) by a functional medicine practitioner. My body has thankfully fully recovered from the harsh medications that I was on, and I have no doubt that diet, exercise and lifestyle have been my lifesavers. I would highly recommend seeking out a functional practitioner in your area, if you’re able to! You can find info on how to find a practitioner in your area in this post – http://livinglovingpaleo.com/2016/02/08/healing-101/

      Wishing you the very best! <3

  6. Jaymie
    | Reply

    Even though I don’t share your health issues (I have Lyme) it’s your story I first found 2 years ago that had me switch from a vegetarian diet to a Paleo diet. My life has gotten so mug better. You and your husband are truly inspiring on so many levels. Thank you for sharing!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment, Jaymie! I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing so much better!

  7. Beth
    | Reply

    I am so happy to hear how you did this on your own. I’ve been trying to do similar wth my body in relation to my chronic migraines and IBS for years. Just curious, how did you find out you had adrenal insufficiency? I’ve thought I had this for years but can’t really get anyone to help

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Hi Beth! Adrenal Insufficiency happens to be one for the few adrenal conditions that conventional medicine will recognize, so they were able to test me for it. Basically, they do an 8am blood draw, when your cortisol should be at it’s highest. My cortisol was at zero, which is how I was diagnosed. I know many people with adrenal fatigue, which is when you may be producing small amounts of cortisol, but not enough to fully function. Unfortunately adrenal fatigue isn’t typically recognized by conventional medicine, so if you think that may be the case for you, I would highly recommend finding a functional practitioner in your area. They would be able to test your cortisol output over a 24 hour period. This post I wrote includes a website for finding a practitioner locally – http://livinglovingpaleo.com/2016/02/08/healing-101/

      I hope that helps and that you feel better soon! <3

  8. Jenna Ford
    | Reply

    I am so happy I stumbled on this blog. I have had Chrons Disease since I was 13. And girl,can I relate! im
    Excited to look into some of your recipes and lifestyle choices. If you don’t mind me asking, you don’t even have to take autoimmune suppressors any longer? I’m always trying to talk my dr into letting me stop. And it is so unfortunate that they don’t have a nutriaionalist sitting in with the gastro drs. I feel like I’ve learned more about the disease than some of the drs I’ve had. Look forward to hopefully trying to go Grain free and see if it helps! Thanks for the share sister chronie xoxo

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Hi Jenna! Thanks so much for your comment! I no longer take any medications at all, so no immunosuppressants either. Some people do continue to take medications, along with making diet changes – we’re all so unique and have different needs. For me, it also came down to the fact that my body and my immune system could no longer tolerate the medications. I totally hear you with feeling like you know more about the disease yourself, not that I think most doctors mean any harm at all. 😉 Wishing you the very best and a very healthy year ahead! <3

  9. Danielle
    | Reply

    I developed exogenous Cushing’s from Prednisone. I was told to go on the Ketogenic diet. Thoughts?

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Hi Danielle! I truly believe that everyone is different, so I really don’t know if keto would work for you or not. For me personally, I found that I didn’t feel very well unless included a good amount of healthy carbs (also including white rice) in my diet. I experimented quite a bit to find what works for me, and although it can take some time, it’s definitely worth finding what makes you feel your best. Hope that helps and wishing you the very best with healing! <3

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