PART B: Self Love. Why it's so important to tune in and listen to your body.
I’ve just returned from a summer vacation, and as usual, when I return from time away, I like to plan my work for the months ahead. I work in school terms so it’s a 12 week on, 1 month off kind of work life for me. So it’s time I set my goals for my the next 3 months… but there was this one thing I kept putting off, that I realised is totally essential in moving forward in setting my upcoming work schedule. Yep, this post 😉
It’s taken me some time to attempt to write this part of my self love post. I had second thoughts about writing it after realising that I’d been unconsciously putting it off, finding other things to do and making excuses to not start it.
But there is no way around it. To plan my work and move forward with Hippie Lane, I need to for one accept my current situation regrading my health, and two, put it forward to you, my supporters, so that you can understand my choices for the next stage of Hippie Lane. And tbh, I think it’s beneficial, from an emotional point of view to put your truth out there. I found an incredible feeling of satisfaction when I wrote and uploaded the first part of this post. It felt amazing to put all my thoughts on paper. I didn’t have expectations about it or how it would be received, I just had a strong urge to express my thoughts and experiences on a topic that I think is everything when it comes to finding contentment and fulfilment in life. The warm and beautiful response that came as a result was the icing on the (gluten free) cake lol. Seriously though, I realised that although I find it hard to sit and write, it’s one of the most freeing feelings ever when you honestly confess all that is in your heart and mind and get it out there without seeking approval. Validation is a beautiful thing, but it is not necessary when you know you are living and speaking your truth. It’s also so rewarding to connect with you all and know that my story can assist you on y0ur own journey.
Facing the facts – Adrenal Fatigue aka Burnout
Prior to starting my business and having my children, I knew that I had health issues (mainly gut and adrenal) but found it hard to face. My Dr at the time was very serious with me about my lifestyle choices and would often use scare tactics to get me to realise that I had to face the fact that I had adrenal issues that needed my full attention. In her opinion, the state of my adrenals, along with my gut imbalance (& food sensitivities), was inhibiting my ability to achieve pregnancy. I was in my mid 20’s when I noticed symptoms. I just wanted to fall pregnant and have children, and her hard line approach drove me right out of her office, never to return again.
With the help of acupuncture and herbal meds, and a change in diet, I fell pregnant with both my children. My gut-healthy diet that was low in refined sugar, and gluten, egg and dairy free was working wonders for me and helped to heal my gut (temporarily). It was around this time when Hippie Lane was born. I got on with life. Happily busy raising my children and growing my business, I soldiered on.
It took me many years to stop and realise that there was more healing to do. With the anxiety of not conceiving now out of the picture, I came to accept the reality that I was running very low on energy. I finally decided to seek help for my adrenal issues and commit to recovery. Beginning in 2015, under the guidance of 3 seperate functional medicine specialists, I went through a long process of tests that determined that I had stage 4 adrenal fatigue, aka, burnout..
Fyi, the adrenal glands are the main stress control system of the body. When there is a decrease in the adrenal glands’ ability to carry out their function, this is when your body enters into a state of adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue was proposed as a new condition in 1998 by Dr. James Wilson. His thoughts were that an overstimulation of the adrenal glands by chronic stress over time could lead to an inconsistent level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the bloodstream, sometimes high and at other times, too low. In addition to this overload or improper cortisol level, people with adrenal fatigue often don’t have enough DHEA, the parent hormone, responsible for the creation of many necessary hormones in the body. Some people are prone to the condition. Think perfectionists, high achievers, athletes, people with anxiety and depression, people with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, busy new mums and women in general.
Currently, there is no official medical diagnosis for Adrenal Fatigue. Fortunately, there is a a new wave of holistic doctors known as functional medicine practitioners who have committed to undertake extra study in alternative medicine to treat this modern day condition that is estimated at effecting at least 70-80% of the world population to various degrees.
There are many different signs and symptoms that you will experience when you have adrenal fatigue, including:
- Body aches
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Low blood pressure
- Brain fog
- Anxiety / Depression
- Loss of body hair
- Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation)
- Sleep disturbances
- Digestion issues
- Poor immunity
- Mood instability
In my experience, I felt irritable and moody (which isn’t how I normally roll), and felt like I was ‘wired’ or restless most of the time, especially at night. Always looking for a high, whether that be working overtime to achieve new goals, high intensity exercise, loud upbeat music, and an addiction to the stimulation that comes from social media. I felt like I was on this never-ending cycle of seeking adrenaline. More sleep and solid rest was what I really needed, but sleep was the last thing on my mind. What’s worse is that I knew that my lifestyle and addiction to constant stimulation wasn’t helping my adrenals. It was, in fact contributing to their decline.
In the care of my functional med Dr who specialises in adrenal fatigue and women’s health, I was reassured that the way I was feeling was common and treatable (phew!) naturally, and that it would take a whole lifestyle reboot. I also learnt that I had some predisposing hereditary factors that needed to be addressed if I was going to get to the bottom of this adrenal muck up.
I don’t want to bore you with medical facts, so I’m going to hop through this part giving you just the very basics so I can get to treatment and diet and why it’s important to listen to your body.
UnderMethylation and Pyroluria
In addition to having adrenal fatigue, blood tests revealed that I am an undermethylator. Perhaps you’ve heard about this, the enzyme known as MTFHR or the Methylation cycle? It’s beginning to generate more inquiry as more and more people (approx. 50-60% of the population) are uncovering that they have impaired methylation.
In a nutshell, Methylation is a biochemical process which is involved in a wide range of bodily functions and is essential to our overall health. It’s involved in the production of neurotransmitters, detoxification of chemicals, nerve health and processing of certain hormones and nutrients.
When the MTHFR genes work properly, you have adequate enzyme activity, and you can more efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more stable brain chemistry, better eliminate toxins and heavy metals, and manage inflammation.
Undermethylation occurs when too few methyl molecules are available to add to enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters. This influences our behaviour, mood, memory, concentration and sleep. Undermethylation is characterised by low levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine with high whole blood histamine. In essence, the “feel good “chemicals are in short supply.
According to my Dr, a high percentage of people with the MTHFR gene also have a condition called Pyroluria (also known as Pyrolle disorder, Mauve factor, Kryptopyrrole, Kryptopyrroluria). Her recommendation was that I do the urine test to reveal whether I do in fact have pyrolles disorder. And yep, tests revealed that I do. In high levels.
Pyroluria produces excess amounts of a substance called Pyrolles which bind to certain nutrients such as Vitamin B6, Biotin Zinc and GLA (an essential fatty acid), causing deficiencies. As well as contributing to various mental health conditions including ADHD, depression, and OCD, it is also strongly linked to the state of the digestive system.
Common symptoms include:
- inability to cope with stress
- emotional mood swings
- gut issues
- sensitivity to light and sound, smell or touch
- inability to efficiently create serotonin
- explosive temper
- poor short term memory
Both these conditions, MTFHR gene and pyrolles are hereditary and it’s likely that if you have them, your family members would have them too. We have all been tested, and we fit the common pattern – my husband, myself an my two children are undermethylators and we all have pyrolles. Fun.
Ok, now what? Well, in order to normalise our methylation and pyrolles, and for me to recover from (15 years) adrenal fatigue, I needed to SERIOUSLY reevaulate our food choices, our lifestyle and commit to taking the appropriate supplements that will help recovery.
So, what is this driven, go-go-go, restless girl gonna do? My first practitioner, who is highly skilled and brimming with knowledge on women’s health, hormones and adrenal fatigue, told me that in order to recover from the many years of self sabotage due to my go hard or go home attitude, I had to: stop all forms of exercise, transition to a whole food diet (not plant based), up the protein and good fats in my diet, eliminate refined sugars, reduce carbs, stay clear of environmental toxins, take 15 vitamins and herbals each morning plus another 8 more at night, reduce work to casual or part time, sleep a minimum of 8-9 hours and go meditate for 20 minutes morning and night…..
I looked at her laughing, thinking she was exaggerating, but to my devastation, she was dead set serious. I learnt a lot from my Dr, who set me up for my recovery, but damn, her lack of empathy got me feeling so low each time I left her office.
After 6 months on the Dr’s protocol, I was at an all time low. Feeling flat from lack of exercise, confused about my diet and overwhelmed with the treatment protocol, I wasn’t sure where to go. I continued on for another 6 months, adamant that I needed to give it a proper go. Besides, she did say it would take a minimum of 2 years for real recovery to set in.
In and amongst all of this, I had reoccurring gut issues (very common for people with these conditions) that needed to be treated intermittently. On top of all the other demands, a zero sugar diet and herbal supplements was prescribed for months at a time. All this, plus running a business, supporting my children with school and health, dealing with instagram and their channging algorithm – keeping up with the new social trends, and the list goes on. I didn’t tell you all of this at the time, I just didn’t think it was necessary, and still was coming to grips with it all myself.
I persevered, ’cause that’s what undermethylators do. Self motivation, strong will and drive are part of our make-up. By the end of the 12th month, I was starting to notice a difference in my symptoms. I was feeling a lot less restless. I started to enjoy down time (woo!), and didn’t feel inclined to always be productive. That was huge for me. I knew that this treatment plan was working. I was also less irritable and found my moods more stable. This was a huge relief.
The downside to the treatment was that I had lost some of my work motivation. Prior to beginning treatment, I was up every morning making new dishes, photographing, uploading to social media – this was just a normal everyday thing. I didn’t find it hard, I totally loved it. But now, I felt like I lost much of my creative drive. This was a huge hurtle for me. To top this, since dropping the ball on high intensity exercise, as per Dr’s orders, I had gained weight and felt a lack of tone which is not how I like to feel. I had worked out most of my life, and feeling strong was important to me. I craved the endorphins and feel good highs that would help me regulate my mood and help with the low levels of serotonin that was a constant for me and a characteristic of undermethylation. Obviously, a lack of daily activity was a big issue for sure during my treatment. I cried and cried over all the shifts that were happening in my life, and coupled with the drastic changes happening on instagram (my work platform), I felt like I was losing control – something that I found hard to handle.
When I mentioned all of this to my dr, she smiled ear to ear, saying this is just part of recovery and that treatment is working. This was the last time I saw her. I am deelpy thankful to her for beginning me on my journey, it’s just that we simply didn’t vibe. Her energy was not elevating me, I felt drained just being in her office and knew that in order to recover, I needed to find someone else to assist from this point.
I ended up finding a new Dr who is literally around the corner from my place, who has taken over my treatment. She is like a friend to me, a true nurturer and beautiful mother-like figure in my life. With her gentle guidance, I have been managing my adrenals, undermethylation and pyroluria, and have continued to strengthen and recover. She has also introduced me to a holistic chiro in my area who has finally been able to help with my pelvic instability (hello adrenals). I am now feeling in total alignment (see what I did there lol) with where I need to be with my health.
There is no one size fits all kind of treatment. My treatment was based on my own unique biology and what I presented with at the the time. If you do believe you have any of the conditions that I present with, I encourage you to seek treatment with a reputable functional medicine Dr so you can work towards recovery.
For safety purposes, I will not be giving you my list of supplements and dosages, as everyone presents differently and it is not place to do so. It is very important that you seek help and find the balance that works for you. This is a complex area of medicine and I do not want to offer you advise on meds ’cause it’s not my area of expertise. I am of course open to any questions you may have, feel free to dm / email me.
Fast forward 2 + 1/2 years, and here I am. I am finally off the rollercoaster of seeking adrenaline and thrills, I feel more in control of my moods, I am less irritable, my sleep has improved, I have more fulfilling relationships, I am off the social media train (god yes), and I have found a work – life balance (a high priority for me). I now exercise regularly (thank you Lord) and have a wine or two on the weekend (no side note necessary 🙂
To add to that, I had the space mentally to learn to meditate regularly, create new goals that did not only include work achievements, and feel less attached to things and achievements. This process wasn’t easy, but so necessary. I dedicated myself to this self-growth, to learn to live in the moment and enjoy what I have right here, right now. Not saying that my life is perfect – it’s not. And each new day brings new challenges, but seriously, we have so much to be grateful for. It’s all about perspective and how you wish to view the world.
You may have noticed that my instagram turned to include more ‘wellness’ over the last year or two, and that I have been less active than I was. This was all part of my slow but steady transition to where I am today (more in PART C of this post). I knew, when I was burning the candle at both ends, that it wasn’t healthy and that I needed to make a change, but I truly couldn’t get off the fast train. I had to treat these conditions that were keeping me locked in a lifestyle that wasn’t heathy in the long term.
The best outcome of my journey is that it forced me to work on myself and to achieve my self-love goals. Through all the personal shifts that were occurring throughout my treatment, particularly in the first 12 – 18 months, I needed to address sooo so much. It is through these hardships that I learnt to let go of the need to control everything. I worked on letting go of my ego (always a work in progress) and choosing to lead from the heart. I committed to free myself of the need to keep up appearances in my life and on social media. I came to accept that nothing lasts forever and that when we attach ourselves to achievements and success, we secretly require validation and approval to keep on going. I learnt that if I let go of external validation and gave myself the approval that I need, that I won’t need to keep up anymore, ya know? That I didn’t need to keep on giving and producing to maintain my ego (aka successes), and that I am actually, more happy without it. That’s the ultimate reward.
I have all that I need. I really do. I am thankful for everything in my life. The food issues that helped me find my passion for recipe development. The health issues mentioned in this post, that led me to really do the hard work on myself and evolve into the new, less busy, more mindful person that I have become. I thank instagram for changing things up! The changes, which were devastating at the time, helped me to find contentment in my life and my work, without the need for constant praise and validation.
Lesson 1: Listen to Your Body
One of the most crucial lessons in all of this, is that you need to listen to your body. In a time where there is endless information on diets, treatments and fads, it is even more important now to tune into your own gut instincts about what is right for you. Your body is always giving you signs, you may not notice them, but they are there. Commit to tuning in! If you’re bloated, tired, down, uneasy – stop and reflect. Assess whether you need to slow down or make a lifestyle change. It may be that your food choices ain’t working for you, or that you have underlying health issues that need to be addressed. It’s irrelevant what your favourite (and often very young) influencer on instagram swears by, what matters is what works for you. Be critical of the information that you come by, and make decisions that are right for you.
My recovery was based on a change in diet, a daily commitment to multiple supplements, reduced physical activity, and lifestyle changes that included more sleep, meditation, finding a work / life balance, and including much more self care in my life. I’m talking occasional acupuncture sessions, massage, chiro, ocean swims, nature walks, salt baths and lots of time with people I love. I also committed to a 50% reduction in the amount of time I spent on social media, and spent more time reading, and diving deeper into spiritually and wellness.
Lesson 2: Have an Open Mind on Diet
Diet is a crucial factor in our overall health and this is where we need to have an open mind about our dietary choices. Health and wellness was the driving factor in launching Hippie Lane, and it is with that same spirit that I will continue on.
As many of you are already aware, I never fixed myself into a particularly food philosophy. With Hippie Lane, I offered plant based recipes as a way of helping people eat more plants and reduce their intake of animal products. I did not run with a vegan philosophy and refrained from giving advice to my audience about what they should or should not eat. It was never my place to do so. What I did do was offer whole recipes that were healthy, gluten, dairy and refined sugar free, and were free of animal products.
The truth is, when I was on a (not strictly but mostly) plantbased diet, I ran myself low. I was at my worst in my health when I was strictly off meat. Sorry to disappoint. It was hard for me to accept this too, but it’s true. All three doctors that I saw at the time agreed on the point that patients who have a combination of adrenal fatigue and methylation issues (undermethylation precisely) do not recover well on a fully vegan / plantbased diet. These doctors were not against plantbased diets and when asked, all agreed that plantbased can work well for many people. But it simply wasn’t right for me. There is no one-size fits all method. Some people can make it work plantbased, but based on my health record and decline, it was not working for ME. Their opinion was that a vegan (which is usually a high copper, high folate, high histamine) diet was causing more damage than good.
Ideally an undermethylator like myself, who is sensitive to dairy, egg and gluten AND needs to be mindful of folate, copper and histamine consumption AND who is recovering from adrenal fatigue (damnnnn!) needs a more varied diet than that of a plantbased diet.
To prove her point, my doctor together with myself wrote a list of foods that I could vs could not eat on a plant based recovery diet which incorporated low histamine, low folate and low copper foods, that were also gluten free and low in starch (essential for gut recovery). The options of inclusions for healthy recovery were extremely limited on a plant based diet. When we added good sources of animal meats and fats to the list, the list grew and it seemed more realistic. She said that I didn’t need to lock into the belief right away. She just encouraged me to try, so I could feel the difference.
Obviously, I did my own research. I read loads of material on adrenal recovery diets, undermethylation and mental health diet (Pyroluria) and it seems the opinion of the doctors I was seeing and many other experts in the field were somewhat the same. I have a few extra reading recommendations at the end of this post, if’ you’d like to explore further.
I never take anyone’s word for it, so it was my up to me see whether this theory was in fact true for me (just like I am urging you to do).
My personal experience is that a plantbased diet contributed to the decline in my health during the peak stage of my adrenal fatigue, along with the other conditions that I was managing. This was obvious, especially when compared to how I began to thrive with energy levels and mood stability when I reduced starch and incorporated meat and fish into my diet. The fog began to fade. I had gotten used to what people call ‘brain fog’ but gosh, did I start to see clearly once it had left me. I started to freely include moderate amounts of ethically sourced organic animal protein, and fats into my diet. This includes wild caught fish, red meat, ghee and chicken occasionally. I am intolerant to egg, so it’s off limits for now. but I do include it once or twice a week for my children.
I am not ignorant to the many environmental and ethical concerns re animal consumption. I believe many people go wrong with the excessive amount of meat they eat, with very little regard or appreciation for where it comes from. If you can go total plantbased, and if it works positively for you, then go ahead. It’s a fantastic lifestyle that can work toward reducing our carbon footprint.
If it’s not working for you, and / or you have health issues like myself that needs management, don’t be afraid to seek other options. Give yourself permission to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Your health is no-one’s business but your own, and you have no business caring about what people think. Be confident in your decisions, and focus on your wellbeing and recovery. As a mother to two growing children, my number 1 priority is staying healthy so that I can parent them to the best of my ability. I have no interest in being a run down wreck, and watching my children grow from the sidelines. To add to that, I am not here for a popularity contest. It’s not really on my care list whether people around the world, on social media, are going to approve my decisions. You get where I’m going…. You get one life, one chance. Follow your heart and gut, and do what’s right for you.
And when you have achieved recovery, and want to have a crack at plantbased again, then go ahead. I’ll probably join you once I’ve reached stable and good health. But for now, I’ll stick with what’s working – a majority plantbased diet, with the addition of ethically sourced organic meat and animal products in moderation and with consideration.
What’s next for Hippie Lane? I still intend to offer majority plantbased recipes. They will be wholefood based, and they will include the addition of animal products occasionally.
My next project is very close to my heart, and involves younger children! I look forward to sharing wth you when it gets underway.
Thank you for being here and for having an open mind.
Here is some links for further reading on: