A Path to Poor Gut Health

I’m always asked how I came to have poor gut health, something I’ve been reflecting on for years. In hindsight, the more I’ve learned about what causes poor gut health, the more I understand how it happened to me. It’s like it was the perfect storm of, “I didn’t know, what I didn’t know.” 

So I thought I’d share a chronological timeline of what I believe have been influencing factors. I share this because my story is not unusual. Yes, it is unique to me, as all of our stories are to each of us, but what I experienced are common things that so many, perhaps even you, have as well.

Let’s dive in.

1985:

I was 11 years old, and I believe I was in the 5th grade. In my school photo, I proudly wore my JPO (Junior Police Officer) badge, and my forehead was covered in newly appeared zits - the beginning of a 30 year battle with acne.

1988:

I’m now 14 yrs old and in the 8th grade. My zits have turned to full blown acne, so my mom takes me to see a dermatologist where he treats both of us for it. I distinctly remember him saying, “Food has nothing to do with zits.” then prescribe erythromycin, Retin-A, and tetracycline. While these prescriptions somewhat tame the acne, I also use Neutrogena, Oxy-5 and any other product I can get my hands on that will tame the excessive oil and redness. 

#thethingsIwishIknew: We now know that short-term use of antibiotics can cause long-term gut dysbiosis, and I continued to take antibiotics for acne for the next 30 (THIRTY!) years. 

2001:

I’m now in my 20’s and notice that the end third of both eyebrows have disappeared. I blame it on the lady at the Nordstrom makeup counter who insisted on “cleaning up my brows" for me. She may have over plucked them, but they never fully grow back. 

#thethingsIwishIknew: Thinning eyebrows, in particular on the outer ⅓ is a sign of hypothyroidism; a symptom of poor gut health.

2004:

In early 2004 I decided I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and finally chose to do something about it. I joined a brand new Golds Gym in my neighborhood, began working with a personal trainer. I dropped 40+ lbs and four dress sizes; it was the best I ever felt in my life! 

But it was also unknowingly the start of orthorexia. I’ll never forget my trainer sitting me down and telling me, “Being healthy is simply about burning more calories than you eat.” I began using CalorieKing, then MyFitnessPal to obsessively track every single calorie I ate, in spite of already being at my goal weight, and working out daily, sometimes two to three times a day!

#thethingsIwishIknew: I was so afraid of overeating, when in fact, I was likely not eating enough given my activity level. Undereating kept my body in a chronic state of stress and deprivation. Without sufficient nutrients, my stressed body hung on to whatever little nutrients it did have doing the reverse of what I wanted.

It’s so easy to adopt this mentality, and I think those who have a story of overcoming obesity can relate to the fear that is always present of gaining the weight back. 

2005:

Back to acne again. After being on antibiotics for cystic acne for 30 (THIRTY!) years, they stopped working. Nothing I tried could control it. So my doctor replaced the antibiotics with birth control pills. 

#thingsIwishIknew: It’s now known that birth control pills can be just as damaging to your gut health as antibiotics!

2007:

I've never been a great sleeper, but 2007 is the earliest that I can remember that sleep became a big issue for me because that's when I started taking Ambien. 

I was traveling to Asia for work and my manager told me to get sleeping pills from a doctor for the trip. My physician wrote me a prescription for Ambien, no questions asked. The first time I took it, I remember having the best sleep that I’d had in a long time so of course, I wanted more.

I continued taking it after that trip, to the point where it no longer worked for me. So my physician prescribed Lunesta instead, with just a warning that it might leave a metallic after taste (it did).

2008:

Silicon Valley is an exciting place to work with unparalleled opportunities, but it comes with a price. For me, it was the fear of layoffs. If your company doesn't meet Wall Street expectations, there's always the risk of layoffs - every. single. quarter. 

I’d only been with my company (which no longer exists) for less than a year, but I could see the writing on the wall. So I used my network and landed a new job with a large corporation. It was a GREAT opportunity, but it had strings attached - micro-management.

I had NEVER experienced micromanagement to this extreme. I broke out in a sweat and my gut CHURNED every morning as I drove to the office. It was a culture shock - I’d never experienced anything so toxic in my entire career.

I turned to exercise to cope with the mounting stress, working out daily, sometimes two to three times a day. Within a few months I finished my first half-marathon, and I discovered my love for long-distance running.

2009:

Not only was I still having poor sleep, but by now I was having massive anxiety and some depression. I didn't feel like myself, so I began seeing a therapist (who I still check-in with today) for help.

I also finally start to get a clue that something wasn’t right with my body. I was still at my ideal size, but after five years maintaining a consistent weight, my body begins making subtle shifts. Knowing that thyroid disorders run in my family, I asked my physician (the same one who prescribes any pharmaceutical I asked for without much question) to test my thyroid. She ran a TSH test and reported back that everything was normal. “Well, that’s that,” I thought...

#thethingsIthoughtIknew: A single TSH test is not a full indicator of thyroid health, and “normal ranges” are relative.

2010:

My love for long-distance running grows and I ran my first marathon. And second marathon. Despite all this training, I was still counting calories, yet my weight was increasing. And I was always sore (kinda normal), in pain (so not normal) and injured (ugh). I lived on ibuprofen and Aleve to mask the pain.

#thethingsIthoughtWishIKnew: Pain relievers are simply that. They mask acute pain but don’t address the root cause of the problem. I took these pills like candy. Now I realize that they are huge factor in causing Leaky Gut Syndrome

2011:

By early 2011 I finished my third marathon but was having serious GI problems. But like anyone who does long distance running, I simply chalked it up to "runners trots" and accepted the idea this was common.

After my first DNF (Did Not Finish) where my gut exploded so bad, I had to drop out of a race; I went to see my same physician who told me that I had IBS and said that “some people just have it.”

#thethingsIwishIknew: Common is not normal and IBS is an “umbrella” diagnosis - there is a deeper underlying root cause.

2012:

Still counting calories, trying to lose weight I had no business in trying to lose and trying every theory possible to weigh less so I could run faster, and now needing to tame IBS, I decided to stop eating gluten. My cousin stopped eating it due to having an autoimmune disease so I was sort of familiar on how gluten is inflammatory. 

But here’s where I went wrong going gluten-free: I thought that everything that was labeled gluten-free meant “healthy.” So after years of watching what I ate, I suddenly gave myself the green light to eat all the cookies and crackers and candy and pastries because they were gluten-free and gluten-free means healthy!

#thethingsIwishIknew: Processed gluten-free products are typically loaded with added sugar, which is also inflammatory and has zero nutrients. And hello, blood sugar problems!

2013:

The year I finally got a clue.  

I’ve always known I had an issue with lactose. In elementary school when all the other kids had to have milk with their school lunch, I had a doctor's note allowing me to have juice instead.

Avoiding milk was never a problem for me, but cheese and ice cream was a whole ‘nother story. I finally had a wake-up call that dairy was no good for my belly (or IBS) during a disastrous shopping experience in the Container Store in downtown San Francisco. Let’s just say thank goodness for the unlocked, clean restroom on the second floor. That experience was enough for me to say adios to dairy forever (and I haven’t had it since).

This was the year that I also ran my 5th and last marathon to date. It was the toughest training cycle I’ve ever had. Despite all my hard work and commitment to my training plan, I regressed. I wasn’t able to finish very many long runs because I’d feel intense, unbearable pain in my legs. I sat on many benches in Golden Gate Park in tears from pain and defeat. I finished that race, much slower than expected. 

Three months after crossing the Finish Line, my body still hadn’t adequately recovered from it. That combined with debilitating insomnia, night sweats, waking up starving in the middle of the night and everything else previously described finally clued me in that, “Hey, something isn’t right here.”

I sought out help from a functional medicine doctor (I also finally got a clue that my regular physician hadn’t done me any favors). There I learned that I had adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia and heavy metals in my body.

This began my journey of figuring out how I got this way.

2015:

While I cleaned up my diet and cut back on exercise I still wasn’t feeling fabulous as others claimed to when they did that. “What was wrong with me?” I wondered. “I know, I’m still eating sugar.” So I signed up for a program to help me quit eating it. The program suggested having blood work done so that I could have a "Before and After" comparison of how I improved. 

My regular physician ordered the tests without any questions (I swear I can get anything I want out of this doctor). The surprising results showed my liver panel was high. Wondering if it was a fluke, my doctor had redo the tests three weeks later. The second test results came back even higher than the first. She referred me to a gastroentologist who ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound results showed abnormal tumors on my liver, so then I had an MRI.

It’s never a good thing when a doctor calls you into the office to review test results. My doctor sat me down and told me I was showing signs of “Non-Alcoholics Fatty Liver Disease.”

Me: But I’ve never drunk alcohol in my life.

Dr: That’s why it’s called “non-alcoholics.” 

Me: What do I do?

Dr: You need to start eating healthy and exercising

Me: #explosion

This doctor had not heard a word I shared about my health history. After I had unloaded on him, he began stuttering (yes) saying, “Well, I don’t know anything about food, so I’ll have to refer you out to the Nutrition department.”

Me: You are a GI specialist, and you know nothing about food?!

The Nutrition Department: “Your insurance isn't going to cover your visits with us." 

So: My doctor, says I have pre Non-Alcoholics Fatty Liver Disease. He is a specialist in gastrointestinal health yet knows nothing about food and refers me to the Nutritionist but my insurance doesn’t cover the treatment.

This was when I decided to take matters into my own hands. I needed to become proactive, not reactive. I enrolled in nutrition school, and the rest of that is history.

But what happened with my health?

I quit sugar. But I was still having massive gas and bloating, and my weight was still climbing. I had been reading about and suspected that I had SIBO. I went back to my GI doctor and had to talk him into ordering a lactulose test for me. It came back positive. By now I understood the importance of good gut health and I knew that antibiotics were the prescribed treatment for SIBO. But I also knew that antibiotics makes gut health worse. So I researched what functional medicine doctors recommend as the least damaging treatment for SIBO. Unfortunately, my GI doctor didn’t agree and had me go through two rounds of other antibiotic treatments which made my SIBO worse (proven by a lactulose breath test done after every round).  

2016:

After two failed rounds, my GI doctor finally relented to what I’d asked for to begin with, and surprise, surprise, my final breath test came back negative.

However, after a year of following the low fodmap diet to ease SIBO symptoms, I was still feeling crummy and frustrated. You see, it's a restrictive diet that caused me to remain nutrient-deficient.

I happen to come across a social media post by a functional medicine doctor in San Francisco who worked for a major health care who accepted my insurance. I clicked on his profile and discovered the Institute of Health and Healing - a place where I could be treated by functional medicine doctors who took a whole-istic approach to medicine and have it covered by insurance! 

The doctors at IHH performed extensive blood and stool testing that helped me learn:

  • I had severe gut dysbiosis.
  • I was also deficient in vitamin D
  • I did not have candida.
  • I indeed had hypothyroidism (finally, a diagnosis 15 years later!).
  • 30+ specific foods I was intolerant of (sesame and black pepper?!)
  • Specific grasses, animals and allergens I was allergic to.
  • My SIBO was likely never entirely eradicated.
  • I needed to go beyond diet, exercise, and supplements and change my mindset when it came to adrenal fatigue.

Beyond the lab tests, I had doctors who LISTENED to me and looked at me and my health history as a real human being and not a diagnosis (something I strive to practice with my own clients). 

My knowledge and expertise as a health coach has been vital in working with my doctor in partnership to create and execute a plan to repair and heal my body.

2017:

Today that plan is in progress. 

According to my last cortisol tests, I am no longer in a state of adrenal burnout. Yay!

My blood sugar is stable, and so is my sleep. 

My bowel movements are now Type 3 and 4 (normal).

We continue to work on my thyroid. Combined with SIBO, it’s been complicated. 

After four SIBO tests and a year on the low fodmap diet, I told my functional medicine doctor I wasn’t going to do either one anymore, nor would I take any more antibiotics. He agreed.

So we added a functional medicine nutritionist to my health care team, and together we created a four-phase plan:

Phase 1 entailed eliminating sugar and taking supplements. I already rarely ate sugar, but decided to do a 21-day sugar detox anyway. 

The result: No change.

So we moved on to Phase 2 which involved Phase 1 + completely avoiding grains. I had been intolerant of grains but had been trying to reintroduce quinoa and rice, with not much success. So Phase 2 also was not very different than how I already ate.

The result: Still no change.

Now we are in Phase 3, a detoxification. Having run my own whole foods detox programs in the past, again, there really isn’t anything different for me here. I already eat the foods allowed on a detox and avoid the foods not allowed (sugar, gluten, dairy, corn, soy, nightshades), and practice detoxification activities like Epsom salt baths, dry skin brushing, contrast showering, saunas, castor oil packs and oil pulling. But what is new for me in this phase are the supplements.

I’m won't go into detail what the specific supplements are because when it comes to supplements, the prescribed protocol has to be tailored to the individual. What’s worked for me may not work for you and what’s worked for you, may not work for me. The combinations and dosages are very different person-to-person.

What I’ve found in my work as a health coach is that many people rely heavily supplements without addressing the core basics (nutrition/hydration, exercise/movement, sleep/resilience, stress/mindset and relationships/communication). 

Being already dialed in on food, exercise and sleep, I'm spending a lot of time managing my stress and reframing my mindset.

I’ll report back on how Phase 3 goes. If it doesn’t, then we move on to Phase 4. Once thing I do know is that this is figure-outable and we will get there.

I hope my transparency helps you to see that:

  1. Health goes beyond the food on your plate and the hours you exercise. It goes beyond calories and BMI. 
  2. You are not what you eat; but you are what your body can do with what you eat. You can eat the cleanest diet in the world and have the perfect workout regimen, but if you have poor gut health and your body isn’t able to absorb nutrients, you can be malnourished.
  3. Poor gut health doesn’t always manifest itself as IBS or a GI issue. Skin problems like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, etc. are all signs of poor gut health. So are anxiety and depression. Hippocrates said it best, “All disease begins in the gut.”

If you’ve made it to the end of this excessively long post, you’ll see that everything I experienced is not uncommon. There was no rare disease or “you’re too young for that.” What I experienced are things that many experience. But just because many people experience these things, common doesn’t mean normal, and you don’t have to accept them as such. 

Much of my symptoms were underlying issues that point back to inflammation and stress. This is why I spend a lot of time talking about clean eating, detoxification and stress management. These may sound like tired topics, but it's not; not when our society is having a health and healthcare crisis. 

The biggest thing I'd like you to take away from this post is to understand that what you may experience now is not necessarily a result of a single incident or something that recently happened. It could be, but it could also be a snowball of events that's happened over your lifetime. That’s why in my 1x1 mentorship program we spend two hours in the initial session doing a deep dive into your health history.

If you’re ready to dive in and take a proactive approach to your health...


Hi, I'm Naomi

I’m a Certified Holistic Health Coach. I help smart and savvy women who suffer from chronic stress, unexplained weight gain and burnout, breakthrough their healthy blind spots and relieve symptoms through natural healing with whole foods and by making lifestyle and environmental changes. Why feel tired when you can feel fired up and ready to go every single day?

I love running outdoors, connecting with like-minded people, and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area with my pup, Coco Pop.

Connect with me:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Align Your Work With Your Core Values

I’m about 20 conversations into my 100 Conversations Project, and the common theme that has come up in every single conversation that I’ve had is that work is the biggest source of stress for people. It got me thinking, “Why is this?"

When I dug deeper, what’s glaringly obvious is that when work is the primary source of stress, it’s usually because it’s misaligned with our purpose; i.e., our core values.

What Happens When We’re Misaligned

Back in 2003, I was working for a mid-sized tech company as a Training Coordinator. My job was exactly as it sounds - to coordinate technical training classes for product users.

Back then training was done in-person, which isn’t very scalable. So my team ventured into the burgeoning world of online learning. While it was exciting, I was worried about my job security - What would this mean for me? What kind of meaningful contribution could I make now?

As my manager rattled off all the new opportunities I’d have to expand my skills, all I could think of was, “Meh.” Though I was passionate about learning, education and training (and still am!), the nature of the work itself didn’t make me feel like I was making a difference. I wasn’t making the world or the lives of the people I worked with better.

(And it wasn’t until that very moment did I realize that improving the quality of life of other people was important to me.)

For a long time, I did nothing about it. I lived in misalignment and had some really unhappy years. So it comes as no surprise that during this period my job really was the single source of stress in my life.

I was grumpy and short-tempered all the time which affected my relationships with the important people in my life. I ate and ran to cope with my emotions.

All that contention, emotional eating and overtraining led to sleepless nights and burnout, poor gut health (IBS, SIBO and Leaky Gut Syndrome) and hormonal imbalances (adrenal fatigue, and hypothyroidism).

Eventually, I reached my breaking point where I finally decided that I was tired of being unhappy. I was sick of feeling tired all the time. And I was tired of feeling so...unwell.

I realized that I had the power to do something about it. I spend years waiting for someone to “fix” my life, but really, I had to do it for myself, no one else could it for me.

So I took a leap of faith, actually many leaps of faith. It was scary, and I had a ton of self-doubt. I had to face my personal insecurities and inner demons, but the light I found at the end of the tunnel was well worth it.

Now I can honestly say that my work is in alignment with my core values, and because of this, I love my work!

How to Align Your Work and Values

You may be thinking, “Well Naomi, that’s nice for you, but how do I do that?” I’ve narrowed the process I took down to four steps.

1 | Awareness

The first step for making any change is awareness. Being aware of your problem and having an awareness of the cause of your problem.

I honestly feel that awareness is the key to health and happiness. Having self-awareness is being honest with yourself and recognizing what’s holding you back. 

When I realized that my core values are freedom, honesty and making people’s lives better, I became fully aware that the work that I was doing in complete misalignment - it’s no wonder that work was so stressful!

2 | Reflection

Once you have awareness, ask yourself the following:

  • How did your situation come to be?
  • What are your core values?
  • Do they align with the work that you do?
  • If they don’t, how can you bring them into alignment?

The best tip I give you for reflection is to look inward. Quiet the noise with regular meditation and make journaling your new best friend.

Write down what your core values are, then do a brain dump of everything that stresses you out and why. See where the gaps are - practicing early morning pages can help with this.

Once you see where the gaps are, brainstorm on how you can bridge the gaps. What things can you do to align your work with your values?

3 | Create An Action Plan

Once you determine how you can bridge the gap, create a plan to make it happen. You have more control over this than you think!

It may mean having tough conversations and making job or lifestyle changes, but it also can just be shifting your mindset, or finding other ways to practice your core values.

4 | Implement Your Plan

Now that you’ve mapped out your plan, take action and make it happen!

What Happens When You Take Action

Earlier, I mentioned how alignment has led to fulfillment in my work.

In my work as a program manager at my corporate job, I’m able to tap into my zone of genius of taking big, audacious initiatives and breaking them down into small achievable tasks for my project teams. Yes, I’m a big organizing and planning nerd, and I’ve come realized that not everyone has this talent.

So my abilities to create a project plan that breaks down a big, hairy, audacious goal into small tasks, allows my team freedom to do the work they enjoy doing. It clears the barriers. And when roadblocks do arise (as they always do), I’m able to ask questions that offer perspective and encourages freedom. At the end of the day, clearing barriers and removing roadblocks makes a difference in the lives of the people on my team. It lessens their stress so they can find fulfillment in the work that they do in their own zone of genius.

What I’ve come to realize that my ability to do this, is a form of coaching that completely aligns with my values. And I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more fulfillment in a corporate job than I do now.

The fulfillment I get from being a Program Manager goes hand-in-hand with my work as a health coach. I’ve been passionate about health, fitness, and wellness for almost 14 years and have always wanted to work in this field. I finally did something about it, went to IIN, then Holistic Nutrition Lab, and now I’m able to use my education, experience, and skills to make a direct difference in the quality of life of my clients. For me, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing a client’s breakthroughs.

I’m also a consultant for Beautycounter. I’m not one to get involved with specific brands unless I’m passionate, about the company’s purpose.

I struggled with hormonal imbalances from adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism. It’s not fun. But add in SIBO, and it makes my situation even more complicated. So it's important for me to do everything that I can to ease the imbalance.

Beautycounter’s products, along with their mission of education and awareness completely aligns with my values of freedom, honesty and being a difference maker.

You’ll look forward to going to work every day because work doesn’t feel like “work.” You’ll feel inspired, motivated and fulfilled. You’ll be empowered. People will feel your new vibe and notice the change in your energy. Your passion and enthusiasm will overflow and work will no longer being your biggest source of stress, because you love the work that you do.

Once you put your action plan in motion, the best advice I can give you is to surround yourself with like-minded people to keep your trajectory going.

Communities are powerful. Last week I participated in three different communities that left me feeling fired up to continue making forward progress!

First I went to a Beautycounter meeting where I heard Gregg Renfrew (the CEO) speak on why she started Beautycounter.

{She watched “The Inconvenient Truth, ” and it made her aware of the environmental dangers facing our society. It inspired her to create Beautycounter so she could educate the masses on how the beauty industry knowingly uses harmful chemicals in their products that are known to cause cancer, infertility and other dangerous diseases.}

Then I went to a Functional Forum Meetup where I was able to connect with other practitioners in my local community who passionately believe in functional medicine and how it is the future of healthcare.

And lastly, I reconnected with my running community and ran a local race. Just a few years ago my running community was an integral part of my life, but as I stepped back from marathon training, I’d lost touch with it. Reconnecting with this group brought me so much joy and reminded me how much I love running and the people who do it.

Being surrounded by like-minded individuals in each community who care about the same things that I do, refueled my fire, passion, and enthusiasm for the work that I do.

If your work is the biggest source of your stress, then I have two invitations for you:

1 | Join The 100 Conversations Project:

The feedback that I’ve gotten from some participants is that just being able to speak about it has lifted some of the burdens that they carry and it’s even inspired a few to take action about it!

2 | Join the Be FAB Community, my private Facebook group for professionals who are overstressed and struggling with fatigue and burnout. It’s a place that I can provide motivation, guidance, and support on a daily basis.

Powerful things can happen when you align your core values with your work and surround yourself with a like-minded community.


Hi, I'm Naomi

I help smart and savvy women who suffer from chronic stress, unexplained weight gain and burnout, breakthrough their healthy blind spots and relieve symptoms through natural healing with whole foods and by making lifestyle and environmental changes. Why feel tired when you can feel fired up and ready to go every single day?

I love running outdoors, connecting with like-minded people, and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area with my pup, Coco Pop.

Connect with me:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

How to Overcome Burnout

In our modern world, problems like fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, IBS, anxiety and depression and unexplained stubborn weight gain have become all too familiar. But as I always say,common doesn’t mean normal.”

Sadly, these problems have become the norm in our society. And when sufferers seek help their support circles often tell them they need to suck it up because “it’s all in their head,” and their doctors simply write a prescription for a pharmaceutical, which is just a band aid, ignoring the roots that are causing these “weeds to grow.”

And they’re left feeling embarrassed, ashamed and confused.

But what they experience are real symptoms, indicative of stress from sources that come at us from all different directions.

Have you experienced the following:

  • Insomnia?
  • Trouble waking up in the morning even though you got a full night’s sleep?
  • Unexplained fatigue?
  • Digestive problems like IBS?
  • Skin problems like psoriasis and eczema?
  • Feeling run down and overwhelmed?
  • Difficulty bouncing back from an injury or illness
  • Uncontrollable cravings for sweet and salty foods
  • Feeling bursts of energy in the evenings?
  • Unexplained depression and anxiety?
  • Unexplained weight gain, especially around the middle?

If you answered yes to some these symptoms, you might be experiencing some form of adrenal fatigue.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms that result when your adrenal glands function below the necessary level.

Your adrenal glands are tiny glands that sit on top of your kidneys (‘ad’ means ‘above, ’ and ‘renal’ refers to the ‘kidneys.’)  These glands produce hormones or are triggered to produce hormones that are responsible for things like regulating your immunity, blood sugar, fat storage, metabolism, fertility and more.

These hormones are essential for energy, and when the are overworked or underproduced, your energy levels will be zapped.

Rest and replenishment are vital for these glands to function properly. Unfortunately, our culture of always being connected, always on the go and pushing ourselves to accomplish more doesn’t allow for sufficient revitalization.

The constant stress has our adrenal glands working in constant overdrive, overtaxing our system leading to burnout.

So what exactly causes adrenal depletion?

Common causes include:

  • Intense or prolonged stress
  • Not enough sleep
  • Poor diet (relying on sugar and too much caffeine to function)
  • Perfectionism, Type-A personalities
  • Food sensitivities and intolerances

As you can see, these are things that we all experience at some point in our lives making us all susceptible to adrenal burnout, myself included.

A few years ago, it appeared that my life was going well. I had a solid job, short commute, ate healthily, ran marathons, and had an active social life.

But behind the scenes, I had a micromanaging boss and was in constant worry of layoffs every quarter when earnings were announced. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area increased at a rate faster than my salary did. I measured my self-worth by how I ran races (which wasn’t good given my propensity for always being injured), and I was a classic Type-A perfectionist. It was no wonder that I suffered from debilitating insomnia, raging IBS and unexplained weight gain (which as a formerly obese person was a source of high stress).

Eventually, my ability to deal with the pressure exceeded my capacity, and I sought help. Friends and colleagues told me I just needed to learn how to handle it. My primary care physician wrote me a prescription for Ambien and Xanax. I knew there had to be a better way.

That’s when I found a functional medicine practitioner who introduced me to a new way to approach health. She told me I was experiencing adrenal fatigue, but then others said that there was no such thing - adrenal fatigue wasn’t real.

What I’ve since learned is that conventional medicine can sometimes be concerned more with strict disease or pathology, only recognizing extreme forms like Cushing’s or Addison’s disease. But those diseases don’t develop overnight. They happen over a period, and the journey to it begins with adrenal burnout.

If any of this resonates with you because you have or are experiencing the symptoms I’ve just described, know that you’re not alone. Yes, these are common problems, but like I always say:

Common doesn’t mean normal.

There are actions that you can take right now to avoid adrenal burnout, or if you’re already experiencing it, repair your health from it.

So let’s break it down:

1. Identify your sources of stress

Stress is not always emotional. Stress can be eating foods that you know your body is intolerant of, like dairy. I’ve known since I was a child that I was lactose intolerant, but cheese. And ice cream. And isn’t yogurt supposed to be healthy? By ignoring this intolerance, I added layers of unnecessary stress to my system.

Take inventory of all the things in your life that add to your stress. Write them down. Examples can be finances, work stress, traffic, toxic relationships, your inability to say “no” and much more.

2. Come up with a plan on how to remove or alleviate your stressors

If a source or situation can’t be changed, consider changing your approach. Can you reframe your mindset towards it?

Earlier I mentioned that I had an intolerable micromanaging boss. My stomach turned to knots whenever I had to even speak to her. Getting a new job takes time, and I was in no position to quit without something else lined up. So I had to change my approach to the situation.

To do this, I had to look at this person as a human being who had her own pressures to handle. I realized that she treated me this way because of how her manager treated her. After this realization, I found myself being more empathetic. And whenever she made an unrealistic request from me, I was able to put into context and understand why the request was being made. Eventually, the knots in my belly went away, and the lines of communication opened, making my work stress more tolerable.

3. If Plan A didn’t work, have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D

It may feel that some of your stressors are unavoidable or removing them feels insurmountable. But as Marie Forleo likes to say, “Everything is figureoutable.”

Prioritize yourself and your well-being and do what you need to do to take care of you. Because if you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?

If you're already experiencing burnout, I’ve created a toolkit to help you restore your health.

In this toolkit you’ll:

  • Access an assessment to give you a better idea if you’re experiencing adrenal burnout
  • Learn first five steps that are critical for you start doing for recovery
  • Get a list of the best foods to eat to support adrenal health (and the foods to avoid)
  • Receive a mini recipe guide with 20 simple recipes!

Hi, I'm Naomi!

I help smart and savvy women who suffer from chronic stress, unexplained weight gain and burnout, breakthrough their healthy blind spots and relieve symptoms through natural healing with whole foods and by making lifestyle and environmental changes. Why feel tired when you can feel fired up and ready to go every single day?

I love running outdoors, connecting with like-minded people, and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area with my pup, Coco Pop.

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