Monday, October 7, 2013

Adrenal Fatigue and Resistant Starch

On July 29, 2012 I woke up and did not feel right.  I was getting heavy heart palpitations/arrythmias  and felt a bit dizzy.  Prior to this I had some symptoms that were telling me something I couldn't hear.  I would wake up at 4am and not be able to go back to sleep and my blood sugar was doing some crazy stuff.  My fasting blood sugar upon awakening was routinely in the 120s and would sometimes climb to over 200 when I would eat.  My A1c was fine so I thought I was experiencing something called the Dawn Phenomenon.  The Dawn Phenomenon occurs when your blood sugar crashes in the wee hours of the morning. As a result, your adrenals secrete cortisol to increase the blood glucose available to your brain.  Eventually, my adrenals crapped out and I experienced adrenal insufficiency.  My digestion was messed up and I developed a candida overgrowth.  Four months to the day later and I got an actual diagnosis.

Adrenal insufficiency is a tricky thing.  I have no doubt mine was induced by heavy coffee drinking, alcohol consumption on the weekends, and exercising way too much.  My exercise was intense in nature and I believe my carbohydrate intake was a bit too low to support that.  The problem is, getting out of adrenal fatigue is tough.  It takes a notoriously long time to get your adrenals functioning properly once they are shot and for good reason.  Your autonomic nervous system tethers your adrenals to your digestive tract.  When your adrenals aren't functioning properly, neither is your digestion.  As a result, I experienced loose stools, random bouts of constipation, and an occasional good bowel movement each week.  Therein lies the problem, if you aren't digesting your food properly you are more than likely not absorbing the nutrients from it.  In addition, if you have intestinal permeability you are absorbing stuff you shouldn't that will fire off your immune system.  As a result, your adrenals are not getting the nutrients they need and the overactive immune system is screwing with your autonomic nervous system.

My functional medicine doctor had me tighten up my diet and gave me meds for the candida as well as some supplements.  Once the candida was taken care of, we worked on the adrenal fatigue.  When I first started dealing with this, I couldn't figure out which happened first, the candida or the adrenal fatigue.  However, once the candida was gone, my digestion was still messed up.  I began to understand that the adrenal fatigue(And probably the beer) provided an environment that allowed the candida to overgrow and cause problems.  When it appeared the candida was coming back, I decided I needed to make my intestinal environment as uninhabitable as possible for candida.  I was also looking for a way to improve my digestion as my stools were still pretty loose most of the time and my blood glucose was still wonky.  I was still experiencing intestinal permeability and if I wanted both issues to clear up and to ultimately get rid of my adrenal fatigue, I needed to fix that.

My research eventually drew me to resistant starch.  I reviewed quite a few papers on the stuff and it seemed to improve blood glucose control as well as digestion and intestinal barrier function.  At some point I was directed to Richard Nikoley's site, "Free the Animal".  On his site, Richard and a commenter named Tatertot Tim were working on some N=1 projects with readers that looked very promising.  They used unmodified potato starch as their resistant starch source and since it was readily available at any grocery store, I picked some up.  I started taking 1 tbsp per day in water in the morning.  This helped my digestion but didn't completely fix it.  If I ate something I shouldn't I would get diarrhea fairly quickly.  Even if I didn't eat something bad, my stools were not consistently perfect, in fact they were mostly bad.  In addition, my blood glucose was still not right.

As I pondered my next move, I decided to run down what I thought was happening.  My belief is that my blood glucose was high because I had too much LPS leaking in to my bloodstream.  I had too much LPS leaking in to my bloodstream because my intestinal barrier was compromised.  During this whole ordeal I dropped from 195lbs to 172lbs so my blood glucose issues were more than likely not from overconsumption of food.  I decided that I should increase my dosage of potato starch to 1tbsp with each meal, maybe the adrenal issue was still compromising my digestion.  Over the course of the next 4 weeks, I would improve more than I had over the course of the last 9 months.

Within 1 week of the potato starch at this dosage I had perfect stools 100% of the time.  By the second week, even drinking beer wouldn't affect my stools.  This is a bonus because I love craft beer.  My fasting blood glucose average was 87 and the highest blood glucose reading I experienced was 101 90 minutes after a meal containing more than 50g of carbohydrates.  Slowly but surely, my orthostatic hypotension is going away and I only get palpitations when I exert myself really hard.  An additional issue I had with adrenal fatigue was muscle twitching in my calves and triceps and occasionally on my lower eyelids.  The calf twitching went from hundreds a day to a couple a day by the fourth week.  Overall, I think resistant starch has been an integral part of my recovery.

None of this is to say that my recovery is due to resistant starch.  I believe the resistant starch is something that should find it's way as a part of treatment for adrenal fatigue but won't cure it altogether.  By improving digestion, your adrenals will get the nutrients they require to pump out hormones, but you need to eat those nutrients.  By reducing the huge fluctuations in blood glucose the adrenals don't need to work as hard to help regulate blood glucose, giving them a chance to heal.  Finally, by reducing the level of LPS in the blood, the immune system remains calm and doesn't hijack nutrients that would be better served feeding the adrenals(Magnesium, thiamin, vitamin C and glucose).  I still have a few more weeks before I am back to normal, but I think that would be months if I hadn't stumbled upon resistant starch and the cool stuff going on at Free the Animal.  Thanks, Richard and Tatertot Tim.