Adrenal Fatigue, Carbs & Calories - Diane Sanfilippo, Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites

Podcast Episode #237: Adrenal Fatigue, Carbs, & Calories – Part 1

Diane Sanfilippo Adrenal Fatigue, Carbohydrates, Featured, Health & Wellness, Podcast Episodes 2 Comments

Adrenal Fatigue, Carbs & Calories - Diane Sanfilippo, Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites

1.  News and updates from Diane & Liz [2:01]
2.  Weekly shout out: Primal Life Organics C-ex [7:01]
3.  Talking about adrenal fatigue [10:03]
4. The human body and acute versus chronic stress [17:44]
5. The basics of your adrenals and hormones [23:44]
6. Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue [30:35]
7. The emotions behind the stressors [39:06]
8. Changing our thought processes [45:39]
9. Try it at home: Quick fix meal ideas [52:31]
10. #Treatyoself: King Arthur flour gluten free brownies [54:44]


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Adrenal Fatigue, Carbs & Calories - Diane Sanfilippo, Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Adrenal Fatigue, Carbs & Calories - Diane Sanfilippo, Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites

You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 237.

Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe. Diane is a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, and co-author of Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. Liz is a nutritional therapy practitioner, and the best-selling author of Eat the Yolks and The Purely Primal Skincare Guide. Together, Diane and Liz answer your questions, interview leading health and wellness experts, and share their take on modern paleo living with their friendly and balanced approach. Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Liz Wolfe: Hey everyone, Liz here with Diane.

Diane Sanfilippo: Hey!

Liz Wolfe: Hello! How are you?

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m doing well. I can’t believe we’re already doing another episode after that whirlwind trip in Portland where we got to do this whole thing face to face for a change.

Liz Wolfe: I know.

Diane Sanfilippo: And face to 100 others {laughs}.

Liz Wolfe: That was amazing. Let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: Our podcast sponsorship today comes from Vital Choice, an online purveyor of the world’s best wild seafood delivered right to your door; because juggling a busy life shouldn’t mean you have to forgo healthy meals. At, you’ll find wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, tuna, sable fish, and cod, as well as prawns, crab, and scallops. You’ll also find grass-fed organic Wagyu beef, free range heritage chicken, fresh frozen organic berries, and dark organic chocolates. Make a vital choice by eating the highest quality food you can. Vital Choice; come home to real food.

1. News and updates from Diane & Liz [2:01]

Liz Wolfe: Alright, cool. So Diane, what are your updates?

Diane Sanfilippo: Updates; so a handful of events I need to remind you guys about. If you are coming to PaleoFx in Austin Memorial Day weekend, I’ve got an entrepreneurs Master Mind event. You can go to to find the registration link for that. There are only about 14 tickets left for that. It’s a small event. We’re doing only 25 people; a handful of entrepreneurs like myself, along with myself, who are involved in different types of businesses from law to products to online stores or brick and mortar, things like that.

So we’re going to be talking to you guys about all different things depending on what your business is. And I will be sending a survey out to you all before the event, so if you’re coming to that make sure you keep an eye out for an email so that we can get some information ahead of time. It will be a really great event. I’m really excited you’re going to learn from us, and you’ll also be forming some community amongst each other.

Also, Balanced Bites Master Class. As those of you who were at our live event and maybe you saw pictures from our live event saw we had some fun promo stuff from the Master Class; a sticker and a bag and all kinds of fun stuff that we are launching at some point in the next several months. So we’re getting all of that wrapped up, and we’ll have a launch for it. You guys on the podcast will definitely be hearing about it first. I bet we’ll have some sort of special listener coupon code, so make sure you guys don’t list that. Don’t list that {laughs}. Don’t miss that!

And what else? So I’m actually going to be at another event here relatively in the Bay area. I actually don’t know the town; it’s at a place called Mayacamas Ranch. It’s a paleo reset retreat. I believe Chris Kresser is sort of leading it. It’s going to be Tuesday, April 19th. I will be there, but there’s a whole multiple day retreat, so if you guys are around here in the Bay area, check that out. We’ll put a link to it on

And I think that’s it for updates. What about you dude?

Liz Wolfe: I forgot that PaleoFx was coming up.

Diane Sanfilippo: I know, it’s just actually in almost exactly 2 months.

Liz Wolfe: Wow. I don’t think I’m going to make it this year. I just feel like the Portland trip was my big, “take baby on a trip” trip.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: So I just don’t know about that. I am, technically; so, you know I’m into this whole Beauty Counter brand. I just kind of discovered it, and I’ve been learning a ton about it, and what I love about them is that they’re really into affecting change at a policy level. So there’s this trip to Washington D.C. that beauty counter is doing, and I’m really vying to try and go on it, and that’s in May which would be like my first 2 days away from baby.

Diane Sanfilippo: Whoa. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: I know. I’m like seriously thinking about it. It’s like this opportunity to go and actually try and get some real change in the cosmetics industry.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: And I’ve been so passionate about this for so long, so it’s so, so tempting to just really go for it. I feel like I could really thrive on that trip. But it’s also like, I just don’t think I could leave the baby, but if I did I think it would probably be for that and not for PaleoFx. And I’m definitely not hauling a one-year-old.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s kind of a good time frame, too, just a couple of days, so.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: You know, yeah.

Liz Wolfe: I mean, Austin is a whole thing. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, that’s also a totally different type of trip.

Liz Wolfe: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, we love meeting everyone and interacting, but it is also very physically draining. Not that traveling ever isn’t’, but it’s a very different type of interaction.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And for a different purpose. I mean, I think our listeners would probably appreciate what you might learn and be able to bring back about where beauty care is going and what kinds of policy changes and how that might affect products that they’re buying. I mean, I’m interested. {laughs} I’m like; go! Let’s send Liz to D.C.!

Liz Wolfe: I am too! I just love companies that have an extra purpose, you know what I mean?

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Liz Wolfe: That’s just kind of my favorite thing. And that’s; anybody, any company that I support and any company really that we promote usually has some kind of larger purpose.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: Whether it’s moving sustainable agriculture forward, or they give back to a cause of some kind, or they have a charity wing of their organization, that type of thing. So it’s always something like that. So yeah, it’s pretty cool.

Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, I even feel that way about our sponsors to a degree.

Liz Wolfe: Right, yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Regardless of charitable organizations from my perspective, it’s also the mission of the company and what they’re trying to do with the choices that they make about the sustainable practices, right?

Liz Wolfe: Absolutely.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, interesting stuff.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. But that’s pretty much what I’ve got for now.

Diane Sanfilippo: Very cool.

2. Weekly shout out: Primal Life Organics C-ex [7:01]

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright Liz, do we have a shout out this week?

Liz Wolfe: I have a shout out, and it’s actually a little bit self serving.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: But that’s ok. So, we gave out samples of my collaboration vitamin C based serum with Trina from Primal Life Organics. We gave out little samples at the Balanced Bites live podcast event, and I’ve already gotten some feedback from people that have taken the leap and gotten the full vial because they liked it so much. But I received a really, really nice compliment from someone. They said that I have; something like, I have the most glowing skin they’ve ever seen on a person or something like that. You read it, what did they say? I don’t have it right in front of me.

Diane Sanfilippo: I did read it. It was something like that.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I agree, I’m always looking at your skin like, what is happening over here? {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: I’m telling you…

Diane Sanfilippo: I need to stay home for a year is obviously what I need to do.

Liz Wolfe: Well, no you don’t.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: Well, you need to stay home for a year but not with a child that you’re trying to figure out how to not ruin. But that’s literally the case. For the last more than a year, I’ve been completely sleep deprived, like sleep deprived. We did not sleep train, so there’s been very little sleep the last year. And just completely haggard and harried and all of those other words that describe not being a fully functional human and being a little bit out of your element. And any glowiness in my skin is fully attributable to C-ex, because I have not done anything else {laughs} in a very long time. I mean, I’ve barely even washed my face. So I definitely credit that, and then probably her coffee bean serum as well. Coffee and C-ex. So that’s my shout out. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Shout out. Yeah, a reminder to people. And I think you talked a lot more about it on a previous episode, so we’ll make sure we link to that in the show notes. You guys always know you can go to and get all the show notes that you could ever want and need, and links to all the things.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Cool.

Liz Wolfe: You can find C-ex at

Diane Sanfilippo: Pete’s Paleo is a friend of the Balanced Bites podcast. They’re bacon is insanely delicious, and sugar free, and their premade paleo meals make your life so much easier when everything is getting busy and getting real food on the table is still a top priority, as it should be. Pete’s Paleo is now offering a 30-day gut healing kit containing bone broth, gelatin gummies, instant organic soup packs, and an E-cookbook. It’s the perfect complement to any anti-inflammatory diet. Get yours today at Use code GRABACUPPABROTH to get $25 off; that’s an amazing deal. It’s GRABACUPPABROTH, C-U-P-P-A. And you can grab that code any time at to just read it and make sure you’re typing it in right. You can also use code BALANCEDBITES to get $5 off any of their regular meal plans. Check out today. Pete’s Paleo; bringing fine dining to your cave.

3. Talking about adrenal fatigue [10:03]

Liz Wolfe: Alright; so let’s get onto today’s topic. What; alright, Diane why don’t you introduce it. What are we talking about today?

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: And why are we talking about it?

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright, today we’re talking about adrenal fatigue alongside the topic of carbs and calories. Because we’ve been talking about carbs; also talking a little bit about total caloric intake for the past several weeks just in different iterations, different contexts and what not. It’s an ever challenging question, right? It’s an ever challenging topic. People always have issues around it. We have actually done so many episodes about this.

When I look back in our archives; so, you guys, if you don’t know that we have archives that I talk about all the time, you can head over to, hover over podcasts or tap on it if you’re on a phone, and tap on archives by topic. It’s actually the very first one, not coincidentally, it’s alphabetically. But adrenal fatigue is on there, and we have, I don’t know, there are maybe more than 20 different questions along with a 3-part series we did when the show was almost brand new.

And a lot of what we’re going to talk about in terms of foundational information right now is the same information. We’ll have a few new insights to it now just in the practice that we’ve had for several years now. Obviously we’ve been doing this stuff for a lot longer, but the foundational information is still the same and it still comes up a lot and obviously we know that not everybody is going back to the archives, and I want to make sure that we’re putting our attention on it now, shining the light on it, and making sure that we don’t lose sight of this information.

Because I think, sometimes as practitioners Liz you and I, we talked about it so long ago, and we’ve talked about it so many times, that we almost forget that there are so many new people coming into this hearing that phrase or expression, adrenal fatigue, and have not been exposed to this foundational information. They have not been exposed to everything we’ve already talked about. And I think it’s important for us to sort of rehash it, put a little bit of a new spin on it, and make sure that we are continuing the conversation. Because it doesn’t go away; the value of it and the importance of getting it out there doesn’t really go away.

So one of the things I want to do with the way that we’re going to approach the topic today is slightly more of; I don’t know {laughs} slightly more, not quite a lecture format, but instead of just doing a Q&A, so many of the questions are similar to each other. So as you guys are posting; we posted this graphic on the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram; I reposted it to my Diane.PracticalPaleo Instagram, and you guys can read through the comments and questions and see that there are probably really only about 5 to 7 or 8 core questions being repeated with different nuances of context, right?

One of the things we hope to do with not only this podcast but the Balanced Bites Master Class, with our books, everything that we teach, is give you the foundational information to apply the basics to your context, have learnings about it, and do something for yourself based on what you’ve learned. Because if we constantly only ever do Q&A where it’s a direct, this is this person’s problem with their context and their proposed options for a solution, then you might listen to it and say, “well that’s not me,” or, “She’s got this other issue,” or “he’s got this other minor thing that might be affecting what their recommendation is.”

You know, as teachers and as practitioners, we don’t want that to be the case. We don’t want you guys to listen and feel like the information doesn’t apply to you because of some nuanced contextual element. The whole point is for us to teach you, with a very broad, sweeping stroke, what are the basics, how can you look at what’s going on in your life, because 80% of what you can affect is probably in 20% of what you’re doing. So, this is that sort of 80/20 rule, where it only takes changing 20% to get an 80% impact. Or, you know, out of 100% of what you’re doing, 20% is the core of what’s making a big difference.

So I really want you guys to not only be able to have that Q&A format, but really to have it, listen to it, learn it, and put your own spin on it. Because you can work with a practitioner; we love to recommend that people work with a practitioner one on one, but that’s also the case where you kind of flip the 80/20. You can do 80% of the work before you ever go to work with a practitioner. And we’ve talked about that a lot, before, where if you’re going to work with a naturopath, if you’re going to work with a functional medicine practitioner, a functional nutritionist; you really should do 80% of the work before you go to them. Because otherwise you’re going to be wasting your own time and your money, and maybe their time by not doing what’s foundational first. So we’ll talk about that in this episode, and hopefully that will help a lot of people.

And hopefully, you know in one to three or even six months down the road, we’ll hear back from some of you guys who have been struggling with this, and you’ll be able to put some of this into place and come back and let us know how you’re doing.

Liz Wolfe: So should I run through a couple of these super common questions that we get just kind of along the same lines so people can, I don’t know, just get a starting point to hand their brain on for a second.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I think so. Because I want people to hear some of their own questions, but also have this perspective that we have where, these four that I put kind of towards the front here, this is; I mean, if we look in the archives of questions that we’ve gotten over the last 4+ years, we have probably hundreds of these questions. So yeah, go ahead and just read them out and we’re not going to address them specifically, but we’ll go to the meat of what’s going on here.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah, so this is the type of thing that we’re looking at. “Thank you for bringing this topic up because I’ve lost my period, my hair is falling out, skin sucks, digestive issues, so I’m wondering what the heck I’ve done to myself. Too low in carbs, too much exercise, too much coffee? I feel utterly lost. Thanks in advance.”

Here’s another one. “A little over a year ago I lost my period, started losing my hair, and apparently lost all control of limiting carbs, food, and my appetite I general. All of my hormones, thyroid and sex are extremely low except for DHEA-S. What is the connection between low hormones and appetite? Why in the world can’t I control myself around carbs? Ack!”

And here’s another one. “My 17-year-old recently had to quit a pre-professional dance program after 4 years. She was over trained dancing under contract 6+ hours a day, adrenal system collapsed along with all of her hormones. She gained weight no matter what she did. It was heartbreaking, as she had formerly gotten scholarships everywhere and it was her dream to be a professional dancer. She’s temporarily being given DHEA to help her body stabilize, progesterone to help stabilize constant bleeding, and is only doing moderate exercise like walking. When is it reasonable to see positive health results and weight loss? We’re trying to keep her stress as low as possible, but she has SATs, etc., so it’s hard not to have some. She’s tried really low carb, low carb, and normal carb. Nothing worked for weight loss; what’s best for recovery?”

And then this last one. “How to manage reintroducing carbs while also keeping fats lower while following a modified AIP protocol without being completely stressed out by the thought of it all.”

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: So basically what we’re talking about is, first of all the thyroid, cortisol synergism when we’re talking about dry skin, hair falling out, what the heck we’ve done to myself, worrying about weight, worrying about carbs, worrying about adrenals. What’s first, and of course, stress. Stress, stress, stress. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

4. The human body and acute versus chronic stress [17:44]

Liz Wolfe: Alright, so there’s those. What’s the next thing we’re going to tackle?

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, part of it is understanding a little bit about our environment right now, and how different our environment is, how different what we deal with in terms of stress is compared to perhaps what we’re best wired to handle. So before I get into the basics of what adrenal fatigue is or sort of decoding that a little bit more; everybody needs to take a step back and realize that traditionally speaking, if we look at our paleo ancestors as we like do, since we often talk about a paleo diet. If we look at our paleo ancestors and we look at the types of stress that our human system is best wired to handle, we are best wired to handle acute stressors, not chronic stressors. So we’re best wired to handle a quick scare {laughs}.

Liz Wolfe: Mm-hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: Something that puts us into fight or flight mode quickly, and then we recover from that. So this is one of the reasons why when we look at different types of exercise and fitness routines, the ones that can be very effective, that we see being effective for so many people, especially within the paleo community, Crossfit is very effective for many people for certain reasons; not for everyone. We’re going to talk about that. But it’s high intensity, short period of time, and then you recover. Ok; so the reason why that can be so effective is that in a healthy body, in a healthy system, that’s what we’re perfectly wired to handle. We’re perfectly wired to handle a short term stressor, anywhere from 5 minutes to maybe 20 minutes, and then it’s gone.

Here’s the problem, though; the problem is, our modern lifestyle is putting us on alert all the time. Liz, you and I were just kind of joking about this sort of over Instagram, right? {laughs} With the changes on Instagram and people wanting to turn on notifications or not turn on notifications, I think you and I share the same viewpoint on this. Like, alright, turn them on if you want to, but if you’re the type of person that’s constantly getting this alarm response to things like notifications, then it’s not a good idea for you. And we are constantly in this state of alarm. We’re constantly responding to notifications. We’re constantly being bombarded with light too late at night.

We have a million things we’re trying to do, right? People are trying to take their kids to a million activities, constant pressures that are societal, I need to look a certain way, I need to buy a certain kind of house, car, clothes, etc. That’s not to say that some of that isn’t perfectly fine, but the way that affects us all, the way that everything that we do in life can cause stress, it varies from person to person, right? Some people can handle all of it, and they’re not experiencing a breakdown in their body and in their system. They’re not handling it as if it’s chronic. They’re handling it in doses. It seems acute to their system, and then they’re resting and chilling out. But most people are in a state of chronic stress. They’re in a chronic stress response, and that’s not what we’re wired to handle. So that’s one of the big contributing factors sort of laying the groundwork for what’s putting us at a disadvantage.

So I know, Liz, you talk a lot about work that Katie Bowman does with movement. And she talks a lot about getting out in nature and just walking outside. Scott and I were just talking; yesterday we took a nice 3-hour hike outside. I did have my phone; I took some pictures, but 98% of what we were doing I was not dealing with the phone. And it’s a totally different experience to recharge doing that than it is to work out for 3 hours in the gym. And I think that we all need to pay attention to what that means to our physiology, and kind of reconnect with being disconnected, reconnect with being outside in nature as much as possible, and resetting what our systems are getting as inputs on a very consistent basis.

So, I don’t know if there’s some organized way; it’s like, every time I have an idea I kind of want to make a challenge out of it. I kind of want to make a challenge out of it.

Liz Wolfe: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Because I feel like if we make a challenge out of it, then people will do it. But if we just kind of talk about it casually, then people won’t really do it. Does that make sense? {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: Yeah! I mean, some people need a framework.

Diane Sanfilippo: Framework; yeah.

Liz Wolfe: They need a bossy lady bee to tell them what to do.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} So, I know our friend Laura Schoenfeld, she and was it Kelsey who worked on a nutrition program for adrenal fatigue and adrenal recovery. We talked about that on a previous episode. Maybe we’ll have some kind of idea for people at the end of this series that we’re doing on adrenal fatigue. Maybe I will be able to put something together for people like a one-pager that we can give people some great advice for it.

But that’s a foundation, and that’s one of the reasons why when you guys hear those 4 questions that Liz read, literally hundreds. Every single week we would pull questions from the archives to be doing shows, and there’s one of those every single week. Don’t you think Liz?

Liz Wolfe: Oh yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: In some incarnation, right?

Liz Wolfe: Yeah, for sure.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok.

Liz Wolfe: And I think it’s very fashionable, if I may just kind of add another dimension to all of this. I think it’s very fashionable right now to talk about stress relief and what stress is really doing to our bodies and all of that, and that’s huge absolutely, of course. I also think it’s almost making us forget, however, how many of us have dieted and manipulated our food and basically dieted ourselves into adrenal fatigue over time.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Liz Wolfe: So it’s not something that you’re just like; it takes time to build up to this point. And also, when we’re talking about adrenal fatigue, technically for a lot of people we’re not actually talking about people that have no cortisol.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

Liz Wolfe: I mean, that’s…

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s what I’m going to get into with some of the basics here.

Liz Wolfe: Ok. Very good.

5. The basics of your adrenals and hormones [23:44]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so the basics when it comes to adrenal fatigue. So your adrenal glands are two glands that sit on the top of your kidneys; that’s exactly why they’re named that way. They sit right on top there, and they do produce cortisol. They do produce this stress response hormone, but they don’t really have a brain center of their own. So your adrenal glands; this idea of adrenal fatigue, where the glands themselves are tired, it’s a little bit of a misnomer and it’s a little bit sort of an easy way to explain it, but it’s not really accurate in terms of the physiology.

What’s a more accurate way of describing it, and again we will link to all of these episodes so you guys can get a little more in depth, but a more accurate way to describe it, and this is super nerdy, but it’s an HPA axis sort of dysregulation. So the HPA axis is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. And what that is is the communication between all of these parts of your body. You’ve got communication going on between your pituitary gland, your adrenals, and the hypothalamus. And there can be a breakdown here because when we’re constantly in a state of stress, we are just demanding too much of our adrenals, and that system is kind of similar to the way that we have insulin resistance. It’s like the boy who cried wolf when it comes to these signals in the body, where when there’s just too much of a demand all the time, the body starts to down regulate, and the body starts to get that fatigue state.

So we just need to understand that it’s not a matter of, your adrenals aren’t able to produce the hormones, or it’s not that they aren’t doing it or they can’t do it, which was what Liz was kind of mentioning here. It’s not that you’re unable to make this stuff, it’s that the signals that have been sent within your body for a consistent basis over a long period of time have caused this kind of wear out on your body’s response.

The reason why sometimes supplements are helpful and sometimes people are given some of these hormones in an exogenous form, meaning from outside the body versus endogenous, meaning produced within the body, is that sometimes we need to trick our body into getting back on track. So that’s one of the reasons why sometimes people are given supplements for this stuff. It’s similar to what happens when we take a hydrochloric acid supplement, right? It’s that we kind of get our body to see, hey we need this. We need you to produce this. This needs to be happening, but it hasn’t been. It’s a training in a sense in order to get the body to start responding naturally to those things and produce them naturally in a balanced state.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. So, along those lines, some of the questions that we get pretty frequently. I’m just going to read this one just to kind of illustrate my, and your point, at the same time. “Do you have any thoughts on how long it will take someone to heal from adrenal fatigue? I stopped intense exercise, gave up caffeine, upped my carbs, and started to focus on sleep more than 2 months ago, but I feel like there’s no end in sight.”

So this is kind of related to what you were saying; you can shift your hormonal profile. This is completely a term that I just made up. You can shift your hormonal profile set point kind of semi-permanently as a result of the precipitating factors to what we call adrenal fatigue. So sometimes, it’s like your lifestyle up to that point where you start trying to heal has shifted your baseline as far as hormones go. So you can really work on the nutrition, the lifestyle, the stress relief, doing all of those things and checking all of those boxes, but there may be that point where you do have to make a specific effort to almost manipulate your hormones to coming back to a place where they can start functioning in this whole symphony along with everything else. Would you agree with that?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s spot on.

Liz Wolfe: And this; ok very good. So this other kind of common question that we’ll use for context is, “Any tips on how the pregnenolone steal syndrome occurs? As far as I know, it depletes the sex hormones and all energy is stolen to make cortisol,” which we can kind of go with that. I think that’s pretty much how we break it down and simplify it, this idea of the priority that your body has is what’s going to help you survive in that moment. So that goes back to mitigating the stress response to keep you alive versus reproduction, which would be kind of a secondary concern if you’re always in fight or flight mode, you’re body is not worried about reproducing. So that’s probably a very basic kind of over generalized explanation of why this is tied into depletion or dysregulation of sex hormones, or estrogen dominance, or low progesterone in a high estrogen environment, that type of thing.

So people will talk about their saliva test for cortisol and hormones being totally depleted, and in this question we see somebody that is strict paleo who has been low carb and high carb over 3 years with not much change in the results, adrenal fatigue, low hormones, thinking stress plays a huge role, pregnenolone steal, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So when we’re talking about actually potentially using some kind of supplemental substance to help balance hormones again, this goes back to something that I actually said about adaptogens in a previous episode, which is if you’re not doing all of those important lifestyle things, the stress relief, the really stacking your nutrients, getting enough cholesterol, sleeping properly, trying to just strip your life of all of the unnecessary things; including dieting for an arbitrary body composition when you’re up against something like adrenal issues, or thyroid issues, or HPA axis dysregulation, whatever you want to call it. It may not be that you can focus on any kind of body composition thing while you’re healing; that’s a little side note, but while you’re working on all of this and thinking about maybe doing some kind of supplementation, it’s the same thing as I would say about adaptogens. You can’t start doing those things unless you’re committed to the whole picture.

In that case, you may want to experiment with supplemental pregnenolone, supplemental progesterone, which we actually see people write into us about. Some doctors are up on that; some don’t know the difference between synthetic and natural progesterone, but that’s cool. But there are certain hormones and hormone precursors that can help your body start to produce the hormones that it needs to heal. So there you go, that was my rant on that.

6. Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue [30:35]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, so when it comes to signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue, I think; you know, we do know that testing for this is going to be obviously a gold standard. When I spoke with Laura Schoenfeld about this, months and months ago. I mean, it was probably well over a year ago. She was talking about how her own fatigue had kind of come and gone from the height of it in terms of the cortisol response, and her own body had renormalized her cortisol, but her sex hormones were kind of in the tank as a result of that. So, I do think testing is probably the gold standard to figure out whether or not you have it.

But signs and symptoms in terms of should you get tested for it, this is the stuff that people need to be paying attention to. If you’re having symptoms that make you feel like you could be hypothyroid, but not really all of the symptoms to the point where you’re pretty sure you’re not hypothyroid. So if you’re doing “everything” that should work for you to lose weight, and I’m not talking about wanting to be dieting to some extreme all the time. I just mean if you’re watching what you’re doing, and you know you’re eating a reasonable amount of food, and you’re getting a good amount of exercise, but it’s not working. And I’m not talking about, Liz what you were mentioning, people trying to get some arbitrary low body fat number. I’m talking, you have 20+ pounds of body fat to lose and your body is not responding.

I was talking about hypothyroid symptoms tend to be things like not being able to lose weight, cold hands and feet, poor recovery from exercise. These are signs and symptoms also of adrenal fatigue. So this stuff can get really mixed up. Sometimes it is both, but if you; I’m one of those people where, there was probably a point in time where I was like, maybe it’s my thyroid. But I have a very effective sweat producing system, and somebody who has low thyroid really doesn’t have a good response to that. Your body is overheating and sweat production doesn’t happen that well. So something to just keep in mind.

If you’re going to the gym, and after your workout you just feel flattened and you really can’t recover from it; I had a client years ago who was an aerobics instructor; and I couldn’t explain it to her any other way that it was just too much. And here’s the thing that happens you guys; this happens over years of time where the most common thing that people end up saying to us is; well I always did that. Like, I’ve always trained this many days a week. Or I’ve always run this many miles. Right?

Liz Wolfe: {laughs} that’s so true.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s so true!

Liz Wolfe: it should be ok, right?

Diane Sanfilippo: And so why is it different now? The problem is it’s a cumulative effect of stressors, and also that people forget that the stressors in your life have changed. So let’s just say for example you always ran 25 miles a week, since high school. Well, you might be forgetting the amount of stress you had in your life in high school. For some of you, maybe you had things going on that were really stressful; I am definitely not going to diminish the value of that. We’ve all had different struggles in our lives. But let’s just say for example that you had a pretty stress free adolescence; {laughs} as much as it could be to anyone.

Liz Wolfe: Stress is different from drama, by the way.

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally!

Liz Wolfe: We all had drama {laughs}.

Diane Sanfilippo: But you know what I mean.

Liz Wolfe: Yes, absolutely.

Diane Sanfilippo: Kind of like, American adolescent…

Liz Wolfe: Lives with their parents, no car payment, no house payment, no financial issues.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah! And you know, add to that, you go through college, you’re getting a job, you're starting to pay your own bills. All of these things that add up over time. Maybe some kind of illnesses came into play, different infections, you’re taking antibiotics over the course of all these years. All these things that add up over time basically diminish how strong your constitution is to hold up to more intense stressors over time. One of the best things we can do is work on increasing the strength of our constitution, right? We want to be adaptable to those insults. We want to be able to eat low carb for a while and have it not flatten us. We want to be able to eat higher carb for a while and have it not flatten us, either way. Right?

Those are signs of a healthy response, but when you don’t respond to things that there is an expected response to, that could be a sign of adrenal fatigue. It doesn’t mean it is that, it just could be a sign. And one of the biggest ones is definitely the inability to recover from exercise. You’re just feeling tired no matter what, and waking up and not feeling rested, going to bed and not being able to fall asleep; that tired and wired feeling. This is something in the past I definitely dealt with, but in more recent year, two years, not having bright lights on all the time, not having the blue light from the monitors, using the blue block sunglasses or having flux on your computer. Things like that. If you experience getting tired as the sun sets, but then you start to do things that reverse that, that wake you up, then you’re actually contributing to the problem. The problem isn’t the problem, the problem is what you’re doing. Right? Like you just said, Liz. We do all these things that kind of add up to be this problem.

So if you feel like you have a lot of stressors in your life; and this is definitely something we get into in the Master Class, where I give this sort of analogy of a beaker, and it’s like all the different stressors, and it’s like for one person, adding on one more thing; like maybe you just get a really bad flu that year. Or maybe there’s some kind of illness or death in the family. Maybe someone; you’re in a car accident. Something happens, and what it does; you guys have all been in chemistry class where you have a beaker, and you have an eye dropper of something and it’s one extra drop that fills the beaker over. It starts to spill over, right?

Liz Wolfe: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: It literally is the difference of one drop of liquid that makes all the difference. And for some people, you’re operating at, the beaker is full, and one more drop is just too much. And what that thing will be varies. People all want it to be the same thing, right? Everyone wants it to be; well, I’m just drinking too much coffee, or I’m working out too much, or I don’t like my job. It’s never going to be the same thing for everyone, and everybody’s stressors affect them differently. Some people just happen to have a heightened response to every kind of stressor, and some people don’t. You all know somebody who kind of lets things roll off their back; and if you’re somebody who sweats the small stuff consistently, you are primed for adrenal fatigue.

I just want to paint that picture for people, that this is not just even about one thing or another. It’s not just about getting quality sleep or just getting the right food in or the right exercise with the right kind of response. It’s not ever going to be just one thing or even just those three things; it’s literally the buildup of everything in your life. So, when we start to hack away at the possible things that we can do to fix ourselves, we have to get very, very real and very, very honest with ourselves about how we see the world. This is deep, real stuff you guys. If you have a negative outlook; good luck healing. You have to have a positive mental outlook. You have to look at things and see opportunity and see things positively, because that absolutely affects your body’s stress response and the way that your body is handling anything that is coming at you. It’s just huge.

And I know, if you’re a worrier; if you’re the type of person to worry about a lot of things. You’re set up for this more than other people. We need to pay attention to that stuff, and I think we have to get very, very honest about everything in our lives that could be causing stress. And again, maybe this is something, maybe we can create some kind of worksheet or something where we’re writing down all of these elements in our life, and it’s like, what percentage is that thing in your life maybe positive or not positive. I don’t know, maybe we need to put a framework to it to help people see these different areas. Do you have some thoughts on that, Liz?

7. The emotions behind the stressors [39:06]

Liz Wolfe: I do, and you actually kind of brought these up in my mind as you were speaking. So, we’ve talked about; oh maybe we should do a worksheet, maybe we should do some kind of framework for people to follow so they can really dig into this stuff, and I love that idea. And also, juxtaposed maybe with what we’re really trying to do here, which is to get people first off get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on and zero in on what’s going on in their own lives and not just like; oh, stress, sleep, coffee. But really, what are those tiny pieces within those little subsets of what’s going on that we need to figure out how to move around.

I feel like we’ve used the analogy of a Rubik's cube before, and maybe that has something, some application here. And me personally, this whole time you were talking I was thinking about myself. Me as many, many women postpartum deal with a little bit of sputtering hypothyroidism, where I can tell something is kind of going on, I’m on the edge there, it’s just the year of no sleep, now trying to add on getting these programs that I’ve promised out to people, just adding back in all of these things that end up just being too much really, but I’ve got to get them done and then just worrying about the kid. Also the fact that we haven’t lived in our house for over 2.5 months, and we’ve basically been bouncing between a friend’s basement and my parent’s house because we’ve got basically a lead paint disaster/remodel gone wrong/100-year-old house; never ever buy one.

And it has just been so much; and along with all of that, I’ve got things in my head that I have to choose whether it’s the right time to deal with them or whether I need to put them on a shelf and just survive for now. So for example, I’ve talked about it before; my birth story. My daughter and my birth story, which has been really, really hard for me to process, talk about, even think about. I almost can’t even read certain things on the internet that make me think about some of the sorrow I have about how things went. And for me, it’s not the right time. It’s that balance between; well, would dealing with these really different stressful thoughts be the appropriate thing right now, here, because it would get me to a better place and maybe make me more emotionally, I don’t know, just more centered; or, would adding that onto my current situation be just too much and end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back? And I don’t really know, that is a really, really tough answer to give. But for me, I think it’s a really key, pivotal point where, when I figure that out what the right thing to do is right now, is going to be a completely new turn in my health postpartum.

So those are the decisions. I mean, we can answer questions from folks; oh, you should do this with your carbs. You should do this with your calories. But really getting into the nitty gritty of what you’re dealing with, what in your life might be the sticking point that you haven’t dealt with yet? It’s been more than a year and it’s still not something that I feel ready to tackle, but then again maybe I need to do it to really make progress. So really dig into what’s going on emotionally, what maybe triggers that you’re dealing with, what, I don’t know, suppressed memories that you might be dealing with, or what sorrow you’re hanging onto that involves other people that you maybe need to deal with. Those are a lot of the pieces that we can’t really help you with. You know what I mean?

Diane Sanfilippo: I totally know what you mean.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: I totally do. And it’s not; what’s interesting about it is that is not what people expect to hear from us, but it’s what people need to hear. That we have notes here about things we want to talk about with nutrition and fitness and all of that, and maybe that’s a conversation we’ll get into in a second part of this topic, because I don’t know that we have the time to cover it in one hour, you know.

Liz Wolfe: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: But when we look at what’s going on; I think for some people, it’s hard to accept that those emotional struggles and challenges can get in the way of this stuff. Because we see other people that we know have emotional struggles and challenges, yet they seem to be able to make progress or do things in a certain way.

Liz Wolfe: Yes! Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Diane Sanfilippo: And so we feel like; well, I know they’re dealing with this, and they don’t have this other problem that I have. Like, I know this person has a lot of mental emotional stress, yet they can lose body fat much more easily. We cannot add up all of the stressors that other people have from the outside. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know what emotional issues might be going on. And we don’t know what their constitution is like. But I think it’s such a huge topic, and we can only scratch the surface of what’s going on within an hour.

Liz Wolfe: Along with that, and along with what I was talking about with what I’m kind of grappling with right now; you also have to, I say this all the time, give yourself grace if you believe that’s something that’s really, really, really weighing on you is not weighing similarly on another person. There are many, many people who have similar or probably more difficult birth stories than I do, yet the way it makes me feel, that’s what is the factor here. You can’t compare about how you feel about something to how somebody else feels about the same thing. All that matters is how you feel about it. So, I think maybe this, as a woman, maybe this is something that women are more apt to do. But I feel like I have a huge tendency to compare anything I’m struggling with someone else who is dealing with the same stuff. So I don’t know why we minimize our feelings or look at other people and decide; “oh gosh, I shouldn’t feel this way. They get to feel this way, but I don’t.” But I think that’s also something to just be watchful about as you travel through life, because I think that’s something that happens multiple times, every single day, where we invalidate our own feelings or our responses to things and really to our own detriment, and I think that compounds the problem, as well.

8. Changing our thought processes [45:39]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. So the other thing I wanted to say about that, which same lines here; saying no to things; and we know our listeners are primarily women, so I’m talking to all of you ladies. I tend to have a pretty strong self preservation response based on what’s happened in my life. Over the course of the last, I don’t know, 20+ years, when I was in high school there was a traumatic experience that was within my family, and it affected me very strongly and for whatever reason, I guess at that point in time I created defense mechanisms the way that I handle things, removing myself from a lot of situations that I feel I don’t want or need to be a part of. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it; I’m sure I involve myself in things that might be stressful from time to time that I shouldn’t, but having a strong self preservation response is so important as women, and I think the vast majority of women don’t have it inherently. And I think that probably when you become a mother, it will break down further, and if you didn’t have one it will get to be almost nothing in a sense. And that’s not a criticism, and it’s not an insult, it’s just a fact. I know you Liz; you are really good at being nice to people {laughs}.

Liz Wolfe: Mm-hmm. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And I am not that way, and it’s not because I’m not caring, it’s because I cannot give out so much because I will then become even worse. I just know that I have a very finite limit of how much I can give before what I give loses quality. And you’re really great at being so nice to people. But then I don’t know if that maybe depletes you on the other side more than I get depleted, and I know that as women when it comes to being a mom; I can tell my mom’s response to anything I do. She will drop her entire life if I’m calling, and that’s just what happens.

So, point there being, recognize if you’re not saying no to things that you can say no to. And the more you do it, the more you realize it’s ok. And this is actually a really important and critical part of discovering the roots of your own adrenal fatigue, because it could even be saying no to yourself. Saying no to this idea of who you think you need to be all the time. It could be saying no to the thoughts and feelings, like you were talking about Liz, of “I’m having these strong emotions right now, and do I just say yes and let them come into my brain and take over my stress response, or I just say no to them for now, and I say no, I’m not going to deal with you right now.” And allow yourself to not feel the stress. Because your brain can make all this stuff happen or not, just by how you operate and control it.

{laughs} This is such a touchy-feely way of handling adrenal fatigue, but the neural plasticity that we have; I talked about this I know for sure when I talked about adrenal fatigue before. What happens when we respond to stressors over and over again in a certain way is that our brain then is wired to continue to respond in that way. So the example that I’ve given for many years is, you’re sitting in traffic on your way to work, and you’re stressed about it, right? Because you need to be at work at a certain time. Maybe you have an important meeting, or call, or something. And you’re on the road and you can’t help but feel stressed about it.

Well, what happens when it’s Saturday and you happen to take the same route that you normally take to get to work, but you're not going to work, you’re just going to the mall or something and there’s a ton of traffic? Your brain is so wired to respond to that traffic with a high stress response that you’re going to respond the same way. How many times we’ve all done it? We’ve been in traffic, and we go crazy for no reason. We have nowhere to be at a certain time, but we can’t help but have that stress response. It’s not just what we’re doing consciously; it’s a subconscious response. Our brain plasticizes that response because it’s the path of least resistance. It’s the easiest response for us to have.

So what Liz and I are talking about is retraining your brain and having new conversations with yourself about how you handle stress and what you decide, because it is a choice most often. How you decide to handle things. You can’t decide what always happens, but you can decide your response, and you can decide the level of stress and attention you’re willing to give something.

Liz Wolfe: OK, I feel like we contextualize this really, really well.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: I think it might be time to shut this episode down as we’ve laid the stage for this series of podcasts that we’re going to do about adrenal fatigue; what do you think?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, this might be a multi-multipart series.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: I know we have Dr. Lauren Noel, who is ready to talk about this stuff as it pertains to a lot of different issues with hormones and women’s health. So Liz, maybe you and I next episode will talk a little bit more about some of the nitty gritty, more about why it happens, preventing it. We’ll talk a little bit more about some of the stuff around food and exercise, and then we’ll get into maybe some of the more specific Q&A when I talk to Dr. Lo about it. Maybe that will be part 3.

Liz Wolfe: Sounds good to me.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants, including me, I’m an NTP, emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia. Fall registration will open June 2016. I know the price is increasing next year, so do not wait. If you see the NTA as part of your future, get started now. You won’t regret it.

9. Try it at home: Quick fix meal ideas [52:31]

Liz Wolfe: Diane, what is our “Try this at home” for this week?

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright, this is our new segment as recommended by one of our amazing listeners who came to the live podcast event, so thank you very much for that. So this week the try this at home is going to be a quick go-to meal that you cook, or at least partly cook, but is super fast and you can do it in fewer than 10 minutes. So we want you guys to set a timer and tell us what meals you can come up with that involve cooking at least one part of it, and other parts can be cold or precooked, and post it to Instagram. Either leave a comment on the blog post for this episode, let us know wherever you can, and make sure that you are tagging us @BalancedBitespodcast so that we can see what you’re doing.

But an inspiration for this has been my 6-minute salmon recipe, which if you’re one of my email subscribers you got this video recently in your inbox. But it’s my 6-minute salmon, so the salmon itself takes 6 minutes to make, total, and the rest of the bowl that you guys see me post a bazillion times on Instagram, the whole thing comes together in less than; or fewer than, I should say, 10 minutes. I want you guys to show me what you’re making in fewer than 10 minutes. Liz do you have something you throw together? I feel like I could probably name what you would throw together. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughs} You name it, because I don’t know. Oh yeah! Ok, but you name it because I’m curious.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh no, you say it. You do it. No you.

Liz Wolfe: No you. Microwave spaghetti squash.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yep.

Liz Wolfe: Put some butter on it and some ground beef and a can of pasta sauce, or a bottle.

Diane Sanfilippo: I have you pegged.

Liz Wolfe: That’s what’s for dinner, actually.

Diane Sanfilippo: I have you totally pegged. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: Oh you do. You know, I eat that like twice a day. Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I mean I eat salmon bowls like twice a day.

Liz Wolfe: So good.

Diane Sanfilippo: And thanks, Liz, for making me get the seaweed salad from Vital Choice. It is my absolute obsession as long as I have some floss nearby to get the sesame seeds out of my teeth.

Liz Wolfe: Yes. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And the seaweed out. But my 6-minute salmon and that salmon bowl comes together in fewer than 10 minutes. We want you to tell us your quick fix meals in the comments over on the episode, or on Instagram when we post the episode graphic. We would love to see what you make at home.

Liz Wolfe: Fantastic.

10. #Treatyoself: King Arthur flour gluten free brownies [54:44]

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright Liz, do you have a treat yoself this week?
Clip: Three words for you; Treat. Yo. Self.

Liz Wolfe: I sure do.

Diane Sanfilippo: What is it.

Liz Wolfe: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Is it 4 donuts? {laughing}

Liz Wolfe: I would like the following donuts. No, #treatyoself of the week for me it is; so King Arthur flour has this gluten free brownie mix, and it is phenomenal. I kind of don’t even know what’s in it at this moment, but it’s so fudgy and delicious and the edge pieces get so, you know, caramelized. It’s amazing. So every once in a while as a thank you for my parents taking care of our dogs for the last 10 weeks while we’ve been moved out of our house, I’ll make them a batch of King Arthur flour’s boxed gluten free brownies, and they’re delicious.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, that sounds good.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. Alright, very good. That’s it for this week. You can find me, Liz, at and you can find Diane at Join our email lists for free goodies and updates that you don’t find anywhere else on our website or on the podcast. We really put everything into our email lists, so please sign up. It’s really the best way to keep in touch and to not miss a thing. While you’re on the internet, please leave us an iTunes review. See you next week.

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