481: Adrenal Reset Diet: Naturally Lose Weight & Regain Energy, Dr. Alan Christianson
Ashley James And Dr. Alan Christianson
- Understanding Adrenal Fatigue
- Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- What is Adrenal Reset Diet?
- Importance of Cortisol and Glucose in the Body
- Cortisol Rhythm and Cortisol Slope
One of the many jobs of the adrenals is to maintain a normal cortisol rhythm. When this rhythm is off, we can become overwhelmed more quickly, fatigued, and gain weight. It can also develop even more severe health issues such as heart disease or diabetes. In this episode, Dr. Alan Christianson is back on the show to talk about his book, The Adrenal Reset Diet. He shares about how to lose weight and balance cortisol with simple diet and lifestyle changes.
Hello true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. You're in for a real treat today. We have back on the show, Dr. Alan Christianson. This is his fourth time on the show and listeners have shared with me that he has been one of their favorite guests. So I'm so happy to have him back. You can go back and check out previous episodes with him. Episode 307, 324 and 465, where he shares about how to heal a thyroid and heal your metabolism using the latest science that we understand about food and holistic medicine. Now, today he comes to share about a topic is near and dear to my heart because I suffered for many years from chronic adrenal fatigue and I believe that a great percentage of the population and a great percentage of people listening today– so might be you are suffering unknowingly from some degree of adrenal fatigue.
Now, one study he cites in this interview today, you're really, your ears are going to perk up because he talks about this massive study where they followed a large group of people for their entire lifespan. And what they discovered was that the number one, now, the number two contributing factor to early death was smoking. That makes sense but there was something that was even more powerful, and even more powerful indicator to contribute to early death and disease and that was your stress levels, so cortisol levels, and that's what we're talking about today.
Now, you can't feel it when you're stressed out. And this is something we discussed in the interview. But there are things that you can do in your lifestyle, daily, small habits that you can bring into your life that will significantly extend the length of your life and make sure that the last 20 or 30 years of your life are blissful ones. There aren’t like, if you think about some people you know who are older, they're not doing so well. You don't want to be in your 70s not doing so well. You want to be like one of my doctor mentors that I met back in 2009, yeah, 2009, it was Dr. Jenny Ross-Wilkinson who was amazing. She was in the Olympics. And she did my cortisol levels. I was suffering so bad and she was the doctor. She's a holistic doctor and she was the doctor that first taught me about cortisol levels, and that I had chronic adrenal fatigue and she was the one that helped me start to understand what I could do in my lifestyle and in a nutrition to get my body back into balance.
And Dr. Alan Christianson because he is a naturopathic endocrinologist has dedicated his career to studying what we can do to bring our stress hormones back in to balance. And it's amazing that what you eat, when you eat, and simple things like when you wake up, when you go to bed, and the little things you do in the day to bring your stress levels down, to bring your cortisol down can cause you to live 15-20 years longer and can cause you to not have diseases later in life. That is so huge.
Now the big, big thing that I use on a regular basis is my Sunlighten Sauna. I got it about four, five years ago. If you've been a longtime listener, you remember back when I talked about getting it and how amazing I felt. Well, there's been so many studies about using infrared saunas for decreasing stress in the body. It lowers and balances blood pressure for 24 hours after using a sauna. It helps the cardiovascular system, it’s almost the elasticity of the cardiovascular system. It's like getting a workout. You actually do burn about 500 calories while you're in there sweating, but it's really comfortable. So the sound of like sweating in the sauna that does not sound very comfortable. Traditional saunas are incredibly hot, hard to breathe while Sunlighten Sauna, it's easy to breathe and yet you're sweating that’s because they use a technology that is a full spectrum infrared. So it's near mid and far infrared and I don't know any other company that does that. They also have ultra-low EMF, ultra-low, non-toxic. They don't use anything toxic when they put theirs together.
Now, I have the stand-up sauna, it's about the size of a closet. So we have it in the corner of our office. It doesn't take up that much room. My husband and I can sit in it. Even though it's a one person and it comes with the tablet. So if you want to listen to music, it has a little stereo to listen to music, or listen to podcasts while you're sweating, or watch some TV or documentaries. I like to watch health documentaries because that's what I'm into. Then you can do that. There's also a special lie-down one. If you don't have room in your house that tucks away into your closet or under your bed and it's called the Solo System. Now, you can go to sunlighten.com and you can just check that out. And then if you want to give them a call and ask them for information, make sure that you mention, you heard it from me because when I interviewed Connie Zack, the founder of Sunlighten, I asked her to give all my listeners a discount. So she said, you guys get free shipping, which is awesome. I think that's something like $500 off right there. And then they give you an additional discount and sometimes they give free like accessories. I got the bamboo thing to sit on that makes it even more comfortable. That kind of stuff. So they give a great discount. Make sure that you get that discount, but go ahead and check it out. Go to sunlighten.com look through it there. I've always had really good experiences with their customer service and their sales team because they're really knowledgeable and they can send you studies and send you further information.
So that's the biggest thing I use on a regular basis to keep my cortisol levels in check and to bring down stress in the body because we can't, we don’t feel stress. Stress is an emotion. It's like saying, can you feel your testosterone levels? Can you feel your estrogen levels? You can't. You can’t feel. You can feel the effects when you're so far out of range, right? Like when you have, there's men who have almost no testosterone at all. They act very differently from men who have on the other side of the spectrum have like way too much, right? When you're out of balance, we see the effects of that. But you have to be in extremely low cortisol or extremely high cortisol to see the side effects of having that. Right? To see the effects, whereas you don't just feel when you're in stress. So we have to actively participate in and be conscious of how can I lower my stress levels and bring it back into balance because this world we live in is filled with stress. We're not meant to live in this artificial world, this artificial, stressful world. And so we need to be proactive just like you want to brush your teeth and brush your teeth twice a day, floss twice a day. We're all supposed to do that. We need to do things throughout the day to lower our stress.
So you're going to learn today from Dr. Alan Christianson, the foods you can eat, when you should eat. He does talk about that extensively with studies to back it in his book which I recommend getting. I got the audio version. I loved listening to it. I thought the first part was just blew my mind. The kinds of studies he talks about which he does go into in our interview today. So you're going to love that. But just, if you think to yourself, I'm super busy. I know, I already know I have adrenal chronic fatigue or I already know I'm stressed out. If you already know that about yourself, then look into doing things like adjusting your sleep schedule, adjusting your diet nutrition for optimal stress levels, going for walks first thing in the morning. That's great. And then look into getting a Sunlighten and check that out because this is one of those tools where I feel like I get to go into a spa. Every evening, I jump into my Sunlighten after our son goes to bed and that's my great wind down for the night. I feel so good when I'm in it and I feel so good when I get out of it and sometimes we do it in the morning, just the way our schedule is and the rest of the day. I feel more relaxed and calm. But I definitely get a better sleep when I use it. I'm detoxing.
The reason why I got it was to detox heavy metals. And it's really helped me to lower my heavy metal load. It really helped to take the pressure off my liver. I was having liver problems from being unable to detox heavy metals and the Sunlighten, it helped me a lot with that. It's something our whole family uses to help with our detox and help lower our stress, for detoxing stress if you think about it. So it's fantastic. And then the side benefit– if you listen to my interview with Connie Zack, the side benefit is the– I believe it's the near and mid-infrared, also have anti-aging properties because they stimulate collagen production so your skin gets incredibly soft. And my husband always comments on it when he touches me like, oh, your skin so soft and like yes, I know, I jumped in my Sunlighten and my body is producing more collagen and elastin. So that's just another benefit is you also have balanced blood pressure, lowered stress, you're burning calories, you are detoxing heavy metals and you also look younger. So there's my little pitch. My absolute favorite device that I use to lower stress. But because I want all of us, all of you and me to live longer, a healthier, longer life, I just know the whole episode today is going to be a really fun listen for you. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you love. Keep sharing and also look out for our new website. We are going to be launching very soon our updated website. We've been working hard on it and it is designed to help you explore all these fantastic topics. We're soon approaching 500 episodes that I wanted to make it easier for all the listeners to find all this great content in an organized way. So we're going to be launching that. So be sure to visit the learntruehealth.com website and check that out. Have yourself a fantastic day and enjoy today's interview.
[00:10:46] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I'm your host, Ashley James. This is episode 481. I am so excited for today's guest. We have back on the show, Dr. Alan Christianson, who is a naturopathic endocrinologist. Did I get that right?
[00:11:09] Dr. Alan Christianson: You nailed it.
[00:11:11] Ashley James: That’s a mouthful. And it's really exciting because pretty sure you're the only naturopathic endocrinologist I've ever met. This is your fourth time being back on the show, so I'm throwing confetti, environmentally friendly confetti like that plants tree. There's like seeds in it that plant trees every time you throw it and good for the environment and lowers carbon footprint, you know the whole thing but I'm throwing confetti. I'm very excited you're here. Congratulations. You’ve made it to episode, your own episode number four. You can go back and listeners can go back and listen to Dr. Alan Christianson in episode 307, 324, and 465. In the past, we've tackled topics such as how to heal the thyroid and how to reset the thyroid, there’s a diet, amazing book, by the way. We talked about in episode 465. This is an actual diet you can dial in the amount of iodine that you get from your food to reset the thyroid.
There's this myth that many people believe that we should just be on iodine. You should just like I don't know, just like rub it all over your body and like do mud wrestling and iodine like you should just get as much iodine in the body as possible and let the thyroid sorted out. And what's amazing Dr. Alan Christianson shares in his book in Episode 465 is that you need a specific amount and anything above that specific amount, I believe anything that below the specific amount can really throw off the thyroid and we have a whole epidemic of thyroid dysfunction in the world. And I love that your book addresses how to heal the thyroid. How to balance it. So you talked about that in the past and we talked about how to reset the metabolism and how to get ourselves back to a healthy metabolism.
And today, we're talking about a subject that's near and dear to my heart. I feel fortunate enough to say that I've never struggled with—jeez, I’m knocking on wood and thanking God. I struggled with many health issues in my past and I feel fortunate that thyroid was not one of my things and I really feel for those who do struggle with thyroid, but Adrenal Fatigue was one of my things. I had adrenal burnout. Adrenal fatigue so bad, it was like end stage, I was so, so sick from adrenal burnout. I couldn't wake up till 11 in the morning. I was wired at night. I couldn't fall asleep at night. My cortisol was only high at night and by high I mean like just barely off of the ground. It was just a tiny bit of cortisol at night which is enough to keep me like wired at night. And then I was just out of it. My brain couldn't function so bad that for about the first two hours, I was awake. I couldn't even comprehend human language. People would talk to me and I just was like, I put my hands up like I just don't talk, I was like a zombie. I couldn't even understand or comprehend or had the conversations until a few hours after I was awake and a lot of coffee although really wasn't coffee just wasn't even doing it anymore for me. And I was just go getting worse and worse and worse. And so I got some testing done by a functional doctor.
This was back more—jeez, it’s like 14 years ago and sure enough my cortisol– that's when she showed me that throughout the day– my cortisol was so low. She goes, the highest your cortisol is at night and she goes, it was supposed to be high in the morning. But your cortisol is when your highest is actually everyone else is low at like lowest like when people are sleeping and they're like their cortisol is like really, really, really low. She goes, that's your highest. She goes, your cortisol– she was never seen someone so bad. She said, the only other person I've seen remotely close to how bad you are, is when, is herself. She had actually got done the Olympics twice. She was a live Olympic competitor and after the Olympics, she did labs and she saw that she was totally burned out. And then she bounced back.
But she goes, that's the only person I've ever seen that was like remotely as bad as you are, is myself, when I did the Olympics twice. And that was reassuring because every other doctor just said, go to a counselor or they just didn't believe me. They want to throw drugs at me and then they didn't believe me and I felt completely disregarded by mainstream medical system. And I felt like I was just lazy and stupid. And then when I got this test results, it's like oh, no, my body is really messed up. And I'm trapped inside this really messed up body and I'm not just lazy and stupid. I'm brilliant. And I just have absolutely no energy and I'm fighting against this body that is just completely burnt out and failing.
So I love that here you are today. Here to shed light on this topic and help people. Now, you've got an amazing book, Adrenal Fatigue Diet and The Adrenal Reset, sorry, The Adrenal Reset Diet. I apologize. I apologize. Well of course, the links to everything that Dr. Christianson does is going to be in the show notes for today's podcast in learntruehealth.com. You can go to drchristianson.com and do the quizzes. I love the quizzes there. You've got adrenal quiz, optimal thyroid video series and a thyroid quiz like just some great educational pieces. People could just start to dive in and learn and of course, then they can listen to your podcasts. They can book a consultation with you. They can shop your supplements store and of course, they can get all of your books which are fantastic. They’re so many people suffering and yes, people are suffering from thyroid issues which you address and you help people but today we're going to talk about adrenal reset. And of course, listeners with thyroid issues can go back and listen to those previous episodes, like 465, where you share in detail how they can get themselves back on track. How they can heal their thyroid through their diet, which is fantastic.
Today is dedicated to those who are suffering with adrenal fatigue. I hear you. I see you. You're not just lazy and stupid that you're not those things at all. Eventhough, the medical system makes you out to be those things. You are brilliant and you are so beyond tired. The word tired doesn't even begin to explain how you feel. And sometimes you feel wired. The fact is that your cortisol levels are not healthy, and it's something that you can correct and Dr. Alan Christianson here today to teach you how to do that.
When I started getting myself back on track and I saw a naturopath who is now my mentor and he helped me change my diet and get on some supplements and get some minerals in me and get off of foods that were harming me. Within days, I felt my body coming back online. Within five days of being just going that direction on eating healthy, getting some good supplements, and I'd been on like generic supplements in the past and nothing helps. So it was really like good quality supplements but also really clean diet. Within five days, I was having energy again and I could not believe I actually woke up early in the morning, I jumped on my husband and said oh my gosh, I can't believe I am awake. And I’m like, I like thinking my brain is working. It's only been five days.
It was a really, really big thing for me was going gluten-free but there was about 12 things I removed from my diet and then a bunch of good stuff like vegetables and things like that I added in. And for me, that first awakening where I went from feeling just completely just like– how I describe it 14 years ago is every morning I feel like the night before I downed a bottle of tequila and got hit by a mock truck.
[00:19:14] Dr. Alan Christianson: Wow!
[00:19:15] Ashley James: And I was waking up with like just killer headaches feeling like you're having a hangover and dehydrated and you can’t hardly function. But I didn't drink alcohol. I barely touched sugar because I knew like that would make it worse. And just that was my experience of every morning waking up with adrenal fatigue. So for many people, it's not that severe yet like I really got to the end of it. For some people it's and you're going to describe it and explain with what adrenal fatigue is for some people they don't even know. They have just minor symptoms and they can't quite put their finger on it but it is the beginning of adrenal fatigue.
So Dr. Christianson, I'm so excited to have you on the show today. Today's dedicated to all those who are suffering and no longer do they need to suffer because you're here to help them. So welcome back to your fourth episode. Welcome back to the show.
[00:20:09] Dr. Alan Christianson: Hey, thanks again. Great to be with you, Ashley. This has been a lot of fun.
[00:20:12] Ashley James: Absolutely. So you've talked in the past episodes about what led you to become a naturopathic physician, especially focusing on endocrinology. Share with us specifically about what happened in your career that led you to understand, you're wanting to dive deep into adrenal fatigue and eventually, right the adrenal reset diet.
[00:20:36] Dr. Alan Christianson: Well this was an extension of my focus on thyroid disorders. This was really one of the big ways in which people were still suffering. With thyroid disease, there's a symptoms that come out from changes to the thyroid, of course, but also from the immune stress that gives rise to them. And then also from these things called co-morbidities, which are just second rate conditions they have and abnormal adrenal function is one of the key ones. So I saw a lot of ways in which sometimes people can be benefited when it was identified basic lifestyle steps can be done, but also saw a lot just of confusion, a lot of ways in which the conventional world didn't consider it a real phenomenon. I saw a lot of point on the natural side that weren't well based in science, and I wanted to get a better understanding and figure out some models by which people really could regain their health even if they were far along.
[00:21:29] Ashley James: So as you were diving in to understanding adrenal fatigue, what's surprised you– like you've already mentioned there's so much misinformation and that's one of the things I really appreciate about your books, is you like to look at the science and also your clinical experience and then cut through the BS and cut through so much of the medical myths that continue to the state to persist. What surprised you about adrenal fatigue as you began to dive deeper into the studies and understanding it?
[00:22:06] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, so we'll talk about what we best, how we best describe the phenomenon, what do we call it. And if you look at anything in the conventional literature, all they have to say is very disparaging words about the whole affair, whether this is a real thing or not. And the difficulty is that there is a real phenomenon, but I think it's been badly misunderstood in the natural medicine space. And I even think the name that we've used for that for over the years. It kind of lends to the confusion. So the idea is that when someone's had major stressors, there can be an alteration in how their body secretes cortisol. How much is made and when it's made. No controversy. And there's also certainly many ways in which that change can correlate with a huge range of symptoms. You mentioned a lot of them, fatigue, some also get mood changes, severe muscle weakness. There's also big data saying that when cortisol levels are not working in a good daily rhythm, talk more about that. But there's also a lot of worse health outcomes. There's also a lot of disease risks and heightened mortality. None of that's controversial. But the natural medicine side often assumes that what's happened is that the adrenal glands have gotten worn out. They assume that because of high amounts of stress, the adrenals have made a lot of cortisol and now they're just tired. They're just weak and they can't make it any more.
So again, the truth is that cortisol can be abnormal. And the truth is that, that can associate with many symptoms, and also the deck can come on after major stressors but really important distinction is that when cortisol is abnormal, it isn't because the adrenals are unable to make cortisol. It's not because they're weak or broken. It's because they are part of a larger context we call the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. And that's the main endocrine regulation of the stress response. And under chronic stressors, the body often pumps the brakes, it often slows down our metabolic activities. And it's not because we're unable to do them. It's because we're better off to slow down, so it’s the deliberate slowing, rather than a break or a damage to the glands. And the distinction becomes really important as we talk further about treatments.
[00:24:25] Ashley James: So, it's up in the hypothalamus, that is telling the adrenals to produce less cortisol?
[00:24:32] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, so the cycle is that the hypothalamus tells– so think about hypothalamus is like the CEO of corporation, and the pituitary as a manager. And the CEO is like too highfalutin to talk to the actual staff. You might talk to the manager but not the actual staff. The manager does that. Right? So the pituitary speaks to the adrenals. And that's true for the other glands as well. So the hypothalamus tells the pituitary to tell the adrenals how much they should work. And based on how much they work, the hypothalamus figures out, okay, they should work harder, they should not work so hard. And there's this balance as it’s in place. Now, the difficulty is that under chronic stress, the body often becomes hyper-vigilant and hyper-responsive. So this hypothalamic response governs not just how much we make of adrenal hormones, but how readily we go into this whole cascade of distress response, the whole fight or flight response. And when we do that, we do that at the cost of reparative processes.
Another way of looking at this, this is part of the autonomic, the involuntary nervous system. We've got the sympathetic systems called fight-or-flight. We've got the parasympathetic systems, those are called feed and breed or tend and friend or care and repair. But they're really one is on and one is off, and we need some of both to be operating. But when someone's had a high load of chronic stressors, they get too good at going into the fight or flight response. And the difficulty is that, yeah, the conventional world just denies all adrenal fatigue, but there's massive amounts of data on hypothalamic pituitary adrenal dysfunction. There's thousands and thousands of studies on this. And the symptoms of it are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, and a lot of the lifestyle steps that help it are the lifestyle sub-adrenal fatigue. The big disconnect, though, one of the biggest ones is that many practitioners in natural medicine have the capacity for prescribing hormones. And now, they often assume that low cortisol is the cause of the symptoms, and therefore by prescribing cortisol, they can reverse these symptoms. And now, sometimes, that's true in the short term. Sometimes, if you give someone that like where you were someone in a situation like yours might have been given prescription cortisol, they might have felt better from that for a while. But the important understanding is, that's exactly what the body was trying to avoid. Your body wanting a break from cortisol. So yeah, so sometimes efforts like that, that can help in the short term can be counterproductive over the longer term.
[00:27:11] Ashley James: I was actually put on cortisol and I remember the first time taking it with the minutes I was like, okay, I feel like a little bit like I'm awake but it wasn't the same. It really felt artificial. At the back of my mind, I'm like, this doesn't feel like the solution, like this prescription pill even though was a compounding pharmacy, it was an osteopathic physician and I was told this is the cause of the problem is your body's just not producing enough cortisol. We just got to get the cortisol up and we're just going to let the adrenals take a break. Well, we artificially raise your cortisol with, it was more naturally sourced cortisol, but it really felt artificial.
[00:28:02] Dr. Alan Christianson: So let me contrast what you had going on with the thing where the adrenal fatigue idea that really does happen or it actually cannot make cortisol.
[00:28:09] Ashley James: Right.
[00:28:10] Dr. Alan Christianson: The most common cause of that is an autoimmune disease called Addison's disease. It's really just like Hashimoto’s, but rather of the thyroid, it’s of the adrenals. It’s an autoimmune disease or the immune system breaks them down. And in those cases, the body has no real source for cortisol. It's generally more of a complete effect than Hashimoto’s is. With Hashimoto’s there's often a degree of thyroid output but still, with Addison's there's almost no cortisol output. So in many cases that cortisol replacement is life or death.
Now, when doctors understand the nuance, there's a really easy thing they can do. It's a test that measures the pituitary speaking to the adrenals. And so where you were when your cortisol was low, if someone had done a test that measures ACTH, that's Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, what they would have seen was that ACTH would have also been low, and that means your body was doing it on purpose.
[00:29:00] Ashley James: Yeah.
[00:29:01] Dr. Alan Christianson: Now, in a state just like yours, if someone had adrenal insufficiency from Addison's disease, their ACTH would have been through the roof. And in that case, the body will be begging for cortisol. So, the first layer looks the same and the symptoms look the same, but all the stuff going on behind the scenes are completely different.
[00:29:21] Ashley James: Oh, that makes so much sense. So, we need to get some functional testing to see is it in fact that your body really wants to take a break?
[00:29:34] Dr. Alan Christianson: No.
[00:29:35] Ashley James: And the breaks like you said, because you've been in a chronic state of stress, or is it that your body can't make it. The adrenals are compromised from the autoimmune condition in which case, you have diet and recommendations to support the body to heal from that?
[00:29:55] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. So Addison’s lifestyle things are still helpful, but there's just a non-negotiable need for cortisol. It’s a molecule by requires that it can no longer make and that's so different.
[00:30:05] Ashley James: Right. And like you said, it's similar to a thyroid where if the body isn't producing thyroid, then we want to give it thyroid but we have to first test. It's really important. And I love so many of my listeners are jumping into holistic medicine because they want to get away from the MD that's just been throwing drugs at them and they just do blood tests and then throws drugs at them and has no lifestyle advice. And just says, well, i’ll just give you all these drugs for a stress-free life and that’s it! It’s not what we deserve. It’s not what we need. It's not the root cause. It’s all looking at the root cause.
And so what you're saying is, let's get some really good functional testing. Let's see where in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis is your problem. And then if you need a prescription because your body's isn’t producing that and it needs it. Great. But most of the time, it's different, most of the time, it's really lifestyle changes that need to take place. So what are the symptoms? Like let's just back off. Some people don't even know what a cortisol is. So what are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue? Let's just lay it out there because I think a lot of people have the beginnings of adrenal fatigue and they don't even realize it.
[00:31:29] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, and this is a very common that can affect many adults in the modern world for sure. It's very prevalent. And you were saying how it's much more common than it is to where the adrenals cannot make hormone. And you're so right, the latter scenario is to touch on that briefly. That's probably about three to five people per million. So that's exceedingly rare. So yeah, if you had low cortisol showed up on a test, you wouldn't necessarily need to go out and see if it were Addison's disease. It's very unlikely. But yeah, this is much, much more typical. And in terms of symptoms, so the adrenals make upwards of 57 different hormones, and hormones are still magical things to me. They're these chemicals that in the most infinitesimal concentration, completely regulate all of your body's activities.
Your cells, imagine that your cells are all like drinking this soup that your blood, and the flavor of the soup determines what they do. A little bit of extra salt, and they'll do this to make it spicy, and I'll do that differently. And that's kind of what the hormones are. And so these glands are squirting these flavorings into the soup, and they're adjusting everything in the body. And now the adrenals make upwards of 57 different ones. The core things they regulate include our electrolytes, like the sodium and potassium and others in our blood. They regulate our blood sugar. That's a huge role that they play. They also control our body's daily circadian rhythm. And there's so much more we know about that now and so much fascination about it. Everything that goes on in our body is tied to a clock basically in tied to daylight and darkness. We'll talk more about that.
Cortisol also regulates inflammation, which is important. And then the last big thing is that it controls how permeable your cells are to other hormones. So other hormones can't work properly without the cortisol rhythm. And cortisol, part of it is its presence or its absence, but even more important is the rhythm I alluded to. So when we're healthy, we make a big jolt of it. Somewhere in the hours just before we wake up. And then we keep tamping it down throughout the day and through the afternoon in the evening, we cut it down quite a bit. And that's a lot of us waking and sleeping is just really contingent upon this cortisol rhythm.
So, in terms of symptoms, when that's not working right, we can see nearly any symptom worsened. Some of the big ones are going to be the fatigue, like you mentioned, the mental focus, muscular pain, sometimes food cravings, headaches, quality of sleep, how well someone can perform physically. And one of the real key is when you think a symptom is more tied to the adrenals is when there's a recurrent daily pattern to it. Because they've got such a tight clasps over the daily rhythms, when they're not working right things tend to go wrong in a cyclical pattern like the same symptom shows up, it always crash at two in the afternoon. Are you always awake at four in the morning with your mind racing but there's often a daily rhythm to the symptoms with them.
[00:34:32] Ashley James: So the layout of a picture of what someone looks like who is suffering from adrenal fatigue but doesn't know where. We've already talked with some symptoms but are there any symptoms that we haven't addressed?
[00:34:48] Dr. Alan Christianson: I touched on the relevance control with blood sugar. I think a lot of them come back to that as well. So we'll see cravings for sweet things or carbohydrates, or just food when one's not necessarily hungry. Sometimes craving for salty things can show up quite a bit as well, or stimulants. Caffeine does some things that are kind of like what cortisol does. And that was part of your story. Which now you were very dependent upon that. So you actually really need to have caffeine or things to stimulate you and get you going. Or on the other hand, if your reserves are quite low, we all have extra demands on our self here in the earth and at some point, if there's too much taxation, any of us will become more tired, but when a little bit extra more activity or a change the schedule, when things like that hit you hard to take it long to recover, those are other signs of that being relevant to the adrenal function.
[00:35:43] Ashley James: I had a client a few years ago who was– I like to reference her when I talk about this so I said to listeners who have listened for a long time who have heard me say this before that she's very busy. She's like a manager. She's got a very busy job. She's got a young kid, a mom had was going through cancer treatment and she was just really juggling everything. High pressure job that she love, but then she had to come home and take care of a young kid then she had to cook dinner for her husband and her daughter and herself. And then she had to take care of her mom who was going through cancer treatment.
So there was just go, go, go, go, go. There's no downtime. And I really saw that she was in a state of stress. And so we worked on her diet. She wanted to like work on her diet. We're working on her diet and she was making really great changes, eating more healthy stuff. And I keep seeing that really what she needs to also do was take time throughout the day. To take some downtime and like laugh, go for walks outside, to do some like full breaths in good sunlight and clean air, laugh and dance with her daughter. Just do some stuff that isn't like, go go go go go. She was just like a robot everyday just from morning to night. Having to go go go go go and so I gave her this homework. And every week I noticed that she would always complete all the homework around sort of diet stuff or she would give me her journal. Her symptom journal and her food journal. But she would never complete all the stuff that had to do with bringing stress levels down.
And so I finally after like three or four weeks, I addressed it. I was like, hey, I noticed that you're not taking this aspect of your homework seriously and I just want to know what's up because I don't like—the clients, they can do whatever they want. This is just my input and they get to decide with what's they want to run with and there's no judgment there. They just like, this is interesting. This is interesting to me that like I think I assigned her like on her lunch break, go for a walk and watch 15 minutes of comedy every day to laugh and put on some music and do a dance party with her daughter when she got home. Like just little like 15 minutes snippets throughout the day where she could like have some fun and laugh.
[00:38:13] Dr. Alan Christianson: That’s great.
[00:38:14] Ashley James: And also making sure that they're going to sleep on time is important and instead of like exercise like go to a step class or go to a spin class it was more like move your body in a way that also brings you joy and relaxation. And I said, this is really important because you're living like your body is in stress and we want to take you out of stress and she goes, I don't feel stress. She goes, I don't need to do this stuff because I don't feel stressed and I’m like oh, thank you for saying that. That like everything made sense in my mind. It all came in it together.
We live as though– and I can only speak for women because I don't know what it's like to be a man but I know for a woman. We live as though stress is an actual emotion and I'm waiting to feel it like anger or sadness. Right? But like stress is somehow like this is gonna be a very clear indicator like oh, I'm so sad, I’m crying. Right? Like it's gonna be stress. Oh, I feel stressed. Oh, okay, now I need to do something about this. Right? And we kind of drag our body through behind. We just drag our body behind us basically like kicking and screaming like, come on, body, we got all of this stuff we got to do. Take care of the kids and take care of the spouse and take care of our job. I am woman, hear me roar. We can do everything. Right? Like we can take care of the whole world and drag our body through it. And then we’ll rest when our body says, it's stressed out, when I feel stressed.
And that's just the perfect example because stress isn't an emotion. And you don't feel stress unless you are highly, highly, highly in tuned with your respiratory rate, your heart rate. Like if you are so in tune with the tension in your muscles and your sleep patterns and your digestion. Like if you're very, very, very in tune with all your symptoms your body then you'd be like, oh, I'm noticing that my heart rate variability is off. I am in a state of stress. We're not. Almost of us are not in tune with our body at all. So we don't even know really unless we're fainting from– like I actually know I interviewed a woman who fainted because she pushed herself so hard her body was like well, I'm just gonna make you rest. Until we're at that point where our body is so stressed out that it's just going to hit a wall. We don't know that we're in fight or flight or rest and digest. We don't know that we're in it and so maybe you could speak to this. Speak to those men and women listening who– they don't know to actually like take time, every day to get themselves, to help their body come down into a balanced state. Because they don't know that they're not in a balanced state.
[00:41:14] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. Now, those are some great points and I've not heard it said quite that clearly before how you don't necessarily feel struggling and know that. And yeah, I think a lot of ways like you said we assume that we can push ourselves through and if we can keep going to things must be alright. And I think we're used to working with machines, when your car is out of gas and stops. But our body is not like that and we've got to live a lot of ways in which we can dig deeper. We can do things that aren't ideal. That's the whole fight or flight stress response is. It's not good for us, but it can get us through in a moment of crisis. But you're right, we've become used to that. We become conditioned to that. And yeah, most people I think, do feel way extreme panic is like and they got to sense about being in a state of fear and a quick reactive state. And they would assume that if they have something wrong, they would have some of those symptoms. But yeah, they're not always there. But this is a big thing.
And not only does it directly impact the quality of our experience, but it ends up affecting all the rest of our systems. So we see, every weak link in the body is more up to break when the stress load is higher. So all symptoms get more pronounced. Life is just less enjoyable. I heard one person say that there's those that get ulcers and those that give ulcers. So sometimes people are more aware of what's happening with themselves, but in other cases, they're more so externalizing it. And for those that give ulcers, the analogy is that even if you can't see yourself, it might seem like everyone around you is gotten stupid, but they really didn't. That means you're under stress.
[00:42:57] Ashley James: Oh my gosh! I love that because by example of having a PMS. Right? Ever. It's like I'm fine. I'm not irritable. Everyone else is just pissing me off. Everyone on the planet is just stupid today. I'm fine.
[00:43:18] Dr. Alan Christianson: Stupid and slow.
[00:43:19] Ashley James: And yeah. Why is it really irritating me? Why are they all being so irritable? I'm fine. I feel great. I'm not upset but all of you are being stupid. And then I'm like, oh, if it's everyone is pissing you off, then it's probably your problem. It’s probably you. It’s probably your filter. And then I go, oh, okay. That's, it's me. It's not everyone else.
[00:43:44] Dr. Alan Christianson: So if you're not feeling stressed, and everyone else is seeming really dumb and annoying, you might be feeling stressed.
[00:43:48] Ashley James: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. So, everyone is sort of pushing themselves harder than they should. Right? So they're in a more of a state of stress and so the body then goes okay, we've been chronically pumping out more cortisol, which is a stress hormone to keep ourselves on the edge, to keep ourselves in fight or flight. And the body goes, this isn't helping. Because when we're in fight or flight– and this is something that we haven't talked about in this episode.
But many other episodes, it's been addressed that when you're in fight or flight, the sympathetic nervous system responses of the autonomic nervous system that your body shunts blood away from the logic centers of your brain so you can't think clearly. You can't think logically. You cannot solve complex problems. You're more coming from like– I apologize for the analogy– but like monkey brain and lizard brain. You're coming more from the instinctual, immediate response, and that works when you're in a burning building on the second floor. You don't want to start analyzing. Which we know should I jump out of? Which bush do I want to landed? Because then I mean, you sit there trying to like make logical decisions with your higher functioning brain. That might be too slow. You need to be reactive. And so, when you're in fight or flight, you lose that ability to really think critically. And what you do get is that reactive or animalistic brain which helps you to survive in those immediate moments. Just jump out of a window. Stop analyzing it, just jump out and survive the fire and land in whatever bush doesn't matter.
But then it's supposed to turn off. Okay, you're safe. You're good now. It’s suppose to turn off. And yet, what we do is we're constantly thinking about our bills and our job and everything going on the planet today. And so, we're actually, all of our thoughts, our bodies listening to and the body cannot perceive the difference between what's real and what's imagined. That's why you and I together, we can go sit in my living room once it’s unpacked. It's where we are surrounded by boxes right now and bins but– because we just moved. But once I get it unpack, we get the wonderful hifi stereo system set up in the theater, the theater system, the surround stereo and all that and the big TV. We get that all set up. And you and I sit there in the dark with our popcorn and we watch a zombie movie. And we know we're safe. The doors are locked. I mean, we’re in a very safe neighborhood, in a gated complex. We have nothing to worry about there. And yet, if we were hooked up to machines, as we were watching this zombie movie. Right? You and I, know this is fake. This is fake. This is a movie after all.
But our body goes into stress mode. Our heart rate changes. Our respiratory rate changes. Our palms sweat. Our eyes, the dilation changes. Everything about our physiology says we're in a fight or flight mode. Watching a movie that is fictitious, in a room that we're safe in. And this is what our life is like. The body is constantly listening to your thoughts. And if you're thinking about, oh no, I have to pay that bill. What happens if I don't do this? What happens if this happens at work? And we're constantly thinking about what if's and all the bad things that could happen and all the final shoe that could drop. And then, the body is just reacting as if it’s real and as if it's happening right now.
And so, anxiety is a message. That is the one thing about being stressed mode is. If you feel anxiety, that's actually an indicator. You don't have to feel anxiety to be in stress mode and you can be in stress mode and not feel anxiety. But if you do feel anxiety, that does mean you're in a state of stress. Because that's the body's saying. It's a collection of symptoms saying you're in stress.
And here's one more thing, interesting about anxiety because I teach how to eliminate it. People can just Google my name and anxiety and find lots of free stuff. I teach a great tool for eliminating it. But what's really interesting is anxiety is not a negative emotion like any other emotion. You can think back to fear. A time in your past when you felt afraid or time in the past you felt happy or sad. Any emotion. You could think back to an intense emotion of the past and you can bring it to the present. Like if you're really, really angry at someone, you could get angry right now. You can actually reactivate that emotion, but you cannot be anxious of something that's complete or something that is done. Because anxiety is your body saying like, oh, we're focusing on what we don't want to have happen. We're thinking about something bad in the future and the body is in stress about that because the body just reacts to our thoughts. So we're constantly now because of our thoughts and because of this environment that we live in– with social media and in the media constantly pumping fear into us– we are in a state of fight or flight all the time.
And so, eventually, everyone is going to need your book, The Adrenal Reset Diet. Everyone and it's not just the diabetes, it's done diet, but it's so much more than a diet. I love the first few chapters. I have the physical book, but I just also love listening. I mean, go figure, I’m a podcaster and so I kept, as I was listening to your book. I kept having to stop it and go back 30 or 60 seconds and relisten because I was like, what did he just say? And I had to go back. There’s so many amazing studies that blew my mind. And as you were writing the book, tell us. Can you please cite some of the studies that blow your mind as well?
[00:49:33] Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, the funny thing is, yeah, I wrote this manuscript and during that time, I had young kids at home still. I had a full time practice. I was a competitive athlete. I was writing this book and too many irons in the fire. No way around that and I was working on the manuscript. For me, I was up late. It was like nine at night, so not as late as sunlight save, but it was later than should have been for when I was going to wake up. And I stumbled across this study called the Whitehall II study and this was one in which they tracked thousands and thousands of British civil servants and pretty big spread of ages. At age 23 to 70, tracked them for several years and the purpose of that, there was really just an open-ended screening study. They were looking at a lot of different health metrics, and then watching to see who died and who had heart attacks and who had these major negative outcomes. And their goal was to then, after the fact, look back and see which were the things that best predicted that. And the study got on my radar because they were also tracking their salivary cortisol levels.
Now, briefly touch on this, you talked about yours. So cortisol can be measured in the blood and can be measured in the saliva and measured in the urine. The salivary levels are good tools to gauge the body's cortisol rhythm. We also call that the Cortisol Slope in research. And you mentioned how yours was higher at night and the morning. Yeah, ideally, it's high in the morning, low at night. But if that slope is always high, always lower backward, that's a harmful thing. And so one of the things they tracked in the study was this Cortisol Slope of people. They looked at a lot of other things you might expect, cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, do they smoke or not, their body weight, things like that would be the risk factors and when was all said and done. There was many that did die over the course of this time. And many that did have cardiovascular deaths, many from other causes.
And of course, when they looked at the risk factors, one of the big emergent ones was smoking status. No surprise that way. But for total death, the smoking status was the number two risk factor. The number one was their Cortisol Slope. So what would really hit me was that, I was living under the assumption that if my other risk factors were in good shape. I didn't smoke. I had low cholesterol blood pressure, all that stuff. If I was a healthy guy, then I could afford to push the envelope here in there. But I could stay up late and work on the manuscript. I could have a few extra irons in the fire because I had so many things working in my favor that the net effect it wouldn't really be harmful. That was the delusion that I was operating under.
But I look at the raw numbers in this study and I saw a whole lot of people just like me that die early. They didn't have any other risk factors. But their life was such toward their Cortisol Slope wasn't healthy and they were seeing worse health outcomes than the smokers were.
[00:52:30] Ashley James: Oh my gosh.
[00:52:32] Dr. Alan Christianson: And it just hit me like a ton of bricks. There was no way to get around that. This was the most important single thing that I realized I could do to feel better and also just to be around my family longer. It was essential that I manage it.
[00:52:46] Ashley James: Now, there were some studies where you talked about weight and weight gain.
[00:52:51] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah.
[00:52:52] Ashley James: Okay. I'm going to keep referencing women because I don't know what it's like to be a man but there's so many women who just start gaining weight and they don't feel like they changed much in their diet or lifestyle, or maybe they just got busy and stressed, but that it's easier to gain weight, harder to lose weight and in to that progresses as they get older. And it becomes harder and harder to lose it. Easier and easier to gain it. And some women didn't even change their caloric intake. Can you talk about those studies?
[00:53:25] Dr. Alan Christianson: For sure, and we've seen this firsthand. But over the course of a woman's lifespan, her ovarian function changes in many big points. And one of those is the run up into menopause. Here's a brief little aside, Ashley. So you know how long menopause lasts?
[00:53:44] Ashley James: Five years?
[00:53:45] Dr. Alan Christianson: So, this is really stupid by actual definition. Current definitions menopause is one day. Not making it up. So, we define menopause as the absence of menstrual periods for 365 days. We define post-menopause as 366 days after one's last menstrual period. So after, we always talk about menopause is that and we think about it intuitively is this larger window of time because there's a large window of time when women don't feel well. Yeah. By medical definitions, now it's one day.
[00:54:22] Ashley James: Oh my gosh.
[00:54:23] Dr. Alan Christianson: As stupid as that is. But anyway, running up to menopause, the ovaries are changing. They're making erratic amounts of estradiol. They're declining in their progesterone, their testosterone and the adrenal glands, they juggle and they compensate. So they have to change cortisol to allow the cells to better take up these hormones that are waning. The adrenals also make estrone, they make a backup version of estrogen. The ovaries make estradiol, so, they're doing more tasks and it's not uncommon that along with just the stressors and crisis of life that they have a harder time juggling all of that because of the additional strain of coming into menopause.
And what happens is the adrenals make– I mentioned cortisol is one of the big hormones. They also make cortisone and cortisone is a weaker cousin of cortisol. Now, the liver has an enzyme that allows it to convert cortisol and cortisone back and forth to one another. With the changes that run up into menopause, that conversion changes and so the adrenals can make more stress hormone, but the liver also activates more stress hormones. And the net effect of that is it changes where the body sends its energy, where it sends the calories. So there's receptors on visceral fat and there's different receptors on muscle tissue. So the same person could be in the same amount of physical activity, the same caloric input, but if the receptors in their muscles are much more engaged, they're going to get their muscles full of glycogen and triglycerides, and they're going to want to go do stuff. They're going to be physically primed. Now, if those receptors are more targeting the visceral fat, just like swift switchyard in the train tracks.
The train is going to go down this the tracks with the other. So if it's more primed towards the visceral fat, that same fuel will become visceral fat, and that person rather than being energized and motivated, they're going to be tired, they're going to have more inflammation, more aches and pains. They won't feel well. So yeah, this is where, this is one of the ways in which the calorie model is not for not perfect.
[00:56:31] Ashley James: Everyone is on the edge of their seat. How do we switch that? So that the body, the cells are, the muscles are receiving the glycogen and triglycerides so that we can burn it all off and have lots of energy instead of it becoming visceral fat?
[00:56:50] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. So, that's about getting the cortisol rhythm back again and we'll talk about the details of that. But when the cortisol rhythm’s healthy, then more of our fuel goes to do things that we want to do.
[00:57:00] Ashley James: Yes, awesome. When I was listening to all of the wonderful studies that you're talking about in the first few chapters, it was like, it got me so motivated. It got me so excited. I don't know. I love hearing studies, but the way you wrote your book, people who aren’t into the science, it could really appreciate it. It's not like over anyone’s head. But what it does is it allows you to understand.
Again, just like when I was so sick, and then the doctors like hey, I don't want to use like it's kind of overused to say it's not your fault, but it’s not that you're just lazy and stupid. Right? It's like all the other doctors have been just telling you, you're just lazy. Right? That's not the case. The case is your hormones are off and we can make some corrections to that. We're going to get you back on track. And that's the same with this. It's like so many people are suffering, dieting, beating themselves up, bringing themselves out in a gym. And that's actually putting yourselves in a lower calorie diet, going to the gym more. Those things are actually counterproductive because they're putting you in a higher state of stress which is sort of driving the state deeper into the coffin. And yet that's what the mainstream media tells us to do. Just think about The Biggest Loser.
[00:58:22] Dr. Alan Christianson: Just push, push harder.
[00:58:24] Ashley James: Yeah. Push, push harder like just exercise more. Take these four or 500-pound people and make them run 12 hours a day on a treadmill and feed them up a little piece of lettuce and a low-fat piece of cheese. And then watch how they lose the weight. Right? Just do it more and if you haven't lost enough weight, it's your fault because you didn't run enough on the treadmill. And you're saying it's not the case that you can eat the same amount of calories. And if your hormones have shifted from lifestyle and nutrition and there's all these different factors that do it that your body then switches from putting fuel into your muscles, to putting fuel into the fat. And it's so, I love that you have actual steps people that can take to correct that and we definitely want to get there.
I want to address blood sugar because I feel like this is a chicken or the egg scenario. So a lifestyle, is it the lifestyle that develops blood sugar problems that then causes adrenal problems? Or is it the lifestyle that causes adrenal problems that then causes blood sugar problems? Because they know that there was a..
[00:59:29] Dr. Alan Christianson: That's the thing they both can happen.
[00:59:32] Ashley James: At the same time. So a lifestyle can cause a blood sugar and adrenal problems.
[00:59:37] Dr. Alan Christianson: Right. Remember the adrenals got those five main jobs and the more work they're going to do to manage the stress response, the less work they can do to manage your blood sugar. So that can become a vicious cycle that can also become a trigger if the blood sugar's off badly. It's more difficult for the adrenals to manage the blood sugar and then so on.
[00:59:53] Ashley James: So those who are listening who are like on Metformin or Insulin or been told that they have pre-diabetes or the Type 2 diabetic. Is it pretty much safe to say that everyone with blood sugar dysregulation also has adrenal dysregulation?
[01:00:10] Dr. Alan Christianson: Not always. There's many other things that regulate blood sugar and the adrenals are one of many other hormones. But it's quite common but not universal.
[01:00:18] Ashley James: Okay. Great. So but it's common enough that someone should look into it, if they have blood sugar problems. And by correcting adrenal fatigue, do you often see that blood sugar then goes back into balance because the lifestyle changes the diet. Lifestyle changes help them both become healthier?
[01:00:41] Dr. Alan Christianson: It does. Just one thing to mention, a popular thing now is continuous glucose monitoring. This is something that in endocrinology, we started using in the mid-90s and it’s a way to measure glucose constantly, and now it's very popular in the health consumer market and they were called CGM devices, they can see their glucose levels throughout the whole day. And they'll often do various dietary changes to help to try to change that. And it’s often, there are those that are just overly diabetic. Their glucose is far too high to be safe. But barring those scenarios, when someone has erratic, high blood sugar, like we call this postprandial which was high after a meal, or on occasion that drops off quite a bit. Those are often much more tied to cortisol metabolism than they are tied to the wrong kind of diet. That it's much more relevant for many people to help their adrenals work better than it is to try to micromanage every bite of it take.
[01:01:40] Ashley James: No kidding. What about all throughout the day, everything's good, but it's always high in the morning?
[01:01:48] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. Yep, so classic. So what's happening there and people there is funny because people often start thinking about how can they make it be lower, how can they avoid more carbohydrate. And in managing diabetics, we first saw this. This is called emoji phenomenon towards elevated in the morning. And so, glucose monitors the continuous ones help us unmask what was going on with this. So we used to be that when someone had a high morning blood sugar, we would give more things to lower their blood sugar, but in many cases that made it worse. And so by tracking people overnight, we learned that most of them would have stable enough blood sugar going into the evening, but as they dropped off at night, they would overcompensate and release too much. And what's happening is that when glucose levels drop, cortisol rescues glucose. Cortisol is then secreted and the body breaks down muscle tissue and convert some of that into glucose. And so glucose comes back up again. So the trick is not pushing down glucose even further. The trick is to prevent the drop offs and that comes by steps that stabilize blood sugar and also then other steps that stabilize that cortisol rhythm.
[01:03:00] Ashley James: That’s fascinating. So getting a continuous glucose monitor, even if you don't have diabetes, or maybe you're pre-diabetic, getting one just to give you feedback what's going on, or after meal, what's going on when you're fasting. What's going on with you sleeping. Can give it a window and insight into not only blood sugar and insulin, but also into cortisol’s role in your blood sugar balance.
[01:03:26] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. If someone already has one, and they're really puzzled about it, that can be a big part of the picture. When I wrote this book, that was during some of the more extreme parts of the last low carb cycle. And the difficulty is if someone avoids too much carbohydrate, they cannot escape elevated cortisol because glucose in the blood is non-negotiable. It's just where it comes from. Either we get some from our diet, or we get some from our muscle tissue. And the more we have to make it from our muscle tissue, the more that we have to secrete cortisol to do so.
[01:03:56] Ashley James: You know, I'm going to go there. What about the ketogenic diet? Eating 20 grams or less of carbohydrates, high fat, trying to force the body into using ketones for fuel. What about cortisol and blood sugar then? Do you see the ketogenic diet is being something that is helpful for healing these issues or not really a great step for healing these issues?
[01:04:28] Dr. Alan Christianson: There's people, people are different and a lot of folks who tried different things and had different outcomes. If someone went keto and improve their health, so be it. In terms of group effects, however, it's not the case. And actually, there's a bit of a misunderstanding to think that we're burning fat when we're in ketosis. It's really the exact opposite. So there's a process called beta oxidation by which we burn fat for fuel. And the beta oxidation depends upon glycogen, the old adages that burns the flame of carbohydrate. If we don't have glycogen, we can't burn fat. We convert fat into ketones. Now ketones can be burned everywhere. Our liver can't use them. And we burn them if we have a deficit of fuel. But if we don't have a deficit of fuel, we store them as fat. They're not different than the other fuel source. It's almost like saying, you want to get rid of money and so you're going to get your dollars into pesos. Well, that still money's different kind. That's what it's about.
There was actually a study done not too long ago, in which people were in a metabolic ward, and they were all given the exact same calorie content of food. One group was on a ketogenic diet, pretty high quality foods. The other group was on rather low quality foods and about 55% carbohydrate and roughly 25% sugar as part of that. And again, calories were matched. It wasn't set up to be a weight loss study per se, but overall, there was some weight loss in both groups. But the group on the ketogenic diet hadn't had a measurable loss of body fat, they lost muscle tissue. The group on the junk food actually lost some body fat. So yeah, junk food is not the idea. But in the book, I talk about how if someone has a poor cortisol rhythm, one of the easiest solutions is to have some healthy sources of glucose, especially later on in the day.
[01:06:18] Ashley James: What are some healthy sources of glucose that we could make sure that we're snacking on later in the day?
[01:06:23] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. So it's basically natural foods but not so much fruit. Intact whole grains, beans, legumes, squash, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, those are all good options. And of all of them, one thing I talked about a bit in that was resistant starch. So as difficult as it is the body to have erratic blood sugar, one food component that's just stands by itself for regulating blood sugar is a special kind of carbohydrate. Most carbohydrates digested in the large intestine, and we can have a blood sugar elevation and a drop anywhere from minutes to maybe an hour or so. Resistant starch is only broken down by the bowel flora in the colon. And so rather than requiring insulin, rather than causing blood sugar changes, it actually buffers blood sugar to a large degree for the following two to nine hours, and to a measurable degree for the following 24 hours. So in the book, I talked a lot about how to find this with foods it’s in and how you can use that to help stabilize the cortisol rhythm.
[01:07:27] Ashley James: That is so exciting. I love the idea that we can eat food that gives us energy for over for 24 hours. The body is using it and it's feeding the good microbiome. The microbiomes working with us to give us the energy we need. What else, maybe give us some– and of course, I definitely encourage everyone to get your book and into the adrenal quiz on your website, drchristianson.com and by The Adrenal Reset Diet, because there's so much great information in there. Can you kick us off though? Give us some homework. Give us some steps that we can do today to start to balance ourselves. You talk about diet. What's more important? Diet or making lifestyle changes to lower like go to bed on time and doing a meditation yoga prayer or laughing or whatever it is to get ourselves out of stress. Or they equally important? We got to do both.
[01:08:35] Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, it's all important. There surely are some individuals who are some pieces are larger, more largely out of the puzzle than others. Probably the biggest single things are those that regulate the body's timing. And this is weird, but our circadian cycle is actually not a 24-hour cycle. You talked about your scenario with the living room and stuff and so imagine the same scenario but the windows were blacked out and we had no clocks. Eventually, we'll be watching movies and the schedule we all goofed up. People when they're put in situations in which they're in caves and they have no clocks and no exposure to external light they end up being on moving towards schedules that are 25 to 30 hours long. We just gravitate towards that. There's no great reason for it.
Now, it was never a big problem because throughout pretty much all of our history, we had cycles of daylight and darkness that were pronounced enough to reset our cycle. And there really is a process by which it resets itself on a daily basis. And without that we get further and further out of sync. Now, the weird thing is that, the type and the intensity of light required to do that is not the same as what we get indoors. Where you could be in a like a TV studio and the bright lights are making you hot in terms of actual light intensity units or lux, that might be 3000 lux. Right now, I'm in a room, I turned the lights off since we're not on video and it's just kind of shaded. It's probably maybe 100 lux in this room. Normal indoor lighting is rarely more than even a few 100 lux, but outdoors even on a cloudy day, it's 10s of thousands of lux, it's much more intense. A sunny day can be 100,000 lux. So one of the big things is to be outside on a regular basis, especially early in the day. There's just no other way to reset our cycle properly.
[01:10:31] Ashley James: So get first thing we do in the morning before coffee or anything. Put the shoes on, go for a walk around the block. Just get your eyes in some sunlight. Buy an umbrella. Don't let rain stop you, get out there. So maybe owning a dog. I always think about the health benefits of owning a dog like you have to take it for a walk. And therefore it’s like– are you taking the dog for a walk or is it the dog taking you for a walk. You know.
[01:11:03] Dr. Alan Christianson: When you know, you said it will too because it is about your eyes being exposed. You don't have to be looking at the sun. You can even be under an umbrella that is just the light intensity outside is so much greater, even if it's cloudy. And it's not even a matter of having to be bronzing and in skimpy clothes. In this case, it's just about getting sunlight in your eyes.
[01:11:23] Ashley James: And so, go for that walk. How many minutes should we do in the morning? Because I know everyone's busy and they just want to slam their coffee and get to work but really, we need to take a few extra minutes every day to reset our rhythm. So, the first thing, we wake up in the morning, get outside. What do you think? Five minutes? 15 minutes?
[01:11:41] Dr. Alan Christianson: It's probably about 30, about a half an hour and ideally it's in around the first hour so being awake. Any amount that you get. The earlier you get the better but the ideal thing to really reset that rhythm is half an hour within the first hour of waking.
[01:11:55] Ashley James: Oh, that would be a fantastic walk. Just go for a really beautiful walk with it like you said a half an hour, within an hour of waking. Okay and then what's a really good breakfast for helping adrenal stability?
[01:12:13] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, that's a great question. So your first meal really does prime the whole day as far as whether you're making more or less cortisol or insulin and doing nothing. There are those that like to miss their morning meals and they can do well from that and that's fine. When someone's cortisol is abnormal, however, that often can make it worse. So the mixture is high-quality protein and some resistant starch, which seems to be the best blend and there's a lot of ways want to go about that. I'm a fan of protein shakes in the morning, especially, vegetable proteins. There are easy ways to get dense, good quality protein without there being a big acid load on the body. And then also to have some sources of resistant starch that can be under ripe bananas. One cool thing was going to make shakes, the liquid from cooking beans, the aquafaba, that's a really dense source of resistant starch.
[01:13:05] Ashley James: Really?
[01:13:06] Dr. Alan Christianson: It's a great thing. Yeah, it's a great thing to thicken shakes. There's no real flavor to it.
[01:13:09] Ashley James: Oh my gosh! I've been throwing that out.
[01:13:16] Dr. Alan Christianson: You’ve found it. That's cool stuff.
[01:13:17] Ashley James: It’s in Instant Pot to make legumes because it helps to break down the lectins. Right? And all the stuff that makes you gassy and they call the anti-nutrients. So when you cook them in the Instant Pot, well, first of all, it just makes it so much easier. It just cook some really fast. But I would just throwing that juice out and now I'm going to save it. That's awesome. But so basically, green bananas. When you said under ripe bananas, you mean like green bananas?
[01:13:50] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. Another trick is we don't use them as much in our culture but a lot of cultures do the banana peels are perfectly edible. You want organic, but they're much higher and resistant starch than the fruit is.
[01:14:02] Ashley James: What?
[01:14:03] Dr. Alan Christianson: So what I'll do is, so yeah, I'll just take bananas and chop off the tip and the stem and then cut them up into by like thirds or quarters and throw them in the freezer. And if you've got a high powered blender, Blendtec, Ninja, Vitamix whatever, you can just drop those frozen things in the blender. And usually, I'll put them in by themselves with some water, with some aquafaba and let them just smooth that really good and then add the protein powder towards the end of that. That's one easy way to do it.
[01:14:29] Ashley James: Oh my gosh! You've just kicked up my smoothie game like I had my smoothie right here on my desk and I'm holding it right now. It’s got, of course, organic like greens like my hand with a few handfuls of greens and frozen blueberries and then I do use a resistant starch blend. So, I've got like a good scoop of that in there of a different kind of potatoes and things like that and tubers and whatever.
[01:14:56] Dr. Alan Christianson: What it’s worth? Yeah, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
[01:14:59] Ashley James: No, I used to say and then I got like a plant-based protein in there and blend it up. But now, I'm going to add what you suggested with this like the green bananas with the peel and the aquafaba. I am so excited to try that.
[01:15:13] Dr. Alan Christianson: I would actually ditch the resistant starch blend. I'm not pushing products here. I did make one and we did assay it. That's the only way I know, this assay. And when we made it, I started that like seven years ago. I thought, it had be the easiest thing in the world to get some unmodified potato flour or some green banana flour and blends that thing that up. But we had to build up technology to assay for the resistant starch content. And once we did that, we found that the powdered products usually don't have any resistant starch on them at all.
[01:15:41] Ashley James: What? Okay, what’s assay mean?
[01:15:44] Dr. Alan Christianson: Ah, measurements. We just find a way to measure in the laboratory how much resistant starch is actually in the product.
[01:15:49] Ashley James: Got it. Got it. Okay, now, I understand.
[01:15:54] Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, there’s chart. They'll say that, for example, they'll say that unmodified potato flour should be like 60% resistant starch while green banana flour is 40%. And I assumed that was true. We started getting raw material samples and then measuring them like oh, wow, that this one doesn't have that. This one there's nothing in it.
[01:16:07] Ashley James: Yeah.
[01:16:08] Dr. Alan Christianson: This one has a lot but this one doesn't. It was just to hit or miss.
[01:16:11] Ashley James: Right. And so, it's best just know what you're putting in your smoothie. And which is like you said the aquafaba, the bananas, the green bananas with the skins, with the peels. And we can also try your supplement. You've got some great supplements you’ve developed on your website, drchristianson.com. So, make it try that as well.
[01:16:31] Dr. Alan Christianson: That was our RS Complete. That’s what we did assay, the RS content. But the food sources can work well also.
[01:16:37] Ashley James: Got it. Okay. So smoothies really good. Alright, so now, we've got sort of our mid-morning and into the afternoon. What are some really key things we can do for our health? Are there any lifestyle things we should do throughout the morning or in the early afternoon?
[01:16:58] Dr. Alan Christianson: Early afternoon, there's a time where we do go through a diurnal drop and it is a brief siesta and some downtime. I love that you’re talking to your clients about doing the dance party or something but yeah, some way to just break the routine. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of being off of the treadmill. Well, that's a critical thing.
[01:17:24] Ashley James: So, I love those Latin countries. They all just close up after lunch and take a siesta and that is such a great idea. Give yourself some downtime. Maybe another walk or watch some comedy, do the dance party like you said. Break up the routine and give yourself that rest. What about lunch? Can people skip lunch or is lunch also really important?
[01:17:52] Dr. Alan Christianson: So with those that have issues with their cortisol, it's a different scenario. What happens is their body too readily breaks down muscle tissue to maintain glucose. That’s because you're running with this abnormal cortisol rhythm. So, it's helpful for them to have some quality protein, at least but every four hours or so. So it's nice to have some with that lunch as well and some of that with an afternoon meal. And if they end up not eating later at night, that isn't a problem. But they are better off eating throughout the day when there's the normal cortisol exposure. So yeah, morning, lunchtime, afternoon is winding down. Evening, you've got some more leeway. You want some carbohydrate in the evening. But the overall food volume and food density is not as critical then.
[01:18:36] Ashley James: My chiropractor who I love, he's been a chiropractor for like 40 years. He's so well informed. He keeps telling me because he knows I've been through a lot in the last year. I've been through a lot of stressful events and I've been seeing him for the last eight years. He's gotten to know me and he knows that I kind of go, go, go, go, go. And he says, you need to eat protein like every two to four hours. It doesn't matter how much just like he just says go grab some nuts, or just go. He's just like listing off all different kinds of protein. He's just like just eat a few ounces here and there. But I want you eating protein every two to four hours and he says something really interesting. He says, when you eat protein, it turns off the stress response in the body and I know he's super oversimplifying that statement. But can you explain, what he means by that? That eating protein helps with stress levels?
[01:19:31] Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, so cortisol, when it's present or when it's high, it's causing a breakdown of muscle tissue. It's called gluconeogenesis. So you're forming glucose out of muscle tissue. And protein is the way to really counter that out to help maintain the muscle mass. And that is a matter longer term for body composition, but it's also a matter in the short term of just managing energy output and managing inflammation. So it is a critical part of helping to heal cortisol rhythms.
[01:19:59] Ashley James: Awesome. So my chiropractor was right again.
[01:20:04] Dr. Alan Christianson: For sure.
[01:20:05] Ashley James: Now, for those who like to do fasting or intermittent fasting where they eat for let's say, they have a window of six or eight hours, where they choose to eat and then the rest of the time and of course sleep is also in that, that they're choosing to not eat. Is that harmful when you're looking to heal adrenals? Is it better to eat smaller snacks or meals every two to four hours versus having a really short window of time to eat and a long window of fasting time?
[01:20:34] Dr. Alan Christianson: It is better to have a more regular food intake and that goes back to cortisol’s role as a glucocorticoid. And when we miss meals, we put more demands on cortisol to maintain blood sugar. If we have a gentle recurrent input of protein and glucose, then the body has that to work from. In the absence of that, it's not that we can run without maintaining blood sugar. We just have to get it from somewhere else and that was more of a demand upon the cortisol systems.
[01:21:00] Ashley James: Awesome. Is there any key aspect that's in your book that we should really know about? Is there like a piece of homework we should be going and doing today? Or something that's really important for us to know while we're waiting for. If someone's buying your book and waiting for it to be delivered to them or waiting to start listening to your book. Is there some key piece of information that is just so important, everyone really needs to know about it?
[01:21:29] Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, I think the big thing I mentioned about the morning light and we thought back when the book was written that there were issues in the nighttime with blue light. The blue light was harmful from our devices and whatnot. Since that came out that's been more studied. And we now know that the fact that our devices emit this more blue light is not really relevant.
[01:21:53] Ashley James: Really?
[01:21:54] Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, so now, a lot of cases just operating systems for iPhones and Androids. They can change– they have settings– they will change the light to make it less blue light later in the day thinking that, that would be helpful. And we thought that a while ago, but now, we know, it isn't the fact that your phone emits a lot of blue light. That's a problem late at night. The problem is that you're on your phone. It doesn’t matter what thing color on the phone is putting out. You don't want to be on your phone late at night.
[01:22:22] Ashley James: Right. You want to be winding down and so read a book, right? I mean, books aren't interactive. They're not going to start digging you and giving you updates and like arguing with you and getting you to argue back and telling you, the world's about to end. Depending on what kind of book you're reading. But pick up a book.
[01:22:40] Dr. Alan Christianson: One take home point is that, we know this with babies. We know that the quality of your day, hinges upon how well you maintain the baby schedule. How consistent you are with the schedule. And it's not any different for adults. We just forget about it but we need the same kind of regularity of now we turn the lights down, now we take a bath now, we have quiet music, now we do a little massage and give some massage oil. We need all those same routines. And that break in the afternoon, that's one step toward that. But all too often, we just like go like a mad person all day and then figure out why can't we just close our eyes and fall asleep at night. No. It's a process.
[01:23:20] Ashley James: Right. Right. I love it. How soon do people start on your program on the adrenal reset diet? Well, because I don't think everyone's on a spectrum. Some people are like me, they're just like they were where I was, totally exhausted, burnt out beyond belief. And then some people are just like they feel like they have higher cortisol. At times, they have cortisol spikes. They're kind of like, they feel like they have more energy at times and then burnout and others and really their energy is more erratic. And then some people just kind of like low level fatigue throughout the day and sort of like just low level. Brain fog is getting worse and worse and weight gain is getting worse even though they're not doing anything different. So, we've got like this different kind of spectrum of where they are in the level of burnout. Right? How soon do people start noticing a difference when they get on the adrenal reset diet?
[01:24:20] Dr. Alan Christianson: You talked about your experience Ashley, about for several days, and that's pretty typical in terms of the timeframe to see a full reset. So if someone had been scores like yours, we would call that the crash stage. There's like four different adrenal patterns that can emerge and that is the more progressed one. In terms of timeframe for that to go back to the ideal, the thriving pattern that can be three months. It's rarely more than six months, but it's rather brisk to see a full recovery. But the question you asked really was, how soon do you feel a difference? And this is the cool insight that I don't know struck me somewhere along the way is that we don't feel better like the day we actually get all the way better. It's not that it's forestall to that. We feel better when we improve. So the quality of our experience is not based upon where we are relative to an ideal scale. It's where we are relative to yesterday and once we start moving in the right direction, we feel better from that even if we're not all the way there yet. So yes, I really think that it shouldn't take more than several days to start feeling a positive difference.
[01:25:25] Ashley James: That's so exciting. I love it. I love it. Because it's sort of you go to the wrong doctor and you're given a death sentence. I believe that everyone out there is doing the best they can with the resources they have. I don't think that like MDS are an inherently evil. I think that the system is designed in a way to keep people sick. And the people that are in the system are doing the best they can and want to do good. Right? So, these are the tools they have and this is the training they have.
So you go to your plumber to fix your car, and what you're going to get is plumbing. Right? So you go to an MD and what they have is drugs, they have certain lab tests, as diagnosticians, they're good in certain areas and they have certain drugs. They don't have the whole picture. They don't look at the body holistically. That's not in their training. The way, the lens that they look through that informs them is completely different than the lens than a naturopathic physician has been trained to look through and see the body as a whole. And that's why I love the work that you do, Dr. Christianson, because you're looking at the body as a whole and seeing how does the lifestyle, the diet, affect all the different adrenal systems and how they all like you said it's a soup. I love that you said at the beginning, that our cells are constantly drinking this soup.
If you go, you drive up to McDonald's and drive up to Starbucks, you just threw all these ingredients into the soup that your cells are drinking and then your cells are going to be like okay, well, I guess this is the stuff we have to reproduce and make your health a new cells. All right. Versus your green smoothie with your frozen banana peel in it. I mean, I'm so excited to try that because I never thought that banana peels were edible. And I am like..
[01:27:30] Dr. Alan Christianson: Totally edible.
[01:27:31] Ashley James: I am so excited to try that in my smoothie and see what it does. It’s going to thicken it up for sure.
[01:27:36] Dr. Alan Christianson: Nice. It’s a nice texture.
[01:27:38] Ashley James: Yeah, and then feed all the good bacteria. That's another thing I'm excited about. So, we have this information of looking the body holistically and I love that within less than a week. If someone reads your book, follows the advice in it, in less than a week, they can feel such a noticeable difference. They can start healing and that within three months, less than six months, within three months, they can be like a totally different person. And that was my experience too.
And I, for years, years I went to what I thought were good doctors and they're like I said, they're doing the best they can with the resources they have. They're good hearted people but they didn't have the information that I needed to heal my body and so for years I was put on drugs, and I was just sicker and sicker and sicker until I finally found naturopathic medicine. Now, listen, everyone's different, you've got to find a good naturopath. And I love naturopathic physicians, not all of them have that same information.
So, that's why I love Dr. Alan Christianson. He really, really, really knows his stuff and there's only a handful of naturopaths that I know, that I trust. Really know enough and have enough of the full picture and definitely, Dr. Christianson is one of them. Because that's why we have to just take in the information and try it out for ourselves. Be willing to be guinea pigs but you go to the wrong doctor and you're going to be put on drugs. You going to be told, this is just what you just have to have this for the rest of your life.
You go to a different doctor and you're told, hey, make certain changes, within days, you feel like a million bucks. And that's what I want for all my listeners. So I'm so excited. You came on the show today and you explored this topic with us. Is there anything you want to say to wrap up today's interview? Is there any piece of the adrenal reset that we want to make sure that we cover before we wrap up today's interview?
[01:29:45] Dr. Alan Christianson: We've covered a lot of good basis. I think, the underlying message really did say, well, is that this is a big deal. This is a real phenomenon. This can have huge negative impact on people's lives and you can change it. You don't have to feel stuck with it. You do have the power. Your daily decisions of lifestyle can allow you to make a big difference without that and you can regain your health and it's not difficult or complicated and is worthwhile.
[01:30:07] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And of course, every time you publish a book, come back, like just keep coming back.
[01:30:18] Dr. Alan Christianson: Thank you for that.
[01:30:20] Ashley James: Or if there's any new and groundbreaking information about any of these topics, we'd love to have you back. You're such a wealth of information and you're so easy to learn from. Of course, your website has so much information that listeners can learn from drchristianson.com. And the links to everything we talked about today and all the books are going to be in the show notes of today's podcast, learntruehealth.com. It is been such a pleasure having you on the show again for the fourth time. Fourth time is a charm. I can't wait to have you back and just let's all go make some raw banana peel smoothies and just notice how much more energy we have them. And definitely, those morning walks, I'm going to walk around the block in my new neighborhood with my banana smoothie and see if anyone asks what I'm drinking like I'm drinking banana peels. What are you drinking? Million bucks whoever guesses what I'm drinking. Got to meet all my new neighbors. Awesome.
[01:31:24] Dr. Alan Christianson: I look forward into that further.
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Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing
Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.
Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.
In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!
The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine
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