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Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Megan Lyons to the podcast. She is a wellness expert and owner of The Lyons’ Share Wellness. Megan is a Harvard graduate, board-certified holistic nutritionist and founder of The Lyons’ Share Wellness, where she helps people achieve the healthiest and happiest selves. In this episode, we discuss adrenal dysfunction, the telltale signs, most common causes, and the path to follow when wanting to heal. Over to Megan.
Some questions asked during this episode:
Tell us about the importance of adrenal health?
How can we best test the health of our adrenals?
What are the tell-tale signs of adrenal dysfunction?
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The views expressed on this podcast are the personal views of the host and guest speakers and not the views of Bega Cheese Limited or 180 Nutrition Pty Ltd. In addition, the views expressed should not be taken or relied upon as medical advice. Listeners should speak to their doctor to obtain medical advice.
Disclaimer: The transcript below has not been proofread and some words may be mis-transcribed.
Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness, and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long-lasting health. Now, I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do.
Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We are into whole-food nutrition and have a range of superfoods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay, back to the show.
This week, I’m excited to welcome Megan Lyons to the podcast. Megan is a Harvard graduate, board-certified holistic nutritionist and founder of The Lyons’ Share Wellness, where she helps people achieve the healthiest and happiest selves. In this episode, we discuss adrenal dysfunction, the telltale signs, most common causes, and the path to follow when wanting to heal. Over to Megan.
Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and I am delighted to welcome Megan Lyons to the podcast. Megan, good morning. How are you?
Good morning. It’s good afternoon over here, but I am doing great and so excited to talk to you today.
Fantastic, fantastic. First up, for all of our listeners that may not be familiar with you or your work, I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, please.
Sure. Well, my name’s Megan Lyons. I live in Dallas, Texas, and I own a business called Lyons’ Share Wellness, where I like to describe it as I get my hands in as much possible related to wellness as I can possibly handle. I like to do a lot of one-to-one work with people. I have a podcast, I have group programs, I have a blog. I do speaking. I do everything I possibly can because this area of life really lights me up. I have so much passion around nutrition and wellness and just the ability that we all have to make ourselves feel much better and go enjoy life at a more full capacity.
Fantastic. Yeah, very rewarding as well I would imagine as you start to see the results and people’s lives genuinely change for the better, which is so valuable because so many of us, I think are feeling less than optimal, which is why this morning I really wanted to jump into the area of adrenal health because I think we’ve had a crazy three years. We’re coming up to the backside of the year, so typically people are starting to feel the burn of a whole year of grind and also perhaps accelerating as we rush into the holiday period. So first and foremost, I’m interested then in your thoughts on the importance of adrenal health.
Yes. Well, if you had 18 hours, I could fully explain to you the importance of adrenal health, but by way of being a little bit shorter than that, I’ll say our adrenals basically control at least half of our bodily processes. Now, for people who don’t know what the adrenals are, these are small glands that sit on top of our kidneys and they are most famous, most well-known for secreting cortisol, which is one of our stress hormones. They also happen to secrete aldosterone and DHEA and a bunch of other things, but we’ll talk mostly about cortisol today.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that rises when we feel stressed and lowers when we feel calm. But it also has a role in inflammation, which is a big buzzword these days because it’s connected to so many chronic diseases. It plays a role in metabolism, literally how our body uses fats, carbohydrates, and protein. It helps regulate our blood sugar and our blood pressure. It helps with our circadian rhythms and our sleep and wake cycles. And over time when we have dysregulated cortisol over an extended period of time, not just a stressful day, but over months and years, it’s linked to a lot of very serious chronic conditions that all of us want to avoid. So the importance of adrenal health is just huge for the way that we feel and the way that we survive.
I’ve been recording podcasts for many years now, well over a decade, and back in the day around the time when gut health and leaky gut were kind of woo-woo terms, there was the phrase adrenal fatigue as well, and that was bunched into this very questionable phrase that got a lot of skepticism from the media in terms of it doesn’t really exist. Is this a real thing? What are your thoughts on that adrenal fatigue? And if we are feeling tired and wired and burnt and just off, how can we test the health of our adrenals?
Really great question, and it’s something that we’re still dealing with today, where if someone is very firmly rooted in Western medicine and maybe they received their medical education several decades ago, they were told, “Oh, adrenal fatigue, that’s just hogwash. Don’t pay attention to that. These people are lying. They’re making something up. They’re just trying to get attention,” all of this kind of stuff. And so now even in my doctorate program, they were very adamant about saying adrenal dysregulation, not adrenal fatigue, just as a way to distance ourself from that term because adrenal fatigue as a phrase has been really thrown under the bus.
Now, a couple things happened to have it lose credibility. First, the exact mechanism by which they thought adrenal fatigue was happening, which is basically your adrenals just get tired and they stop secreting as much cortisol, that’s been disproven. It’s a really intricate and irrelevant difference, but the mechanism that they initially thought was responsible has been disproven.
And then second, what they thought was just people making things up or wanting to get attention turns out to be its own kind of global pandemic because this really is impacting so many people. And they thought it was just like a trend, like, “Oh, everyone’s saying this,” but now we’re starting to realize the physical repercussions of all of this and how it truly is a dysregulated process in our body.
So that would lead to the second part of your question, which is how we test it. In my opinion, the best test is what’s called a diurnal saliva test. So diurnal means multiple times through the day. Usually it’s four readings during the day. You’ll do it when you wake up. Then you’ll do it sometime around noon, sometime around 5:00 or 6:00 PM, and then right before bed. And this is collected in saliva, you can do it at home. You need to order it through a practitioner almost always, but you can collect the sample at home. The reason that we do it during the day is that our cortisol fluctuates so dramatically through the day. And so if we just get one blood spot reading, you get your blood drawn at 9:00 AM or whatever. First of all, blood is less accurate than saliva for cortisol, but second, that’s a point in time estimate that does not show the pattern. And your cortisol might very well be normal at that blood draw at 9:00 AM, but then it’s way out of range right before you go to bed or something like that.
So having those four points throughout the day helps us map the pattern and we can tell by that… There’s something called stage two adrenal dysregulation, stage three. We can kind of tell where people are based on their map throughout the day.
Got it, got it. So much like the thyroid, which can present symptoms that are so wide-ranging that anybody that reads the list of symptoms for thyroid might think, “I’ve got a problem with thyroid.” Is that similar? Is that similar from an adrenal dysfunction perspective? What are the most common telltale signs that we might have an issue?
You’re exactly right. A lot of these symptoms are common to so many people, and my perspective is, well, that’s probably because so many people have at least some semblance of adrenal dysregulation. However, what we really want to look at is the symptoms that I’ll talk about being persistent and impeding your quality of life. So one thing that I’ll say might be increased urination. I’ll talk about that in a second. Well, don’t just say to yourself, “Oh my gosh, I went to the bathroom an hour ago. I must have adrenal dysregulation.” No, we can overanalyze this stuff into the ground and that doesn’t help anyone. But all that said, some of the more common signals of that stage two adrenal dysregulation, which is the first… Stage one is like a flashing indicator. That’s not really something we consider. Stage two is the first real stage of dysregulation, and they call this the wired but tired.
So you’re wired, meaning your heart rate’s going a little faster. You might notice if you have an Oura Ring or a whoop or something else, that trend is really drastically increasing over the course of months, not just a day here and there, but higher heart rate, higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar if you’re measuring any of these things. Oftentimes people have menstrual irregularities, so they’re missing periods or they’re having more frequent periods, they’re having trouble sleeping. Very commonly, I see people in this stage wake up around 3:00 AM because there’s some theory that we have a natural small bump in cortisol around that 3:00 AM time, and if it’s dysregulated, that bump is enough to wake you up. So waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I’m ready to go, my mind is just roaring. I’m ready to clock into work or whatever.
Sometimes we’ll have sweating or urination or thirst issues. So electrolyte and fluid imbalances. You might feel irritable, you might feel jittery, you might have more caffeine cravings. It’s really that phrase wired and tired that I said, that’s how you would feel. You’re going on high speed all the time. And then most people, that feels uncomfortable enough to where they make some changes for the better, which is great. If we don’t, if we ignore that over a long period of time, we can go into stage three, which I call the crash and burn stage. This is like it is so hard to get out of bed. You feel lethargic. You almost lose some of your passion and vitality for life. You might have everything slow. So constipation, your digestive system is slow, your hair growth is slow. Everything is just slower in that stage three.
Okay. And from a perspective then of wanting to make change, I’m thinking about conventional medicine versus functional medicine. And I don’t know what your thoughts on this are, but I know that obviously functional medicine seems to be much more in alignment with things that are happening right here and now, whereas conventional medicine, perhaps it could be more in the traditional camp, less intricate perhaps. How do you know where to go if you’re feeling like this and perhaps you’ve got a test off your own back, but where would you go? Would you go to your doctor first or would you seek out perhaps more of a functional approach?
I know I’m biased in answering this question because all of my training is functional medicine based and holistic nutrition based. So I would definitely tell you start with a functional medicine practitioner because if you do get someone who’s super Western medicine, they might, if you’re lucky, check your blood cortisol, which is that one point in time and it might be normal. And then they say, “You’re making this up.” I had that happen to me and I tried to demand saliva or urine tests, and I even got them in some cases, and they told me… Well, one time I was told, “This test is irrelevant because you produce too much urine.” And I said, “Well, that’s the symptom of what I think I might be dealing with.” It is a vicious cycle and it’s frustrating. So I would start with a functional medicine practitioner if you feel like your problem is too deep for you to dig yourself out of.
I will also say for people listening who think, “Oh my goodness, I’ve been stressed for a long time. I kind of start to recognize those symptoms.” They’re not “that bad” yet, but I don’t want to get there. The answer really lies within us, and I hate that the answer is not doing more because if I can do anything for my health, I will. If I can eat this food, if I can do this meditation practice, if I can whatever, I’m a doer, I like to do. But the answer with adrenal dysregulation is often doing less and slowing down and really figuring out the root of what is stressing you out. And that deep, slow work is a lot harder for someone like me. But I’m saying that to tell people listening, you might just start with yourself. You might not even need… If you’re not too deep into this, you might not even need a practitioner to guide you through it.
Okay, interesting. I have experienced adrenal dysfunction many, many, many years ago, and I just got a few things wrong. So I adopted a high intensity training protocol with so much vigor that I didn’t have enough time for recovery, and at the same time, I was experimenting with a low carbohydrate diet, so really taking the fuel away and things just went wrong. My cortisol levels were 10 times higher than they should have been at nine o’clock in the evening. So I just felt like I’d come out of a boardroom and I was just sitting in front of the TV watching a movie. And so I’ve been through lots of learnings and fixed myself and know what the black spots are in terms of things to avoid and areas to be aware of. What might Joe Public be doing unknowingly that could be problematic for cortisol dysregulation down the line?
Yes. Well, I’d love for you to chime in with your experience as I go through some of these. I’ll list a couple of categories, and they’re all related to stress, but stress comes in the form of mental stress, physical stress, chemical stress, emotional stress, all of these stressors. So just mental stress-wise, I like to think of myself as I could robot through the day operating at super power efficiency, never taking a break, always eating meals in front of my computer. And then poof, I just split the switch and I would fall asleep. And I would often fall asleep because I was so exhausted that I needed to fall asleep, but that is not the way to treat your body very well. That is a fast track to adrenal dysfunction. So we need breaks during the day.
And I’m under no pretenses that people are going to do eight hours of yoga per day or anything like that, but we need little breaks away from our computer. We need time in nature every once in a while. We need to breathe, we need to eat. We need to be in communion with other humans. So that first mental stress, if you’re just trying to power through the day without any break at all, that’s one thing you might be doing.
The second you said is exercise. Exercise is like a goldilocks effect for adrenals, where too little exercise is not good for your adrenals and too much exercise without recovery is not good for your adrenals. So I’m like you. I love HIIT, I love burpees, I love Half Ironmans and racing and all of this kind of stuff. But if I did that, when I did that without recovering and while under an extreme amount of mental stress and probably underfueling myself, knowing what I know now, that altogether is a recipe for adrenal disaster. So if you are like us and you love that intense exercise, just know that the cumulative burden that your body’s feeling of all these stressors, it all goes into the same bucket. So if you’re pushing the level with exercise, you’ve got to give a little more in terms of recovery or sleep or feeling well or something like that.
You also said low carbohydrate. I think a low-carb diet is an excellent strategy for a lot of people, but not if you’re in adrenal dysfunction and you’re burning the candle at both ends and not getting enough sleep and over exercising and all this stuff. Our bodies really need fuel. So oftentimes with the high achievers that I see who are experiencing adrenal dysfunction, I’ll tell them to slow down their exercise and just incorporate some walking, and they give me big eye rolls and they think, “That’s not exercise. That hurts. I’m going to gain weight.” And then I’ll say, “Incorporate a few more carbohydrates, like whole healthy carbohydrates.” And they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to feel terrible. I’m going to gain weight.” And then a couple months later they’ll come back and they’ll be like, “I feel better. I lost weight. Imagine that.” Because our bodies really do know the answer. And a low carbohydrate, under-nourished diet is a stressor on your body.
So then last, there are things like toxins that we breathe and toxins in our homes and all of that kind of stuff. And to some extent that’s unchangeable. I can’t change the air in Dallas here where I live, but if I am putting things on my body or I have things in my home, I can definitely change my toxic exposure. So that was mental stress, nutrition, exercise and chemical or toxic stress.
Yeah. Fantastic. And it’s so hard when you are a person that… I speak to myself. I just like to move and I like to do stuff and I can’t sit around and it crushed me.
I switched crossfit for yoga and just embraced carbohydrates like never before, sweet potatoes and things like that. I dialed into some adaptogens, like ashwagandha, rhodiola. I took phosphatidylserine in the evening and worked on some… Did some breath work and things like that. And it took a while, it took a while, but it came good. Now I’m very mindful that there is this framework that just needs a little bit of support. If I’m going to be the type of person that I am, I just need to make sure that I’m recovering properly, I’m fueling properly, and I’m nourished appropriately as well. I guess I was going to ask then how important then from your perspective, is diet and exercise as perhaps two of the fundamental pillars for adrenal recovery?
I think they’re very important, and this is why the protocol is customized for every person. There are some great books out there and things like that that you can read on your own, but when I’m working with people individually, it’s customized based on the person. Maybe someone travels for work and they love their job, but they’re not going to be able to home cook meals because they’re on the road Monday through Thursday. Well then I’m really going to lean into the breath work and the exercise, reducing that exercise and doing some more restorative. And I’m just going to guide them as much as I can on diet, but let that go a little bit. Or vice versa.
Let’s say someone, they really love their job, but their job, they’re a lawyer and they’re in trial right now, so their job is really tough. I’m going to dial in their nutrition and their exercise to the Nth degree. I’m really going to focus on that. We don’t have to be perfect in all four areas, but we do have to figure out where we can give a little. So as a nutritionist, I feel like diet is one of the most powerful, but again, I recognize my bias in that. I really think wherever we can give back to our bodies, it’s going to help.
Definitely. So how about mindset? Because that one’s tricky. So it’s kind of easy to switch up your diet and if you’re told that you need to walk instead of crazy HIIT training or boot camps in the morning, you can do that. But if you’re told to change the way you think, it’s really hard, especially if you’re somebody that isn’t into meditation, just can’t do it, has a monkey mind, that 24/7 rumination, all of the above. What might you recommend in order to try and dial into a healthy mind, a mindset that can useful in tackling not only adrenal dysregulation but everyday life from a stress-free perspective?
Yes. I wish I had a super simple three-step solution to this, and I don’t. I’ll be honest and say it is hard, and I think the hard is what makes it worth it. If it were easy, we all would’ve done it before. And those people who can meditate very well, they don’t have any thoughts. They just sit down and it’s easy. Or that don’t experience adrenal dysregulation and they’re gifted in this area, which it sounds like you and I, I know for sure myself, we are not gifted in this area.
But that’s okay, there are strengths and other challenges for every single human. So for someone like me where I said exactly what you said, I have the monkey mind, I can’t meditate, it doesn’t feel good. Someone eventually said to me, “Hey Megan, that actually means you need it more.” And they gave it to me like the example of a bicep curl. If you just go to the gym and you do one bicep curl, you’re not going to get strong. But if you go in there day after day, week after week and you’re doing multiple bicep curls, you’re going to get strong.
Now, someone like a monk, I envision sitting down on their mat meditating, they’re only doing one bicep curl because their mind only veers off one time and then they redirect it and the rest of the time they’re just sitting there in peace. That’s amazing for them. But for me, I’m doing a lot of bicep curls because I sit there and I think, “Oh, did I send the email? Okay, Megan, come back to your breath. Oh my gosh, the meeting later today. Come back to your breath. Did I defrost the chicken? Come back to your breath.” And every single one of those is like a bicep curl.
So instead of thinking, which I used to think, “Oh, you’re bad at meditation, Megan.” Now I think, “Yes, every time you do that, you’re getting stronger.” And in the same way for me, I said a lot of this was doing less. I tried to incorporate or embody the concept of JOMO. You might have heard of FOMO, fear of missing out. I use for myself joy of missing out. So every time I say no to something, I say, “Yes, I’m so proud of you for prioritizing yourself.” Every time I intentionally prioritize sleep instead of working more or I say no to an extra obligation that’s not serving me right now, I celebrate that. I try to give my brain the dopamine it needs because my reward system is naturally wired the other way where I would get do dopamine only from doing more. So these little strategies like this can help, but at the end of the day, the answer for each person is different.
For me, what might be stressing me out, what is often stressing me out is I love my work and I just want to do more and more and more and more and more. And that’s a positive, amazing, fortunate place to be stressed, but that is what stresses me out. For someone else, it might be that they lack confidence or that they… Whatever you fill in the blank. Getting to the root of whatever it is that’s stressing you out will help you create that path forward but it’s not easy.
Yeah, it’s not easy at all. But I love the analogy of the gym because you’re exactly right. The brain is a muscle, the mind is a muscle and it needs to be conditioned appropriately. Otherwise, it is just not going to be as vital and as useful as it needs to be. So do you build meditation or a meditation-style practice into your day? Do you use any tech to do that or perhaps just some traditional principles or practices?
Yes. Well, I think it will maybe sound just like my personality, and I’ll tell you a story about this, but I am now on a streak of meditation that’s like 1,400 days or something like that. It’s a really long-
… time, well over three years. But when I got to day 999, I remember very clearly I was like, “I should skip tomorrow.” And the reason is I don’t want meditation to become something that I’m doing just to check the box and fuel that drive in me that’s the doer, that’s the accomplisher. In the end, I did not bring myself to skip the day, I continued it. But I only give that caveat to say there’s a risk in people like me of using meditation not the way it’s meant just to say, “Check the box, I did it for the day. Yes.” And move on and you don’t get benefit.
For me though, the best time to do it is the morning. I do tend to wake up. I have that strong cortisol awakening response. So I’m ready to go through the day and I like to calm myself down a little bit more. I exercise in the morning, but I do my meditation first and other aspects of my morning routine. I don’t even really have to think about, it’s just… I mean, my dogs know to lay down right in the right spot. It’s so part of my routine that I genuinely look forward to it and some days it feels very aligned and some days it doesn’t. That’s okay, but I don’t judge myself. I do use the Muse headband. Have you heard of that one?
I have, yeah. I have a Muse headband.
Oh, great. Yeah, I really like it. I think technology… I aspire to be one of those people who just meditates without any technology, but for me, I really appreciate the feedback of… For me, they’re birds chirping if I am in a calm state. There might be ocean waves or thunder if my mind is more active. I really like that feedback. And then of course I’m wearing other devices as well. I monitor my heart rate through that, but that’s my tech of choice.
Fantastic. Yeah, tech is a hard one as well, especially when you’re a particular personality because I wear the Oura Ring and I had a notification from Oura this morning that, “You’ve been wearing your Oura Ring and tracking sleep for four and a half years now.”
I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m going to take the Oura Ring off now because I wake up in the morning and I just want to check my sleep score and I want to check my stats. And I’m thinking, I just don’t don’t know. Is that right? Should I be doing that? And I kind of feel like I should know now. I know whether I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I know what my resting heart rate is, my HRV, all of these stats, but I’m still jumping for the phone first thing to check the stats. So I don’t know. Interesting, but I guess if tech makes us do what we need to do, then it’s probably better to use tech than to try without.
Yes. Again, I don’t have a magic solution, but I used to wear a continuous glucose monitor and I experienced that same thing where honestly it was truly helpful for me for the first little bit, but after having it on for so long, I thought I know the foods that are going to spike my blood sugar for sure. I know the foods that are great for my blood sugar. And on the off chance that something surprises me, I have a stressful day and my response is higher or whatever, the only outcome is that’s going to stress me out.
So while I fully advocate that technology at the beginning, there is a time and a place to break up with it. I had to cut myself off of the CGM and I still find benefit out of the Oura, but I don’t know if this will help you. I do a brief journaling practice and my meditation before I check my Oura Ring no matter what. So I check in with myself as the number one data point before I check in with my Oura Ring. Otherwise, I would let that stress me out or dictate my day. And even though it’s cool technology, I think my body’s cooler technology.
Yeah, exactly right. Just on that topic of CGM, and also I think the importance of understanding the foods that best serve you in terms of keeping your blood sugar super stable and being as nourishing as possible as well. Did you have any unexpected results with some of the foods perhaps that you thought were serving you that weren’t actually when you looked at the CGM results?
Yes. I will answer your specific question, but first I’ll say as someone with previous adrenal dysfunction, my number one surprise was still how stress impacted my blood sugar beyond any food that I have ever eaten wearing my CGM. The stressful moments had higher spikes.
So seeing that in the data for me helped me be even more in tune with my body and responsible about managing my stress levels.
A couple things that were surprising for me, I think the most surprising now these days I feel like this is everywhere, but I didn’t realize at the time that grapes in particular were a fruit that spiked my blood sugar very tremendously. So just having a bunch of grapes on an empty stomach for me wasn’t the best option. Now even with that, I had to go through a little process of saying to myself, “Okay, so maybe Megan, you’re not going to have grapes every afternoon. You don’t want the spike in the crash.” But are grapes really an evil food? No. I got into a phase there where I was like, “Ooh, even blueberries, well, that gives me up like five points or something.” But that’s a normal response. Fruit is a wonderful food. I don’t think we should be eating 50 servings of fruit per day, but vegetables have some sugar, a lot of whole natural things have sugar and a little bit of a glycemic response is normal. But to answer your question, I think the grapes were the most surprising.
There was also an erythritol-based matcha latte that I used to drink like a powder. And even though it “shouldn’t” by regular standards, that did give me a much bigger spike than I anticipated. I think the most pleasant spike for me, which now in hindsight I understand, but chocolate is one of my favorite foods, and that gave me no spike at all. Very good quality, low sugar, dark organic chocolate. And that was just flat line. And so that validated my desire for chocolate.
That’s dangerous information.
I know. It really was. That’s right.
That’s excellent. So talk to me then about supplementation. If we are in a position where we need to fix some things as quickly as possible, are there any baseline supplements that are always your go-to that always deliver the desired results?
Always is a really strong word with supplements. So I’ll say most of the time my number one go-to is going to be magnesium. Speaking of chocolate cravings, chocolate’s rich in magnesium, but magnesium gets burned through so quickly with stress. And so people who are taxing their adrenals, even if they’re eating a healthy diet, magnesium is found in things like leafy greens and all kinds of healthy foods, but the quality of our soil just isn’t very rich in magnesium anymore. So I would almost always start someone on a magnesium supplement. For adrenal dysregulation I like Magnesium L-Threonate because it crosses the blood-brain barrier, but lots of different formats of magnesium can be helpful.
I think there’s a safety net in terms of vitamin D, which is actually associated with adrenal dysregulation. So making sure that you’re covered on all your nutrient bases, omega-3s as well.
And then if we’re going to go to the next step, you named two of my favorite categories. One is adaptogens. So adaptogens are fantastic. Ashwagandha was one that you mentioned. Ashwagandha tends to be an energy balancer. So for some people it can bring them up in energy, which might not be what they want. And for some people it can bring them down. Usually it gets you to that neutral level. But for some people, for many people, I’ll start with maybe even a more gentle one, like holy basil, which is also called tulsi or something that’s very soothing. Maybe a rhodiola, something like that.
And then you also mentioned phosphatidylserine. There’s a supplement that I love, I have no affiliation with the company, called Cortisol Manager, which is a blend of ashwagandha, phosphatidylserine, L-theanine, and I think magnolia. And that is a really great blend for a lot of people. Phosphatidylserine helps the brain not over respond to stress and can help for people who have dysregulated sleep patterns or things like that based on their adrenals can help them calm down for sleep.
Yeah, I was going to say, boy, I could repackage that with a sleep label and I think that would work a dream.
Yes, absolutely. It’s one of those borderline, it’s so powerful. Should this be regulated? But no, it’s really, it’s not dangerous and I would cautiously recommend it. You want to be careful with any supplements, so definitely talk to your practitioner if you’re listening. But I would cautiously recommend that to everyone who relates to this adrenal conversation.
Yeah, it sounds like a very useful concoction. So supplements then to nutrition and nutrition is an area much like religion or politics that can really inflame people and become quite stressful in its own right. And I think because we are now at a stage where there is still no clear and hard line in the sand as the best diet for human health. Plant-based veganism all the way through to animal-based carnivore and everything in between devout followers, but still much confusion. And I’m interested to hear your perspective in terms of nourishing the body in the least stressful way. Where do you sit in terms of nutrition? What type of dietary intervention do you call upon as perhaps the most beneficial in your eyes?
Yes. So I will say I don’t only work with adrenal dysregulated clients, and in my practice over the years, I have recommended the vegan diet for a small handful of people. I’ve never recommended all the way carnivore, but I’ve definitely recommended a much more keto centric hardcore paleo for a small handful of people. For most people in the middle though, I really do believe any of these diets are overcomplicating it. That if it’s whole food and we eat it in balance, that it’s probably better than some kind of packaged food that just has a diet company’s label on it. The whole food is almost always better.
I also remind people there are three macronutrients. And macro nutrient means stuff that’s good for us, nutrients, that we need in big quantities, macro. So carbs, protein, and fat, I really do believe that we need all of those balanced quantities. And this becomes even more important if you’re dealing with adrenal dysfunction. So for someone who has super functioning adrenals, they’re great, they’re managing stress great, but they’re looking to drop some weight and they don’t do a lot of exercise. Maybe I’ll taper back on the carbohydrates for them, maybe even on the fat for them, depending on the person. But for someone with adrenal dysfunction, I know we need a solid quantity of carbohydrates, protein, and fat and skimping on any of those is a stressor for the body. Your body can make macronutrients out of each other, but that’s a stressful process. So really just giving it at each meal a source of whole foods, carbohydrates, a source of protein, a source of healthy fat, that’s the best approach for someone who’s dealing with struggling adrenals.
Yeah, that sounds good. And you mentioned the three macronutrients, and I’ve heard talk of a fourth macronutrient, which is alcohol often referred to as the fourth. So for somebody that is adrenally challenged, but really likes that glass of wine at the end of the night to wind down, what would your thoughts, suggestions be from that perspective? Because I know that alcohol can seem to be so calming, but from an underlying health perspective, it can do very different things than I think we perhaps might expect.
That’s exactly right. I never as much as I can avoid it. I don’t like to draw hard lines in the sand. So saying you can never have alcohol again for the rest of your life. Of course, if the person’s dealing with an adverse mental relationship with alcohol, that might be appropriate. But in terms of the adrenals, I like to not have hard lines in the sand because people tend to be like me where they can take it and they can stress about it and they can go the extra mile. That said, things like alcohol, even things like caffeine, things like sugar, all those that give us comfort when our adrenals are struggling, those are really detrimental to recovery. So what I like to do is educate my clients about how the body has to process alcohol and how when your liver is processing alcohol, your normal metabolic functions basically turn off. Your body is in a stressed out state trying to get the toxin out of your body. That causes a strain on your adrenals, which are the ones who produce cortisol and basically slows down your recovery a little bit.
And once they hear that, then they start thinking, “Ooh, is this actually worth it?” And then I start helping them think of other things that can help them relax. So maybe its a… There’s a sparkling water with some magnesium in it that I really like, or maybe it’s a mug of tea, or maybe it’s they get in the habit of walking after dinner for 10 minutes or they have a cat or a dog and they really intentionally snuggle and get that oxytocin or they do a crossword puzzle or they stretch. It doesn’t really matter, but finding something else to give them that soothing effect can really help.
And then honestly, putting it in their hands because I believe, like I said, there’s no absolute. So if you feel, “I know this is not the best decision for me, but right now all I want is that glass of wine,” give yourself some grace. Of course, do it safely and do it sporadically, but it’s not the end of the world if one day you do too hard of a workout or one day you have a glass of wine or one day you have too much sugar. It’s really that overall supportive pattern that we want to get going in the right direction.
Yeah, no, it’s interesting. I don’t drink and haven’t had a drink for many years, perhaps three years, but when I did, the last time that I actually did, the results that came through on my Oura Ring were nothing short of shocking. Boy, oh boy, every single thing tanked. And it was just so surprising and it knocked me out for days afterwards. I just felt like a train wreck. So that’s perhaps one of the positives for me, I think of tracking stuff on the Oura Ring. I can kind of see the stuff, but saying that I didn’t need to see any data, I felt like a train wreck anyway, so I just don’t bother anymore.
Absolutely. And when you get to that point where your body’s so healthy that putting toxins in it truly feels bad, that’s such a gift to yourself because now you don’t have to white-knuckle it. It’s not like you’re fighting every night saying, “I really want that wine. No, you can’t have it.” It’s like, “No, I don’t want to feel bad. I don’t want that in my life.” The decision becomes much easier.
Yes, absolutely right. We’re coming up to the end of the conversation, but I’m just keen to ask you about perhaps some of your top tricks, tips, strategies or techniques, perhaps three that could make the biggest impact on our overall health. And it doesn’t have to be adrenal related. It could be anything from food, nutrition, mindset and whatever they may be. What do you think those low-hanging fruit would be, perhaps then?
Amazing. I’ll start with one, which we almost briefly touched on, which is the morning routine. I find that everyone these days leans over in bed, they check their phone. Even if they’re not checking the email, they’re checking news or social media or something, and their brain is going a million miles an hour on what the world needs or some kind of catastrophe or something that we don’t want to start our day with. So I encourage people, even just take five minutes before you check your phone to do something. And it doesn’t have to look like what I do, but anything that’s just you checking in with yourself for five minutes only before you dive into what the world needs from you, that is enough to meaningfully alter the course of your day. And I would even say you’re like, “It’s my favorite health habit for sure that I’ve done.” You agree?
I absolutely agree, yeah. You can be taken off into a trajectory or just a spiral of news and social media and opinions and love and hate and war, and you probably don’t need that upon waking.
Yes, absolutely. So that would be my number one. I think number two, we also touched on just briefly, which is getting back to whole foods really matters. So very frequently I’ll have conversations with people who are coming into my program and they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I eat vegetables.” And then I’ll just say, “Okay, for a week, put a tally mark on this Post-it note for every serving of vegetables you eat.” And they’ll come back and they’ll have two tallies for the week or something like that. And I’m like, “Okay, well that’s great. Two is better than zero.” But oftentimes we think we’re eating healthily because we ate a protein bar instead of the fast food burger or something like that and we’re still missing the abundance of actual whole foods.
So I’m encouraging people to go for multiple servings of vegetables per day. In fact, I suggest just to give people something to aspire to, eight servings of vegetables per day and working your way up to that. Even if it’s not that, it’s whole foods. If it was living, breathing, growing something on the earth originally, then it’s a great thing for us to eat. So more whole foods, less packaged foods.
And then, ooh, three, this is choosing your favorite child. I will have to say for the third one, I think most people these days, when they’re trying to cut back or they’re trying to change body composition or they’re trying to get results or whatever, they tend to be skimping on the protein, especially at breakfast. So I like to say to people, everyone eats breakfast. It doesn’t matter what time it is. If it’s 6:00 AM or 1:00 PM, if you’re breaking your fast, that’s breakfast. And I find that that meal, having a good solid amount of protein is really good for your blood sugar for the rest of the day, for your cortisol, which we talked about, for your cravings, for your energy, all of that. So focus on the protein at your first meal of the day.
Great, great advice. I couldn’t agree more. Bingo. Fantastic. Look, great conversation. So much knowledge there. What’s next for you? What have you got in the pipeline? I know we’re coming up to the backside of the year, but you look like such a busy person with so many things going on. Tell us what the next six months will bring.
Well, the next few months, I am so excited to say will just be more of the same because I genuinely love the place that I found myself in right now. I see a lot of clients during the week. I am a lifelong learner, so even after several master’s degrees and board certifications and whatever, I’m doing a doctorate right now. So there will be more doctorate in my near future. There will be more podcasting, there will be more of just everything that I’m doing right now. I’m also in a super fun time of life. Personally, I have eight nephews and nieces and several of them are little right now. So lots of time with them. I’m traveling next week to Europe and Africa. So just lots of fun stuff in the future, but from an outsider’s perspective, more of the same.
That’s fantastic. So for all of our listeners then that want to get more of you, listen to your podcasts and just dive into the information and resources that you have, where can we send them?
Absolutely. So my website is www.thelyonsshare.org. It’s L-Y-O-N-S share.org I have lots of blog posts and free information on there. I do a podcast weekly called Wellness Your Way, and I’m most active social media-wise on Instagram, which is @thelyonsshare.
Fantastic. Megan, thank you so much. We’ll put everything that we’ve spoken about today, including all of the links in the show notes, and I look forward to sharing this with our audience because it’s such valuable information and hopefully we can send some traffic your way. My biggest wish is to prompt curiosity with our followers so they can dive in and make change in their own lives. So thank you so much. I really appreciate your time today.
Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun.