Teenager wanting to go Paleo with adrenal problems/CFS

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 03, 2013 at 11:50 AM


As I find myself weeks from turning 17, I can't help but be depressed at the state of my life. I grew up a normal boy who ate pretty poorly (fast food, candy, a LOT of diet coke). Around the age of 12 I started getting into drugs and stopped soon after turning 15. I am 22 months sober. When I became sober I cut out all candy, fast food, etc. I committed to eating only clean organic foods and living a healthy lifestyle. (I also cut out red meat.) After becoming sober I felt very ill and I started getting panic attacks. Luckily they went away and I started lifting weights religiously 5 days a week or more. I lifted everyday from around nov. 2011 to June 2012. My Grandmother died in April of 2012 and my anxiety came back. Long story short I have had anxiety for over a year and it has completely taken over my life. I feel sick all the time. (I am gluten free, dairy free, and I eat very clean.) I have had MRI's, Multiple check ups and blood panels, all with no significant findings. My blood sugar is fine too. I think it is adrenal fatigue. I have an appointment with my naturopathic doctor next week. I have basically been bed ridden the past week from feeling so ill. I have had a wide range of symptoms including palpitations, postural hypotension, fatigue, general malaise, nausea, GI problems, shaking, dizziness/vertigo, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eye pain, etc... I just had stool samples done so maybe the results will indicate I have dysbiosis in my gut. I am going to do some sort of saliva test to track my cortisol and other hormones and hopefully that will help me. From what I understand, under stress, the Hypothalamus sends CRH to the pituitary, which sends ACTH to the adrenals and they get too work. Sorry for the long rant but its 4:30 AM and I stay up all night and sleep all day, I dropped out of school temporarily, and I feel terrible. Every time I eat I get super bloated or a really sick "depressed" feeling. Like the food is killing me. I feel as if I am on an IV drip of a mild poison that is slowly killing me and making me sicker and sicker. Just doing mundane tasks makes me pretty damn tired and it sucks! And please refrain from the "You are depressed" lecture. I have a ton of ambition and I know what I want to do with my life and how I want to do it. I also have many hobbies, I just can't do them because I have zero energy. I don't hangout with friends anymore, I don't drive anywhere, I literally spend the entire day in my house and a majority of it is in my bed. At times I cant even sit at my desk, I have to lay down from exhaustion. I will say once more, Clean blood tests, Doctors say I am ok, etc. Western Medicine doesn't really have a proper understanding or acceptance of adrenal fatigue only extremes such as Addison's which is deadly. I was in the Emergency Room a few weeks ago with bad bad pain and stomach pain and the pain is still there just not as bad. I just had an ultrasound done and My doctor will go over it next week, but the doctor at the ultrasound clinic reviews it before its sent out to the physician who requested it, meaning if I had anything urgent they would have said go to the hospital. I will admit that I am a hypochondriac but these events are not something I am faking or imagining. Even a few weeks ago I would at least hangout with my friends a few times a week and go to summer school 4 days a week and do SOMETHING. I am at my last inch or rope here. I am wondering if anyone has any advice, experience with Adrenals/CFS, or really anything to say at all. Please spare your sympathy, I may be young but I have enough intelligence to accept that humans are not perfect and we get health problems and chronic illness. What really gets too me is that I am 16, I am 22 months sober, and I eat the healthiest I have ever eaten, yet I feel like this. (I still have a 6 pack and I look healthy yet I feel so old and ill.) I have been a plant based diet proponent for about 2 years, and even thought the whole raw vegan thing was Godly, even though I wasn't one myself. I know see that humans are omnivores and that a clean Paleo diet is probably the most beneficial diet in the world for our health, wellbeing, and genetic make up. Any advice on my situation or the Paleo diet in general is greatly appreciated. Again sorry for the long rant and making you guys read about my problems.



on August 19, 2013
at 06:48 AM

Oh - I realized that I may have missed or misread some portions of your original "rant". :-)



on August 03, 2013
at 10:38 PM


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4 Answers


on August 19, 2013
at 06:42 AM

Have you had your gut examined for any rampaging problems? The feeling depressed/like you're dying inside seems either quite typical of gut damage(SIBO, gut dysbiosis, poor gut flora health...) or of a bad diet (ingesting bad foods), or of nutrient deficiencies (The food may feel like poison because it is continued ingestion of substances lacking what you need.


Little of alcoholism in my awareness/knowledge, but there can maybe be quite a few aftershocks from it, especially from going cold turkey (though this would've been 22 months ago...)

Having a deranged metabolism, organ health or rampant gut health problems... is very unpleasant. Not the least because food is such a vital source & part of a human being's energy, source, vitality.

Having something which takes things in a direction of feeling better - good - just a bit, can make a very large difference.

Have you tried drinking/eating true fermented foods in general? Kefir? Raw milk yogurt? Kombucha? Kimchi? Sauerkraut? Is a thought if gut health is truly a very large problem... might make you feel much happier , and not like you're ingesting poisons...

Apart from that... neck-exercises (thyroid)? Organ meats? Selenium/Brazil nuts often make a difference in a wide variety of thyroid regulation errors. Tai chi of good quality might help overall bodily health quite a lot if it's really all banged up inside. Organs are - sadly , perhaps - very important, but so much attention is often paid to the outward appearance of one's body. (This is perhaps how one can be "ripped and yet feel like they are dying.)

Unsure, but the joy and happiness here seems crucial - progress which has immediate positive impacts on the quality of life...

And, sleeping in the darkness might help, but it may also take awhile and throw your circadian rhythms out of whack or be uncomfortable while healing.

Apologies for this response being so long after your original post, and here are my hopes and best wishes and thoughts, from one human being to another.



on August 19, 2013
at 06:48 AM

Oh - I realized that I may have missed or misread some portions of your original "rant". :-)


on August 19, 2013
at 03:12 AM

Getting to sleep at night is of supreme importance to health and healing. Diet and exercise cannot counter the effects of poor sleep hygiene.

The easiest way to start, is to force yourself out of bed in the morning and go outside. You'll probably need to nap during the day, but this forced waking will help you align your light cycle rhythms.

Think of sleeping at night (10:00pm - 6:00am) as the prime opportunity for your body to fix itself. This should be your top goal!

As Katy mentions, the adrenal fatigue book is a great resource. In fact, I guarantee you will feel better by just reading it.

Good luck!


on August 05, 2013
at 12:41 AM

First, congrats on staying sober! It sounds like you've been through a lot in the last few years and adrenal fatigue could certainly be contributing to some of your issues. I think it's a great thing that you're going to be seeing a naturopathic doctor because it can take a lot to sort it all out. If it is related to adrenal fatigue, it will take more than a regular Paleo diet to get it sorted out. This is a great book to learn more about adrenal fatigue: http://www.amazon.com/Adrenal-Fatigue-Century-Stress-Syndrome/dp/1890572152/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375663064&sr=8-1&keywords=adrenal+fatigue.

You mentioned that you're not sleeping at night and that can contribute to a lot of hormonal imbalances as well. I would work on trying to get your sleep/wake schedule straightened out. Are you still working out strenuously? You may want to cut back on that as well.

If it is more of a chronic fatigue syndrome issue, I would check into the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. It's possible that you have some remaining food sensitivities that haven't been removed with regular Paleo.

I hope that you are able to see your doctor soon.


on August 19, 2013
at 07:29 AM

Your story is pretty similar to mine, I was a mess until 21 (you're lucky you realized that when still 17!), I was fat from just eating junk food, I was shy, I had poor energy on a daily basis, once I were able to go out with some girls I'd get very depressed if things would go wrong (and that lead me into a lot of drinking also!) and a lot of negative stuff.. then I decided I wanted to change my life and 9 years later I feel AWESOME generally speaking, now I'm a little bit messed because I overdid it regarding endurance running but even like this I'm still ages above from where I once was.

Your anxiety issues and all the other stuff, specially during the time you committed to a change, it also happened to me, and my conclusion is that it was mostly triggered as a consequence of being borderline diabetic from the damage I did to my body before. As time went on and on I started to feel better, but even like this I still felt pretty bad on a random basis, BUT once I discovered that grains were causing a lot of mess in me and I got completely rid of them, all this stuff went away forever. You say that you already eat very clean and I think that's great, I'd encourage you too keep that way and have faith because getting you gut healthy is PRIMORDIAL and can take some time, and I honestly think, based on my experience and what I read all over the net and many books, that unless you can be able to fix your gut you won't be able to have perfect health.

So I'd make fixing the gut my #1 goal no matter what it takes. For me staying grain free worked the best I'm pretty sure, but I think that many others things helped, being sugar free and generally speaking low carb I think it helped me a lot healing the gut and reverting my metabolic syndrome, during the last months I added a good deal of extra help in the form of probiotics from kefir, sauerkraut, natural yogurth, L-Glutamine (works very well for muscle recovery but few people know it can aid the gut also!).

I agree with most folks here, getting proper sleep should be your goal, I'd say #2 but franly it's equally important to healing the gut, but I bet once you fix your gut everything will start to work better for you specially from the sleep perspective. Notice that a good deal of the melatonin hormone is made in the gut (as well as many other important nutrients like vitamin K, etc) so if the gut is a mess it can also hurt your sleep. A few things you can try to sleep better is to wake up earlier, look at the sun and try to have some activity during the day when there's plenty of light. If you don't have energy, doesn't matter, just go to the park and read and focus on relaxing as much as possible and get all the sun you can. This is important to get enough Vitamin D which seems to be critical to good health. Then when the sun goes down try to make your surroundings dark, turn off all lights (and that includes LCD screen and mobile screen) and try to relax, that should help you increase your melatonin so you can sleep better. But again, if your gut is off, that might be difficult. Some sleep aids might help you short term... like a ZMA supplement and maybe with GABA, 5-HTP or thyptophan or a blend of all this. Some have melatonin in it, I'd not favour it unless it's essential and everything is not working but if you cannot sleep even for 4h I guess it might be worth trying...

All this will automatically help you for your adrenal fatigue issues. As you already pointed out, AF seems not to be a real problem from the adrenals but better a poor signaling status from the hypothalamus that is not able to regulate your energy status properly as it would on a healthy person. And for this mess to happen, it can be a lot of things, but seems that gut health is a very important one (we just covered this), cortisol control is another one (so please focus #3 on avoid stress at ALL COSTS and that includes being less worried by your current health concerns, I know is difficult but realize that it also is hurting you), sleep is another one very important for body repairing (autophagy, we also covered this) and good proper hormonal status is very important also, but this happens when the rest is fine, so you focus on improving in the mentioned areas and you might be able to regain a better hormonal balance.

I'd suggest to get help from your doc and try to do bloodwork regularly to asses how are you doing, sex hormone panel, thyroid palen, lipid profile, ASI test and regular metabolic panel with RBC, liver function, etc... and you'll get some hints, if you're able to have Vitamin D, melatonin and HS-CRP then the better!

Two more things:

I think the Paleo template is awesome for good health, but being young as your are and having this kind of issues I'd suggest you to EAT A LOT. Just focus on eating the right stuff (as you're already doing) but DON'T EVEN THINK about counting calories. I bet what happened to you is similar to what happened to me at some times, that I realized so hard I needed a change and I was so motivated by the idea (I'm pretty committed to my goals also like you) that I took my 'diet' too hard, and paired with insane weight training and endurance running I messed pretty much my body's ability to recover. Please don't follow my path :)

Second thing, being 17 you're in the sweet spot for having caught the Epstein Barr virus (mononucleosis) the symptoms are very like what you describe so even if it could be adrenal related, gut related, food intolerance related, or a little bit from everything, it's pretty much likely it could be caused by the virus. I'd ask your doc for checking you for the virus, it's easy and it's better to rule out that possibility.

Hope something might be of help, please never surrender on your journey, you're young and I'm sure you can get yourself to optimal with time, just keep working on it, learn as much as you can, do your research as you're already doing, and one day you will find out what is your Achilles heel and the once you can fix that things will eventually start to get better, for sure ;)

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