The connection between Stress, Adrenal Fatigue and Infertility - guest Podcast with Jules GallowayIt has been my absolute pleasure to welcome Naturopath and all-round cool chick, Jules Galloway onto the podcast this month to talk about the connection between stress, adrenal fatigue and infertility.

Jules lives in the incredible Byron Bay and works as a Naturopath. Her speciality is adrenal fatigue but Jules was great at explaining to me that adrenal fatigue is kind of like an end point to other things that can be going wrong in our bodies, so Jules is actually dealing with hormonal issues, thyroid issues, auto-immune conditions and all sorts of other gnarly chronic illnesses.

As we were going through the podcast, my brain was constantly thinking ‘ding!’ – that’s a cause of infertility, and also ‘ding!’ – it’s like she is talking to me.

Why?

Because I’m exactly the same as you guys – I’m a type A. I’ve always been driven and worked really hard to achieve my goals (and Jules is the same!), which, for women like us, can lead to burnout really quickly.

Jules shares her tips for how we can get better at stress, tweak our diet to help stop inflammation, and begin to heal.

Listen to the podcast, or check out the transcript below:

 

Robyn Birkin:                     What it is that you do most often and what do you see most often in your clients?

Jules Galloway:                 Oh goodness, I think you pretty much summed it up. I work with mostly with tired and fatigued women who want to feel amazing again but feel like they’re never going to get there. I deal a lot with adrenal fatigue, I deal a lot with burn out, I have a lot of women with hormonal issues, thyroid issues, auto-immune issues, all kinds of gnarly little chronic illnesses here and there. I do a lot of functional medicine in my practice which is, it’s kind of like one part naturopathy and one part science mixed together, so I do a lot pathology testing and looking really deeply for the underlying causes of why these things are happening.

I also work with a few little biochemical issues like pyrrole disorder and MTHFR which some people may or may not have heard of but they are becoming a lot more mainstream these days. I never accept that illnesses is just an illness, I’m always digging for the reason that that illness happened in the first place, so even if someone came to me with adrenal fatigue, I will be digging to find out what caused that adrenal fatigue and then getting to that root cause and then working our way back up from there.

I’m kind of one part detective, one part science nerd, one part woo woo hippie and mix it all together, and here I am.

Robyn Birkin:                     I love that. I just wanted the reasons, everybody who listens to these podcasts knows that I am such a big fan of naturopathy and particularly because it really helped me on my journey, but I think that when we … you know, sometimes when we look at doctors, doctors kind of interested in when we have these hard symptoms, but sometimes miss the mark of trying to get into the reasons why and they’re also so focused on sickness rather than wellness. That’s to me one of the key differences with naturopathy is that it’s about, okay, well what is wrong and how do we get to feeling good and feeling great again when we’re not feeling optimal?

Jules Galloway:                 Yeah, I think doctors are … I mean they’ve definitely got an important place in society, but they’re really, really good at prescribing you something to help your symptoms. If you’ve got a headache — hey, painkiller. If you’ve got joint pain — oh, antiinflammatory. They’re also good at saving your life if you’ve got some awful infection like, yeah, take the antibiotics or mend that arm in surgery if you break your arm. There’s a really important role for doctors here, but I think if you’re constantly going to the doctor to get them to fix your symptoms, you run that risk of never getting to the root cause of why you’re getting sick in the first place.

Robyn Birkin:                     Absolutely, that is so true. I totally agree, they have their place but I think that there is definitely a place, and one of the things I also advocate is building a team of people to help you through wherever you are at to get to being, be it physical or mental, but being in an optimal state where everything seems like it’s fitting together. So interesting when you were introducing yourself, a lot of the things that you were discussing are things that could be potential causes of infertility as well. I was like, MTHFR, tick! Hormonal disruption, tick! One of the things as well, I think, is that you and I have the same clients we’re dealing with.

Jules Galloway:                 Oh my God, yes.

Robyn Birkin:                     They’re Type As, right? Like I’m a Type A, you’re a Type A. We’re dealing basically with ourselves, Type A women, successful, used to working hard to get what they want but then sometimes all that hard work and burning the candle at both ends, it’s not always that great, is it?

Jules Galloway:                 No. Literally, before I’ve jumped on this call with you, I’ve literally been sitting here writing a blog post about why successful, driven women are the most prone to burnout. It’s a thing, it’s a thing, and I don’t know, we probably attract them a little more because like you, your vibe attracts your tribe, they say, so of course if you’re a Type A, you’re going to attract other Type As, they seem to just like, become magnetized. But yeah, in the world of burnout and naturopathy, it’s the driven women who … they don’t heed the warning signs. Everyone gets warning signs. Some women will go off and nap and slow down and stay home and say no to things, and some women just keep on pushing, and I think we all know which ones they are.

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah, yeah. Okay, and so you mentioned adrenal fatigue and you also mentioned that yes, there is adrenal fatigue and yes, there are sometimes various causes and things like that of adrenal fatigue. Can you just explain to us a little bit more, for anyone who doesn’t know, what is adrenal fatigue for a start?

Jules Galloway:                 It’s actually a really fashionable term that’s been tossed around a lot lately and it can sometimes even be disputed. The more technical way of describing it would be something like HPA axis dysfunction but that’s not very sexy, it doesn’t have a ring to it, and just quietly, not many people are Googling that. I still call it adrenal fatigue even though your adrenal glands technically don’t get tired, do you know what I mean?

Adrenal fatigue is what happens when your body has been in a what we call fight-or-flight for too long. If you’re busy and you’re driven and you’re pushing and you’re burning the candle at both ends, chances are you understand what I’m saying when I say when I say fight-or-flight. It’s that feeling of being edgy and anxious but also on point, you know when you put on your Superwoman cape and you smash out your to do list and you’re like, “Oh my God, I was on fire today, I’ve got everything done! Picked up this person, went to that place, smashed out that to do list, dealt with that stressful situation, bang bang bang bang.” Then you get to the end of the day and you’re wired — we often refer to it in the early stages of adrenal fatigue as being wired but tired.

Women at that point don’t often realise that they’re in adrenal fatigue or in fight-or-flight so they don’t stop. In fact, it’s quite an addictive situation to be in because you are smashing out your to do list, you are getting everything done, and sometimes you actually feel excited to be on point in that way. But that feeling, that tingling in your fingers, that feeling of getting everything done, of rushing, rushing, rushing, is part of our fight-or-flight system is what that is is it’s a really primitive system in the body that was designed to be activated when we are in imminent danger. Imminent danger, can’t stress those two words enough.

Robyn Birkin:                     Like a tiger’s going to eat me? (;-))

Jules Galloway:                 Yes. When we’re living in caves, we didn’t have a shopping list and have to deal with the daily chaos and then we didn’t have to rush all the way across town and get stuck in a traffic jam. Imminent danger was a tiger or a bear or maybe a flood or a fire or maybe the neighboring tribe over there had come over with their spears for a bit of a fight. That was probably as bad as it got. All those things are life threatening. This fight-or-flight system in the body is activated in response to stress, but stress in those days usually involved big danger, imminent danger. The body produces cortisol in really high amounts which is a stress hormone, and adrenaline, and that sends a message to your arms and your legs to become stronger, like all the blood goes to your arms and legs and the muscles become stronger and faster acting so you can run and fight if you have to. It also sends blood and nutrients and energy to the brain so that you can think faster, so you’re on point, so you can make quick, life saving decisions.

It does it so … in order to feed the arms and legs and the brain, you need to divert those nutrients in the blood and the energy away from things that your body deems to be non-essential functions. Remember, it’s non-essential if you’re in danger of being eaten by a tiger, so fertility is one of those things that drops off really fast because it’s like, well, do I need to fight a tiger today or do I need to make a baby? The body says, “You’re not making a baby today, sunshine, because there’s a tiger after you and we’re all going to die.”

Obviously, your body will then divert the precursors away from your reproductive hormone production over to making the cortisol, because you’ve got to get out of there. It’s the same with your thyroid hormones, the same precursors you need to make healthy, beautiful thyroid hormones now being shunted over to make more stress hormones. The body prioritizes, it takes the energy and the nutrients away from the digestive system in order to provide nutrients and energy to the arms and legs and brain.

These so-called non-essential functions aren’t needed in that moment, but if we fast forward back to our modern lives, when the saber-toothed tiger is turning up in the form of a traffic jam, a long line of calls when you’ve got somewhere to be, phone call from your boss, etc., they’re not life threatening, but you’re still diverting energy and nutrients away from reproductive system, thyroid, digestion, all those sorts of things. Then we live there, we do this every day. Every day. How often do you think you are actually going to come across a tiger or a flood or a fire when you’re living in a cave? Once a week? Once a month? Once every couple of months? How often are we now activating that fight-or-flight system? For a lot of women, it’s every single day.

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah. Do you think as well that when we are living in a constant state of anxiety and being hypersensitive about everything that’s going on with our fertility and in this constant state of anxiety about potentially not falling pregnant or this and that, that can also sort of activate that fight-or-flight kind of …

Jules Galloway:                 Absolutely. Your body doesn’t know the difference between emotional stress and physical danger. It only knows two systems, on and off. Anything that stresses you out, whether it’s danger or some sort of emotional stress, your body files that under fight-or-flight and produces the same hormone. It doesn’t have a separate hormone for when you’re feeling anxious and a separate hormone for when you’re in touch with a tiger. It’s the same hormone, it’s just in slightly varying amounts. Every time you’re feeling anxious, every time you’re feeling stress, no matter what the cause, no matter what the source, it’s still going to that same system.

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah. We talk about this a lot in the Fertility Warrior Intensive. We talk about this whole concept of fight-or-flight and things like that. When we talk about this wired but tired feeling that we’ve got, this feeling that we’re on, what other symptoms can that maybe manifest itself in?

Jules Galloway:                 Oh, so, so many. The most common one I see is feeling really wired earlier in the day, having that real drop at about 3:30 in the afternoon, bottoming out around dinner time, but then sometimes getting a second wind at about nine, nine thirty at night and not being able to get to sleep. Poor sleep in general, not being able to sleep because your thoughts are tick, tick, ticking over. Little things like … it really eats into your magnesium stores, so signs of magnesium deficiency are really common, so things like muscle cramps and tension headaches are sometimes the first things to pop out.

Another one that I tell people to watch out for, which people may not be aware of is that you know when you drink coffee or caffeine and it doesn’t work on you anymore, but it used to perk you up and you’re still having it every day just to kind of feel normal, but it doesn’t give you that buzz that it used to give you. When people say, “Oh yeah, coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore,” I’m like, uh, uh, uh, we have some problems here.

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah. You have … I know that you have on your website heaps of like diagnostic stuff, heaps of articles that people can read on finding out if they have adrenal fatigue. You do, don’t you?

Jules Galloway:                 Yeah, yeah. I do, I definitely do and there’s always a free gift there to help you get started as well if you don’t know where to start with adrenal fatigue.

Robyn Birkin:                     Yup. When we’re looking at … let’s talk about cortisol. We talked about cortisol just before, and we talked about how fertility is a non-essential, I guess function, for life. Cortisol can affect our sex hormones which are our hormones that obviously impact our fertility and our hormone levels and things like that, can’t they?

Jules Galloway:                 Absolutely. Every time I see … well, nearly every time I see a woman with Stage 3 adrenal fatigue … because there’s different stages, so your earlier stages, like Stage 2, you’re still wired. The Stage 3, you start heading into just feeling burned out. You don’t even get that buzz anymore, and that’s when the cortisol levels start to drop. I find that when people have been in adrenal fatigue for a long time, it’s like bye bye, sex drive. It’s just gone. They come to me and they’re like, “Oh, you know, my husband, he kind of like snuggles on over and I’m like, ‘Get away from me.’ I love him and I want to but then my body is just like, ‘No.'”

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah, yeah.

Jules Galloway:                 Yeah, very common, very common, and definite warning sign.

Robyn Birkin:                     Okay, so then when we look at infertility as well, infertility just in itself is a stressful situation, so you know, live I’ve just mentioned there like … our anxiety can have a big thing and you know, when people with infertility, we talk about stress, it’s almost like a trigger that it can make us feel a bit more stressful when we talk about it. The research has shown that the stress women with infertility experience is comparable to that of women with a cancer diagnosis or AIDS or heart disease, and in some cases it’s being named as the silent minority. Sometimes I feel like, you know, [inaudible 00:16:18] and everyone tells us to stop stressing, it can make things worse.

Jules Galloway:                 It’s like when someone’s anxious and then some helpful person, usually the husband, will come along and go, “Just don’t be anxious.” Or when they say, “Calm down,” it’s like, “I’m not calming down.” Yeah, imagine kind of a woman who’s experiencing infertility and it’s like, “Oh, just try to relax, darling. Relax and then it will just happen.” Oh, doesn’t that make you want to punch walls?

Robyn Birkin:                     Yes, or just like sucker punch them in the throat.

Jules Galloway:                 Oh, you had to take it up a notch, didn’t you?

Robyn Birkin:                     I did, yeah, I did. Because I can feel the anger of all the fertility warriors in me right now. But if we’re being serious for a moment, being better at stress is going to have a better impact on us.

Jules Galloway:                 Absolutely. We must, must, must find ways to manage that stress, so the more stressed you are about the infertility, the more action you’re going to have to take to counteract that stress, so more yoga, more meditation, more mindfulness, whatever it is that’s going to work for you. You’re going to have to work really hard at it, because like I just said, you can’t just tell yourself not to be stressed. If you really can’t have a baby and the clock’s a-ticking, there’s no taking away that stress, it’s always in the back of your mind. We have to find other ways to counteract that. There’s so many resources available now in terms of mindfulness and all of those things but I think the problem is is that we’re not doing them.

I spoke at a conference recently called The Wellness Base Camp, and I asked people how many mindfulness apps they had on their phone. People were just like grinning and looked a bit embarrassed. Oh yeah, I bet you’ve got like six different mindfulness apps on your phone but how many of them are you actually using on a daily basis? Then it was like, ah, yeah, not really. We actually have to schedule it in and really do the work because if you’re going through this, then unfortunately you’re going to have to put a few things in place to be able to counteract that.

 

Robyn Birkin:                     I’m sure that in your practice as well, you tell people what lifestyle and diet changes and things like that they need to make as well, so naturopathy to some degree, possibly more so than like a doctor, has a bit more of a holistic kind of element to it, doesn’t it?

Jules Galloway:                 Yep, absolutely. Like I said, because we’re always looking for that root cause, then once we find it, we have to take action. If the root cause is that your body becomes inflamed when you eat gluten, you have to take it away. It’s not easy to take things away from a person who’s already stressed, who’s already going through a lot and then have … it’s really hard to have someone in your face saying, “Okay, so I’m just going to take away your gluten, your dairy, your sugar and all the fun things that you’re using to comfort yourself.”

My approach is that we have to get in there and crowd out the stuff that you shouldn’t be eating by introducing you to new and better and more fun options. I do a lot of work with the women who go through my adrenal fatigue program, for example. We do a lot of work with introducing them to new recipes, easy, nourishing dishes, slow cooked meals, beautiful things that husbands are happy to eat, because I know that’s important. You know, when people think two dinners or making him cook his own. But yeah, beautiful, nourishing foods that are really nutrient-rich, that are diverse in color, that give you new flavors to explore, new things to try outside the box. Then one day you pop back in and go, “Oh, I hardly even notice that I didn’t eat gluten this week because I was so excited about these other foods and now I’m really excited about food again.”

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah. What kind of … what are the changes that you see in people? What kind of changes do people have when they start getting all of this shit under control?

Jules Galloway:                 It really depends on what we’re changing and how it has affected them in the first place. I’ve had women come back to me in three or four days and be like, “Oh my God, it’s like you’ve waved a magic wand.” I’ve had women it’s taken three or four months. You can never predict how it’s going to go. I always have an idea in my head of how long it’s going to take, when I’m talking to a person I’m like, “Okay, well yeah, this is what we’re going to do,” but yeah, you always hope that you’ll see small improvements along the way because that helps the person to stay motivated. If you’re slogging away, changing your diet, taking supplements, blah blah blah for months and not getting any results, I’d actually think that we need to find a new approach, that we haven’t got it dialed in right.

It might take some women several months to get a turnaround in their energy levels, there’s always things we can look and measure along the way. The first time I see a client, I’ll be asking them lots of questions, like how many headaches do you get every week? Do you get muscle cramps? How many times during the week? Are you bloated? How’s your bowel function? Are you constipated? Do you get diarrhea? All of those sorts of things, and I write it all down. Then the next time I speak to them, if it’s say four weeks later or whatever, I’ll be like, “Okay, well, in March, you said that you were getting tension headaches five times a week. How many are you getting now?” They’ll be like, “Oh, I’m down to two a week,” and we’re like all right, this is good, this is good.

You always need to notice all of those little things along the way because they’ll tell you if you’re on the right track and it will help to motivate you. Just even noticing that you’re bloating is going down or that you’ve got less heartburn, these are all wins that need to be celebrated and they’re all signs that what you’re doing is on the right track.

Robyn Birkin:                     That’s why I think … it’s the same with the Fertility Warrior Intensive, it’s not just about you talking to someone and saying … you know, even like on the podcast today, like, “Okay, do X, Y, Z, this, this, go away, and now work on it.” Sometimes it actually takes time, sometimes there’s lessons that you need to learn, sometimes you need someone holding your hand helping you through it and going through a few of the ups and downs and hiccups and things like that, and tweaking to get it right. How long … talk to me just for a second about your adrenal fatigue program that you run. It’s not like one meeting, set and forget, see you later, have a good day kind of thing, is it?

Jules Galloway:                 Oh my God, no, because then no one would actually do the work either. You need to stay front of mind. It’s a 12-week program and in that 12 weeks, you get a weekly video, you get a Facebook group, you get meal plan, shopping list, recipes, but you also get a weekly group coaching call that’s done on a video conferencing platform so that you actually get to discuss with other members of the program in real time, you know, what’s working for you, what isn’t working, what do you need help with, what are your goals, did you reach your goals last week?

It’s accountability and a check in, and then it’s part of my program, they also get three one-on-one consultations with me, which means I’m a-breathing down their neck. We kind of of fast track that naturopathy we do at consult at the start of the 12 weeks, at consult at the halfway point, and then at consult towards the end to really get in and fast track and find all those underlying issues and start to tweak them while everything’s really fresh. While you’re over there changing your diet and learning to cook your food, I’m over here digging in, looking at pathology reports, trying to figure out what’s going on underneath it all.

Yeah, it is a really intensive program but I found that without that intensity and without that accountability, people are less likely to actually finish, because how many times have people bought courses … I know I’ve done it, you buy a program or a course, you do the first little bit, and it just kind of sits there.

Robyn Birkin:                     Yeah, it’s exactly like the same that we do. I think we’re dealing with exactly the same people. You need the one-on-ones, like we’re talking about the same people. I know that there’s all these fertility warriors out there raising their hands and being like, “Yup, I’m guilty, yeah, this is me.” You’ve just given us some amazing wisdom right there. If people are likely have their hands up and they’re like, “Oh shit, I might be guilty of this,” you’ve got stuff for them on your website that can help them learn more about adrenal fatigue, whether they’re at risk, all that kind of stuff, don’t you?

Jules Galloway:                 Yep, so there’s always a free gift there to help you get started when you think you’ve got adrenal fatigue. Those free gifts do change from time to time. At the moment it’s like a little one-page guide to healing your adrenals, but soon there’ll be a quiz there instead. Then in the future that might change again because I do like to keep providing new things for people. So yeah, just pop over to julesgalloway.com, have a look around there, you’ll see options there for get your free gift, and there’ll be something there to help you get started to get back on that path to health.

Robyn Birkin:                     You also have a podcast just like me, so that if people are listening to this podcast, that means that they listen to podcasts, so they need to head over to the Shiny, Healthy You podcast. Jules, I’m putting you on the spot here, are there any episodes that you’re like, this is must-listen-to for people who are going through infertility?

Jules Galloway:                 Oh my goodness. If I go right back, there is actually a podcast on adrenal fatigue. It’s a fair way back, I’ll have a bit of a scroll and see if I can find it. Shiny, Healthy You Episode Number 59, if you’re a driven Type A woman, that is a must.  Bella Zanesco, she’s the one who wrote Smart Girls Screw Up Too. It’s a best selling book, it’s out now. Bella came on the podcast and we talked about how she came back from corporate burnout and I think she was right at the point of adrenal failure, actually.

There’s a beautiful chat recently with Lauren Verona, she’s a yoga instructor. She actually has a platform where you can do yoga from home with her, so if you think you’re too busy or for some reason you can’t get to your yoga or meditation class … there’s no excuse, but yeah, if you go back, sort of back through the past catalog, Shiny, Healthy Number 50, I talk about chronic fatigue. Then if you go way, way back, there is actually one just on adrenal fatigue as well. There’s plenty there to sink your teeth into and there’s new episodes coming out every fortnight.

Robyn Birkin:                     Perfect. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. As always, it’s been a pleasure talking with you, Jules, and I will catch you soon.

Jules Galloway:                 Anytime, it’s always fun chatting with you too, Robyn. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

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