Krista Goncalves | Healing from adrenal fatigue

Krista’s Story: Healing from Adrenal Fatigue

You’re exercising regularly… but you just seem to run out of steam before the end of the workout.

It takes every ounce of your energy just to squeeze that workout in, then you’re spent for the rest of the day. Dragging your ass to work and schlepping the kids around is an even bigger chore.

You take longer to recover than you used to… like several days, instead of just a quick 24-hour turn-around.

Your muscles are tight and sore, and not that rewarding kind of soreness, like “I just did a kickass superwoman workout yesterday” sore.

Krista's Story: From Adrenal Fatigue to Kickass Wellness Entrepreneur

And now it seems like you always have a bum knee or cranky hips as well.

You’re not even seeing results anymore, although you’re exercising harder or more often than ever.

To top it all off, adding insult to injury (literally)… you’re GAINING WEIGHT! I mean, what kind of cruel, sick joke is this?!

Can you relate? Well, that was certainly me… “exerhausted” just over 3 years ago – right around my 40th birthday.

(Oh crap, I just told you how old I was… and yes, I made that term up. You’re allowed to do shit like that in your forties – you’ve earned it!)

And all of that physical, mental & emotional exhaustion lead to nearly tanking my online nutrition consulting business before it even got off the ground.

“Exerhaustion”: One of the Many Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

After years of suffering from a myriad of seemingly unrelated mystery symptoms, I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), adrenal fatigue (more appropriately named adrenal dysfunction = adrenals that aren’t performing as they should) & hypercortisolism = a stress hormone switch that wouldn’t turn off!

Can you imagine feeling stressed and “under attack” every minute of every day?!

This came hitched with secondary diagnoses of leaky gut syndrome, low iron/borderline anemia, and B6 & B12 vitamin deficiencies — all likely stemming from the long-standing, untreated hypothyroidism. More specifically, a lack of efficient conversion of the thyroid hormones T4 to the more active T3.

This crazy combination of hormonal disharmony had likely been the cause of my IBS, poor sleep, erratic moods, anxiety, heart palpitations, depression, lack of libido, jawline cystic acne, hair loss (head, eyebrows & eyelashes), poor body temperature regulation (the sweat, oh the sweat!), poor exercise performance & recovery – or “exerhaustion” as I like to say!

AND, I was consistently gaining weight at a rate of 1/2 pound per week for months on end despite consistent, regular exercise (= running & weight training).

Other Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue (or Adrenal Dysfunction/Imbalance):

Adapted from

  • Blood pressure:  High or low blood pressure are signs to be aware of. Low blood pressure can often have the symptom of lightheadedness associated with it.
  • Energy:  Unable to stop, always on speed forward, ongoing fatigue, lack of stamina, feeling tired and wired much of the time. Lack of get up and go.

*Plus poor exercise performance, longer recovery times & lack of results = exer-haustion!

Krista running Kits Beach - take time off
  • Emotions and coping ability:  Inability to deal with day-to-day stress, feeling overwhelmed much of the time, struggling to get through the day, driven, having a very “short fuse”, anxiety attacks, and/or unable to reframe one’s thinking.
  • Thinking:  Mentally foggy, fuzzy thinking, inability to stay focused on one task, chronic racing thoughts.
  • Immune response:  Frequent infections, taking a longer time than others to recover from illness or infections or trauma.
  • Sleep Problems:  Inability to fall asleep or falling asleep well but waking up nightly. Sleeping soundly but waking up exhausted.
  • Hormones/Libido:  Worsening of peri-menopausal symptoms, low libido, severe PMS.
  • Food cravings and weight changes:  Abnormal weight gain in the abdomen and thighs. Do you have cravings for salty or sugary foods, sometimes feeling uncontrollable?

Krista: umm, is drinking pickle juice right out of the jar an indication of out-of-control salt cravings?!

This all had left me terribly frustrated, to say the least. More like devastated, flat-lined, and even more depressed!

Needless to say, this all spilled over into my professional world and the vision that I had set out for my fledgling online nutrition & wellness business was flatlining before it even got going. I just couldn’t muster up the energy or juice to get going.

In fact, by the time I was completely fed up, I had managed to put back on over 30 pounds (after I had finally just lost my 30 lbs of baby weight – grrr!), and knew I had to put the brakes on this runaway hormonal freight train!

I mean, how could I possibly be a successful Nutritionist — who was so overweight and unhealthy?!

I did mountains of research, pieced together a self-diagnosis, and finally sought the help of a Naturopathic Doctor who specialized in hormone problems to get confirmation and a more defined course of treatment, than me just stabbing in the dark with random supplements!

However, Google & WebMD really should issue honorary Medical diplomas, because I certainly earned mine.

Curiously enough, this diagnosis had actually been staring me in the face for years – double grrrr!!

The “curious” part is that I had been giving women’s health seminars on this very topic, not fully realizing (or admitting to myself) that I was the one suffering from all of the symptoms I had spent so much time researching.

As Alanis Morissette would say, “well isn’t that ironic, don’t ya think?” Triple grrrr!!!

But let’s remember that I am a former Nutritionist and Fitness Trainer & Bootcamp Company owner for kale’s sake, so it certainly wasn’t for lack of good, balanced nutrition that I tweaked continuously trying to find my personal nutritional nook and overall healthy lifestyle.

stop feeling like a fraud

Something deeper had been going on, for a very long time – perhaps lifelong.

However, I was just so thrilled to finally put a name(s) to it and release myself of some of the cr-r-r-azy that had been going on in my head trying to make sense of it all over the years.

Yes, I had been labeled a hypochondriac more than once.

And I have certainly been offered multiple prescriptions for anti-depressants, which I refused knowing that was NOT what I needed to help correct the underlying issues!

I would also like to make an important distinction here in terminology.

You’ll notice that I’ve used the term “adrenal dysfunction” or “adrenal imbalance” interchangeably with “adrenal fatigue” first coined in 1998 by Dr. James Wilson – which is probably the one that you’re more used to hearing about, but one that I feel is inaccurate.

You see the adrenals don’t get “fatigued” per se, nor do they simply stop working because they’re too tired! Instead, they become imbalanced or dysregulated in the sense that they do not function optimally or at the right times of the day.

Therefore, they are dysfunctional, NOT broken!

But there’s still the WHY?

Why did I have such dysfunctional adrenals and a cortisol switch that wouldn’t turn off in the first place? When, where, and how did it all go so far off the white picket fence of hormonal harmony?

It is suspected that I had a genetic predisposition toward Hypothyroidism and because it was left undiagnosed and hence, untreated for so long (decades!!) – this is likely what caused the hormonal dominoes to fall over the years.

It would also seem that a major trigger was the birth of my two children, who are now nine and six.

Krista Goncalves Co & family

Due to the chronic nature of my particular Adrenal Dysfunction, Hypercortisolism & Hypothyroidism, my sex hormones ended up going completely out of whack too. These include Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone & DHEA – dubbed the anti-aging hormone.

Cortisol is often referred to as the Hormone of Stress, and considered a master hormone of sorts, so anything involved in the synthesis of it will be affected.

More like obliterated in my case!

Cortisol & the Pregnenolone Steal

Basically, cortisol is made at the expense of all other hormones.

So, because my body seemed to need cortisol ALL the time, my other hormones suffered greatly, leaving me deficient in the important active thyroid hormone T3, Testosterone & DHEA (short for dehydroepiandrosterone) and quite unbalanced in Estrogen & Progesterone – a condition called Estrogen Dominance.

As you can imagine – this all put my hormonal symphony greatly out of tune! (enter farting tuba sound…)

For any of you science lovers out there, here’s a little more of a nerdy explanation. Thanks to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Paleo Mom for this!

“Here’s the important part: cholesterol, the backbone of all steroid hormones is converted into pregnenolone.  Pregnenolone is converted into either DHEA or Progesterone.  DHEA is converted into testosterone and estrogen.  Progesterone is converted into cortisol.

adrenal fatigue - pregnenolone steal

Still with me?

When the body is stressed, it starts using up progesterone to make cortisol. It needs more progesterone, so it starts using more pregnenolone to make it. This is called pregnenolone steal.

The HPA Axis – how your Hypothalamus, Pituitary & Adrenals interact, is literally stealing the precursor for testosterone and estrogen, because pregnenolone is being used to make progesterone instead of DHEA, from the HPG Axis – how your Hypothalamus, Pituitary & Gonads (ovaries for women) interact.

What’s more?

It’s using up all that progesterone to make cortisol.”

The 6 Steps I Took to Heal from Adrenal Fatigue (& Other Hormonal Imbalances)

Here’s what I did to treat and support my various hormonal imbalances, with my adrenals taking top priority:

1. Test… don’t guess!dutch test

I suggest doing the DUTCH test (dried urine test for comprehensive hormones), as this was instrumental in uncovering what was actually going on with my unique hormonal chemistry, rather than simply doing checklists that I found online – or in the latest women’s mag!

2. Supplement smart and support your gut

I’m supplementing orally with the following natural health supplements (all are from CanPrev):

Adrenal-pro with extra B-vitamins & adaptogenic herbs, therapeutic doses of Fish oil + Vitamin D, an Estrogen detoxifier & balancer (with Chasteberry to naturally increase Progesterone levels), and Magnesium bisglycinate before bed for the calming effects.

I’ve also been taking digestive support supplements for a very long time due to a diagnosis of IBS in my early thirties – again likely stemming from the chronic thyroid issues.

I know that may seem like a lot of supplements or “treatments” to keep up with, but when it comes to decreasing the often debilitating effects of chronic stress, dysregulated cortisol & adrenals, and in trying to re-balance multiple whacked-out hormones…

Well, sometimes going the ‘natural’ route, i.e. relying solely on following a well-balanced diet & exercise plan, is just not enough!

NOTE: Please do not just start taking random supplements (or especially begin a course of BHRT – bioidentical hormone replacement) without the guidance of a qualified Health Professional like a Naturopath or Nutritionist.

Not only could it be a serious waste of time and money, but it could also be downright dangerous to your health and cause even more hormonal disharmony!

3. Follow an Anti-inflammatory Diet to support hormone and blood sugar balance

This includes limiting cow dairy, caffeine, alcohol, all forms of sugar and starchy, refined carbs as well as avoiding high omega-6 polyunsaturated fats like margarine and oils from sunflower, safflower, canola, peanut & soybean – basically any chemically altered fats.

You will want to also keep your blood sugars balanced, and this means keeping the starchy carbs to a minimum and focusing each meal around protein, gobs of colorful veggies, and good fats – like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, fatty fish like salmon, raw walnuts and hemp seeds. Oh, and be sure to get plenty of soluble fiber from plant foods.

4. Exercise the right way – HIIT it!

As I came to find out for myself… sometimes certain types of exercise are actually a hindrance to already poorly functioning adrenals.

In fact, Cross-fitters and other strenuous exercisers often find themselves gaining weight when they first get started with their new regime because it jacks up cortisol so dramatically, and the body may not adapt right away.

Moderate-intense and long-distance run training are also known to raise cortisol levels rather abruptly so new marathoners will often notice some initial weight gain, even though they’re logging hundreds of miles!

About Krista Goncalves

It is initially advised to engage in physical activities that are more calming to the nervous system like walking, hot yoga, non-heated yoga, pilates, and other meditative practices.

However, once the adrenals are stronger and your hormones are in better balance, adding short but intense exercise workouts like HIIT or burst training, interspersed with days of weight/resistance training is highly recommended.

5. Detoxify the toxins

Toxins found in pesticides, plastics, household chemicals, and even beauty products can contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and keep the body from producing real hormones.

Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogens found in our environment that mimic estrogens in our bodies.

When we accumulate too many xenoestrogens, the receptors on our cells for other hormones are blocked, leading to symptoms of estrogen dominance such as heavy, painful periods, infertility, excess weight accumulation around the abdomen, and weight loss resistance.

Consider doing the following to help unload those xeno’s!

  • Cook in glass or non-coated metal pans (no non-stick or Teflon)
  • Avoid heating or storing foods in plastic – choose glass instead.
  • Shop for some organic foods, especially produce. The David Suzuki Foundation recommends to start focusing on the Dirty Dozen list, and some meat & dairy whenever possible.
  • Consider switching to more natural cleaning products in the home, beauty products for your skin and hair care regimes, and even natural fertilizers & pesticides in the garden. Not only is it better for our hormonal health but for the environment too!

6. Get adequate sleep, manage stress, and ensure daily self-care

I cannot put too many exclamation marks on this one!!!!!!

Improve your sleep hygiene = establish a better sleep routine like turning off all devices at least an hour before bed and going to bed earlier – 10:30 pm at the latest is recommended.

Also, you must keep your stress levels in check, and arm yourself with a variety of stress management tools like engaging in some form of daily self-care.

The above factors can often be more important than all the other steps combined.

And what have my results been since healing from Adrenal Fatigue?

I certainly have more energy, I sleep better, my mood is much more stable, fewer instances of anxiety & depression, my digestive system is more cooperative (you know what I’m talkin’ about ladies!), and exercise is more rewarding & enjoyable.

Krista Goncalves | Healing from adrenal fatigue

And because I know you’re curious… the weight gain?

Well, it seems to have stopped and is on a slow, but consistent downward swing toward a more optimal body weight for my age and frame.

Of which I’ll gladly take as SUCCESS because at least I’m no longer being called Mrs. Jeckyll/Mrs. Hyde, I’ve got more pep in my step, and I’m not gaining at a rate of 1/2 pound per week anymore!

In fact, it was my tumultuous health journey that originally lead me to start blogging about all things women’s health & hormones on “Making Lemonade” – which is now the name of my holistic brand strategy + copywriting business platform.

September 2019 Update: I’ve since rebranded as Krista Goncalves Co.

Also, I can honestly say that having multiple hormonal imbalances (including Adrenal Fatigue) and now healing from them, then sharing those experiences with other women who are struggling, has made me a fiercely driven and KICKASS WELLNESS ENTREPRENEUR if I do say so myself 😉

By the way, both my health journey as well as my adventures as an entrepreneur continue.

And that’s the thing about journeys… they’re a continuous road of learning and self-discovery!

Let’s connect on socials at @KristaGoncalvesCo