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NON-FICTION: Taking it easy

June 10, 2012

ARE you one of those people who wake up in the morning feeling tired and continue to do so even after you have had your morning tea/coffee or have exercised? Do you go through the day feeling exhausted, yet find it difficult to sleep when you hit the sack? Is it the same day after day and you wonder what’s wrong with you? Are you also anxious and depressed, irritable and on the edge? Do you try different things, consult a physician, yet nothing seems to work? To top it all, do you notice that even though you are following your workout regime, you are not losing weight — may even have gained a few pounds? If such is the case with you, you may be suffering from adrenal dysfunction, says Marcelle Pick in her latest book, Are you Tired and Wired?

The good news is that this condition is curable, says Pick, claiming that it is possible to heal through a change in diet, adjustment in lifestyle and reprogramming emotional patterns that are stressing us out.

Pick, who is also the author of The Core Balance Diet, explains in Are You Tired and Wired? how adrenal dysfunction affects how we feel and also how to overcome the symptoms. A nurse by profession, Pick is the cofounder of Women to Women — one of the first clinics in the US devoted to providing health care to women by women — which provides functional medicine to prevent and treat a variety of health disorders.

In Are you Tired and Wired? Pick explains how our adrenal glands function and what leads to adrenal dysfunction. In normal life our adrenal glands are responsible for providing “fright or flight hormones” in response to the stress and challenges we face. But when we are constantly under stress — as many of us are in this fast paced world — with little time for ourselves to relax and refresh our body, mind and spirit, our adrenal glands are forced to function overtime. This continuous outpouring of adrenal hormones affects both our physical and mental health and a time comes when the body is unable to take it. This condition is described as adrenal dysfunction.

Adrenal dysfunction is often ignored or misdiagnosed by many health-care practitioners, Pick says. It shows up differently in different women and depending on the severity of the symptoms, she divides them in three categories:

The Racehorse, as defined by Pick, is someone who feels energised all day long, responding to a chronic flow of stress hormones through her system. But the excessive rush of hormones plays havoc with her system and leads to a number of unwanted symptoms including weight gain and obesity, digestive problems and blood pressure, anxiety and tension, etcetera.

The Workhorse feels exhausted in the morning and has trouble waking up. She carries through the day with difficulty, but by evening, due to all the caffeine she has consumed during the day to keep her going, her stress levels are peaking and she finds it either difficult to sleep or wakes up in the early hours to find her mind racing, her heart pounding. She too suffers from a long list of ailments.

The Flatliner is completely exhausted and has trouble getting through the daily chores. She rarely enjoys a restful sleep, often waking up as tired as when she lay down. She craves salt and sugar and is always worn out. She struggles with a number of medical issues such as low blood pressure and low blood sugar, weak thyroid function, autoimmune diseases and insulin resistance.

Pick follows these identifications with a detailed programme designed for each type of adrenal dysfunction. As diet plays an important role in overcoming adrenal dysfunction, she describes in detail the types of food that help us to regulate our system and feeling “fantastic” again. A detailed 30-day adrenal friendly eating plan, including meal timings and portion size and many easy recipes, are given to help people proceed. Pick also suggests nutrition supplements and herbal support as well as identifies toxin loads and ways to avoid them.

Not only does the book describe the causes and physical symptoms of adrenal dysfunction, it also brings to light the fact that underlying emotional issues could also be causing burnout. No matter how disciplined we are about our diet, supplements and exercise regime, if we do not take care of our emotional needs, improvement in our symptoms is not possible. For this reason, Pick has included a whole chapter on emotional overload with suggestions for overcoming emotional stress. She explains that we carry many events from our childhood, and throughout our life, on our minds. They keep us stressed, though we may not realise it. These events often unconsciously affect our adult behaviour.

Pick offers many techniques which readers can use for emotional self-help.

She also points out that we decide our perception of and reaction to various events; depending on how we interpret a certain situation, we can make a particular situation stressful or choose not to react to it at all.

Laced with case studies, the book is easy to understand and provides a good read. All through the book adrenal friendly quizzes, exercises and tips are included for the reader to assess her adrenal condition. The book ends with a great resource and a further reading section.

Though Pick’s primary audience are women, her advice is beneficial for both women and men. While women will especially find value in her focus on female health issues, men, too, can gain wisdom from her message to just slow down.

The reviewer is a Dawn staffer