Episode 46: How To Fix Low Blood Pressure On A Paleo Diet

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Thanks for joining us for episode 46 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show!

Today we’re answering the following questions from listeners:

  • Hi Laura and Kelsey, love the podcasts!  I was wondering what your approach is to helping people with low blood pressure with very poor circulation? I’ve had both these problems for years and am now becoming aware that it may be affecting my brain function and concentration. I am aware about adequately salting my food but don’t want to overdo it either. I haven’t tested my adrenal function but I think my cortisol is more likely on the high side than the low side as I don’t generally feel tired, more ‘over-wired’ and unable to calm down, and I easily get stressed out. Because of the potential high cortisol, I don’t want to use licorice, which I know can be helpful for low blood pressure. I’ve tried ginkgo for 3 months + but it hasn’t helped my circulation. Thank you!  
  • What can someone do for low blood pressure? My friend struggles with this, especially in summer and tries to stay hydrated and use salt to keep it at bay. Even though she generally eats healthily, when it gets very low the only thing she can do to bring herself out of it is to drink a coke and eat salted peanuts; much to her chagrin. Is there something else she could do to avoid this? 

We all know high blood pressure is a major health threat. But low blood pressure can seriously affect your quality of life as well.  You may think a super healthy lifestyle can’t possibly be a factor. After all, exercising hard and sticking to a strict diet promotes good health. Right? Surprisingly, that may be part of the problem! Don’t miss this episode where we discuss underlying causes and share techniques to get symptoms of low blood pressure and poor circulation under control!

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • While not as common as high blood pressure, how low blood pressure can be debilitating
  • Symptoms of low blood pressure
  • Importance of examining and modifying lifestyle factors
  • Why adrenal or HPA axis function dysregulation is a key part of the puzzle
  • How certain symptoms are misunderstood as being due to high cortisol
  • Techniques to deal with symptoms of low blood pressure and poor circulation
  • How an intense exercise program may be part of the cause
  • Suggestions of how to safely incorporate cardio and strength training
  • How massage and acupuncture are ways to increase circulation and improve blood pressure
  • The importance of dietary salt
  • How a strict Palo diet can cause a cascading effect leading to low blood pressure
  • The connection between thyroid health and low blood pressure
  • How a program like Paleo Rehab: Adrenal Fatigue program can help uncover underlying causes

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone.  Welcome to episode 46 of the Ancestral RDs.  I’m Kelsey Marksteiner, and with me as always is Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hello everybody.

Kelsey: How you doing today, Laura?

Laura:  Oh not bad. Just super stoked that I think summer is officially on us in North Carolina. We’re having highs in the seventies and even up to eighty this week.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: Just skipped spring, no problem.

Kelsey: Eighties, that’s crazy.

Laura: Yeah, it’s a little it’s a little crazy. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but we’ll see. I can’t complain though because I’d rather have eighty than twenty or something, but it’s just weird. It’s weird being from the northeast and thinking like February and March are still winter. Down here I mean we barely even had a winter and now it’s like oh okay, we’re going to summer. No spring, just going right for it.

Kelsey: I would hate that. I love spring. I love fall, I love spring. I like those transitions seasons.

Laura: I love fall. Fall in North Carolina is beautiful. I used to be a big summer person in New Jersey, and now down here I actually think fall is my favorite season. September and October are my favorite months.  And now that my family lives down here, well I should say my parents live down here now, we used to do have a family vacation in New Jersey most summers. They had a timeshare in the Atlantic City area and now they’ve moved it.  Well they haven’t moved it. I don’t understand the concept of timeshares, but I guess you can switch them.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So they’ve switched the last couple years to a timeshare in Hilton Head.  And so last year we went in December, or was it last year?  Not last December. A year and a few months ago, December, we went to Hilton Head. And then this year, I guess we’re going back in the end of October. And it’s funny because it’s like being from New Jersey, you don’t think of October as being like a beach trip time of year.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But I have the Perfect Health Retreat in the earlier part of October and then we’re going to go to Hilton Head in the later part of October.

Kelsey: You’ve got like a month of beach vacation.

Laura: Yeah well, I honestly sometimes I wish I lived on the beach. I love living in Raleigh, but there are days where I’m like I wish I could just walk to the beach. But I can’t really complain living as close as I do.

Yeah, I’d say fall is awesome. Spring is cool. We have really pretty trees, and actually they sort of come up out of nowhere. I don’t know if this happens in New York. I feel like I remember this happening up there.  But It’ll be like winter, winter, winter, and then all the sudden you’re driving and you’re like, oh my gosh, everything is pink.  Just pink flowers on all the trees.  I noticed that a couple of days ago when I was driving. I’m like, oh I guess that means it’s time to start seeing flowers.

Kelsey:  Yeah. I guess that does happen in New York. We have those really beautiful pink trees that will just…it really is like all of a sudden they’ll just pop up and then they last like a week or two and they’re gone.

Laura: Yeah. I think that’s what’s happening down here for us now. It seems a little early since it’s just the beginning of March when we are recording this. But anyway, nice highjack about the weather and the beach from my end. What about you? Anything new for you?

Kelsey: I’m still in Massachusetts and actually it’s been kind of nice here the last couple days. Though it’s very temperamental. We’ll have some beautiful days and then it’s freezing again.  Nowhere near the eighties, of course.  But definitely nice weather for walking and being outside. I think we had somewhere in the fifties recently, so that’s pretty good for here.  I’ve been enjoying that. I’m staying with my parents who have an adorable dog so I have been taking him for walks and we’re surrounded by conservation land so it’s really nice hiking.

Laura: Oh, that’s nice.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura:  What kind of dog do they have?

Kelsey: He’s a Goldendoodle.

Laura:  I always love these hybrid dog names.

Kelsey: I know.  He’s so adorable though.

Laura: How old is he?

Kelsey: He is about to be nine, I think.

Laura: Oh, so he’s older. Okay.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That’s cool. I just posted this video on my Facebook page about this guy that was obese and really just depressed and had a pretty poor outlook on his life. I guess he worked with a nutritionist who recommended that he get a dog, which I’m like dude I should totally start recommending dogs to people.

Kelsey: Yeah, really

Laura: And so he went to the Humane Society and got this dog. And he had requested a dog that was overweight so that they could have something in common.  It’s this whole video about how he started walking the dog and then they started jogging together. And then they show how he lost like one hundred fifty or two hundred pounds or something crazy like that, and he started running half marathons and then he started running marathons. Of course it gets really sad because you know it happens with pets. I seriously burst out crying watching this video. I was like oh my God, I can’t help it, I’m just like feeling all these emotions. But oh my gosh, it was such a good video. I feel like I should link to that in our show notes because it was so good.  It was so sad too. I was like maybe this needs to be my new strategy for my clients to be like, okay you’re going to get a dog, and this is going to make your life that much better/also that much crazier because having a dog is definitely a big commitment.

Kelsey: I mean honestly, it’s such a good way to just be more active.  They require movement and they’re so much fun to be around when they’re moving so you kind of just want to be with them and be doing things with them. And I think for people who don’t necessarily enjoy being active, it sort of distracts from that concept of being active for the sake of being active because you have somebody else to worry about and make sure they’re getting their activity, and you’re just sort of ancillary to that process.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: It makes you so much more active and it’s really fun.

Laura: Yeah it’s funny. My dog has daycare a couple days a week because it’s hard for me to do work when he’s here, and that’s really just because I feel guilty that he’s bored.  It’s not like he’s bothering me or making noise or anything. But it’s funny because for example this week,  I asked my dog sitter if I could keep him on Wednesday because I don’t take clients that day and  usually I’m doing writing on that day or something that I think he could benefit from having some play time with other dogs. But it’s almost like I asked my sitter if I can keep Levi here so that way I can be forced to go outside. Because otherwise, if I don’t have Levi here I’ll end up sitting on the computer all day. And yeah, I’m getting stuff done, but I like having a reason to get outside, especially when it’s going to be as beautiful as it is this week.

So it’s just funny. It’s like yes, dogs take a lot of work. And no, I don’t think someone should just get a dog because they need to lose weight or something.  But it is funny how they can really give a purpose to the exercise as opposed to just feeling like, oh now I have to go do my walk because I’m trying to lose weight or whatever the reason is.  The video is so sweet. Definitely people need to watch that video.

Kelsey: Yeah, we’ll link to that. That’s a great idea.

Laura: I just started crying when he was talking about how the dog gave him such a new lease on life.  And then other things happened in the video and I start crying again because I started thinking about my old dog Penny who died a couple of, I guess two years ago at this point.  I was like oh my gosh, this is like hitting all my buttons.  It was crazy.

Kelsey: So you had a meltdown yesterday.

Laura: A little bit. My roommate was upstairs. I was like oh my gosh, I hope he doesn’t come downstairs and see me just like bawling. It was really bad.

Kelsey: On your computer crying your eyes out.

Laura: Well it was funny.  I was watching this video on my phone while I was eating dinner and I just freaked out. I was like I need to stop watching this, but I also had to finish it. I stopped eating. I was like I need to have this experience and then I can go back to eating.

I just read this book about issues with overly positive thinking. And it would be awesome to talk about this at some point because I think it’s in the health and wellness fear.  It’s like everybody wants to just be positive thinking all the time. And it’s almost that whole what you think about will happen, and you just have positive thoughts than positive things will happen.  Yeah, I think it’s important to not be negative all the time, but I also think having this expectation that your thoughts are going to change outcomes as directly as I think some people say they will, I think is not accurate.  But one of the things that he talks about in this book is how thinking about your own mortality and thinking about how fleeting life is in general can actually make you feel more grateful and more happy in your current state. So as much as it’s like really upsetting to watch things about either people dying or animals dying or whatever, it really makes you feel more grateful for the time that you do you have so.

You know that video triggered me thinking about how sad I was when Penny died, my old dog.  And then it made me feel like oh Levi come here, I want to hug you.  It basically makes you more appreciative for the relationships you do have now for what is going on in your life that’s positive for just being alive. I know it sounds kind of trite to say that, but I think sometimes being reminded how impermanent life is in these situations can actually make you enjoy the current moment a lot more.

Kelsey: Oh, yeah. I think that’s totally true and I definitely think we should do an episode on that at some point.

Laura: Yeah. I took like seven pages of notes about this book.  I have lots of opinions and lots of things to say and maybe I’ll have you read it or something. Or maybe we can get the author on the podcast.

Kelsey:  Yeah.

Laura: So actually the reason why I was reading this book is because I’m using it to help guide some new video creation for our Paleo Rehab: Adrenal Fatigue program.  And if people are not following us either via email or I’m assuming there’s a lot of different avenues to hear about this information.  But we’re actually re-launching the program this week with Chris Kresser.  We just did a webinar with him.  By the time this episode is Live, we’ll have just done a webinar with him yesterday, which would be Wednesday the 16th.  So if you’re listening to this between March 16th and March 22nd,  then the Paleo Rehab launch is still going on. So if you wanted to join us for that, we’re going to link to the webinar replay in the podcast notes. If you wanted to watch what we talked about with Chris, it’s all about stress management and how stress can affect your HPA axis function. And it’s also going to talk a little bit about our misunderstanding about HPA axis function as well, which Kelsey, you’ve been doing a lot of digging and rewording a lot of the program to fit this new information as well. That’s something that Kelsey and I have been working on for a couple months at this point. It’s funny, when we finished the program last year we were like oh that’s so awesome that that’s over and now we can just kind of like use the program and send people through it.  We didn’t spend quite as much time fixing it as we did creating it, but we spent a lot of time making these updates.

So we’re really excited that it’s going to be launching this week.  We used to have it open for people to just sign up whenever, but now we’re actually changing it to a launch-only format.  If you did want to join us for this round of the five week program, then you definitely need to get on it now because we probably won’t be launching it again for another couple of months, maybe not even like six months or so.

The cool thing is with this particular launch, Chris is actually going to be doing a live Q and A session as part of it. That’s somewhat unique for this launch. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to have that opportunity with him again because he’s very busy.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: So we got him to agree to do it this time around and I wouldn’t assume he’s going to do it again. Being able to ask Chris direct questions about HPA axis function and how to interpret your lab tests and maybe some additional treatment modalities that are ones that he would recommend, I think is going to be really, really unique. Definitely get on it now if you want to join us.  Like I said, the launch period is over on March 22nd I believe, so please join us before then. The classes start on March 21st.  We’re going to have a big group of people going through it together.  There’s going to be a community around it. There’s going to be opportunities to meet other people that are dealing with the same problems.  Like I said, we may not be launching this again for another six plus months.  If you’re feeling poorly now or if you really want to have some good energy by the time summer rolls around in the northern hemisphere, then it would definitely be a good time to get on this with us.

Kelsey: Yeah.  And part of the reason we changed to this launch format is really because of that community that we have. I mean, going through that program the first time with that big group of people that we did it with, I think makes a really big difference for everyone going through the program because they have people to bounce ideas off of, they can commiserate a little bit, they can celebrate their wins.  And that social support really can help you get through it.  I just wanted to kind of explain a little bit about why we’re not offering this program all the time.  It’s really just because honestly, people do so much better with social support surrounding new goals and changes in their life that we really felt it was that important to include it for everybody.

Laura: Yeah.  The social support is definitely a huge piece of it, and then also the fact that we do live Q and A’s as part of the launch periods, I feel like that is a really valuable component as well because there’s a lot of times where we created this program to try to answer as many questions as people have as possible.  But we’re not mind readers, so there are times where people have questions that we didn’t cover in the program.  Or maybe there’s things that we talk about that isn’t super clear to certain people and they don’t understand what we’re trying to recommend or how to interpret the lab tests or something.

So I feel like the ability to talk to us Live and then like I said, this launch also being able to talk to Chris Kresser Live is really, really valuable.  The amount of money you’d have to spend to talk to Chris for even thirty minutes, I think, is probably more than the cost of this program. I feel like the value in the launch is not only the fact that you’re going through it with a bunch of other people and you can all talk about each module in a timely fashion, but also being able to talk to us, and ask us questions, and really get our full participation is so much more valuable than trying to do the whole thing on your own. Because as much as we’ve tried to make it as user friendly as possible, you just can’t replace the combination of community support and Live support with us.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So I’m super excited that we’ve made those changes and I think this launch is going to be awesome.  I’m so excited that Chris is involved. I think he just adds that extra level of accuracy, and research, and patient experience. So please join us.  If you’re on the fence at all, this is probably the best time to do it.

Kelsey: And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about anything. We’re happy to answer those questions.

Laura: Yeah, definitely.

Kelsey: So let’s jump into our questions for today.  But before we do that, a word from our sponsors.

Alright. Welcome back. And I think Laura, you’re going to read our questions for today.

Laura:  Yes. Normally when we do Q and A’s, we only do one question.  We are actually going to answer two questions today because they’re pretty similar and so we wanted to put them together so that way both of these women get their questions answered.  I’m just going to read them both out because like I said, basically the same answer for both. But I want to read Cassandra’s first.

So Cassandra says: Hi Laura and Kelsey, love the podcasts!  I was wondering what your approach is to helping people with low blood pressure and very poor circulation? I’ve had both these problems for years and am now becoming aware that it may be affecting my brain function and concentration. I am aware about adequately salting my food but don’t want to overdo it either. I haven’t tested my adrenal function but I think my cortisol is more likely on the high side than the low side as I don’t generally feel tired, I feel more ‘over-wired’ and unable to calm down, and I get easily stressed out. Because of the potential high cortisol, I don’t want to use licorice, which I know can be helpful for low blood pressure. I’ve tried ginkgo for 3 months but it hasn’t helped my circulation. Thank you!

And then Grace asks: What can someone do for low blood pressure? My friend struggles with this, especially in summer and tries to stay hydrated and use salt to keep it at bay. Even though she generally eats healthily, when she gets low blood pressure the only thing she can do to get herself out of it is to drink a Coke and eat salted peanuts; much to her chagrin.

And can I just say I love that she used the word chagrin. That is so proper, awesome. Okay, so Grace wants to know is there something else she could do to avoid this other than drinking Coke or eating salted peanuts?

Kelsey: Awesome. These are great questions. Low blood pressure is kind of this funny thing because you always hear about high blood pressure and that’s really where people focus on in terms of healthy eating and all that kind of stuff. And you really don’t hear about low blood pressure in terms of reading about it on health blogs or things like that.  First of all because it’s way less common than high blood pressure.  So, fair enough. Most people are going to be talking about high blood pressure. But it’s a really annoying thing if you have it. And I know that sounds kind of silly, like it’s just annoying, it doesn’t actually maybe cause long term health problems like hypertension can.  But if you’re getting dizzy every time you’re standing or  anytime you have any sort of stress, like if you didn’t sleep well or something like that and you’re getting all these low blood pressure symptoms, that can be really kind of debilitating to your everyday life. There’s a lot to be said for just feeling like you are debilitated in terms of your overall health and mental well-being. I don’t want to make people think that just because this doesn’t necessarily have the same risks long term as hypertension does, that it’s not as big of an issue, because it is.

Laura: It’s almost like when you think about high blood sugar, where the long term risks of high blood sugar are a lot more dangerous then the long term risks of lower blood sugar. But low blood sugar could technically kill you, and I think low blood pressure could also technically kill you.

Kelsey: Absolutely.

Laura: They’re more of an acute issue. I actually deal with low blood pressure. I feel like I definitely connect with what Casandra is saying where she’s been dealing with it for years.  That’s always been something I’ve had a problem with and I can say from my own experience that it really does cause problems. If I’m exercising, I go train with strength and conditioning coach twice a week, if I have an issue with low blood pressure when I’m training, I feel like there’s times where I’m going to drop the weight. Or if I’m at the bottom of a squat and I’m getting a little dizzy when I’m doing it, it’s like I don’t know if I’m going to be able stand up. I mean, I don’t think I’m going to hurt myself because I am training with the trainer and that’s one of the benefits of training with someone is somebody can catch me if I’m going to drop something.

But it is really frustrating and I feel like this is something for me I use as a barometer for how well I’m taking care of my adrenal function and generally my health. Because when I do things that I know are not good for me…and I don’t want to say I’m doing them purposefully, it’s more like forgetting to do things that are healthy…this is one of the first things I experience is I feel cold, especially my cold hands and feet, I get low blood pressure, I get that tunnel vision when I stand up. I feel like people don’t think that this is that big of a deal, but I personally think it’s a good sign that you’re not taking care of yourself, essentially.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That’s what the problem is for me, is when I’m not taking care of myself, that’s what happens.

Kelsey: Yeah.  And I can definitely relate to that, too. A few years ago when I had done my adrenal testing, the saliva adrenal testing, which we now know is not super, super accurate. But at that point, I was having low cortisol or free cortisol levels a couple times throughout the day and I would definitely get that sort of blackout tunnel vision upon standing too quickly type of symptom.  And that was actually how I was able to tell when my adrenal function got better because that actually went away completely.

And then also from a different angle too, most people probably know that are listening to this that I have some type of autonomic nervous system dysfunction called Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia. And actually hypotension can also be a type of autonomic nervous system dysfunction.  And so if you have it, and you know that it’s related to your on autonomic nervous system not working correctly, it definitely can be a little tougher to deal with. So we’ll touch on some of that stuff and see if we can talk through that. But it’s definitely one of those things that outside of autonomic nervous system dysfunction, it usually is a sign that, like Laura said, you’re kind of not taking care of things that should be taken care of a lot of the time, like eating regularly, sleeping well, exercising, all those sort of things.  Stress management, all those things play into having low blood pressure, especially in combination because they affect your adrenal function and that definitely can affect your blood pressure.

So that’s one of the first things I would recommend for anyone who has low blood pressure is to think adrenal function.  And I would highly, highly recommend that, especially given all the things Laura and I have learned recently about the new ways of testing adrenal function, that you actually get your adrenals tested.  If you’re having low blood pressure, typically it is related to hyporesponsivity of the HPA axis. You’re having lower cortisol levels, and that basically just affects your aldosterone, which then affects your blood pressure. You’re basically going to not be holding on to enough salt, and so your blood pressure kind of gets out of whack.  So you definitely want to test your adrenal function to basically confirm that. Because like this person was mentioning, she feels like she maybe has more of a high cortisol pattern, but she’s also experiencing the low blood pressure. And honestly, there’s no way to know for sure unless you test.

Laura: I know.

Kelsey: I mean, I always hear this from people, that they can feel that they have high or low cortisol.  And you just can’t.

Laura: I know! And for me for example, I feel like there’s times where I feel like my adrenaline is kind of running high because you get the symptoms, like for me, I’ll just be you know a super honest about my symptoms.  I start to sweat, for example, if I’m nervous.

Kelsey: Yeah. You and me both, Laura.

Laura:  For example, I hate public speaking. Hopefully one day I’ll get over this.  But if I’m thinking about even going up on stage to talk to a group, I will just start like dripping with sweat and it’s disgusting.

Kelsey: I sweat when we record this podcast. Let’s be honest.

Laura: I know. I feel like I sweat a little less now than when we first started, but I do sweat a little bit.  So there’s that, there’s your heart starts to race a little bit, you start to get kind of jumpy.  I think that’s probably a good sign that your adrenaline is kicking in. But I feel like the cortisol symptoms, like saying that you know what your cortisol is doing, I think is a lot less clear.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura:  Because I think, as far as I know with the way that the stress hormones work, it seems like adrenaline is much more quick acting. If you get an injection with adrenaline in a like a hospital situation, it’s basically like a jolt to your system. Whereas if you got a cortisol injection, you really are not going to get some kind of crazy burst of energy or anything like that. I don’t think people can necessarily tell what their cortisol levels are doing. We’ve talked about this in our recent review of our new program recommendations. Even if you’re having a high cortisol output, that doesn’t mean that you’re having high levels of cortisol in your system.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And it’s possible that this person could have higher levels of cortisone compared to their cortisol and licorice is going to help prevent the conversion of cortisol to cortisone, which could potentially help keep their blood pressure steady. So I agree that this person shouldn’t just use licorice without knowing what her cortisol levels are, but I don’t think she should just assume that she can’t use it.  Using licorice versus something like a little bit of licorice tea or something here and there is definitely a different story. If you just want to experiment with some very light  licorice tea use and see if that helps, I don’t think people should necessarily be afraid of that kind of application.  Whereas you know you don’t want to be using something that’s like a licorice extract multiple times a day or something because that could be a little bit more intense.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah. So testing, I mean the importance of that cannot be overstated, I don’t think, just because like we’ve been saying you really cannot tell just by the way you feel. And I think there’s a confusion there because you often do hear about this fight or flight response where cortisol is high, you feel revved up and like you could run away from a wild animal chasing you in the wilderness or something like that.  So I get that we connect those two. But like Laura was saying, if you’re injected with adrenaline versus cortisol, those two things are going to feel insanely different. So just think about it like that, that if your cortisol is high, you’re not necessarily going to feel like you feel in a fight or flight situation.  And you can still have kind of excessive adrenaline output and have low cortisol, too.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: It’s not like you never feel nervous or anything like that when you have low cortisol. It doesn’t work that way.

Laura: A lot of times those over-wired and stressed out feelings can actually come from experiencing low blood sugar or low blood pressure. If you’re dropping into a low blood sugar state for example, you’ll start to get the symptoms of high cortisol because your body will kick out adrenaline and cortisol to bring your blood sugar back up. A lot of my clients don’t totally get that because they’ll say, oh but I tested my blood sugar, it was normal. It couldn’t be a blood sugar drop. But the thing is, by the time you’re feeling the effects of low blood sugar and you’re feeling anxious and over-wired after experiencing a drop in blood sugar, your blood sugar is already going to be back to normal because of the effects of cortisol and adrenaline on your blood sugar. So it’s almost impossible to test before you feel the symptoms because you wouldn’t even know when to do that. But I can pretty much guarantee that if somebody is having low blood sugar or low blood pressure experiences because of their diet or their lifestyle choices, then they’re not going to necessarily experience low cortisol symptoms where they feel super tired. It’s almost going to cause the opposite where the body’s trying to compensate for the drops in homeostatic things like blood sugar and blood pressure.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. So definitely get your adrenals tested if you have low blood pressure, or low blood sugar I would say, too. Both are going to be really affected by adrenal function, so make sure you know what’s going on there so that you can treat that effectively.

But other than that, I do want to kind of tie in the circulation question here, too, because I think that’s really, really important.  When you have low blood pressure, it’s pretty common to also have poor circulation.  And things that can really help with circulation are kind of, I would think, the common sense kind of things.  So think about things that would get your blood pumping, get your heart rate up.  That’s going to help you to sort of move blood throughout your system. So of course when we think about that, we think about exercise. I really think that exercise is huge here, not only because that can directly increase your blood pressure a lot of the time while you’re actively exercising.  Most people are going to get an increase in blood pressure.

Though, like Laura, you were mentioning sometimes if you’re having low blood pressure while you’re strength training, that can be a problem, too. And I do think that people can get low blood pressure while they’re exercising.  And of course that’s a little bit more dangerous and is sort of the opposite of what you would expect a lot of times with exercise because it makes sense that exercise would increase your blood pressure.  You do want to be aware of that, that it is a possibility to get low blood pressure episodes throughout exercise if you’re already dealing with those problems. So just be careful.

Laura:  That’s a big reason why I have really changed the way that I approach exercise. I used to be into the whole boot camp or cross fit, and go hard, and don’t take breaks, and that kind of thing.  And I just realized over the last I guess like almost a year now that I’ve been training with Matt, there’s times where I mean I feel like I start to get dizzy or I start to feel like my muscles get weak, and it’s not a physical weakness as far as my muscles not being able to deal with the weight.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s the feeling that you get when you get either low blood pressure or low blood sugar,  whatever it is.  I used to just kind of like push through that when I was training elsewhere and I didn’t necessarily give myself a break. I was trying to keep up with other people. And I probably was ignoring signs that my adrenals were dealing with a lot of different things including maybe low blood sugar, maybe low blood pressure. Dealing with doing a harder workout, you’re already going to be getting a higher cortisol output.

We’ve had some questions in our Adrenal Fatigue Program about exercise, and we even had one recently where the woman was asking about how to get back into exercise and if she should do like a boot camp or something like that.  Honestly, I mean I know that everyone can’t afford a personal trainer, so I don’t want to say that everyone should get a trainer and work one on one with someone.  But I do think learning how to exercise by yourself is really important because then you can kind of do things at your own pace and take breaks adequately and not push yourself to the point of overdoing it and experiencing these blood sugar and blood pressure imbalances.  When I’m training on my own, I’m like so aware of how I feel and if something starts to make me feel crappy, I’ll stop. Or if I’m with Matt, I’ll tell him. I’m like, actually I need to take a break. This is making me dizzy. And he’s like so cool about it. And I just feel like when you’re in these group classes, you just can’t get that attention where somebody is like, oh yeah, take a break. You even have to speak up for yourself. And I know I can go off on a tangent, and I won’t. But I think a lot of people in these group exercise classes, they don’t tell their trainers that they feel the way they feel. They think, oh I’m just weak and I need to push through it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Honestly, I think that’s a big reason why a lot of people end up in our program in the first place is because they don’t know how to say no.

Kelsey: Absolutely.

Laura: That’s a whole topic that honestly we could go on forever. I won’t. But I just wanted to make that point because with exercise, like you were saying, exercise can be helpful for blood pressure, and for blood circulation, and getting blood flowing to various parts of the body.  But you need to be really self-aware when you’re exercising and not be doing things that are going to be pushing your body harder than it needs to to get the benefits you’re looking for.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah, Laura, you’re getting me excited because I am actually starting with the personal trainer today.

Laura: Yay!

Kelsey: Yeah, for strength training because it’s actually affordable here in Massachusetts. I figured I’ll take advantage of that and learn how to do this.

Laura: Awesome!

Kelsey: I can hopefully continue it on my own.

Laura: Be careful. You’re going to get addicted to having a trainer.

Kelsey: I know, I know.

Laura: And then you’re going to go back to New York and be like, well, done that.

Kelsey: Yeah, I guess I won’t be living anywhere if I’m going to use a personal trainer.  Yeah, but I think especially when you’re dealing with any sort of health issue, so you know I’m dealing with my heart issue and I have to be very aware of pushing myself too hard because that can be dangerous for me. I sort of get those same symptoms as low blood pressure even though for me personally it actually is not low blood pressure.  But it’s that dizziness feeling like you could kind of pass out sort of thing that you would get with low blood pressure.  And I think just being very, very aware of that and stopping before you get to a point where potentially there’s no return, you’d actually pass out or anything like that.  You need to slow down, you need to stop, you need to let yourself kind of catch up.  So yeah.  I think a personal trainer could be useful if it’s affordable to you.  If not, just working out on your own, like Laura said, and just being very, very aware of how you’re feeling. You could potentially get yourself into a dangerous situation in some of these classes where they’re really pushing you too hard.

Laura: Well, even if we’re not going that route and talking about actual injuries that could be caused by having a low blood pressure episode, I personally think from my own experience that I really screwed up my adrenal function by overdoing the exercise.  As I’ve mentioned before, I was actually like level one certified in Cross Fit, and I used to do that kind of stuff, and I used to do boot camps, and I used to really exercise a lot.  And honestly, I feel like the kind of health issues I struggle with these days is because of the excessive exercise that I did as well as the low carb dieting that I was doing at that same time.

So it’s one of those things that even if you’re not passing out while you’re exercising, that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to end up in six months having a pretty serious HPA axis issue. I mean, I’ve worked with clients that were doing low carb and Cross Fit for months and months and they weren’t having problems. Then all the sudden,  they just totally just hit a wall and then they were unable to do anything, like literally could not exercise without feeling like they had been hit by a truck the next day.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So even if you’re not dealing with serious HPA axis issues now, I think people just need to be aware of the potential for that in the long run if they are doing extreme exercise, or calorie restriction, or low carb dieting on top of high intensity interval training, that kind of thing.  We talk about this a lot and I don’t want people to get sick of hearing it, but I think I just like to talk about it because I think a lot of people in the Paleo community don’t even understand that these symptoms that they have with low blood pressure, or poor circulation, that’s not normal. If you’re feeling that when you’re doing a low carb Paleo diet and you’re doing Cross Fit four days a week, then that is a sign that you’re headed towards HPA axis issues.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Definitely get that sorted out now before it becomes a bigger issue than just, oh I feel cold sometimes, or I have tunnel vision when I stand up every other day.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah. That’s probably one of the first signs that you’ll see is that even if it’s just slight dizziness when you’re getting up from laying down, I mean I do take that very seriously. And you want to turn that around as soon as you start to feel it versus letting it get to a point where it can become very difficult and your HPA axis is very messed up at that point.  So catch it early and deal with then if possible. But of course for people listening today, I’m sure it’s a little bit more severe than that. We do want to make sure we’re getting you back to where you need to be.

And speaking of exercise, you don’t have to do even things like strength training if that sounds really scary to you right now, totally understandable.  You can just walk, or climb stairs, things like that that just get your body moving.  And I would definitely caution you against doing excessive cardio, of course like we were just talking about that excessive of any sort of exercise can cause problems.  But I would just say that some cardiovascular type of exercise is very good for getting circulation moving again.  So if that’s where you want to start, that is perfectly fine.  And seriously, that counts walking. That’s a great place to start for people who are either inactive or are just a little scared about low blood pressure being a problem with a little bit more intense exercise.

Laura: Well, and when we talk about strength training, I think people always think of weight lifting. So they think about heavy squads or deadlifts or something like that. And honestly, strength training does not have to even involve weights at all.  Body weight training, so things like pushups, or air squats, or things that don’t actually involve any sort of dumbbells or barbells at all, that counts as strength training. If you’re feeling that doing something like bench presses or something is scary because having weight above your chest and feeling like you could drop it on yourself, yes that can be a scary circumstance to be in. So getting dizzy when you have a bar loaded on your back is a little scary. I’ll admit that. But if you’re doing stuff like a push up, worst case scenario if you start to get dizzy when you’re doing a push up, you just lay on the ground.

Don’t feel like you shouldn’t be doing anything that’s strength building. I mean, air squats, yeah you get dizzy, you just sit down and there’s no real…I mean I shouldn’t say there’s no danger. There’s always a potential danger with exercise. Anything can happen. You could trip while you’re walking.  But I think people need to realize that strength training doesn’t always have to be like barbells, and kettle bells, and that kind of stuff.  You can literally just do pushups, and squats, and crawls, and that kind of stuff that can work different parts of your body that doesn’t require weights at all.

Kelsey: Right. And for a lot of people who maybe have been inactive because of these health issues they’ve been experiencing, that’s probably where you’re going to have to start anyway because you sort of need to rebuild those muscles that have been inactive. So that’s a great way of doing that. And that’s something you can do at home.  If you don’t want to spend any money, that’s very easy to look up You Tube videos on body weight types of exercises.  And that is a wonderful, wonderful place to start. It’s not like those things don’t give you any cardiovascular exercise either.  I mean that will definitely get your heart rate up and that’s what we’re talking about with circulation.

Laura: Yeah, and even with the strength building part, I mean pushups are hard.

Kelsey: Yeah!

Laura:  It’s not like pushups are easy and you’re not getting strength out of that. I think people get this image of the perfect exercise being high intensity sprinting, and power lifting, and that kind of stuff. That stuff’s great if you’re enjoying it, but if you’re feeling like crap when you do that kind of exercise, it’s not necessary. If you’re having low blood pressure when you’re doing higher intensity stuff, then take a break from the high intensity stuff.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah.  So beyond exercise, I mean things that you can start to think about as well, one example would be massage.  Again, this is sort of goes back to the common sense kind of like, what could possibly get blood moving?  And touch and kind of just massaging any part of your body, you can imagine that when you do that your blood just starts to move a little bit more freely through those areas because you’re just loosening your muscles. You’re kind of just relaxing everything and that can help to get blood moving again.  So that’s a great way of getting things going.

And of course, that comes with some type of expense if you’re going the pro route.  But even if you have a friend or a partner that could give you a massage every once in a while, that’s going to help.  Or you can even do self-massage on spaces that you can reach yourself.

Laura: Or like foam rolling is a good way to get things moving by yourself.

Kelsey: Yeah. Exactly. So don’t discount that whole thing just because you’re like, well I can’t hire a pro massage therapist or anything like that. There’s a lot of ways you can do this yourself, or with a friend, or a partner.

Beyond that, too, is acupuncture.  So there’s research with acupuncture that basically shows that it kind of…you can kind of think about it as when you’re sticking yourself with a needle, which I know does not sound very fun, but you can imagine that that sort of creates this micro-inflammation.  And whenever you have inflammation going on, your blood is going to kind of rush to those spots.  And that’s a way that acupuncture works and can and can especially help with circulation. And I know when we talk about inflammation we’re like, oh we don’t want information. But in this sense, it’s actually kind of using inflammation in a way that it isn’t normally used for a benefit because it actually just gets that blood moving again.  And then your acupuncturist…I don’t know a ton about acupuncture since I’m not an acupuncturist…but they can also probably do different spots on your body that will help with if for example you have a particular area where you’re not getting good circulation, like your feet or something.  They could probably potentially try to help blood get moving to those areas specifically.

Laura: When I have Dr. Dishman work with me occasionally, I haven’t been to her in a while and I’m like oh I should go back.

Kelsey: Yeah. Acupuncture is amazing.

Laura: She usually does, she calls it adrenal tonification, with me. And again, I don’t understand the eastern medicine side of things either. Not that it’s wrong, but it’s just I don’t understand because that’s not the approach that we’ve learned. She puts the points in really random areas that you wouldn’t think would have any effect on the various parts of the body that she’s aiming for.  But there’s thousands of years of experience with acupuncture and they’ve designed certain points or certain strategies for different parts of the body that make that impact that you’re looking for. So even if you’re not specifically putting an acupuncture needle into your adrenal glands, obviously, there are certain points around the body that stimulate adrenal function. So it’s one of those things that again, I don’t even want to try to explain it because I don’t get it. But it definitely makes a big difference for me as far as my overall, just feeling amazing when I leave.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: And I am assuming it’s not a placebo effect because I don’t think that I feel that way ever, even in yoga class. So it’s not like I’m making myself super relaxed.  And then I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my old dog used to get acupuncture and it really helped her with a back issue that she had. Pretty sure animals can’t be given the placebo effect. Acupuncture is awesome and if people have the opportunity to do that, it’s definitely a nice add on treatment to this issue.

Kelsey: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I agree, Laura. I freaking love acupuncture. It’s amazing.  And I do feel like it kind of goes beyond, like what you were saying, like a yoga class or anything like that. Even though at first I was like, well I guess I’m just sitting in a chair for forty five minutes. Maybe that’s just relaxing in and of itself and that’s why you feel so good afterwards. But it is this sort of different feeling. I can literally feel my adrenaline levels are basically nonexistent after I do acupuncture.

So if you’re someone like this person is saying, she kind of feels those symptoms.  She’s saying it’s a high cortisol feeling potentially, but it’s probably more high adrenaline.  Acupuncture could not only be great for circulation in general, but also for helping her to get her HPA axis back to functioning correctly.

Laura: I mean, when I get acupuncture, I feel like I’ve been drugged.

Kelsey: Yeah, seriously.

Laura: Meaghan calls it the rotisserie chicken, where every time I go we’ll like flip back and forth. So sometimes I go on like face down, other times I go face up. And there’s been times where I was face down where I started like drooling. I’m not even kidding. And it’s so weird because it’s like I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special that’s extra relaxing. A lot of times I have a lot of stuff running through my brain. I have a very hard time sitting still without thinking.  But it’s just weird. It’s like I’ll be laying there for like twenty minutes and then all of a sudden it’s like a light bulb switches on and all of a sudden I’m like literally drooling.

Kelsey:  Yeah, seriously.

Laura: I again, can’t explain what’s happening from a biochemical level, but from an experiential level, I know that it’s doing something to help chill me out.

Kelsey: We’ll just call it magic, right?

Laura: Yeah, just needle magic or something.

Kelsey: So yes, acupuncture is awesome.  Massage is awesome.  All of these things and anything that you can think of that would get your heart rate up, so exercise of any kind without going overboard, all those things are going to help circulation, which in turn are going to help low blood pressure issues.

Other than that, another thing that I would have people try is to actually lift the head of their bed up by about six inches.  They’ve done some research on this and it basically shows that what it does is decreases the amount of water that you get rid of during the night.  So they actually do this for kids or for people who have problems with getting up in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom, or for kids wetting the bed, because basically you end up with less water in your bladder that you need to get rid of in the morning or overnight.  So that can help to expand your fluid volume, and by doing that you’re going to increase your blood pressure.

Laura: Now is the reason for that, and this is totally hypothetical so you can tell me if I’m wrong, is the reason for that because your brain is getting less of a higher blood pressure signal if you’re elevated? So fluids are draining away from your head and you don’t have as much of that pressure signal that’s causing your body to get rid of fluid?  Because I feel like obviously the hypothalamus is what’s controlling adrenal output of hormones like aldosterone and the different hormones that effect blood pressure, and there’s receptors, they’re called  baroreceptors, in the blood vessels of the brain that basically determine whether or not the blood is high blood pressure, low blood pressure, normal pressure, and it’ll make those micro adjustments. If your blood pressure goes a little higher, it’ll maybe excrete a little extra fluid because it wants to bring the blood pressure down.  Do you know if it’s because when you’re elevated there’s less physical pressure of fluid in your brain that would be promoting the excretion of fluid? Or is that just like my assumption?

Kelsey: I would think so.  I don’t know for sure, but I would make the same assumption. From what I’ve seen, this raising the head of your bed basically activates your renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. So that system you were talking about where, and we were talking about aldosterone before that it kind of helps you hold on to water, hold on to salt.  So it’s essentially just activating that to not get rid of these things, which we normally would. And I would make that same assumption that it’s basically because we’re not getting those same signals to get rid of that, based on the positioning, that we’re not getting that blood as easily to the brain and things like that.

Laura: It’s very interesting. I wonder if that would help with people that generally just get up to pee in the middle of the night.

Kelsey: Yeah it does. They recommend it for that otherwise. Like I was saying before, kids who are bed wetters or things like that, it would also be really useful for those sort of situations if you’re getting up multiple times a night to go to the bathroom. Potentially it could cut down on that, either the amount or maybe even completely make that disappear.

Yeah. I mean, essentially what it does is that your body is not getting that signal to then release water into your bladder. When you have water in your bladder, obviously you’re going to get that signal that you need to go to the bathroom.

Laura: Yeah. And we’re talking about all these tweaks that people can do to fix their blood pressure issues or their circulation issues.  That was the last major thing you wanted to mention as far as techniques, right?

Kelsey: Well, let’s see. One other thing I just want to say is to definitely…I mean this person who asked this question has obviously been thinking about this…but just to make sure that your salt and water intake are good, which is usually where people start of course if you have low blood pressure. But I do want to reiterate that that’s really important and that you should not be afraid of salt because that’s something that’s ingrained in a lot of our brains as well is that it is unhealthy.  And while we don’t want to be getting our salt from things like Coca-Cola or anything like that if it’s at all possible, you do definitely want to make sure that you’re overall getting enough salt. Because then at least you’re less likely to have those really dire episodes of low blood pressure where you would need to grab a Coke, or grab a bag of chips, or something like that that has a ton of salt in it to get that blood pressure up.

Laura: I honestly don’t know. When Cassandra says she doesn’t want to overdo the salt, I think we need to make sure people realize that if you have low blood pressure and you’re feeling these kind of symptoms, there is literally no way you could overdo salt.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Your taste buds are going to tell you when you’ve overdone salt and you’re not even going to want to eat the food. So please do not ever think that you’re overdoing salt. If it tastes good to you and you have low blood pressure, it doesn’t matter.

When I was in college, the main health issue that I ever had in college was low blood pressure. So I’ve been dealing with this since middle school probably.  And I remember I saw a functional doctor in high school that we spent a two hour initial appointment. It’s kind of funny being on the other end of that kind of thing.  And she was like, you need to just put salt on your food as much as you want, whatever tastes good. Don’t worry about overdoing it.  And I remember eating in a cafeteria with my friends and I’d be salting my food and they’d be like, why are you putting so much salt on your food? And friends is a strong word. I don’t have these friends anymore. But they’d seriously be shaming me about the amount of salt I was using and say I was going to give myself high blood pressure and stuff. Nowadays, I could care less if somebody is going to make a comment about what I eat.  I’m like, dude, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But back then, I wasn’t a nutritionist. I was just into nutrition and I was working with a functional doctor. It made me feel better physically to salt my food. Luckily, I wasn’t so prone to peer pressure that I stopped doing it because honestly, I think it makes a big difference to my health if I’m salting my food adequately.

But that’s something that people feel a lot of fear around because of the cultural association with salt causing health issues. I think what’s even more important, especially if somebody is following a Paleo type diet, is that you are not getting salt from your food if you’re not adding salt to it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura:  The food we’re eating on a Paleo diet is not really going to contain much salt on its own. Adding salt to your food, salting it to taste, not even thinking about oh I’ve added too much salt. Literally the only thing that should tell you overdid the salt is if you eat it and you’re like oh, gross. This is too much salt.

Kelsey: That’s just like salt in the moment, too.  I mean, you can probably over salt anything for one meal and feel like, eww, that’s disgusting. I don’t want to eat it. It has way too much salt.  But you do want to make sure that you’re salting things throughout the day so there’s no one meal that you’re feeling like, wow, I need to put so much salt on this that I literally couldn’t eat it, too.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey:  So keep that in mind.  And I also would say that for some people, it can be useful to salt their water if they really need tons of extra salt.  One thing you can do is make a homemade gatorade I like to call it.  I’ll link to this recipe because it’s on my site.  But it’s super easy so I’ll just walk you through it.  It’s basically the juice of a lemon, about a teaspoon or so of honey basically to your own taste buds, whatever you like, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a liter of filtered water. Then just mix that all together.  It’s like a lemony, somewhat sweet, somewhat salty sort of drink. It’s really good.

Laura: Yeah.  Especially if you’re exercising a lot, it’s really important to have those electrolytes replaced. I feel like the two women that are asking these questions, obviously we don’t know anything about them.  I guess Grace says that her friend that has this problem eats generally healthfully.  You know one thing I really want to point out to people before they start diving into like acupuncture, and massages, and that kind of stuff, is please make sure that this is not all a symptom of under eating or excessively healthy eating.  Because I will say from my own experience and also experience with some of my clients, that this low blood pressure, low blood sugar, low circulation, all of those symptoms are a huge symptom of orthorexic type eating behavior.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: And I say orthorexic, I don’t want people to feel like I’m labeling them with an eating disorder or something. I think this excessively healthy diet is really common in the Paleo community. Obviously people don’t get into Paleo if they don’t care about their health.  But it’s really easy to go too far and basically start eating in a way that isn’t supporting good blood pressure and good circulation.

If you’re under eating in general for calories, or if you’re not eating enough carbs, if you’re not eating enough salt, if you’re avoiding any sort of sugar including fruit, if you’re basically eating like vegetables and protein all the time, you will probably not have very good circulation or blood pressure. The reason for that is because essentially if you’re under eating, you’re chronically having low blood sugar. It’s just going to be happening all the time. Your body is going to have to use its stress hormones to keep your blood sugar stabilized. Your thyroid function may be suppressed because all of the different ways that cortisol, and adrenaline, and all the different adrenal hormones affect not only thyroid hormone output but also thyroid hormone sensitivity in the system. So even if you have enough thyroid hormone in your system, it’s possible to become resistant to thyroid hormone because of other hormones like cortisol in excess. You may have lower thyroid function because of this inadequate calorie, and carb, and salt diet.

I guess I really just want to be very strong about that because I think a lot of people that eat healthfully and have this kind of symptom, they just think oh there’s got to be some supplement or some kind of special technique I can do to get my circulation or my blood pressure up.  Honestly, I just want to shake these people and be like, no! Eat some freaking food, put some salt on it, eat some carbs, or eat something that has sugar in it. It’s not going to kill you.  And also just making sure that they’re not on this chronic dieting mentality where they always have to be eating so healthy and they think a healthy meal is a steak with a bunch of greens next to it or something.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And I think it’s funny, this girl Grace says that her friend in order to get herself out of the  low blood pressure situation, she has to drink a Coke and eat salted peanuts. Which if you think about what that combination of food is, it’s sugar, salt, and fat.  And those three types of meal components: sugar, salt, and fat, that’s basically the easiest way to get your adrenals to chill out is to eat something that contains sugar, salt, and fat. That’s why those kind of foods are comfort foods. That’s why those foods can be somewhat addicting because they create pleasure in people. Especially if you’re super stressed, that kind of food can make you feel less stressed.  Not that we want to encourage people eating a ton of sugar and salt, or I shouldn’t say salt, eating a bunch of sugar and fat, and junk food, that kind of thing.

But do realize that your body is not stupid. The reason why you’re craving that kind of stuff is because it helps reduce stress hormones.  And so if the reason that you’re having these symptoms is because you’re chronically stressing your body out by over exercising, under eating, avoiding salt, not eating sugar ever, all that stuff can cause these symptoms.  It’s a pretty easy fix if you know what the reason for that symptom is.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I know for me, my low blood pressure is definitely triggered by too much coffee.  I know that for a fact if I drink too much coffee, I can guarantee in hour or two I’m going to start feeling cold, and shaky, and my circulation is going to feel weird, which is funny because normally caffeine has a short term blood pressure raising effect.  But for me, if I do too much caffeine,  after a couple hours I feel very low circulation.  If I take too much time in between meals… there’s times where we’ve been working on our projects or working with clients, and I will not even eat lunch until three or four o’clock.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: Kelsey and I have had this issue before. We’re not trying to set an example. But the reason why I even know that I need to eat is not because I’m hungry, it’s because I start to feel really cold and I start to feel a little bit light headed. Yeah, that’s a sign of low blood pressure, but it’s also a sign that I need food. I realized that over the course of the last couple years that if I start to feel like that, then I need to eat.

And that’s a big reason why I don’t do low carb. I’ve done low carb in the past and I don’t do it anymore because what happens is I’m just cold all the time and I get these low blood pressure swings. Whether or not a low carb diet would be effective for reaching weight loss or aesthetic goals that I personally have, I refuse to do it because my feeling normal, and feeling warm, and feeling not dizzy, and having my brain firing on all cylinders is more important to me than having a certain body fat percentage or a certain weight.

Kelsey:  Right.

Laura: Even though I know as a nutritionist the strategies that I could do to lose weight quickly if I wanted to, I have gotten to the point where I refuse to do that stuff because I know how I’m going to feel and it’s not worth it because I need to be able to use my brain.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I know that was a little bit of a rant. But I just wanted to really drive that point home because I think a lot of women especially are really oblivious to the fact that their “healthy” diet is what’s causing their symptoms. I mean honestly, this is a huge population of people that we aim to help with our Adrenal Fatigue program, our Paleo Rehab program that’s launching this week, is these people that are so obsessed with eating a “healthy” diet that they don’t even realize that their “health” behaviors are actually what’s causing their symptoms.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So, anyway. Sorry. I just like totally went on a tirade.

Kelsey: No, it’s great because I think at the end of the day, just to sort of recap what we’ve talked about here, is that you need to figure out if there is an underlying cause that you can do something about. So that would be things like under eating. Regardless of whether that in and of itself leads to HPA axis dysfunction or “adrenal fatigue,” under eating can definitely cause low blood pressure just on its own even in the short term before it causes any long term HPA axis issues. That’s one potential cause, along with potentially over exercising as well.

HPA axis dysfunction is another big underlying cause that you can absolutely do things about.  So that could be caused again by under eating, over exercising over a long period of time. You could develop HPA axis dysfunction. But sometimes HPA axis dysfunction can be a result of even just early life stressors that we can’t necessarily do anything about, but we can try to help the HPA axis now that we realize that it’s a little bit messed up from things earlier in our life.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: Then like you mentioned before, thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism can definitely play into this as well. Usually it’s because there is a connection between the adrenals as well as the thyroid. They’re very interconnected and you can have both going on and on at the same time. But you can also just have hypothyroidism outside of any adrenal issues that could potentially be causing blood pressure problems.

So you do definitely want to make sure that if there is an underlying cause, you’ve identified it.  Hopefully it’s something you can do something about. I know I mentioned autonomic nervous system dysfunction before too, which can absolutely be an underlying cause as well. But we don’t know as much about sort of how to deal with that, unfortunately at this point. Hopefully science will catch up to those of us who have these sort of issues and will be able to help us sometime in the future.

But for now, I’ve talked about it on previous episodes that I’m looking into this whole mold thing because that’s been kind of connected to autonomic nervous system dysfunction. So that would be a place to start if you think you may have been exposed to mold at any point.  Definitely look into that because it can potentially help fix any autonomic nervous system dysfunction.  I’ll let you guys know how that works out for me eventually.  Basically you just really want to take a look at any underlying cause and then fix that underlying cause because most of the time that is going to make the biggest difference in terms of actually fixing your low blood pressure problems.

Laura: Right.  And I think your experience is a great example of where you have an issue that causes you to have symptoms, even though it’s not necessarily a lifestyle or diet issue. But if you were to be doing the kind of behaviors that we see a lot of people in the Paleo community doing where they’re doing a low carb, low calorie, low salt, just not an adrenal supporting diet, and then they’re also doing tons of exercise, am I wrong to suggest that you would feel one hundred times worse?

Kelsey: Oh, not at all. Yeah, exactly.  I would feel terrible.

Laura: You’re doing all the things you need to do from a diet and lifestyle perspective to support your symptoms, and then you’re at the point where you need to go deeper because those things haven’t fully solved the issue. They’ve dealt with a lot of the symptoms, but they haven’t fully solved the issue. I like to kind of think about this as like go for the low hanging fruit first. Make sure you’re not doing things that are easily fixed that can affect these symptoms. So eating enough, eating carbs, eating salt, eating fat, eating anything that’s going to basically relax the HPA axis. But then if you’ve already kind of made all the changes that are the for example the ones we recommend in our program and you’re still having some issues, then that’s where the extra testing or doing things like acupuncture could potentially be an additional helpful solution.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: We like to give people alternative options for fixing problems, but we also like to make sure people aren’t causing their own problems by doing something that they think is healthy. I’m not trying to plug our program or plug our services, but this is where either doing a program like Paleo Rehab and making sure you’re following a lifestyle that actually supports your best health and your best adrenal function, and then also if you are wanting to get to the bottom of what’s contributing to these issues, working with someone who has the expertise to look at your entire life and say here’s the problems that I’m seeing the need to be fixed.  Because most of the time, we’re not very objective about our own issues.

I am honestly not the best when it comes to my diet. I definitely, I don’t want to say skip meals, I want to say delay meals. I delay meals more than I should. I don’t sleep as much as I should.  I don’t respect my bedtime as often as I should. There’s definitely habits that I do that I objectively know are not supporting my adrenal function. The only reason I even know that is because we’re so knee deep in adrenal stuff all the time that it’s like, oh, I’m making these recommendations and I’m having cognitive dissonance.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m like, shoot, I do that all the time. That’s terrible.  But if you’re not an expert in HPA axis function and treatment of “adrenal fatigue,” then you may not even realize that things you’re doing on a daily basis are the root cause. That’s where working with someone can really help identify major issues in your current diet and lifestyle that are causing these symptoms. Because again, it’s really hard to be objective about your own behavior especially if there’s any sort of body image issues where you really want to lose weight and you’re doing things that are weight loss approaching, but they’re causing these symptoms and you need somebody to kind of snap you out of that behavior. Because again, a lot of people we work with are kind of in that chronic dieting mentality.

Kelsey: Yeah. Wow. We talked about a lot of today.

Laura: We did. I feel like it’s always about adrenal fatigue at the end of the day.

Kelsey: I know. It’s just amazing how much like that plays into so many different conditions. Do  you know what I mean? You wouldn’t necessarily think that something like blood pressure is related to your adrenals, but it totally is.

Laura:  Yeah. I feel like blood pressure is one of the few things that you should pretty easily relate to your adrenals since they’re the ones that control it.

Kelsey: But a lay person wouldn’t necessarily think that. Do you know what I mean?

Laura: Yeah. That’s true. I feel like making the case for adrenal function controlling blood pressure is easier for us to do since it is…

Kelsey:  It is directly related.

Laura:  Yeah. It is the system that controls your blood pressure. That’s something that if you guys want to watch that webinar that Chris did with us yesterday, he talks all about the way that HPA axis issues can affect a variety of conditions. One of the things that he mentions in the webinar is that he doesn’t really work with any client that doesn’t have some kind of HPA axis  issue. And he essentially makes sure the HPA axis is supported with every single client he works with. I hate to say that it’s like a crucial thing that everyone needs to think about when they’re healing from any sort of health issues, but honestly I feel like it is really foundational to general health.

Kelsey: It is.

Laura: And you won’t be able to get better from any health issue you’re dealing with if you’re doing things that are really damaging your HPA axis function.

Kelsey: A lot of different health conditions affect the HPA axis as well, so it’s a two way street basically.  And anything you can do to help support your HPA axis while you’re dealing with something else that’s also negatively affecting the HPA axis, I mean you’re just going to be supporting that system so that there’s less, I don’t say damage because it doesn’t damage it necessarily, but it’s less dysfunctional than maybe it would be otherwise.  So helping your health condition obviously is going to help your HPA axis, and helping your HPA axis is going to help your health condition. So you want to focus on both things.

Laura:  Cool. Well I think that just about covers the low blood pressure question.

Kelsey: Yes. Hopefully.

Laura: But Cassandra and Grace, if you feel like your question was not thoroughly answered by this podcast, please feel free to come join us in The Ancestral RDs Community on Facebook.  It’s a closed group, so you do have to request access. But we don’t turn anyone away. We just made it closed that way people can have some privacy when they’re asking about health questions.  So jump in there and let’s discuss this topic in the Facebook group and see if anyone’s got any further questions or clarification issues that they need some more information about.  And if you have any sort of extra questions that you want to submit to the podcast, make sure to go to the contact tab on TheAncestralRds.com and you can submit your question that way.

Anyway, we are so glad that you guys hung out with us for that really long episode and you’re still here. Like I said, we are doing a group to answer for the questions. So jump on the Facebook group with us. And please, if you are thinking about doing our Paleo Rehab program, I highly encourage you to get involved with this current launch because I think it’s going to be awesome.  If you’re dealing with these kind of symptoms of HPA axis dysfunction and you’re really not sure what’s going on in your life that could be contributing to it, we’re basically going to point all that stuff out for you. So it can make it a lot easier for you to figure out what areas of your life that need to be addressed to really start feeling better.

Kelsey: Awesome.

Laura: Alright. Well, we’ll see you guys here next week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.





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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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