Wondering what happened to that energetic person you used to be? Do you want to just throw the covers over your head every morning and hide? Is getting through the day a challenge instead of a joy? It doesn’t have to be that way! We can help.
If you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and out of sorts, I want to assure you that you are not alone. We see cases like this every single day in our practice. In fact, we see it so often, we’ve coined the term “Stress Syndrome” to describe it. It’s no wonder so many of us suffer from Stress Syndrome. There used to be a time when people would come home at the end of the workday, enjoy dinner and relax. Now, our busy lives have us turning to fast food and unhealthy meals, while technology has us on our computers, phones and other devices almost constantly. Think about it – when’s the last time your work day actually ended when you got home from work? When’s the last time you weren’t checking your phone right up until bed or, worse yet, while you’re in bed?
With the constant bombardment, it’s no wonder our brains and bodies are over stressed. Unfortunately, your body can only keep this “go, go, go” lifestyle going for so long. Sooner or later, your body has enough. That’s when you begin to experience fatigue, mental fog and other symptoms that can be debilitating. Often, that’s when you go to your doctor, who runs a bunch of lab tests, tells you everything looks OK, then throws a prescription for sleeping pills or some other medication at you. But, you don’t feel OK and taking pills will only make things worse in the long run!
The good news is here at Integrative Wellness Centers, we are dedicated to finding the root cause of what’s wrong and working to fix it, not masking it with drugs. If you don’t find the real cause of what’s ailing you — and trust me on this – your problems will only get worse. We can start by examining the most common causes of fatigue that your doctor is probably overlooking.
THE FIVE REAL REASONS YOU’RE SO TIRED
- Lack of sleep. This might not come as a surprise, but the biggest reason you’re fatigued is likely a lack of sleep. “Well, duh!,” you might be saying. However, there are real, physical causes as to why you aren’t sleeping well. There are many reasons your sleep could be suffering including stress, hormone imbalances, nutritional deficiencies and more. The key is finding out what they are, because until you fix them, a good night’s sleep will be just a dream.
Taking sleep medications help you believe you are sleeping soundly, but it has been shown that many of these medications do not allow your body to get to the deep REM sleep that our bodies are so desperately needing. Doctors have also started to prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications for sleep but unfortunately there a whole host of side effects from those types of medications, like loss of sex drive, loss of motivation, fatigue and insomnia.. That’s right, fatigue and insomnia are possible side effects of the medications people are taking to help with their sleep. In many cases the side effects happen slowly over time so patients don’t even realize the cause of their issues may be a result of the medications. Therefore, it’s extremely important you pinpoint what’s really causing your lack of sleep — because until you find the root cause of why you’re not sleeping well, fatigue will continue to be a problem.
- Out-of-whack hormones. Another major player in fatigue is what we call the “hormonal roller coaster,” meaning your hormones are up, down and all around. For example, if you are stressed, your body will pump out cortisol all day, putting you in constant “fight or flight” mode. This served us well back in the caveman days when we had to run from or fight predators and other dangers. It’s not such a good thing in current times, because even though you aren’t in any physical danger, your body is responding as if it is, which can lead to a host of problems. Cortisol also causes your body to dump sugar all day to keep working in the “fight or flight” mode. If your blood sugars are high all day, guess what happens when you go to sleep? Your blood sugar levels fall in the middle of the night, and your body has another stress response, releasing more cortisol to raise your blood sugar back up to those high levels it has grown accustom to. This surge of cortisol causes you to wake up and you are unable to get back to sleep.
High stress and cortisol levels can also lower progesterone in women and it lower testosterone in men. If you’re male, low testosterone can make you feel overwhelmed, as if your world is crashing down, and also lead to a lack of drive and chronic fatigue. If you’re a female, low progesterone can affect your sleep cycle and the quality of your sleep, leaving you fatigued. Low progesterone can also cause you to get snappy, irritable, quick to anger and anxious. And, if you’re constantly stressed, your body will actually use its resources to make cortisol instead of progesterone – something called the “progesterone steal.” If this is happening, your progesterone levels will get even lower than they may already be.
It’s important to run the proper testing and don’t just look at the levels in isolation but in comparison to other hormone levels to get an understanding of the balance of hormones. Another mistake we often see when it comes to female hormones, is many doctors aren’t even aware of what day the test was taken and we know there are huge swings depending on what time of the month it is for menstruating women. It is so important that you don’t immediately jump to hormonal replacements or birth control as your first line of treatment, these hormones can have side effects and if you haven’t addressed the true cause of the problem things may get worse in the long term. It’s more important to balance the hormones you already have instead of adding more hormones to the problem. Once you are balanced, you will sleep better and feel better overall.
- Out-of-balance blood sugar. As I mentioned in the last entry, high stress and cortisol both mess with blood sugar and insulin levels. Another problem we often see in patients is that glucose is not being properly delivered to the body’s cells. For glucose to be effectively delivered to the body’s cells requires 4,700 mg. of potassium daily, or the amount in about six cups of vegetables. Are you eating that many vegetables a day? Chronic stress depletes our bodies of potassium, along with zinc and other nutrients, which leads to poor utilization of blood sugar, which can lead to prediabetes and diabetes.
Unfortunately, we see many cases in our office where people are fatigued but have been told by their doctors their glucose or HbA1c levels are fine on their blood tests. That’s because the standard lab ranges are far too wide. If your blood is carrying too much sugar, it isn’t carrying enough oxygen or nutrients to your cells. Of course, you feel tired, but your doctor is missing it!
- Anemia. In our office, one of the biggest causes of fatigue we see in patients is anemia. But wait, you might be thinking, my doctor tested my iron levels and they were fine! Well, there are a couple of problems with that. First, the “optimal” lab ranges for iron are typically 40-190 ug/dl, but these ranges are far too broad. The real “optimal’ range for iron for you to feel well and function at is best is 85-130 ug/dl.
Secondly, what’s really important is the actual storage levels of iron in your blood, which you can’t tell by measuring iron! To measure how much iron is stored in the blood, you need to measure ferritin levels. Ferritin is a protein that helps store iron in the blood and measuring ferritin is the best way to determine if you have iron-deficiency anemia. Ferritin is used in the production of all the body’s hormones. Proper levels are integral to your health and well-being. And, guess what? Ferritin levels are very rarely tested by traditional doctors. We see patients all the time who are exhausted, have low or normal iron, but their ferritin levels have not been tested.
- Autoimmune disease and inflammation. Perhaps you’ve heard of the links between chronic inflammation and bad health. First, it’s important to understand that there are times when inflammation is a good thing, and times when it’s a bad thing.
When your body is sick or injured, it releases something called “C reactive protein,” or CRP, in response to inflammation. It’s what makes you feel lethargic and achy when you’re sick. In this case, inflammation is a good thing because it’s only temporary and helping your body fight what’s ailing you. But, when inflammation becomes chronic, as it can be with autoimmune diseases, it’s like having the flu all the time – and that’s a bad thing. Your body becomes exhausted because it’s literally always attacking itself.
The more inflammation you have, the higher your CRP levels will be. This leads to damage in the tissues at the cellular level and an array of autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s disease, scleroderma, psoriasis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Autoimmune diseases are one of the major drivers of fatigue and we find that 40% of our patients are suffering and we are many times the first ones to discover they have one or more of these diseases! Autoimmune diseases are at an epidemic level and the sad part is many people don’t know they’re suffering.
Fortunately, it’s easy to determine if autoimmune disease and/or chronic inflammation are causing you to be exhausted. We recommend everybody get an Antinuclear Antibodies Test to screen for autoimmune disease, and blood tests to assess levels of CRP and other important inflammation markers. If autoimmune disease or inflammation are behind your fatigue, you will need to work with a doctor who knows how to balance the immune system, lower inflammation and work to fix the root cause and help you get your energy and health back. For patients that know they have autoimmune disease, in many cases, are told there isn’t anything that can be done, except very expensive and dangerous immune suppressing therapies but that just isn’t the truth from my experience helping 1000’s of patients feel better.
- Thyroid Disease. The thyroid hormones are responsible for the speed in which the body functions, down to every cell, tissue, organ and gland of the body. Therefore, if someone has a slow thyroid it is going to mean they have a slow function of everything in their body, a slower metabolism which will result in weight gain, their digestion will slow which can cause constipation, their overall effectiveness of their hormones will decline which can lead to heavy or irregular menses, their immune system will slow which can lead to chronic infections or frequent illnesses, their circulation will slow which can lead to cold hands and feet and much much more than we have time for today.
According to the American Thyroid Association 60% of people who have a thyroid disease don’t even know it! This is directly related to culprit #5 Autoimmune Disease, because the most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Doctors miss this all the time because even if someone test positive for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis it doesn’t change most medical doctors recommendations or treatment, therefore they don’t usually run it, unless asked. Most doctors wait till the thyroid becomes damaged enough, by the immune system, that the thyroid starts producing less and less thyroid hormones then what is acceptable lab range low. Then the patient can be put on thyroid medications. Its basically a “well lets wait and see what happens approach”.
The other issue we have seen with thyroid conditions is many doctors are not looking at the optimal ranges of blood thyroid ranges, instead they are only looking at the normal ranges which are much too broad. People can have normal lab results yet still feel sick!
For example, we know that if you are trying to conceive, the first blood test most fertility doctors will run is TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Fertility doctors want the TSH to be 2.5 or less, the lower the TSH the more thyroid hormones are present in the body normally. Fertility doctors understand how important the thyroid hormones are to every function of the body especially other hormones and this is why they like those levels to be at the optimal range of 2.5 or less. Unfortunately for so many people, their doctors are following the outdated standard lab range of 4.5. The standard lab range high leads to people having to suffer from low thyroid symptoms, despite lab range normal testing. You shouldn’t have to wait until things are considered medically lab range broken to be helped. We’ve seen so many patients feel and function better when they are within the optimal range which ensures they are feeling their best at all times.
Fatigue is one of the biggest indicators of a thyroid disorder or imbalance, so make sure and know your levels.
READY TO SLEEP WELL AND GET YOUR ENERGY LEVELS BACK? TAKE THE NEXT STEP WITH US!
At our clinic, we won’t just hand you a sleeping pill or other dangerous medications to help combat your fatigue. Instead, we take a whole-body approach to find and treat the real CAUSES of fatigue and sleep issues. Through stool, hormone, blood and nutritional testing we can pinpoint exactly what’s going wrong in your body and use nutritional and other methods to fix it, not just cover it up with band-aid solutions.
If you’re tired of being tired, we recommend you take a more holistic, natural approach to healing and seek help from a board-certified functional medicine practitioner (C.F.M.P.) who is trained to look at all aspects of your health.
If you have questions or want to schedule a free consultation, contact us at (734) 530-3858 or click HERE to request an appointment.