The sensation of low energy, lack of mental focus, and poor memory is one of the most common concerns we see at the clinic. This fatigue can often present with other health concerns, but also can be the main concern. There are a number of medical reasons why someone may have lack of energy, and there are a variety of lab tests to help identiFy what is the reason for the fatigue.
Some reasons, like anemia from low iron are commonly talked about and tested for, however, adrenal fatigue from low cortisol is often overlooked and not part of standard testing. There is also an important link between fatigue and digestive health, which is not commonly associated. At Greystones Health we aim to find the root cause of the fatigue so that we can help you feel great and energized for the day.
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Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body which is needed for our energy. Iron and B12 are essential for red blood cell growth and functioning, and when either or both are depleted we can end up with a type anemia which causes feelings of fatigue. With anemia not only is there general fatigue but also the sensation of shortness of breath, making it feel like going up a flight of stairs is surprisingly hard work.
Anemia can be easily identified with standard blood work. However, many people end up on an iron supplement that leads to constipation, cramps, and general discomfort. What's important to know is that side effects are a sign of poor iron absorption. The important question to ask is why is there anemia in the first place? It can be diet based but more often there is something in the digestive tract blocking absorption of these nutrients. Through lab testing and a thorough health history, we will determine the root cause of the anemia and will provide a treatment plan to help ensure you’re absorbing the necessary nutrients for red blood cell production.
An under functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) is a very common diagnosis and often treated with synthetic thyroid hormone medication, such as Synthroid. Many people are interested in using natural ways to manage thyroid function, and finding out what caused the thyroid problem in the first place. One thing that affects proper thyroid functioning is a history of prolonged stress. In this case 6 to 8 weeks of herbal support can restore thyroid function. Other times there is a food intolerance that stops thyroid functioning, and once the problem food is identified with a blood test, that food can be removed from the diet and thyroid functioning returns.
It's important to know that many people suffer from an under functioning thyroid but don't meet the diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. By using a blood test, taking a good patient history and ruling out other options, we can identify this problem and restore the thyroid functioning with nutrition and herbs. Once the thyroid functioning has been restored it can be maintain with a good diet and sleep alone.
Insomnia and Sleep Problems
Insomnia is commonly thought of as having a hard time falling asleep. However, in most cases, the problem is actually waking up in the night, which disrupts a good night’s sleep. If you are waking up about 4 hours after falling asleep, classically around 4am, your problem may actually be low cortisol (see the adrenal section above). If you are waking up every two hours, the same could be true but your condition could have been around longer and at a more advanced stage such as burnout.
Problems with insomnia often come from high stress or anxiety, such as racing thoughts that can block us from falling asleep. However, stress or anxiety can also keep our nervous system locked in the "fight or flight" mode which wakes us up in the night and may or may not come with racing thoughts. When our body is locked in the fight or flight mode, our stress hormone cortisol eventually is depleted and not only do we need a way to calm down the nervous system but we also need to replenish the body's resources. In either type of insomnia, the mind-body link is important and when addressed quality sleep can be restored. We can offer patients herbs and nutrition to help calm down the mind, and lab and in-office testing to get at the heart of the problem.
The adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys play an important part in producing our body's hormones. If we are under stress for long periods of time, the functioning of the adrenal gland can slow down, resulting in lower cortisol hormone production. Another possibility is cortisol resistance which means there is enough cortisol made but the cells around the body stop responding to the hormone because of chronically high cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones, but is also important for energy and supports our sleep-wake cycle, the Circadian rhythm.
Adrenal fatigue can be tricky to diagnose because it can present with very similar symptoms to a slow thyroid, such as hair loss, weight gain (specifically around the abdomen), low or depressed moods, no motivation, sleep problems with waking up in the night, and the sensation of a racing heart (palpitations). There also tends to be more problems with memory, such as short term memory loss from adrenal fatigue. While blood tests can be done to identify cortisol issues it is essential to do these tests at the correct time because cortisol levels changes over the day. Cortisol testing is something we can offer our patients at Greystones Health. Once a diagnosis relating to adrenal function is confirmed, with lifestyle changes, nutrition and herbs, the adrenal gland can recover. Patients usually see an improvement within 4 to 6 weeks, however full recovery can take about 3 to 4 months.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia
Like most syndromes, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia do not have a specific reason which causes people to develop these conditions. We speak of these two diagnoses together because they so often come as a pair, but not always. With these conditions there can be cortisol problems and food intolerances like we have mentioned above, however there tends to be a high amount of inflammation. The individual can either have a history of toxin exposure or can have DNA that makes their biochemistry slower than normal at eliminating natural metabolic waste.
Recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia is absolutely possible by building up a healthy foundation with diet and lifestyle, cleaning up sources of inflammation in the digestive system, following a gentle detox plan, and supporting the body's production of hormones with herbs. However, because these are more complex syndromes treatment plans often take 6-8 months.