“Dr. Harris, I’m just so tired all the time! What could it be?”
This is one of the most loaded questions I get. Well of course, in addition to “Why am I so fat?” But that, of course, is the source for several new blogs.
The reason fatigue is so complicated, is that there are so many sources, such as, mental, emotional, insomnia, dietary, and hormonal. Please see the diagram below to see the many nutrients linked with fatigue. As you can see a full micronutrient test is necessary to evaluate all possible deficiencies. Luckily, this is easy to do.
In addition to micro-nutrients, we consider your energy storing and burning potential by looking at both insulin and cortisol. As you probably remember from high school, all energy is formed in the mitochondria in the form of ATP. It may scare you to have to remember the Krebs cycle from biology, but it is the answer to so many questions.
Each step requires nutrients, minerals, and amino acids in order to work. Each step may be blocked by toxins and/or medications. There are comprehensive tests for all of these.
Where do we get the substrate for the materials needed for the Krebs cycle? Food! Here is where it’s so important to always think about what you put in your mouth daily. Quality buildings are built with quality materials.
The second area of concern is the Gut. It does not matter how many healthy foods that you eat if your gut does not adequately absorb them and use them for energy. It has been quoted that over 75% of people may have what’s called leaky gut or issues in absorbing the proper nutrients. As you can imagine, this increases with age. It may be necessary to look at what’s happening in your gut. We do this by looking at bacterial overgrowth, parasites, and markers for leaky gut. A food allergy profile is also helpful. Simple changes in diet, detoxification, and supplements may help to remedy this situation. Long-term changes in diet will avoid its recurrence in the future.
What about adrenal fatigue? That seemed to be the buzzword starting about 10 years ago. Cortisol, which is made from the adrenals, has a huge impact on fatigue. Stress in our daily lives leads to an overproduction of cortisol and long-term stress may leave the adrenals overworked and unable to produce adequate amounts of cortisol. Cortisol is measured by a simple saliva test conducted four times in the same day. Cortisol generally spikes in the morning and should be very low at nighttime during sleep.
Sleep is a key factor in all of this. This is the time of day when cortisol is low and growth hormone is high allowing repair of any damage done to our cells during the day.
Melatonin is also made at night with during our deep sleep. In prior studies, proper melatonin levels have been shown to be protective against certain cancers. Lack of sleep, as you can imagine, really inhibits our proper repair and leaves us unhealthy and exhausted.
Sleep hygiene is another huge topic that I will get to later. But as an obvious cause of fatigue, adequate sleep is one of the most important things we can do. Having proper hormone levels allows us to sleep naturally without supplements or medication. Hormone testing is key for any fatigue workup.
In addition to sex hormones, thyroid hormone is a key player in fatigue. Many of the micronutrients needed to combat fatigue are the same ones needed to combat hypothyroidism. Both an underactive and overactive thyroid impedes good sleep.
As you may have heard in the past, there is a triangle made with adrenals, thyroid, and sex hormones where each must be balanced with the other for them all to achieve greatness. You may have had testing in the past for one of these yet not all. It is important to be inclusive in your testing to have a full picture of the sources of your fatigue.
Come in today let’s talk about why you’re so tired. In addition to diagnosing and treating your fatigue, we have a Certified Nutritionist available to provide a customized plan for your ongoing health.
Diagrams provided by SpectraCell Laboratories and Genova Diagnostics.