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 infla