What are the symptoms of Fatigue?
Everybody knows the symptoms of fatigue. It is identified with being tired. But it also includes several other symptoms.
When people become fatigued, they can lose their ability to handle stress. They become irritable and agitated when stress levels rise. They can have difficulty focusing and concentrating on tasks or situations. This is because they don't have the energy to deal with additional stress.
Fatigue has a spectrum of levels. It can be as simple as being tired in the morning or afternoon. Sometimes the fatigue becomes so severe that people need days to recover from stressful situations. This can be seen when someone who is severely fatigued has a stressful encounter with another person or does a physical activity, such as exercising or yard work and needs the afternoon or next day to recover. I call this extent of fatigue, adrenal burnout.
What is happening within the body?
One element of fatigue, the adrenal response deals with the fight or flight mechanisms. These are the same mechanisms that enhance anxiety. But they can become extended and overwhelmed and eventually burn out. However, they are treatable with natural remedies.
This response of the adrenal glands is to produce hormones to respond to stress. These hormones are active for survival situations. These hormones such as adrenaline, cause the heart to beat stronger, shunt blood to the muscles, decrease the flow of blood to the intestines, and activate a response in the brain to make us more aware of our surroundings. Ten thousand years ago, this would be a good to response to danger, such as running away from a tiger. A person sees a tiger, runs away and hides in his cave and recovers the energy expended in that encounter.
This works great for short term threats. But, in today's society, people are confronted with stressful situations that trigger the fight or flight mechanisms for potentially 24 hours, every day. The body and the hormone systems were not designed for this and eventually become burned out. I have seen this in people in poor domestic relationships, bad work environments, and severe financial burdens to name a few.
When the adrenals become burned out, they produce less of the energy producing hormones and people feel burned out.
The second system providing energy and combatting fatigue is the thyroid system. Thyroid hormone is a master hormone of the body. Every cell of the body has receptors for thyroid hormone. It turns on metabolic processes for every cell. Thyroid hormone production and metabolism is responsive to stress. It seems that thyroid hormone production and metabolism can diminish and change with stress, as well. We can see this in studies of patients in the ICU with severe or chronic illnesses. Their thyroid production decreases and then starts to favor less effective thyroid hormones, such as reverse T3.
I will go into more detail on thyroid in the next email and how to interpret the lab results. For now, know it is important to check thyroid function in the setting of fatigue.
Natural ways to treat fatigue.
First and foremost is dealing as best as you can with the situations producing the fatigue. This is similar to dealing with anxiety provoking situations. This is important because I am going to give you some natural supplements to take. But, if you don't deal with the stress provoking situation, then it becomes 3 steps forward and 2 steps backward.
1: Meditation- This has always been an excellent way to calm the mind and the body. Meditation is sometimes sitting quietly and letting the mind settle. But, it is also any form of activity that can get your mind to focus on something other than your situation. These activities can be a hobby such as woodworking, gardening or sewing, exercising, or simply walking and observing the beautiful outdoors. The main idea is to distract your mind from your distressing situation and focus on something else. This can help to relax your body, as well. However, if you do a physical activity, you must make sure not to make it too strenuous because physical activity is a form of stress. If you have severe burnout, then the physical activity could be too much.
2: Attenuate the adrenal response to fight or flight- This attenuation is done through the use of adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural supplements that allow your hormone system to adapt to stress. They are such things such as ashwaganda, rhodiola, and theonine amongst others. We have a combination supplement called "Adrenal Calm" with these products and more that is very effective.
3: Adrenal support. In adrenal fatigue, it is important to give the adrenals support so they can continue to make the hormones needed for energy. Some of these are the same nutrients as above with the addition of a B complex and licorice extract. You can also use adrenal extracts from animals, such as cows and sheep. These are extracts from the animals adrenals and can provide a full spectrum of adrenal hormones and supporting nutrients. We have a combination supplement called "Adrenal Opti" with these products and more that is very effective
4: Nutrients to support the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the energy factories of every cell. They need plenty of nutrients and cofactors to function optimally. These are all the vitamins in a multi-vitamin and CoQ10.
5: Treat thyroid deficiency. With the thyroid being a master hormone and stimulating every cell of the body, if it is deficient, then a major factor in energy production is lacking. Therefore, addressing a low thyroid is critical. The next email with cover this.
One interesting factor is addressing the thyroid alone and not addressing the adrenals. I have seen patients given thyroid only for their fatigue with no other support. They feel better for a couple days and then fall back to where they were before, regarding their fatigue. This is because the thyroid turns on metabolic processes when it stimulates the cells. But if the cells don't have the capacity to make energy because the mitochondria don't have the nutrients, then the cells crash back to low energy.
6: Finally, managing stress- Stress is always with us. But it is how we manage it that is a factor for fatigue. And again, if you don't manage the stress provoking situation, you can take all the supplements and medicines but it will be 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. If necessary, professional help from therapist can be very beneficial.
One last note. I have treated a number of patients with long covid and vaccine injuries. It seems that the adrenals are attacked in these 2 situations and extreme fatigue can result. I have found these people need a lot of adrenal support to get to full recovery.
As always, if the situation becomes overwhelming, seek professional help regarding your physical and mental symptoms.