Why do I feel so exhausted all the time?
Why don’t I ever feel refreshed in the morning?
Why do I crash out after lunch?
Why can’t I stick to my goals like I used to?
All these questions are super common in our clinic. In fact – it is because of these particular issues that we are seeing droves of clients coming through our doors wanting help because they are feeling exhausted and worn-out. Clients are visiting their Doctors where they “couldn’t find anything wrong” with them, only to send them back out the door with a clean bill of health and them scratching their heads thinking maybe this is all in their head? As far as we are concerned, Fatigue is the new illness of the 21st Century. It would be easy to say that 80% of the clients we see in clinic all comment that they suffer from Fatigue and we see how much this causes their overall life to suffer.
The way we see it – Energy is basically our Currency for Health. Without it, we feel depleted, broken down, unable to do what we want in life or stick to our goals. The more we have, the more we can “do” and fit in, and the better our lives are generally!
The problem is, that most people know they are “tired” or suffer from “fatigue”, but most do not know what they are supposed to feel like if their energy was at 90% or more! It is very common to see clients who have never really felt much energy for years on end – and they consider this now to be apart of their “normal”. If you haven’t really ever had excellent energy to compare to, then how would you really know any different!?
So what could be going wrong?
Why people feel so exhausted and fatigued is a complex area as everyone’s lifestyles, diets and situations are different. But this is where adding an experienced Naturopath into your health team can really assist as we delve deeper into the main areas that often the culprits. It can sometimes feel like one big mess when you are feeling so tired – it’s everything – the Kids, the Work, the Sleep issues, the not-exercising, the Diet etc. But trying to figure it out on your own just adds to the exhaustion. Why not let someone with an experienced eye look over your health and give you a better assessment on what you should focus on. No more googling and no more self-prescribing (otherwise your pantry might start looking like a pharmacy soon!)
Areas that we look into can involve:
- Assessing your Nutritional Status – are you depleted or low in any essential nutrients
- Assessing your Hormonal Status – what is your Thyroid doing? Are your sec hormones (Estrogen or Testosterone for example) causing you issues?
- What are your Stress Chemicals doing – how is Cortisol affecting your life? Too much or too little can have dramatic effects on your health (read on further for more detail on ‘Adrenal Dysfunction’).
- Are you eating the right type of foods to support you specifically (not some new fad diet)
- What is your sleep quality like and can we improve it?
- Are your experiencing a lot of inflammation in your body, causing you to feel sluggish?
- Is your gut health making you feel exhausted, bloated and foggy-brained?
- Can we help you re-program or re-think of ways you could try living your life to give you more – like changing your routine up or exercising more efficiently?
As you can see, there are many areas that will effect our energy reserves. As Naturopaths, we consider ALL of these areas for every client that walks through our door from the first appointment. Most people will only have a few “problem areas” that we will focus on but our ultimate goal is to figure out what’s wrong, correct what we can and teach you how to maintain that so you don’t end up in the same place again.
Could I have Adrenal Dysfunction?
In a world where we now have more obligations, longer work hours, higher living costs and higher child care costs, it is no wonder that stress is the new “hot” word to describe how you feel. Perhaps the word should be “stretched” as it better explains how people these days are feeling with regard to their finances, their down-time, their family and their work time. Not only that, but this constant pressure for people to be connected to their Social Media outlets creates a huge amount of FOMO for people. What’s FOMO you ask? Fear Of Missing Out. These ongoing stresses in our lives are coming at us from all angles (your Grandma didn’t have the pressures of keeping her Facebook up to date nor the living expenses we now have). This is massively affecting us as humans and whilst our environments have changed dramatically, we have basically stayed the same and have no new coping mechanisms to help balance out all the crazy that gets thrown at us. And worst of all – no one is talking about it properly! We just call it “stress” and push on.
Some examples of how Adrenal Dysfunction can effect you are:
What are the Adrenal Glands?
You have two Adrenal glands which sit on top of each of your Kidneys in the lower back area. The right Adrenal gland is triangular shaped and the left one is shaped more like a half-moon. They are only very small but they play a huge role in your wellness and your stress responses. When under stress, our brain sends a signal to the Adrenal glands, which reacts instantly by releasing stress hormones to help you cope and deal with the situation at hand. This is often where the “Fight or Flight” response kicks into gear. When this happens, “not-so-important” mechanisms such as our digestion and other hormones, are down-regulated so the body can increase extra blood flow and energy to areas they deem “important” to help you cope with your stress – areas like your brain and your muscles. So when you hear about people gaining Super-Human strength in a stressful situation, this is why!
Not only do the Adrenals secrete hormones for stress responses, but they have many hormones they secrete on a regular basis for day to day health and vitality. Examples of such hormones are:
- Cortisol – a very important hormone that we literally cannot live without. It controls our sleep/waking cycle, makes you feel alive in the morning, suppresses inflammation, it helps us generate energy from non-carbohydrate foods and even assists in regulating our blood pressure. Cortisol is produced in higher amounts during times of high stress, but should not remain there for a long period of time, as this can make you feel shaky, anxious and is where Burn Out can begin. Cortisol is usually quite high when you wake up in the morning, but will drop away to a low level after lunchtime and be almost non-existent by bedtime. This is to enable your sleeping chemicals (Melatonin) to kick in and send you off to a nice restful sleep. This is a huge topic so I will be going into Cortisol and how it affects your energy, moods and weight gain (particularly around the belly) later on this month (stay tuned!)
- DHEA – or Dehydroepiandrostenedione, helps to regulate metabolism and converts into more potent hormones, such as the Estrogens and Testosterone. Also has been found in studies to have it’s own action to boost the immune system and prevent atherosclerosis (deposits & hardening of arteries). DHEA production generally decreases under high and chronic stress which can affect your other sex hormones such as Testosterone, Estrogen and Thyroid hormone.
- Androstenedione – This is known as an Androgen hormone (or a male sex hormone) although both women and men produce it. In women, the Adrenal glands (and also the Ovaries) secrete this hormone into the blood where it is then used to convert into half of your Testosterone and almost all of the bodies Oestrone (one of the Estrogens). In men, these hormones can be converted into Testosterone within the Testes directly, so this hormone coming from the Adrenals is less important as the production that goes on within the Testes kind of cancels it out.
- Aldosterone – This hormone regulates your fluid and mineral excretion from the Kidneys (is also part of the reason why the Adrenals sit right next to the Kidneys). This regulates your blood volume, which regulates your blood pressure.
- Catecholamines – This is the name given to a group of Neurotransmitters that are produced in high amounts in times of high stress or anxiety. Examples of these include Epinephrine (Adrenalin), Norepinephrine, and Dopamine. They are Neurotransmitters in the brain that assist with functioning but they are also primitive stress responses that help to keep us alive in moments of trauma or danger. Dopamine is known as the “Love Chemical” in the Brain as it is the chemical responsible for feelings of pure joy, ecstasy, love, motivation, libido and concentration.
These hormones and stress chemicals can have imbalances (either you can make too much of them or too little) which can contribute to a deeper level of fatigue experienced than those with more first-line issues (mainly listed above such as nutritional deficiencies or dietary imbalances). This is all something that you can explore to help you identify if your Fatigue can be managed with simple supports or if you may require more in-depth support from a bigger health team (such as your Naturopath combined with your Doctor and an Endocrinologist).
Any of this sounding really familiar?
Tick, Tick, Tick? If you are nodding your head and saying YES to many of these above questions then you are in the right place and you may benefit from having an appointment with one of out qualified Naturopaths to start the process of getting back on track!