Fatigue can be a normal experience and part of the normal physiology and we all dealt with energy fluctuations at one time or another. Modern day life puts people in situations they must continue to press on even when our body is sending gentle signals it is time to cut back and rejuvenate. Our body is quite amazing in its ability to remain functioning at a high level even when we are depleted of important nutrients for example. The challenge with this type of lifestyle is to understand when the body has been pushed too far and we cross the threshold and now we are talking about a feeling of exhaustion, not feeling rejuvenated even after sleeping or feeling extremely tired even after mild exertion.
Here is my approach to fatigue:
1.Always exclude the most common, conventional causes of fatigue like anemia, uncontrolled diabetes or kidney problems. In my experience, however most people have ‘’normal’’ blood work and they still don’t feel well.
2.Get tested for adrenal gland dysfunction or fatigue, this is different from the adrenal insufficiency recognized by conventional medicine and so is the testing. Functional medicine tests the salivary cortisol and couple of other forms because these levels are indicative of cellular function wellbeing. The treatment usually involves addressing nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and a supplement protocol including some herbs known as adaptogens (they will stimulate or relax your body depending on whatever your body needs at any given time)
3.Check your thyroid with an extensive panel including T4 and T3 which are the active hormones and work with your doctor to determine what is the cause of thyroid imbalance (for example food sensitivities, gluten intolerance, adrenal dysfunction). Choose the right hormonal preparation to suit your body’s needs and not just the well-known Synthroid.
4.Always consider a mitochondrial imbalance as a possible cause of fatigue. Mitochondria is a little powerhouse existent in every cell and responsible for energy production. Unfortunately, is extremely sensitive to any kind of nutrients deficiency or environmental chemical toxicity. Luckily we can test for this imbalance as well and then correct it.
5.Make sure there is no chronic, low grade infection or inflammation in your body and I am thinking here particularly about digestive infections. I would like to emphasize the fact a lot of people do not get necessarily digestive problems with this type of infections but rather something like fatigue, skin rashes, achy joints, hormonal imbalance and so forth. Functional medicine uses a different type of stool testing much more detailed than the regular one used by conventional medicine and we also have a lower threshold for treating certain bacteria.
6.Think about food intolerance and sensitivity is an extremely common cause as well and most people are only aware of the food allergy (rash. redness, swelling of face, difficulty breathing) which is completely different and easier to recognize. Food sensitivity can be diagnosed by a blood test or even better by correlating symptoms with certain food ingested. The most common culprits are: gluten, dairy, soy. It is important to remember it takes your body a long time 4-6 weeks in average to get rid of the antibodies to a certain food so don’t expect major changes within the first couple of days. I would also recommend working with an experienced nutritionist/health coach.
7.Nutritional deficiencies are a well-known cause of fatigue and easy to diagnose with a blood test like Spectracell or Genova. These tests are different from the conventional medicine ones and most of the time much more sensitive.
Once it is determined what type of deficiency you have a supplement protocol can be designed for your needs at also you can look for certain foods rich in that nutrient. These tests are different than what conventional medicine does because they will show you the intra cellular level which is the most important for our bodies.
8.Reduce the toxic load our bodies carry and support your liver. kidneys and skin as major detox organs. A high chemical load will eventually impair every function in our body including hormonal and energy production.
Are you ready to start?
To your health!
Dana Neacsu, MD