The functional medicine root cause approach to fatigue involves a systematic approach that addresses each of the following:
- Gut – leaky gut, SIBO, IBS etc.
- Hormones – adrenals, thyroid and sex hormones
- Cardiometabolic dysfunction – obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin etc.
- Energy – the mighty mitochondria, migraines, pain, neurological disorders etc.
- Immune system – food allergies, food sensitivities, autoimmune disease, cancer etc.
- Detoxification – heavy metals, mold toxins, pesticides, toxic relationships etc.
What are your adrenals trying to tell you?
Your adrenals are the tiny glands that sit on top of each of your kidneys. They help you manage your response to stress. When you are chronically stressed your adrenals get over worked and can burnout. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue can include the following:
- Tired but wired
- Sugar cravings
- Salt cravings
- Trouble sleeping
- Racing heart or palpitations
- Dizziness upon standing
How do I know if my adrenals are contributing to my fatigue?
The best test to look for adrenal dysfunction is to do a saliva test that looks at your cortisol levels at 4 different time points called an Adrenal Stress Index. Cortisol secretion follows a circadian rhythm and a saliva test can help determine if your cortisol curve is within the normal range.
Cortisol and your sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone have a common precursor molecule (made from a common starting molecule). When your adrenals are chronically cranking out cortisol you get a relative decrease in sex hormones to help make more cortisol. The adrenal stress index also reports the levels of the precursors molecules for sex hormones called DHEA that can be low when he body is shunting to make more cortisol.
How can I heal my adrenals?
- Food First - Start with an organic whole foods anti-inflammatory food plan. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as wild caught salmon, berries rich in polyphenols and dark leafy green vegetables will give you the best bang for your buck. Remember to add in anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric. Avoid skipping meals so that you can maintain your blood sugar. Cut back or cut out coffee/caffeine. For some people the effects of caffeine can last as long as 18+ hours.
- Relax – Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing to bring more oxygen to your organs and tissues. Start a 5 minute mindfulness meditation practice using apps such as Head Space or Insight Timer. Work your way up to 20-30 minutes of meditation in a day or at night. Prayer, walks in nature, adult coloring books, dancing, singing and taking a epsom salt bath are also helpful low cost strategies.
- Exercise – Where is the time you ask? Start with a 1 minute morning rebounder workout (jumping on a trampoline) and work up to a 5-7 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) work out in the comfort of your own home. Look for 7 minute workout apps. If you have stairs at home or work go up and down the stairs several times as a form of exercise. Exercise is one of the most anti-inflammatory activity you can do for your body. Sitting is the new smoking, so get up and stand or walk around for 10 minutes every hour.
- Supplements – Supplements are just what they sound like, supplemental to a food as medicine program. Adaptogenic herbs such ashwagandha, panax ginseng, cordyceps, rhodiola and licorice work to help support your adrenal glands. Phosphatidylserine and melatonin will help with sleep. I have had tremendous success with a product by Apex Energetics called Adaptocrine. What else could be the cause of my fatigue?
Your organs don’t work in isolation, they are in constant communication with each other and work together as a complex well oiled machine. Adrenal dysfunction can effect thyroid and sex hormone production. Treating the adrenals can often autocorrect thyroid and sex hormone dysfunction. If you have treated your adrenals and you are still manifesting signs and symptoms of fatigue then its times to take a closer look at your thyroid.