Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more patients complain about high levels of fatigue. As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I need to know the stress factors that can be contributing to this. Our Adrenal glands act as a buffer to stress, and along with our Thyroid gland, help regulate our energy levels. The Adrenals do not differentiate between types of stress, rather they regulate the chemical reactions that occur whenever the body is “under stress.”
Many Patients do not realize how much stress they are under normally, and that additional stress can push your body’s normal level of functioning into overload. The types of stress that are common for most people include relationship stress (parents, spouses, co-workers), financial worries, health concerns, children, physical injuries, overextending oneself to take care of family members, menstruation, poor dietary habits, etc. Additionally, a lack of sleep, or having irregular sleep, indicates high levels of stress in an individual.
Adrenal exhaustion, or Adrenal burnout, is one of the symptoms of this type of stress. While it is not the only source of fatigue, it can be an important one. The Adrenal glands make hormones, including cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress and inflammation. However, there are other conditions that can affect your energy levels besides your adrenal glands; it is important to find out what is causing your lack of energy and fatigue. In some cases, an unhealthy lifestyle can contribute to lack of energy. It’s important to eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats, while avoiding processed and refined foods, as well as junk food. It is also important to exercise regularly. Diet, along with a comprehensive digestive enzyme formula, as well as a quality multi-vitamin formula helps correct hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia leaves many people feeling sluggish, lethargic, and tired in-between meals. Likewise, both enzymes and a comprehensive multivitamin formula containing certain minerals and other nutrients such as Alpha-lipoic acid help correct ‘insulin resistance’ which results when we can’t get sugars into our cells, leaving us tired quickly following a meal.
It is also a good idea to have your doctor order a CBC, to check for abnormalities in your blood and also check hormone levels. A low-functioning thyroid gland is a very common cause of fatigue in the US.
Testing for Adrenal Fatigue
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, and together they produce several classes of molecules. Two of them that relate to fatigue are cortisol and DHEA. Together, these hormones regulate: blood sugar levels, energy levels, sleep rhythms, blood pressure and heart rate, and inflammation levels in the body.
When someone is under acute stress, adrenal gland hormone levels rise to help the individual cope with the stressor. Essentially, these hormones prep the body for “flight or fight” responses. However, if the levels remain elevated over a long period of time, or there is a major stressor such as death or loss, they can eventually drop even lower and initiate fatigue, and lead to chronic fatigue. In addition, these hormones levels can drop excessively due to lack of exercise, poor diet, and toxins in the environment. One way adrenal fatigue can be definitively diagnosed is with an Adrenal Salivary Index (ASI) lab test.
Is your home or office creating chemical stress in your body?
Assessing our indoor environments for stressors is also important. Looking at your daily exposure of toxic chemicals, pesticides, and EMFs is important. For those who have never heard the term EMF’s before, EMF’s are Electromagnetic Frequencies that permeate our environment, as a form of non-ionizing radiation. They silently and unseen, pass through our homes, body and are a part of our lives.
At its most basic source, EMFs were mostly prevalent in household and building wiring at the 60Hz level. Fast forward to 2014, and we now live in a world where it is virtually impossible to avoid EMFs: satellites that feed information to a variety of users (including weather, your entertainment media, etc). That EMF emitting hair dryer that so many people used to be concerned about, now pales in comparison with the length and type of exposure. Nowadays, most people are bathed in EMFs 24/7, whether it be from radar, security systems, that intelligent office building that knows where you are at all times, and just walking through the door of most retail establishments. EMF’s are within a wide range of the invisible light spectrum, but because they are in the light spectrum, their constant presence can disrupt your hormones in the same way that never sleeping can.
Early research in the areas of EMFs indicate that these frequencies create stress for our cells, glands, organs, and can contribute to premature aging and help create immune system challenges such as low immunity and auto-immunity, and also contribute to anomalous pain based illnesses such as Fibromyalgia. In 2012, the NCBI reported that “studies on other common sources of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) such as mobile base stations have shown alterations in the cortisol level following exposure of humans to these sources.” As noted earlier, at one time, the primary exposure from EMFs was generally from electrical substations, power lines and indoor wiring. Nowadays, with Wifi routers being in nearly every apartment and home, EMF’s bathe us 24/7.
Determining your body’s energy production
In addition to a thyroid panel and an Adrenal Salivary Index, we prefer using the TRIAD Blood Spot by Genova Diagnostics to determine energy production in the body. This test not only detects factors that can rob us of our energy, such as food allergies, leaky gut, and hidden parasitic infections such as ‘bad’ bacterial and fungal overgrowth, but also measures how well our cells are producing energy. We also work with our patients to help them eliminate poor food choices, and show them how to make better food choices that work with their body’s metabolism.
When it comes to supplementation, besides the few that we have already mentioned in association with blood sugar, we also use specific formulas that target Thyroid and Adrenal performance. For an assessment of your energy levels, contact us at 512 299-1223.