Chronic Fatigue: A Naturopathic Approach to Improving Energy
Why am I so tired all the time?
Feeling exhausted, depleted, or unable to do what you need and want to do?
By now, you’ve likely tried various supplements, workouts, or “super foods” and have been told that your labs are “normal”. You’ve possibly become best friends with caffeine or energy drinks, but are still DRAGGING your way through life.
Fatigue is often misperceived as solely a physical issue, when in reality, it’s a symptom that has complex causes that need to be addressed for drastic and long-term solutions. As a Naturopathic Doctor (N.D), my focus is to help you resolve the underlying root causes while teaching and empowering you how to balance from within and reclaim your health and life, so you can have the ENERGY that you desire!
Common Causes of Fatigue
Before we jump into some of the most common concerns I see with patients who have fatigue, I want to briefly discuss some causes which may be more commonly known and already addressed.
- Caffeine intake – For those with impaired abilities to process caffeine, or those who are consuming caffeine in excess or later than noon, try reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake. This may not only improve your sleep quality, but decrease the burden on your adrenal glands which play a role in our energy.
- Lack of sleep – Although everyone is different, most of us need at least 7 hours of sleep to feel rested and rejuvenated. It is best to sleep in complete darkness, overnight, with minimal disruptions, and no phones, computers, or routers nearby. For parents, caretakers, or night shift workers, this can be understandably challenging, but hopefully your impaired sleep patterns are short term.
- A lifestyle of EXCESS – Whether you’re working 12 hour days, exercising 2 hours a day, consuming alcohol most nights, juggling multiple roles as an employee, student, spouse, parent, or eating a processed diet high in sugar and carbs, it’s unrealistic to expect your body to have energy when it’s being forced to run on overdrive, without being given the proper fuel and rest to recover.
I've Tried Everything! I'm still Exhausted...
OK, so you’re still exhausted after 8 hours of sleep and you’ve already tried making some lifestyle adjustments mentioned above, now what?
Guess what - There IS hope! Regardless of which cause(s) may apply to you, my approach can help as I’m continually addressing all of these in my comprehensive treatment plans for patients, and no, it does NOT require lots of supplements or expensive labs. It’s simply working WITH your body to balance and heal from within.
Let's dive in to some of the underlying root causes that we want to holistically consider to improve your chronic fatigue.
Physical Causes of Fatigue
Let’s start with this category since most people limit the causes of fatigue to be physical. In no particular order, physical causes of fatigue may include:
Simply put, mitochondria are the cell’s powerhouse or energy generators as these organelles can produce ATP/adenosine triphosphate. Low levels of ATP can lead to poor metabolism and feeling mentally or physically sluggish. Mitochondria can be damaged by many factors including processed food, smoke, chlorine, deodorants, pesticides, medications (anti-biotics, anti-depressants, acetaminophen, statins, etc.), heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, cadmium, etc.), radiation (EMF from phones, etc.), mold, Lyme, parasites, cleaning chemicals, and basically any toxicant or pollutant.
It’s not practical to live in a bubble, so I educate patients on potential areas of avoidance, while supporting their mitochondria and detox pathways to prevent harmful consequences, including fatigue.
Thyroid or other metabolic imbalances
Many people have been told that their thyroid labs are “normal” when they’re not balanced, while others have been put on thyroid medication when their overall labs and presentation do not warrant it. Either way, they’re still tired so the causes aren’t being addressed. Keep in mind, to properly evaluate thyroid function, it’s helpful to evaluate more than just TSH/thyroid stimulating hormone. These lab markers may include free and total T4, free T3, and possibly thyroid peroxidase antibody/TPO, iodine, insulin, cortisol, CBC, CMP, or others depending on the person.
Although thyroid function can definitely impact our energy, it’s still important to address the CAUSES of why our thyroid is functioning less optimally than desired. Thyroid function can be impaired by infinite variables including improper diet, nutrient deficiencies, lack of sleep, excess stress or exercise, medications, infections, chemicals, radiation, and so much more.
Overburdened detox pathways
Our liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, intestines, and lymphatic system are brilliantly designed to work together as our waste disposal team. Issues occur when we have impaired pathways (genetic mutations, constipation, lack of perspiration, proper breathing, hydration, etc.) or an overabundance of ‘garbage’ (improper diet, chemical exposure, medications, vaccines, alcohol, mold, smoke, heavy metals, etc.).
Just like the an overflowing garbage bin, or a packed and backed up conveyor belt, we aren’t able to perform basic functions with ease and can feel sluggish, exhausted, heavy, and depleted when our detox pathways are overwhelmed. The best part of helping patients with this important aspect of health is that we are preventing chronic disease in the process!
Pain can be exhausting, physically and emotionally, whether someone is dealing with acute or long-term pain! Although most of society seems to attribute the causes for pain as only being physical, I have helped many patients resolve their pain (sciatica, low back pain, fibromyalgia, plantar fasciitis, migraines, etc.) with treatments that address non-physical aspects such as acupuncture, Quantum Neuro Reset Therapy/QNRT, or Neuro Emotional Technique/NET.
Patients also often notice that their pain reduces or resolves when they are eating the diet that is best for their genetic makeup, they are no longer nutrient deficient, and they are more resilient to life’s stressors, all of which are addressed for patients in our comprehensive programs. They are often shocked to notice such fast results in their pain reduction or elimination, especially after they have tried so many other treatments, supplements, and medications.
Of course sleep is an important necessity for energy and overall health, but many of my patients are getting sufficient sleep so sleep is often not the main or only cause to fatigue. In addition to lack of sleep mentioned above, sleep apnea may affect our energy and ability to oxygenate our brain and tissues.
To properly balance sleep patterns and cycles, diet and nutrient deficiencies, hormones (cortisol, insulin, progesterone, thyroid, etc.), toxicity, supplements, medications, and subconscious stressors must be considered and addressed. I love helping people improve their sleep and often it happens much faster and easier than they even expected.
Just like leaving ingredients out of a recipe is going to affect the outcome of your food, not having the essential nutrients for the body to perform basic functions is going to negatively impact your energy. Finding the ideal diet and avoiding your dietary intolerances can not only improve energy in a few days (yes you read that right), but your digestive tract can effectively heal and absorb nutrients so you’re less likely to be nutrient deficient in the future.
Various types of anemia can result in fatigue, and present on blood work after our cells have been deprived of nutrients such as B12, folate, or iron for an extended period. Just like any nutrient deficiency, supplementation is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s important to address the reason WHY a person became deficient in the first place, which is often related to poor digestive integrity which can improve with finding out your dietary intolerances and healing the GI tract.
Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Causes of Fatigue
Have you ever had the experience of feeling pretty good, then after being told some brutal news, you feel like the wind was taken out of your sails and you’re instantly wiped out and depleted?
Or you’re having an average day, then hear that you’ve been offered a raise, award, you get a surprise gift, or you come home and see that your family has cleaned the house and suddenly you notice more pep in your step and you’re soaring a bit higher?
Those are prime examples of how our emotions can impact our energy in the moment. When we add up all of our conscious and subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and habits, it’s no surprise that our daily energy can be impacted long term by the state of our mental health. If your self-talk is loving, empowering, and uplifting, your energy is likely going to reflect that compared to someone who has a continual loop of self-defeating and disparaging thoughts about themselves and others.
Most people are aware that stress can contribute to fatigue, but it’s not practical to expect to never have stress in our lives. Keep in mind, stress can be ‘positive’ such as being excited for a vacation or training for a race, but it can still take a toll on our nervous system and affect our energy. The key to stress is learning how to balance it in our lives so we can be resilient vs. being consumed and reactive to stress.
My goal with patients is never to impart my personal beliefs, but to encourage them to feel at peace and confident with their own spiritual or religious beliefs, as well as to feel content with who they are, and work through any limiting beliefs or self-sabotaging behaviors that may be contributing to fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, or poor self-worth.
When patients are more accepting of themselves and others, they expend less energy on being anxious, frustrated, or angry, and in turn, have more energy to do what they want! When I’m able to help patients heal on these deeper levels, they feel less stressed, their nervous system is more balanced, they sleep better, have less pain, notice that their hormones are more balanced, and they naturally have MORE ENERGY!
My Commitment as your Naturopathic Doctor
My commitment is to listen to you and your body and find the causes that are holding you back from living the life you deserve. I don’t treat symptoms, nor do I limit my focus to one aspect or treatment as you deserve so much more than that. I take into consideration ALL contributing factors and teach and empower you how to heal on all levels.
About Dr. E
Dr. Shawna Eischens (Dr. "E."), Naturopathic Doctor, and owner of Hope and Healing Naturopathic is an expert in finding the cause of your concerns so you can live a life free of pain, anxiety, fatigue or other symptoms that are holding you back from enjoying the life you deserve! Dr. E attracts motivated patients who are ready for a health advocate who is non-judgmental, passionate, experienced and determined to help you THRIVE instead of just survive! Dr. E is a graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, mentor through Big Brothers/Big Sisters, volunteer for Naturopathic Medicine Institute, and nature loving outdoor enthusiast.