Do you wake up in the morning so fatigued and tired that you need coffee to boost you up and then alcohol at night to calm you down?
Do you feel depleted of energy? As if there’s no fuel in your tank?
Do you feel flat, unmotivated, and exhausted and you’re not sure why?
These are all are common, but you don’t have to accept them as normal!
Fatigue often occurs after a period of long-term stress. When you are constantly stressed, the adrenal glands (located on top of the kidneys) release a stress hormone, called cortisol. Normally, cortisol is naturally released, following a diurnal pattern throughout the day. This means cortisol levels are at their highest in the morning helping you feel alert and ready for the day, and drop to low levels in the evening to prepare your body for sleep. When your body is under constant stress (be that emotional stress, such as employment and relationships, or physical stress, such as exposure to toxins and chronic disease), cortisol levels can be high when they shouldn’t be.
It is common for people to consume stimulants, such as coffee, when they are stressed to provide a ‘pick me up’. Stimulants increase the stress response, meaning your body produces even more stress hormones. Overproduction of stress hormones eventually leads to a decline in cortisol levels, as the adrenal glands become ‘exhausted’ and cannot keep up with the constant release of cortisol. This is when fatigue really sets in.
This drop in cortisol levels causes sugar cravings, and leads to imbalances in other hormones, such as neurotransmitters – chemicals made in the body that help regulate mood and sleep. These imbalances can lead to anxiety, depression, reproductive issues, and inflammatory conditions. For this reason, it’s extremely important to address excess stress before it can cause fatigue and the associated imbalances.
However, within the modern and fast-paced world, we often tell ourselves to ‘toughen up and get on with it’ and ‘there is no time to feel tired’, rather than listening to what our bodies are telling us. Sound familiar?
This is when we can push our body into ‘burnout’.
As there are no specific medical treatments for ‘fatigue’, most people who experience fatigue seek natural therapies, which work by resolving the underlying imbalances in the body.
As with all hormonal imbalances, we can’t simply ‘guess’ what is going on in the body. Signs and symptoms can indicate possible imbalances, but pathology testing provides valuable insight into your individual ‘biochemical dashboard.’ It is important that pathology testing provides ‘the whole picture’, as your Naturopath can see what is going on in other body systems.
In most, if not all, cases testing for the following is crucial:
- Adrenal assessment – testing for hormones involved in the stress response, such as DHEA, cortisol, adrenaline, and ACTH
- Blood glucose and insulin assessments
- Inflammatory markers
- Viruses (to rule out as a possible cause for the fatigue)
- Cholesterol markers
- Reproductive hormones
- Genetic variations, such as MTHFR
- Electrolytes, such as sodium
Once all of this information is obtained, a comprehensive treatment plan is designed to nourish and support the body back to balance.
A Naturopathic treatment approach to fatigue may involve:
- Assessing external stressors
- Implementing stress-management strategies
- Utilising a wholefoods approach to eating to provide essential nutrients to your body
- Finding a healthy balance between work, sleep, social, family, and ‘me-time’
- Re-training your mind in how it responds to stress – for example, do you get stressed out in traffic? Is this really a legitimate form of stress or do you turn it into stress?
- Implementing exercise routines that are achievable and make you feel good
- Nutritional and herbal supplements to support the stress processes and the production of hormones in the body
- You will also gain preventative strategies to ensure you don’t end up back in the fatigue state.