Natural Treatment for Fatigue in (VT) Vermont
Fatigue is a very common complaint that can take many forms and have many causes. Some people have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is characterized by new onset fatigue that has lasted longer than 6 months and is severe enough to impair activity by 50% or more. Other criteria for CFS include fever, sore throat, muscle pain or weakness, joint pain, enlarged lymph nodes, sleep disturbances, and mood or neurological disturbances. Most people who experience fatigue, even if it is chronic, do not have CFS. They have fatigue that may be chronic. This article will discuss how we treat fatigue with natural remedies in Vermont but not CFS. CFS treatment is beyond the scope of this article, but you can see my article on fibromyalgia, which is a related condition.
Causes of Fatigue
Fatigue can have many causes, including:
- Low thyroid function
- Adrenal fatigue
- Food allergies
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Physical inactivity
- Chemical toxicity
- Sleep apnea
Anemia is a common cause of fatigue, but it is commonly tested and treated, so it will not be discussed in this article. Infection and heart and lung disease are also beyond the scope of this article.
Diet in Natural Fatigue Treatment
The most common cause of fatigue that I see in my practice by far is diet. Diet can cause fatigue in a variety of ways. The most common is from eating too many high glycemic foods. High glycemic foods cause the blood sugar to spike because they either contain too much sugar or they are rapidly converted to sugar by the body. This includes grains and potato in addition to most sugars. On the glycemic index scale, which goes from 0 to 100 (with 100 equal to pure sugar), white bread is a 95 and baked potato is a 90. For all practical purposes these foods are the same as sugar to your body. Even whole grain breads, however, are about an 80, which is still high. Low glycemic foods include proteins (beans, nuts, soy, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry), vegetables, and even most fruits which contain a different type of sugar than most other foods.
The human body didn’t evolve with high glycemic foods in our diet – that came with agriculture. As a result, our bodies are not equipped to handle these kinds of foods. Eating too many of these foods can eventually result in insulin resistance, which then prevents the sugar in the blood from getting into the cell where the mitochondria turn them into energy. Fatigue is therefore a very common effect of eating too many of these high glycemic foods, as is depression, weight gain, and hypoglycemia.
Food Allergies in Natural Fatigue Treatment
Another common dietary cause of fatigue is food allergies. While most people think of a food allergy as an immediate reaction to peanuts or strawberries resulting in difficulty breathing, a far more common reaction is delayed and more insidious. It can take the form of asthma, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, ear infections, sinusitis, irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, obesity, post nasal drip, and other conditions. Most people with this type of delayed allergy are unaware they are allergic. The most common allergens are dairy, eggs, and gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains). Other common allergens include corn, soy, yeast, beans, peanuts, and almonds.
There are many different options when it comes to diagnosing food allergies. The best is a blood antibody test, which is more accurate for this type of allergy than a skin prick test.
Thyroid and Adrenals in Natural Fatigue Treatment
Hormonal causes of fatigue are also fairly common. People with low thyroid function have a low body temperature and are often tired, depressed, constipated, and overweight. People with low adrenal function are generally tired, they may have mood problems, and they often suffer from allergies and inflammation. Both of these conditions can be diagnosed by checking hormone levels.
Adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for the proper function of the body’s mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants in our cells that produce our energy. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common cause of fatigue.
Sometimes thyroid problems will show up on standard thyroid tests, and sometimes they won’t. One of the possible explanations for this is that some people appear to be able to develop a resistance to thyroid hormone. It has been well documented that it is possible to develop resistance to other hormones (insulin resistance, for example, is what causes adult onset diabetes). In the case of thyroid hormone resistance, cells in the body don’t respond properly to the normal levels of thyroid hormone that is present in the blood. This then presents with the symptoms of low thyroid hormone. There is no test that is capable of identifying thyroid hormone resistance. Treatment for this condition is generally a clinical trial of thyroid hormone under the careful guidance of a physician.
Chemical Toxicity in Fatigue
Chemical toxicity is pervasive in our modern world. In a 2004 study performed by the Environmental Working Group, 10 newborn babies were checked for levels of 413 toxic chemicals. An average of 200 toxic chemicals was found in these babies, which get passed to them through cord blood from their mothers. Because many of these toxic chemicals damage the mitochondria that produce our energy; fatigue, low body temperature, weight gain, depression, allergies, headaches, and/or chronic pain often result. If you have some of these symptoms and you have chemical sensitivities to things like cleaners, paints, perfumes, or car exhaust, you may be chemically toxic.
A variety of tests are now available to test for chemical toxicity, including:
- DNA oxidative damage (8-hydroxy deoxyguanosine) – a screening test for chemical toxicity
- Glutathione – the most important intracellular antioxidant and detoxifier
- Methylation – another important detoxification system
- Genetic testing – Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are common variations in the human genome that can impair multiple detoxification pathways
- Chemical testing – many chemicals, such as solvents, pesticides, preservatives, plasticizers, hormone disrupting agents (such as BPA) and others can now be tested in the blood and urine
If it is determined that you do have chemical toxicity, a detoxification program should include dietary modification, sweating, reducing ongoing chemical exposure, glutathione and methylation support, and detoxifying herbs such as milk thistle, turmeric, and green tea.
Physical Activity in Natural Fatigue Treatment
Lastly, physical inactivity is a common cause of fatigue, as well as weight gain and depression. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, most days of the week. Optimal, rather than minimum, levels of physical activity are 45-60 minutes daily.
Bottom Line in Natural Fatigue Treatment
- Get tested for food allergies
- Try a low glycemic eating plan
- Get assessed for low thyroid and thyroid hormone resistance
- Get tested for adrenal fatigue
- Be physically active
- Get tested for chemical toxicity
- Address sleep issues
How We Can Help
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. To determine the cause of your fatigue and get effective treatment, please make a selection below.