How to Thrive (Not Just Survive) with Proper Treatment of Fatigue

How do so many of our patients go from low energy, brain fog, and feeling like they are “living in a strangers body” to feeling energized and thriving without bouncing around from doctor to doctor to get proper treatment?

It all starts with having the right doctor who understands what you are going through, has the time to listen, and actually wants to hear your story. A doctor who has gotten additional training beyond medical school and specializes in functional medicine to get to the bottom of your symptoms. This is what functional medicine is all about. Here is a short list of what you can expect from a functional medicine doctor:

  • Address causes, not symptoms. You can expect your functional medicine doctor to find and treat the root of your illness rather than its symptoms.
  • Treat patients like people. Traditional doctor’s offices can become desensitized to a patient’s struggles. Functional medicine is founded on connecting with patients to get to the bottom of their symptoms.
  • Treat you as a whole person. Functional medicine doctors take a whole person approach because they know you are not just a collection of unrelated symptoms. You are a person and chances are your symptoms are related.
  • Take you seriously. No more over-prescribing medication or dismissing your conditions. Functional medicine doctors know that you are hurting and they are here to help.
  • Healing takes time. Functional medicine doctors know that healing takes time and they make sure you know what to expect too. Unlike quick in-and-out doctors visits that we’ve all gotten used to, they spend the time necessary to make sure they have a full picture and you have a complete understanding.
  • Natural approaches first. Lifestyle modifications and nutrition are a functional medicine doctor’s first line of defense. We are what we eat after all. Herbs and supplements come next. A functional medicine practitioner will use pharmaceuticals only when all else fails.

But how can the doctor possibly know what you are going through? Most functional medicine doctors didn’t start out this way.  They typically turned to functional medicine after traditional medicine failed them in their own health journey and they started looking for another way.

 

 


Now let’s get back to fatigue. It has many causes: some are simple (“I didn’t sleep well last night”) while others are more complex (“I haven an ongoing autoimmune disease”). Fatigue that lasts more than a couple of weeks and isn’t explained by an obvious cause should be evaluated appropriately.

Unfortunately, traditional (transactional) medicine falls short when it comes to investigating your fatigue in depth. Because there are so many possibilities to sort out in the usual 10-15 minute office visit, most doctors take a superficial approach. There is no time to really listen to you, understand what’s going on behind your symptoms and in your life, and there is not even the time to think. So you end up with a protocol. A prescription to give you energy or elevate your mood. Maybe another prescription to help you sleep. Oh and don’t forget the generic advice to “eat less and exercise more”!

Nothing about this is personalized. That’s why it doesn’t help.

What you need to expect when treating fatigue: It may take some time and testing to figure out what is causing your fatigue, and many times it isn’t one thing. Working with a holistic clinician–one who will evaluate physical, emotional, and lifestyle contributions–can help you figure out the root cause of your fatigue and get you feeling like yourself again.

Here are some of the most common causes of fatigue that we see in our practice:

      • Adrenal fatigue –when stress dominates your existence for a long period of time, your body’s chronic stress hormone, cortisol, is released by the adrenal glands in excess. Cortisol disturbs almost every bodily function, including sleep, sugar metabolism, and hormone function. Eventually, with prolonged stress cortisol levels become depleted, and severe, unrelenting fatigue follows.
      • Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) –since the role of thyroid hormone is to set the “pace” of all of the body’s functions, it makes sense that a low functioning thyroid feels like someone just turned down every dial in your body. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, along with weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, constipation, and palpitations.
      • Perimenopause –when female hormones start to wane in perimenopause, sleep is disturbed (most often from progesterone deficiency). Having frequent awakenings during the night, and difficulty going back to sleep, will most certainly cause fatigue!
      • Nutritional deficiencies and gut problems –even if you consume a decent diet, the nutritional value of many foods has changed over the years, making it more difficult for some of us to get the right balance of nutrients from the foods we eat. Throw in some genetic predisposition to proper use of nutrients in the body, and you have yourself a nice recipe for fatigue! Additionally, when your gut is inflamed or you have an imbalance in your healthy bacteria in the gut, you don’t break down or absorb nutrients from food as well as you should. Most doctors will check the obvious nutrients (like iron and B12), but to really understand the full picture, a more in depth evaluation is necessary.
      • Poor sleep hygiene –many of us are guilty of falling asleep with our smartphones in hand, or with the TV on. Or we go to bed at different times every night, sometimes falling asleep on the couch. These poor sleep habits disrupt our normal circadian rhythm, leading to poor quality sleep. We may be getting 7-8 hours of sleep, but they are not restorative ones. Here are some great tips for to improve your sleep. 
      • Caffeine or alcohol use –many of us are sensitive to caffeine, lacking the genetics to process it well. If we drink caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime, we may have difficulty falling asleep. As we slog through our day, we may rely on caffeine to get us through, putting additional stress on our adrenal glands. Similarly, alcohol can be very disruptive to good sleep, causing shifts in blood sugar, and waking us up when the alcohol leaves our system.
      • Sleep apnea –when the soft palate portion of the back of our throat temporarily cuts off our breathing, we experience an apnea episode. This is more common in people with nasal obstruction (allergies, deviated septum), or obesity (the weight of the neck presses down on the throat). Sometimes we are jarred awake by the episode, but other times the apnea doesn’t fully wakes us, but it keeps us from falling into deep, restorative sleep.

While this is an obviously incomplete list of causes, it is important to discover “why” you are tired. Your health and happiness depend on it.

 

 

At Vytal Health, we focus on solving health problems others can’t and help you get back to thriving in life, not just surviving. Check out some sample cases below:

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