Being tired all the time is one of the most common things patients tell me they deal with. Usually it starts in the morning and some can’t even function until they’ve had some sort of stimulant; usually coffee, soda, sugar or an energy drink. Sometimes, they feel fine in the morning but get progressively tired as the day goes on. Others get extremely tired right after a meal. All of these cases can have very different causes. Obviously, if someone isn’t getting enough sleep or sleep is not restful and restorative, this needs to be fixed. Some simple things like a Magnesium Deficiency, Thyroid problems or Hormone Imbalances can be the cause. These can usually be found with simple blood testing. Or it can be more difficult like Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Sleep Architecture issues, needing a Sleep Study to figure it out. Stress, bright lights, video screens and even electromagnetic radiation can all play a part in the mind not shutting off. Sleep is now it’s own specialty in medicine.
If sleep and rest are not the issues, then it’s time for some testing. A test called Organic Acids can find Amino Acid, Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies and other problems. It also can check for Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Mitochondria are the little powerhouses in our cells that use nutrients from food to make ATP, our energy molecule. Common deficiencies like CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, B Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids and others can grind the mitochondrial machinery to a halt. Many nutrients and cofactors need to be present for each step in a long chain of cellular reactions that ultimately results in energy. Finding out if you have any deficiencies is critical to getting to the bottom of Chronic Fatigue. Thyroid problems, Hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and Hyperthyroidism (high thyroid), are common causes of fatigue. Other common symptoms include Cold Hands and Feet, Slow Pulse, Hair Loss, Weight Gain, Brain Fog, Water Retention, Constipation, Dry Skin, etc…Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and tell other endocrine (hormone) organs to put out their respective hormones correctly. Everything from energy, digestion, heartrate, skin oils, sex hormones, hair growth, mental clarity, weight management and others are all affected by the thyroid.
Usually, in traditional medicine, a TSH check by blood is used to rule out Thyroid Dysfunction. But, this can be normal and you may still need thyroid hormone. TSH is not actually Thyroid Hormone. It is a general hormone that comes from the Pituitary and is a low cost basic check to see if the thyroid may be functioning well. But checking for Free T3 and Free T4 (actual thyroid hormones), Reverse T3, Thyroid antibodies and other thyroid tests can find many cases where thyroid hormone may still help. I have helped numerous patients who lived with all these symptoms for years, had a normal TSH on blood results and couldn’t find anyone to listen. Once we did a more comprehensive workup, many were good candidates for thyroid treatment and finally improved. Using Nutrition, Supplements, Natural Thyroid Hormones, Synthetic Thyroid Hormones (Synthroid and Cytomel), Adrenal Support, Detoxification programs and other treatments, most high and low thyroid patients can find relief. There are many other ways to assess and treat thyroid function, and working with a Functional Medicine Provider who understands this can help.
Food Sensitivities can also contribute to Chronic Fatigue. Delayed Reaction Food Sensitivities are common and most people don’t know they have them. Unlike the scary Food Allergies we all hear about, they usually don’t result in a quick rash or trouble breathing or outward sign that sends someone to the Emergency Room for life saving treatment. They can just cause a low grade inflammation that may only be felt 5 days later as fatigue. And the resulting gastrointestinal inflammation can decrease absorption in the GI tract, resulting in many deficiencies we have already discussed.
Many people are just tired, overweight, retain water, have redness to the face, nose, chin, neck or chest and wouldn’t know it is the banana they eat each morning. So what’s scarier, a fast allergy you find out immediately so you stay away from that food, or an insidious, mild inflammation that keeps you miserable and unable to lose weight no matter if you cut back on calories or work out all the time? With just a blood test, you can find out the foods that are bothering you. They may be causing your immune system to run on high all the time, resulting in Chronic Fatigue, Weight Gain, Allergies or even Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Chronic Fatigue can be cause by Parasites, Yeast Overgrowth (Candida), Hormone Imbalances, Digestive Problems, Gluten Sensitivity, Celiac Disease, Heavy Metal and Chemical Toxicities, Stress, Numerous Deficiencies and more. As you can see, this is an expansive topic.
Functional Medicine trains health care providers to search for causes and provides many treatments for difficult problems like this.
If you would like a Consultation for Chronic Fatigue or another difficult problem, call The Maine Center for Functional Medicine at (207)941-0080.