Is this you? Feeling like your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-left without you?
You’re in good company: the number one reason people visit their doctor is for fatigue.
Sometimes fatigue, especially if it seems to come out of nowhere, can be a sign of scary things like cancer. But more often then not, fatigue is a symptom of our way-too-busy, overly stressful modern lives. However, this is not to say that the way you are feeling is all in your head, or that you have to become a Buddhist monk in order to feel better.
Less than 100 years ago, the concept that emotional-level stress could cause actual, physical-level disease was quite foreign to doctors. Thanks to the work of pioneering researcher Hans Selye, we now know that stress- physical or emotional- causes real, measurable changes in the body. In particular, Dr. Selye found that stress can be particularly detrimental to something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. These are three major glands of the body that regulate many body functions. The hypothalamus is responsible for things like temperature regulation and sleep. It does so by stimulating the pituitary, which in turn stimulates more specific glands, like the thyroid, ovaries/testes, adrenals, etc.
When you go to your doctor with a complaint like fatigue, he or she will probably order bloodwork. Providing the bloodwork provides no other clues, except for say,low thyroid hormones, a patient will probably be prescribed synthetic thyroid hormone like Synthroid, and that will be that. But what if you still feel terrible? Or maybe you’ve been to a few doctors and were eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia? How do you find hope to ever feel better?
The key to addressing any of these things is, of course, to look at the person as a whole and to look for the cause, not just the symptoms. The thyroid might be underfunctioning, but why??? A person may not have enough energy, but why should that be when every cell of the body is equipped with an immaculate mechanism for energy generation? The answers will very with each individual, but I promise you this, the thing that will always be a common factor is diet.
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