Imagine this scenario: You wake up tired despite a full night of sleep, you struggle to stay awake throughout the day, and even the simplest tasks exhaust you. If this sounds familiar, you may be dealing with chronic fatigue.
In the hustle-bustle of our modern lives, feeling tired or worn out is not an uncommon experience. However, persistent, debilitating fatigue that significantly impairs our daily functioning warrants a closer look. In the realm of functional medicine, fatigue is more than just a symptom – it’s a signpost, pointing towards underlying imbalances in our body’s intricate systems.
Functional medicine interprets fatigue differently from the traditional medical approach, viewing it as a multi-dimensional issue, encompassing nutrients, vitamins, sleep, nutrition, food sensitivities, gut health, hormones, and thyroid function.
The role of Nutrition, Nutrients, Vitamins, and Minerals
Our bodies need adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to function properly. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in maintaining our energy levels. Our caloric intake needs to be balanced with the right proportions of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to provide us with sustained energy. If we are not consuming a balanced diet, our bodies can’t function efficiently, leading to fatigue.
One of the key contributors is micro nutrient deficiencies. Just as a car can’t function without fuel, your body needs a constant supply of vitamins and minerals to function effectively. A lack of these essential nutrients is like putting low-quality gas in your high-performance vehicle; it sputters and drags, manifesting as that lingering fatigue you can’t shake off. Vitamins B, C, D, and E, as well as iron, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, are all critical for energy production. A deficiency in any of these could leave us feeling perpetually drained.
Gut Health and the Microbiome
Our gut is home to trillions of microbes collectively known as the microbiome.
The gut is often referred to as our “second brain” because of its significant influence on our overall health including energy production. An imbalance in this delicate ecosystem, known as dysbiosis, can lead to a cascade of health issues, including chronic fatigue.
Conditions like leaky gut, where the lining of the small intestine is damaged, leading to undigested food particles and toxic waste products seeping into the bloodstream, can also lead to fatigue. The body has to work overtime to deal with this invasion, leading to exhaustion.
Food sensitivities are another often-overlooked factor contributing to fatigue. Consuming foods that we are intolerant to can lead to inflammation, manifesting as a variety of symptoms including fatigue. Functional medicine often uses elimination diets to identify potential food triggers and alleviate symptoms.
Hormones, Thyroid, and Fatigue
Hormonal balance is a delicate dance that can easily be thrown off-kilter. When that happens, it’s like tripping over a power cord and plunging the room into darkness—your body’s energy levels can take a significant hit, resulting in fatigue.
The thyroid hormone, nested comfortably in our neck, is our body’s main energy regulator. Hypothyroidism, or a low-functioning thyroid, can lead to persistent fatigue, weight gain, and even depression. Conversely, an overactive thyroid can result in feelings of exhaustion after the initial energy rush.
Cortisol is the notorious ‘stress hormone’. Ideally, your cortisol levels should follow a ‘diurnal pattern’, peaking in the morning to get you out of bed and gradually decreasing throughout the day. However, chronic stress can disrupt this rhythm, leading to a condition known as adrenal dysfunction. This can leave you feeling perpetually weary and unable to rest effectively.
Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone, especially during perimenopause and menopause, can lead to sleep disruptions and thus, fatigue. It’s also worth noting that low levels of testosterone in both men and women can result in reduced energy, lower mood, and yes, increased feelings of fatigue.
Sleep: The Underrated Healer
In today’s fast-paced world, sleep is often sacrificed at the altar of productivity. However, skimping on sleep can take a toll on our energy levels. Functional medicine recognizes sleep as a critical restorative process, essential for maintaining hormonal balance, boosting immunity, and facilitating the body’s healing processes.
Functional medicine’s approach to combating fatigue involves addressing these underlying causes. It is about making dietary modifications to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients. It involves ensuring good gut health through probiotics and other nutritional supplements. It’s about managing stress levels and ensuring good sleep hygiene.
Remember, you don’t have to live with constant fatigue. Seek out a Functional Medicine practitioner and start your journey towards renewed energy and vitality.
Remember, it’s not just about getting by — it’s about thriving. Don’t let fatigue stand in your way.
Jennifer Piermarini Applied Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and a Family Nurse Practitioner with over 14 years of experience in urgent care and acute care and 20 years working in health care. Throughout her career Jennifer has alway taken a root cause approach to treating patients, however, due to her own health issues including ongoing fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, asthma and chronic allergies she discovered functional medicine in 2020 which has been life altering. Jennifer created Intricate Wellness Solutions a Functional Medicine practice for women in 2022 with a mission to empower woman to feel vibrant and well daily. Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping women uncover and correct the biochemical imbalances that are preventing them from feeling their best daily.