Most people know that stress is a huge contributor to fatigue. It makes sense. Stress is something we experience daily and so many of us are also struggling with stubborn fatigue and unpredictable hormones.
Adrenal fatigue has gotten a lot of attention these days. On a weekly basis, I encounter women who either believe they have Adrenal Fatigue (as it is often self-diagnosed from the internet) or have been told they have it by a health practitioner.
Many of them are at a total loss of what to do. They are taking adaptogens, bio-identical hormones and Vitamin C. They are meditating. They are doing yoga. They are doing the best they can to nourish their adrenals and get back to feeling more in control of their life.
Unfortunately, many of their efforts fall short. They continue to feel fatigued, burnt out, overwhelmed, crazy, stressed and out of shape.
If you feel that you are struggling with Adrenal Fatigue, you are likely experiencing some of the following symptoms:
If I ask you how stress leads to fatigue, you might tell me a story about your adrenal glands. You might tell me that the adrenal glands produce cortisol. And when you are continually stressed, these hard-working glands are forced to produce excessive amounts of cortisol. Overtime, as stress continues, these glands wear out and eventually burn out. Enter Adrenal Fatigue.
In Adrenal Fatigue, all hormones are depleted, including estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone since the adrenals play a huge role in the production of these steroid hormones.
What I just described is basically the three stage theory of Adrenal Fatigue. Stage 1 or Acute describes the initial stress. Cortisol is high. As stress continues, and the adrenal glands start to wear out, you enter Stage 2; the Compensatory phase where cortisol levels decline and so do energy levels. Eventually the adrenal glands are overwhelmed, cortisol levels plummet and enter into Stage 3; exhaustion. In the exhaustion phase, the adrenals are burned out and sex hormones are depleted. Enter hormone imbalance, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, sugar cravings and PMS.
But what if I told you that the symptoms you are experiencing have little to do with your adrenal glands or even cortisol levels for that matter?
I have been questioning the cortisol model of fatigue for some time now. In the past four years I have run hundreds of saliva and urine hormones panels on both men and women. I have yet to see a strong connection between cortisol levels, PMS and fatigue.
If the 3 stage model of Adrenal Fatigue is true then my clients in the Acute phase should feel energetic and my clients in the Exhaustion phase should feel fatigued and burnt out. But I have often seen the opposite and everything else in between.
Ari Whitten, researcher and nutrition expert, compiled all the research he could find on fatigue, burnout and exhaustion (about 130 studies) and found that about 25% of the studies linked these symptoms with high cortisol levels. He found that another 25% linked these symptoms with low cortisol levels while, 50% of more of the studies found no abnormality between cortisol levels and stress, burnout, exhaustion and fatigue.
Based on this data, and according to Ari, cortisol is not a great measure of exhaustion and fatigue. I tend to agree. This is something I have seen over and over and it has left me with more questions than answers.
As It turns out that there are over a dozen physiological pathways in the body that can link stress to health problems, and most of them have nothing to with “fatigued” adrenal glands.
It’s very likely that stress is causing your fatigue (and all sorts of other hormonal symptoms) without anything being wrong with your adrenal glands or your cortisol levels.
The truth is the theory of Adrenal Fatigue is flawed and according to research does not actually exist. While the medical community tends to brush those aside who struggle with Adrenal Fatigue type symptoms, these people ARE struggling and should not be treated as hypochondriacs.
What many educated health practitioners are now calling this condition is HPA-axis Dysfunction which stands for Hypothalamus-Pituitary Adrenal Axis Dysfunction. This system is responsible for mitigating the stress response.
Let’s say you are out for a walk in the woods. You encounter a bear. Now that’s stressful! You initially get that instant adrenalin rush. Adrenalin is instant but it is not long lasting. The adrenalin travels to your hypothalamus (located in your brain) which signals that stress is present. The hypothalamus sends corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland (located at the base of the skull), which then sends adrenocorticotropic releasing hormones (ACTH) to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands receive the message and produce cortisol accordingly.
Many now believe that it is dysregulation in the HPA axis that leads to many of the symptoms that are associated with Adrenal Fatigue. Over time the system starts to become resistant to the negative feedback loop telling it to calm down (similar to insulin resistance), which leads to abnormal function of the axis. When the HPA Axis dysfunctions, many symptoms can arise.
HPA axis dysfunction has been associated with everything from Multiple Schlerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome to anxiety, depression and burnout.
For the most part when people say they have Adrenal Fatigue, they more likely have HPA-axis Dysfunction. It’s clear that if we focus our protocols on the adrenal glands, we are missing the mark. Are you following me? It’s not an adrenal issue to begin with.
When most people talk about stress, they are referring to the mental and emotional stress that we experience daily. This might refer to relationship stress, professional stress, financial stress or even the stress of driving in traffic.
Stress is much more than this.
Stress refers to anything that causes the body to lose homeostasis (that happy balance when everything is working as it should).
These types of stress aren’t always obvious to the average person. They might include;
As you can see stress can be many things. The above can result in activation of the HPA axis and eventually lead to it’s dysfunction, especially if these stressors become chronic (rather than quick and easily resolved)
Let’s discuss some of the other factors that link the stress system to a change in your energy and hormone levels.
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the center of your throat. This gland is the regulator of your metabolism. Its job is to produce T4, an inactive thyroid hormone, which then gets converted to T3, the active thyroid hormone. T3 regulates the rate of your metabolism.
There are receptors for thyroid hormone in every single cell in the body. If your metabolism is sluggish then you will not produce energy at a rate that keeps you energized. Therefore people who struggle with hypothyroid (an underactive thyroid) usually have low energy and struggle to lose weight. They are also more susceptible to imbalanced sex hormones because low thyroid slows down the rate at which hormones and made and broken down in the body.
When your thyroid hormone production is low everything from your brain cells to your heart cells struggle to produce energy.
Stress is known to reduce both T4 and T3. Additionally, stress may lower Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is the main signalling hormone that the pituitary sends the thyroid to tell it to produce thyroid hormone.
This is a common way that hypothyroid gets misdiagnosed. Some thyroid issues are primary, meaning that the thyroid is not functioning as it should and the result is decreasing thyroid hormone.
Other thyroid issues are secondary, meaning the thyroid is functioning as it should but is listening to the instructions it receives from stress, causing it to reduce hormone production.
Secondary hypothyroidism is often missed and while hormone replacement therapy may offer a short term boost, it does little to address the reason why the thyroid is under producing hormones in the first place (ie. Stress!)
Most people believe that getting sick is a result of “catching” a bug or virus. This may be true in some cases but the truth is we are always full of harmful bacteria. They are already in us!
They lurk in the deepest corners of our digestive system and cells. When we are healthy, well-fed, and the immune system is strong, these bugs are not an issue. They are kept in check and do not make us sick.
But when we are stressed, certain arms of the immune system are depressed. This means we are less likely to be able to keep those nasty bugs in check, they are able to outnumber the beneficial bacteria and make us sick.
Therefore you easily get sick when you are more stressed out and run down. An example is shingles. Shingles is an illness caused by the same virus that leads to chicken pox. The virus, called varicella zoster, lies dormant in nerve cells near the spinal cord after one has been exposed to chicken pox. It should remain there, dormant, not causing any issues, unless the host gets weakened and it is able to emerge. The result is shingles.
Neurotransmitters are the compounds which the brain uses to communicate. Many people have heard of serotonin and dopamine before. Other neurotransmitters also include histamine, GABA, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Healthy levels of neurotransmitters lead to a healthy and stable mood. They also contribute to your energy levels. Symptoms caused by both low dopamine and serotonin include fatigue.
Several studies have shown that chronic stress can induce deficiencies in numerous neurotransmitters.
Chronic stress can lead to GABA resistance, meaning that your brain resists GABA. GABA is your main inhibitory neurotransmitter which inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters and helps you relax. If you lack GABA sensitivity you are more likely to feel wired, have racing thoughts and struggle to calm down at night.
Serotonin and dopamine are also impacted by chronic stress, which not only affects your mood but means your energy levels are less than optimal.
Stress is thought to be the number one cause of Leaky Gut. To learn more about Leaky Gut, click here.
We are all familiar with the gut-brain connection. Remember how your stomach felt the last time you had to give a public speech? That feeling of “butterflies” is evidence that what’s going on in your head has the ability to affect what’s going on in your gut.
When we are having a stress response, your energy moves away from rest and digest processes and is funneled into the muscular and skeletal system. Your body is preparing you to run or fight for your life. That means that if your stressed, digestion is slowed or even halted.
If there is food in your gut then it doesn’t get digested. It just sits there and is fermented by bacteria which produce toxins that can contributed to leaky gut.
Additionally, exposure to food sensitivities, toxins and pathogens can also increase intestinal permeability and lead to leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, you struggle to breakdown, absorb and assimilate nutrients and minerals.
Lack of mineral and nutrients can affect every system in your body. Clearly if you do not have nutrients to function properly, you might struggle with energy levels.
Gut inflammation can also affect neurotransmitter production (much of your neurotransmitters are produced in your gut), lead to more food sensitivities and also cause IBS, autoimmune conditions and small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Many people who are chronically stressed also have trouble sleeping at night. Many of these people describe feeling fatigued upon waking, despite sleeping eight hours or more. They also tend to feel wired at night and are often unable to sleep. They might describe a “second wind” that comes about in the evening even after feeling exhausted and drained throughout the day.
It is also no secret that having a stressful day can lead to loss of sleep. Many people are unable to stop thinking about the stress that plagues them as they fall asleep.
This can lead to issues falling asleep or the inability to stay asleep during the night. Stress also reduces our ability to get into the deep sleep needed for repair and regeneration. If our endocrine system is unable to repair itself, our hormones might go a little wacky.
Lack of sleep is incredibly hard on the body and can lead to many health problems. The impact that stress has on sleep patterns is probably one of the most common ways that stress can impact your energy and hormones levels. Click here to improve your sleep.
If low energy is your main issue, start by looking at your sleep patterns. If you can find a way to sleep better than there is a good chance you can cultivate more energy for yourself.
Stress increases the rate at which you burn minerals. Minerals are the spark plugs of the body and are needed as co-factors in every single chemical reaction in the body.
Stress means you use minerals like magnesium and potassium at a higher rate. Lacking in these critical nutrients mean that your cell doesn’t have what it needs to function optimally or give you the energy you need to feel your best. Minerals are needed to produce all hormones, including sex hormones, in proper amounts. Mineral deficiency not only leads to fatigue but it leads to hormone imbalance and symptoms of PMS.
Deficient minerals also make it more likely that your body will hold onto toxic metals. Why? Because metals, although toxic, can perform similar tasks that minerals can. If you don’t have a certain mineral your body may use a metal instead. Your body then holds onto this metal instead of detoxing it through the liver.
A deficiency in potassium, for example, means you are more likely to hold onto Thallium. Thallium is an extremely toxic meal, 10 times more toxic then mercury. Thallium was added to gasoline after lead was removed from it years ago. It is in our air, soil and water. Having good mineral status is key to avoiding heavy metal toxicity which can greatly interfere with cellular function and lead to numerous health issues.
Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. They are organisms whose main job is to produce Adenosine Triphosphate, the main source of energy for your cells.
Your cells are the building block of every organ, gland and system in your body. It’s simple. If your mitochondria is unable to produce cellular energy, you won’t be feeling very energetic either. You mitochondria in the cells in your adrenal glands are also needed to churn out sex hormone. Unhealthy mitochondria means hormonal imbalance and stubborn fatigue.
It is the opinion of some health practitioners that the main component of fatigue is mitochondrial dysfunction. The more and more I read and understand, the more I am starting to switch from a cortisol model of fatigue to a mitochondria model of fatigue.
Robert Naviaux et al. did a study involving 84 subjects. 45 of these subjects were diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, while the other 39 individuals were normal controls. In the subjects with CFS, 80% had an abnormal blood markers, which was suggestive of a low metabolic state. They concluded that CFS is a state in which the metabolism has slowed in response to environmental stress.
This is really interesting. These researchers also discovered that the mitochondria has more functions than just producing energy. They are also responsible for cellular defense, or protecting the cell from threats.
What types of things can threaten the cells? Viruses, parasites, bacteria, heavy metals, environmental toxins and psychological traumas. All these things can turn on the cellular defense system. The problem is the mitochondria can only do one of these jobs at a time. Either they make energy or they defend the cell.
If any of these factors or present, your mitochondria will be busy protecting you and will not be allocating resources for energy production. This is the number one reason why sickness makes you tired. All your mitochondria have shifted away from energy production to protecting you from whatever virus, bacteria or parasite is attacking your system.
I find this so interesting. In the past year I have really started to understand the role of heavy metal and environmental toxin accumulation in health.
After eliminating a ton of gut infections (including parasites and candida), getting rid of SIBO and doing significant gut healing, I saw little improvement in my energy. Upon running a hair mineral analysis and two heavy metal panels, I found that I was toxic in metals.
It wasn’t until I started addressing these metals that I finally saw a shift in my energy. I now do the same with all my clients and not only can we resolve their fatigue but we can re-balance hormones which means no PMS, no mood swings, easier weight loss and more restful sleep.
I recently did a webinar with Wendy Myers, heavy metal detox expert, who said that heavy metal toxicity underlies every single case of chronic fatigue. If you are eating a healthy diet, living a healthy lifestyle and you still feel exhausted and struggle with hormone imbalance, you are likely toxic with metals. I am in complete agreement with Wendy.
Since shifting my thinking, I have began addressing heavy metals in all my clients and the results have been profound.
We discuss the importance of having a healthy and normal circadian rhythm. It is cues from the rising and setting sun that signals our body to do certain tasks at certain times. For example, darkness tells your body it’s bed time and stimulates the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone.
The rising sun has a similar effect. It tells your body, “Hey, it’s morning time. Get out there.” Many of us live inside, have curtains on our windows and do not get direct light exposure when we first get out of bed. My advise is to turn on every single artificial light in your house and open every single window.
Even better, wake up, grab a tea and go for a walk or sip your tea in your back yard. Even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes, this can greatly increase your energy, jump start your circadian rhythm and reduce that dreaded morning fatigue.
Gluten, by far, is the most important factor when it comes to boosting the energy levels of my client. Gluten is a funny thing. You may have heard a lot of competing views on the gluten-free trend. It depends on who you are talking to.
In my clinical experience it is the one thing I can take out of a clients diet that always, without fail, leads to increased energy and better hormone balance. Gluten seems to have a negative effect on your thyroid. Gluten closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gluten gets into the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gluten also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. Thyroid tissue and gluten are structurally similar. It is a case of mistaken identity and your immune system can attack your thyroid.
If you have followed this article so far, you know that healthy thyroid function is critical to healthy energy levels. Time and time again I have seen gluten-free diets leads to more energy. Give it a try!
Easier said then done but there is no question that improving your digestion will also boost energy and promote healthy hormone production. Many people don’t know this, but every single hormone is metabolized in the gut. So you if you struggle with PMS, you have gut problems. Period.
The best way to start healing your gut is to eat fresh, organic whole foods. You can also supplement your diet with homemade bone broth and fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir.
Other great tools to help you heal your gut are l-glutamine, aloe vera juice, collagen and my very favorite product, GI Revive from Designs for Health. If you want access to these high quality supplements, you can sign up free for my online dispensary.
As we discussed, mineral status is crucial to healthy energy levels and hormone production. Unfortunately, many mineral supplements are low quality and do not contain a healthy combination of minerals. If you want to talk a multi-mineral make sure you take a good one. The only one I currently recommend to my clients is Ocean’s Alive Marine PhytoPlankton. To get access to this and other high quality supplements, you can sign up free for my online dispensary.
If you struggle with nasty symptoms in the week before your period like fatigue, cramps, swollen breasts, migraines, water retention and moodiness, doubling up on your multi-mineral can help alleviate these symptoms. If you are taking Ocean’s Alive, you can take 2-4 full droppers every day in the week before your period.
If you are chronically fatigued or you are dealing with stubborn hormone imbalance that won’t shift no matter what you do, you are likely toxic to some degree with metals and environmental toxins. Did you know infrared sauna sessions are one of the most effective ways to detox metals and toxins? It’s true.
If you have access to sauna, I recommend using it as often as possible. I like to sit in a sauna 3-4 times per week. It not only helps you detox but it also improves your skin, boosts your immune system (another way to enhance energy) and reduces inflammation and chronic pain.
The cause of fatigue, PMS and hormone imbalance is complicated and multi factorial. Your symptoms are likely being cause by a combination of the above and not just one. Whether you think you have Adrenal Fatigue, have hormone imbalance or you are just sick of being tired, getting well involves changing diet and lifestyle and addressing detoxification and toxicity. Start with my 5 solutions to get quick results.
If you want to learn more about hormone balance and how you can start balancing your hormones and eliminating PMS right now, grab my 3-Part Mini-Course.
Prefer to hear me discuss this article in a video? See video below!
If you are a health practitioner and you want to know my exact step-by-step process that I use when it comes to treating clients with SIBO, check out my 3-Part A-Z SIBO Series. Check out Video 1!
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth is an incredibly common infection that I am finding in the majority of my clients who are struggling with chronic digestive issues.
A study undertaken at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center used 448 subjects who were referred by their doctors for detection of SIBO.
After completing a questionnaire, the researchers determined that 202 subjects could be considered as having irritable bowel syndrome according to standard symptom criteria (see sidebar). Of these, 157 (78%) were positive for bacteria overgrowth using the lactulose Hydrogen Breath Test.
SIBO is a condition where normal bacterial flora from the large intestine migrate up into the small intestine where they aren’t supposed to be. Compared to the large intestine, the small intestine is relatively sterile when it comes to microflora. With an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, food that is eaten is fermented and acted upon by the overgrowth, rather than digested for your nourishment.
The result is SIBO infected individuals tends to have a lot of gas, bloating, belching and abdominal pain. Depending on the type of SIBO present, individuals may have chronic diarrhea or constipation. I have also seen many SIBO clients presenting will extreme fatigue or even chronic fatigue.
SIBO is gaining some attention lately and more and more people struggling with IBS are looking to SIBO as the potential cause of their GI issues.
A journey full of trial and error, getting rid of SIBO can be HARD work. With our scientific and clinical understanding of the condition continuing to grow, protocols and recommendations are constantly evolving and as with any gut condition. This means that what works for one person may not work for the next.
It also means that the medical community is starting to catch on. In Canada, we are starting to see SIBO labs popping up which is a great thing. Unfortunately, many practitioners are testing their patients for SIBO without having adequate knowledge of the complex protocols involved in successfully treating the condition.
The result is that many SIBO sufferers try over and over to clear the infection and they either fail to get rid of it or they get re-infected.
I want to discuss some of the most common mistakes I have seen when it comes to treating SIBO. If you are someone struggling with SIBO, you need to read this. There are many practitioners who claim to understand SIBO but they have no kept current with their research. Make sure you or your practitioner aren’t making these SIBO treatment sabotaging mistakes.
Not all SIBO is created equal. In the future, what we currently call SIBO may actually be categorized into many distinct conditions. Our knowledge of SIBO is new and we are learning more about it every single day. The type of SIBO you have entirely affects the protocol you decide to do. Currently, we know of three different types of SIBO; methane dominant, hydrogen dominant and hydrogen sulfide dominant.
We have the ability to test for methane and hydrogen but not for hydrogen sulfide. In order to effectively remove your SIBO and experience results, you need to know which one you have or if you have both.
The best testing method is a 180 minute lactulose breath test. Labs that I use for this are Biohealth Labs, Commonwealth Labs and Sage SIBO Lab in Canada.
This is a very common one. SIBO is not a lone ranger. In most cases is does not travel alone. Parasites are often one of the primary causes of a SIBO infection. How? An acute parasite infection, such as traveller’s diarrhea or gastroenteritis, can paralyze the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). The MMC is a flowing motion that occurs multiple times in a day that essetially “flushes” bacteria back down the intestine and prevents it from moving upwards. In a healthy person the MMC occurs up to 40 times per day. If the MMC has been paralyzed it may only occur a few times a day.
Since parasites are often the cause of SIBO, they need to be addressed first. This is one of the more common reasons that SIBO continues to come back after treatment.
I have encountered many clients who have been tested for SIBO and are currently doing multiple SIBO protocols but their practitioner never ran testing for other GI infections. They are unlikely to have success.
Additionally, the symptoms of SIBO are often identical for other GI infections. If you don’t address these infections, your symptoms will persist and you may never get rid of the SIBO.
Don’t agree to a SIBO test before testing the large intestine first. My favorite test is the Diagnostics Solutions Lab GI-MAP which is fantastic for identifying parasite and other infections.
SIBO is hard to to get rid of in many people. Some studies have shown that relapse rates for SIBO are as high as 50%. Expecting a single round to be all you need may lead to disappointment, depending on the severity of your condition.
SIBO is about getting the levels of bacterial down to a point where they are no longer an ‘overgrowth’. The amount of treatment you need will depend on the level of gas being produced and how well you respond to treatment.
It is crucial that you re-test immediately after treatment. If you still have an overgrowth but your gas levels have decreased, that’s a sign that your treatment protocol is working and you just need to do it for longer.
If you don’t see an improvement in your gas levels, you need to change course. If you have been doing a herbal protocol, antibiotics or an elemental diet may be a better choice.
Stick with the protocol until the test tells you the SIBO is gone.
This is most common among clients trying to treat themselves without the help of a skilled SIBO practitioner. Many people know that the FODMAPS diet is the most commonly used diet to treat SIBO.
What many people don’t realize is that you need to be strategic with the FODMAPS diet. Most people consume a FODMAPS diet during their treatment protocol. This is a huge mistake.
Eating a low FODMAPS diet essentially starves the overgrowth. Starving the SIBO bacteria can make them go dormant which means that the herbs or antibiotics you take don’t work. Treatment will not work on dormant bacteria.
For this reason it is important to consume some fermentable carbohydrates during the treatment protocol. The FODMAPS diet should be employed after the SIBO has been eradicated In which case it will need to be followed for at least 3 months.
SIBO is a much more complex condition than simply too much bacteria in the small intestine. By treating SIBO like other infections, many practitioners fail to address the reason a person became infected with SIBO to begin with.
In my experience there are three things that need to be addressed in order to prevent re-infection:
If you are a health practitioner and you want to know my exact step-by-step process that I use when it comes to treating clients with SIBO, check out my 3-Part A-Z SIBO Series. Check out Video 1!
“I’m just so tired!”
“I am so sick of feeling tired”
“It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get, I wake up feeling totally exhausted.”
Sound familiar? Fatigue is the most common complaint I hear from my clients. In fact, it is rare that I work with a person who claims to have high energy levels and feels like they are totally rocking it.
There is a fatigue epidemic these days. Everyone seems to be lacking the energy they need to fully enjoy their lives.
So what’s going in with this low energy epidemic?
In order to have proper energy levels, you need to have a well functioning body machine. Unfortunately, with a deficient food supply, increased exposure to environmental toxins and chronic stress, our machines are taking a serious beating.
If you are feeling exhausted, no doubt you are wondering why.
Here are three reasons why you are exhausted, fatigued and straight up drained.
Hormones play a massive role in energy production. Specifically, cortisol, is incredibly important when it comes to having high energy. Many of us know cortisol as a stress hormone but it is also needed in certain amounts every single day.
In fact, without cortisol you wouldn’t even be able to get of bed in the morning.
It mainly operates to not only make us feel energized but to stabilize our blood sugar. We all know how low blood sugar makes us feel; hangry, dizzy, anxious and low energy. Stable blood sugar = stable energy levels.
Fluctuating cortisol throughout the days almost always go along with fluctuating energy levels. Imbalanced cortisol always lead to imbalanced energy.
When a run a hormone panel on a client I can use their cortisol rhythm to predict how their energy feels through the day. If you are finding yourself with dipping energy levels, consider your cortisol production.
Additionally estrogen dysregulation, low testosterone and low DHEA are often implicated in poor energy production.
There is a saying that goes, “You are what you eat,” but really you are only what you digest, absorb and assimilate. How many of you out there are eating this amazing whole foods diet, rich in protein and healthy vegetables but you still wake up every single day feeling wiped out?
If this sounds like you, poor digestion might be your issue. Unfortunately, many of the things that we do in everyday life destroy our digestion. Some of the worst digestion destroyers are alcohol, gluten, stress and lack of sleep.
And how many of us do those things on a regular basis, right?!
Digestion is huge. So if you have tightened up your diet but you still feel fatigued, consider your digestion.
It doesn’t matter where you live. All of us are exposed to environmental toxins and heavy metals on a regular basis. This is an unfortunate reality of our increasingly toxic world. Thousands of chemicals are being added to our environment on a yearly basis with no regard for how they might be affecting human health.
Our detox organs are overwhelmed by toxins and are unable to process them effectively. The result is that toxins and metals are stored in our body; in our bone, brain, organs and cells.
These interfere with our cellular function, our mitochondria and the result is that we can’t produce energy at the level that we need to. No wonder we are so damn tired
Poor energy levels almost always means you have some level of toxicity in your body. Detoxification is key!
If you want to know 3 simple things you can start doing right now to eliminate fatigue, get your FREE PDF below!
This update is a long time coming. I meant to follow up with my gut test many months ago but life got crazy and I got side tracked. Turns out I’m not the best client….
If you want to read my detailed article about what was going on with me and my health back in March 2016, read this post.
To give you a quick summary, I had been struggling on and off with my digestive health for pretty much my whole life. In the past I had run numerous stool tests on myself. My first ones did indicate a parasite and bacterial infection but I was able to easily remove those with the use of herbs and botanicals.
Despite getting rid of those infections, I still wasn’t feeling my best. I wasn’t having any significant digestive symptoms but things definitely felt off.
The stool culture tests I was running weren’t bringing up anything. Early last year, the Functional Nutrition organization I work for started carrying a new type of pathogen test. Rather that searching for pathogens through a microscope, this new test uses a FDA approved technology called Polymerase Chain Reaction. This involves a technique that identifies DNA in stool. It can highlight DNA of any critter that might be living inside you. It is significantly more sensitive than a regular stool culture test.
I decided to run this panel on myself and what I found was shocking. See my results below.
As it turned out my results indicated some very serious infections. The most serious was Entamoeba Histolytica. This parasite is pretty much the worst you can get. You typically get it from travelling in Central American, South American and Asia (I have been to all these places). The reason this parasite is so dangerous is because in some cases it can be fatal. It doesn’t like to stay in the gastrointestinal tract. It can migrate to the liver, the brain and the lungs. In the liver it can cause an absess and this is what can be fatal.
The second scary infection I had was Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff). This is nasty strain of bacteria that is resistant to many types of antibiotics. It produces significant toxins and is responsible for thousands of deaths per year, mostly in the senior population.
I also had Giardia (a water born parasite), Klebsiella (a opportunistic bacterial infection that can trigger autoimmunity) and Proteus (another autoimmune triggering bacteria).
The test was a total mess. Since then I have run close to fifty of these tests on clients and my results are still the worst I have seen to date.
I first did 3 weeks on an antibiotic called Iodoquinol. That was the most intense part of the protocol. I was really upset to be taking antibiotics but unfortunately the E.Histolytica does not respond well to herbal treatment. The antibiotic also was indicated for the Giardia infection.
I then spent 2 months taking Saccromyces Boulliardi, a beneficial strain of yeast that crowds out the C.diff.
Once I was done this, I spent the next two months on three products from Bio-Botanical Research; Biocidin, Biotonic and Olivirex. Together these three products are a force. They kill infections, disrupt biofilm, boost detoxification and stimulate the immune system.
I felt significantly better over the summer. My energy improved, as did my stamina. My skin started to glow and I felt like I was heading in the right direction.
Unfortunately in September I went to a potluck and accidentally ate a dip that I thought was gluten free (it wasn’t). I didn’t figure this out until months later but I spent 8 weeks with intense stomach pain, skin breakouts and wondering what the hell was going on.
This is what kicked my butt into gear and made me realize I needed to make re-testing a priority. Normally, I have clients re-test within 3-6 months depending on the protocol. It’s very important to re-test and confirm that infections are gone and another round of treatment is not needed.
Below are the results of my re-test.
As you can see things are significantly improved. I was very happy to see these results. All the infections are gone except the Klebsiella. This bacteria is very opportunistic and produces a significant amount of biofilm (a sticky substance that bacteria can “hide” under). Clearly this infection has been resistant to my efforts and I am going to have to make a new plan.
A little bit of Candida also showed up on this test which was not on my previous test. This is not unusual. It is not uncommon for new things to pop up on a re-test. Once you get rid of certain infections, they make room for other things to move in.
I am not overly concerned with low amounts of Candida. It should respond well to some anti-fungal herbs and a low sugar diet.
The next biggest issue with my re-test is my elevated Anti-Gliadin SigA. Gliadin is the component in gluten that people react to. This elevated marker confirms my gluten exposure at that potluck in September. After exposure antibodies stay elevated for up to 6 months and can cause significant inflammation. I really need to be more careful at potlucks and inquire about ingredients.
Everything else is looking a lot better. My friendly flora levels have improved. My Bifidobacterium has gone up. This is important as low levels of Bifido. are related to C.diff infections. My enterococcus and lactobacillus bacteria could be a little higher so probiotics will be on the menu.
These results are very encouraging to me. They give me hope and motivation to continue on this path.
In the coming weeks I will also be posting results of my DUTCH urine hormone panel and Organic Acids Tests. Stay tuned!
If you are interested in running this test with me, there are a couple of ways to work with me. If you are interested in running a GI-MAP only, I suggest joining my group program where you can purchase the GI-MAP or any other Functional Lab Test kit. If you are interested in 1:1 coaching and a more comprehensive program, I encourage you to apply to be one of my private clients. Apply here.
Last week I discussed endometriosis in detail. This condition should be taken seriously as it can lead to infertility and permanent damage of the Fallopian tubes and ovaries. It can also lead to cyst formation which puts you at risk for a ruptured cyst. If you want to learn more about Endometriosis and your risk, please read the article here.
If you have been struggling with Endometriosis, there’s a good chance you have been given little direction beyond surgery, birth control pills and pain killers.
I understand your frustration if you feel that these options are not right for you. Practitioners rarely discuss diet and lifestyle changes when it comes to this condition.
Thankfully, from a Functional Medicine prospective, there is a lot you can do to manage or even reverse your endometriosis. The first step to relief involves eating the right foods.
As you know, I generally recommend the Paleo diet as nutrition template for many hormone conditions. This recommendation mostly has to do with the fact that Paleo is a great tool for balancing blood sugar levels.
You can learn more about the Paleo diet and how it can help balance your hormones in this article.
Paleo isn’t your only option. Some women do better on different variations of Paleo (ie. less meat and more carbohydrates) or some women thrive with some gluten-free grains or beans and legumes in their diet. It really depends on your unique biochemistry, activity levels and carbohydrate tolerance.
The most important thing is that you eat real food. Your choices should be free-range, organic and local whenever possible. You food should not come from a box, bag or package. It should be chosen as you shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoiding the nastiness of the isles in between.
Once you got the real food diet mastered, you can start being strategic with your food choices to optimize your body’s ability to prevent endometriosis from continuing to occur.
Cruciferous vegetables are a top choice when it comes to reversing endometriosis. The endometrial lining grows due to the effects of Estrogen (a potent growth hormone). Elevated estrogen is often at the root of Endometriosis.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radish, cabbage, Brussel sprout, collard greens and bok choy contain Diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM is a powerful tool in lowering estrogen levels.
When estrogen is broken down, it can head down the 2-OH, 4-OH or 16-OH pathways. The 2-OH pathway is thought to be a protective pathway. 4-OH is thought to be a damaging pathway, causing DNA damage and a possible cause of estrogen dominant cancers. The 16-OH is not damaging like the 4-OH but can lead to symptoms of estrogen dominance (ie. endometriosis).
DIM consumption actually shifts these pathways and helps you break your estrogen down that protective 2-OH pathway and away from the 4-OH and 16-OH. It also has the effect of reducing estrogen levels overall.
I find DIM to be one of the most powerful tools when it comes to dealing with estrogen dominance and endometriosis.
I have heard that fermented cruciferous vegetables are even more powerful in these effects. So eat your sauerkraut!
One way that estrogen can become elevated is due to poor liver clearance. It is the liver’s responsibility to clear excess hormones from the blood. The liver is one of the areas where the estrogen metabolism mentioned above occurs. In fact, 50% of estrogen metabolism occurs in the liver.
This means if liver function is not optimal, you might have excess estrogen floating around your blood, leading to nasty symptoms.
Liver friendly foods include:
Approximately 50% estrogen metabolites that enter the liver, are then excreted in the bile, sent to the intestine and then hydrolyzed by intestinal microflora. Following this process, hydrolyzed estrogen is either excreted via poop or are entered back into portal circulation.
From here it goes back to the liver for further metabolization. They are either sent back to the bile or pushed back into circulation.
Enter the Estrobolome. The estrobolome is a set of gut microflora that produce beta- glucuronidase, an enzyme that influences this metabolization. Claudia Plottel, MD, a Clinical Associate Professor at N.Y.U., and her team looked at how intestinal flora affects estrogen circulation
Plottel believes your microbiota species can create beta-glucuronidase that increase estrogen– allowing it to re-enter circulation in the body.
This makes your intestinal flora crucial to healthy estrogen levels. Some unfavorable microflora carry this enzyme and thus creating not only a dysbiosis in the gut but elevates estrogen levels.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt (if tolerated), pickles, kombucha and other fermented veggies contain a full spectrum of bacterial communities. Eating these foods on a regular basis can help repopulate your gut and increase the beneficial flora in your gut.
Another way your estrogen can become too high is due to something called aromatization. Aromatase is the enzyme which causes the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
Inflammation can increase the presence of aromatase in the body leading to elevated estrogen levels. If you were to run a hormone panel and you had aromatization, you would see average DHEA with low testosterone and elevated estrogen.
Additionally, inflammation can negatively affect your adrenal glands leading to imbalanced hormones. It can also stress the immune system which is usually a reason excess endometrial tissue cannot be cleared from the body.
Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
If the immune system is strong and healthy, the body should be able to fight off the overgrowth of endometrial tissue. This is at least the thoughts of many of the practitioners I have spoken with.
It appears that many women with endometriosis also have reduced immunity. Most of the research suggests that low immunity is a result of endometriosis rather than a cause. Both ways, boosting immunity can likely help improve this condition.
Top Immune System Boosting Foods:
Pho is pretty much my favorite thing ever. Ever! Ever! Ever! Apparently I say that a lot. My boyfriend is always pointing out that everything I come across is the “best thing ever,” or “my favorite thing ever,” or the “best thing I have ever seen.” I think it drives him crazy. Honestly, I don’t really care. Cause everything is awesome and every day is the best day ever in the world. Take that!
But seriously, when it comes to Pho, I just can’t get enough. So warm and full of nutrition, I find myself craving it the most at this time of year. The great thing about this recipe is that it is Paleo. I found these wonderful sweet potato noodles that are just fantastic. I have been eating pho for 2 weeks straight and I just keep wanting more.
I use my own homemade broth to make this and I think that’s why it tastes so damn good. Broth is one of the most amazing things you can do for your digestion. Imagine the nutrients and minerals it would take to make bone. When you simmer your broth, you pull all those minerals and nutrients out of the bone and put it into a tasty delicious liquid that you can just consum consume consume!
Is broth good for my hormones you might ask? I would say “yes, yes it is.” All those minerals and nutrients help your hormone system function better. How? Let me tell you.
Bone broth heals your gut. Gut health is inextricably linked to your hormonal health. If you got something nasty going on like leaky gut your body is not able to absorb enough minerals or nutrients to even produce hormones. Leaky gut leads to toxins and other gross things leaking into your bloodstream. This in itself can cause a fight-or-flight response which pushed cortisol up and throws your other hormones all over the place. If you have gas, bloating or any other gut symptoms then I guarantee your hormones are a wee bit messy. What am I trying to tell you? Make this Pho recipe and eat it up!
Bone Broth is packed full of electrolytes. We need a good balance of electrolytes for the adrenal glands to function properly. In fact, when we are stressed, electrolytes are easily depleted from the body. Sodium and potassium are especially important for the adrenal glands. The ratio between sodium and potassium will determine fluid and electrolyte dynamics, blood pressure activity, nervous system output and energy production. If either of these is depleted your adrenal health will suffer. Do drink it up. The bone broth, I mean.
Bone broth is full of beneficial amino acids like proline and glycine. Amino acids are key plays in the development of your hormones and also the detoxification process. Your liver is responsible for clearing excess hormones from the blood. So if your liver doesn’t detoxify well then extra hormones are running amuck around your body doing all kinds of weird things. Poor detoxification is implicated in things like estrogen dominance and PCOS.
No discussion about hormones can leave out a discussion about gut health and digestion. The two are romantically involved and you just can’t break them up. So what I am trying to say is make my Pho recipe. Make it for your digestion, make it for your hormones and make it because it just taste so damn good!