Simple, natural & science-based steps to overcoming chronic fatigue, and double your energy levels fast. Many are told or even presume that they’re suffering from adrenal fatigue. Find out why this is mostly inaccurate, what is REALLY going on and what you can do about it.
Symptoms of chronic fatigue are incredibly common. In fact, I could go so far as to say it’s a modern day epidemic
A lack of energy can negatively impact your life in so many ways.
Poor energy = poor quality of life. Everything suffers without it
Back in my days practicing as a naturopath, I had SO many people walk through my door who were chronically fatigued in some way.
I commonly hear from mums who’s fatigue has lead to decreased ability to cope with stress, impacting negatively on their relationships with their spouse and children. This becomes a downward spiral because the stress leads to further fatigue and so on.
Are our adrenals really worn out?
Adrenal fatigue is a very commonly used term these days and can be quite loosely used.
This concept is based on the assumption that chronic stress wears out the adrenals and after a while, these important little endocrine glands can’t produce enough cortisol to keep up the stress demands.
This is thought to result in a set of varying symptoms including chronic fatigue.
Morning cortisol awakening response is what is focussed on generally to assess person’s cortisol levels. But this is not as definitive as many are calling it because low morning cortisol can be due to many different factors.
For example, if someone is a night owl and measures their cortisol level at 8 am it is going to be low. This doesn’t mean they are adrenally fatigued. Antidepressants & poor sleep can also cause low morning cortisol.
Also, having low morning cortisol is not evidence of the adrenals not producing enough cortisol because the total cortisol output is often normal, over a 24 hour period.
Interestingly, there is actually no hard evidence to substantiate adrenal fatigue as a real condition. This scientific review actually concludes that AF is actually a myth.
I was taught that adrenal fatigue is real and then went on to teach patients about this. I treated people with herbs to build up their adrenals, which did actually help them feel better, to some degree.
Herbs & natural remedies that support the adrenals are adaptogens, which help the body to cope with stress, and this can be very supportive.
So don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not perhaps PART of the picture for some people. However, I no longer believe it’s an underlying cause of chronic fatigue.
There’s lots and lots of misinformation and pseudoscience out there, that can cost people time, money and even be damaging.
So what’s really going on?
I believe that we need to turn our attention more to what is going on at the cellular level …
We all know the basic things we need to be healthy because we’ve heard the standard health advice a million times. I know many people who are doing all of those things pretty well – fresh air & sunshine, hydration with quality water, good nutrition etc – but they are still exhausted!
Now, these lifestyle factors are certainly a great start, but what most people are unaware of is what is going on at the cellular level.
Our cellular energy generators
Mitochondria are our cellular energy generators. They take in carbohydrates & fats and convert them to ATP – cellular energy.
But they are not just mindless energy pumpers. One of their biggest functions within the cell are cellular defense.
The mitochondria detect when there is any threat to the cell, and will switch into cellular defence mode & turn off energy production mode. This creates kind of a hibernation-like state, which is experienced as chronic fatigue.
As a naturopath, I specialized in energy medicine and used a bio-feedback system to detect cellular stress. Mitochondrial stress was extremely common, mostly leading me to find some kind of toxicity keeping the mitochondria in defense mode. This was usually specific heavy metals, sometimes a combination of several.
Robert Naviaux of the Mitochondrial Medicine Society has done groundbreaking research that demonstrates this vital function, this second little-known role.
You know how when we have the flu we feel very tired. That’s the cell defense response in action. The body has switched over to defense mode and slowed it’s energy production right down.
Many animals will do this and it extends their lifespan.
The idea is you can survive longer until the threat has passed when you can switch back over to energy production mode.
It has been found that there are many factors that will impact upon this – causing the mitochondria to switch to defense mode – including a toxic environment and long-term stress.
So how do we switch back over to energy production mode and enhance our cellular energy production?
You’ll be pleased to hear that not only can we switch into this mode but there are also ways to increase the number of mitochondria in every cell, even double the amount, and therefore doubling our energy levels!
We want to enhance both cellular mitochondria building and cellular regeneration mode.
Flipping the switch
So mitochondria are designed to detect all kinds of threats, including toxins in our environment, heavy metals, infections, leaky gut leaking toxins into the bloodstream will trigger the mitochondria into defense mode.
So firstly we need to look at toxicity. If you think this may be an issue for you or you’re not sure then you can make a powerful start by taking a look at our free 7-day course. This will help you to eliminate all sources of toxicity from your life.
Some will find they also need to get rid of accumulated heavy metals & toxins by doing a safe detox. More on this to come.
The stress factor
Psychological & emotional stress will also switch mitochondria into defense mode.
Generally speaking, most people are living in fear. We generally believe (emotionally) that the world is a pretty scary place which is why stress is such an enormous factor in today’s world.
As a result of this, we want to control our environment, often constantly and unconsciously ‘on guard’.
How is this affecting our mitochondria function?
Our mitochondria are going to be ‘on guard’ too, massively affecting our ability to produce cellular energy.
Personally, I believe this is the main underlying cause of mitochondrial dysfunction & the chronic fatigue epidemic.
One month ago I was pretty burnt out. My partner & I have been working super hard the last 2 years. Combine that with 2 interstate moves, renovations, our first baby, no support & very little time for myself. I was exhausted much of the time, not coping well with stress and my body was starting to show signs of inflammation & increased aging.
Fast forward to today & I feel completely different, as a result of one little miracle plant. I’ll be writing more about this another time, but if you want to know more NOW go here &/or contact me – happy to help!
So, what else can we do?
We can enhance mitochondrial regeneration & increase the numbers of mitochondria within each cell.
Sleep & circadian rhythm
In my opinion, one of the most important factors in rebuilding your energy levels is amplifying your body’s ability to regenerate mitochondria at night while you sleep.
This involves creating good circadian rhythm.
When this rhythm is off & we’re not producing enough melatonin at night this will also damage the mitochondria. This is because melatonin has another role involving protecting the mitochondria from damage.
Supporting good circadian rhythm involves looking at light!
Screens & artificial (blue) light at night over a long period will actually suppress melatonin and chronically weaken mitochondria.
There is some evidence that blue light will increase the distance of the proteins in the respiratory electron transport chain in the mitochondria. This makes them much less efficient in producing more mitochondria.
Blue light pollution
Artificial light is still fairly new to modern man, and exposure to this type of lighting could be drastically affecting us.
Throughout history, people have risen and slept with the sun, their circadian rhythm effortlessly in sync with the natural light of the sun and moon.
Electronics and artificial lighting emit blue light, which only occurs naturally during the brightest part of the day. So when we’re exposed to this at night, naturally our bodies are going to get confused!
The Cancer Connection
We require 11-12 hours of darkness (absence of blue light) to produce enough melatonin to fight cancer cells in the body.
Melatonin is possibly the most powerful hormone in the body to fight cancer.
Evidence suggests that blind people have low cancer rates & shift workers have high cancer rates. Interesting!
I’ve never been a fan of bright overhead lights, and always preferred Salt Lamps & other atmospheric lamps at night.
But over the last year or so, I’ve been writing and blogging for a few hours in the evening after putting our toddler down for the night. So lots of melatonin-interrupting screen time every night! Fast forward to a year later and I was feeling like my batteries were running pretty low! This had also started to really affect my previously 20/20 vision too.
So what can we do?
- Wearing Orange-lens glasses for a few hours before bedtime will maximize the body’s production of melatonin because it blocks the blue ray in the artificial light coming from bright bulbs & screens.
Since using mine I’ve definitely noticed a difference! It’s like my batteries are getting charged up again overnight, which they literally are!
According to Dr. Richard L. Hansler blue blocking glasses can even help to heal brain injury by concussion or mild traumatic brain injury by maximizing your natural melatonin.
Ashleigh from Faux to Fresh is offering Holistic Mumma readers a special discount of 25% off their Blue-light blocking glasses. This is where I purchased mine!
Just enter the code Holisticmumma25 at check out.
USA readers can purchase blue-light blocking glasses here.
Here are some decent ones for kids. I am yet to find a source of kids glasses in Australia so currently investigating this.
- You can also use an app called F.lux for computers & tablets, which automatically reduces blue light on these devices after dark.
- Ditch the overhead lights or just use lamps with orange bulbs after dark. My favorite way to do this is by using salt lamps, which also emit calming negative ions.
Cellular Regeneration & Mitochondrial building
The key to this is Hormesis – using a metabolic stressor to create resilience and the building up of antioxidants and the ability for the cells to protect themselves against damage.
We can actually even stimulate our cells to repair damaged cell parts & recycle new healthy cell parts, enhancing our cells energy production, employing the use of hormesis.
Exercise is a type of hormetic stressor which is what makes it so beneficial to our health.
Other examples are intermittent fasting, UV light, and cold & heat exposure. Certain phytonutrients actually work through hormesis.
Many people think these are antioxidants but they are actually plant constituents which have a mildly toxic effect, creating a minor temporary stress, and stimulating our internal antioxidant production and defense to grow stronger.
So these hormetic stressors work by building up your internal defense system, making your mitochondria & cells more robust & resilient.
The comfort bubble
When we don’t do these things our mitochondria will shrink and shrivel up. Many people will lose up to half their mitochondrial capacity as they age.
Our resilience level has become enormously lowered in modern society, and therefore much more easily overwhelmed by stressors and triggered into defense mode.
Have we become too used to a sheltered & comfortable life? We often eat more than we need, avoid extreme temperatures & challenges, and live in a blue light bubble.
You can see that all of the above factors are ENORMOUSLY common, and combined can trigger the perfect storm and keep you locked into a chronically fatigued state.
So having strong healthy mitochondria is KEY to having a strong resilience threshold and coping with life without being triggered into this chronic hibernation, fatigued state.
Your precious Biome
Your biome is essentially the ecosystem of microflora lining the gut wall.
The health and balance of your gut microflora is so vital to your health. When this is out of balance, ie. we have too many pathogenic microbes and too few functional ones, this will affect the integrity of the gut wall junctions and create what is commonly referred to as ‘leaky gut’.
Certain triggering & inflammatory foods will exacerbate this by causing these gut wall junctions to loosen & become more permeable and allow the passing of larger food particles & microorganisms into the bloodstream.
This leads to chronic inflammation which can cause chronic locking of the mitochondria to defense mode, therefore reducing energy production.
Restoring your gut Biome is so essential, and best explored further so more on this to come.
A couple more tips:
I want to include 2 additional factors which I know are of vital relevance to us mums.
How do you take your coffee?
I don’t think I know many (if any?) mums who don’t rely on their morning cup of coffee.
Most of us (not just mums!) are overstimulating our nervous systems all day every day. Coffee also overstimulates and if used daily will, over time, take your baseline energy lower so that you need more coffee to have the same effect.
This is due to the effects of coffee on the neurotransmitter system in the brain.
I do enjoy coffee and believe it can be beneficial if used correctly (and without the sugar & dairy!), but many people are using it as a crutch.
I’m not into band-aid solutions because they just don’t work well long-term!
So my suggestion is to pull off the band-aid & allow your neurotransmitters to reset. You will feel terrible for a few days to weeks, depending on your level of dependency.
But then your baseline energy levels will return back up to normal. Your neurotransmitters will come back into balance, you’ll feel better and your capacity for energy will increase massively.
Coffee is best used intermittently. If I’ve had a coffee every day for a few days, I’ll then skip it for a few days to prevent it messing with my neurotransmitters.
The passion factor
As mums, it’s easy for us to become overly focused on our kids’ needs and become detuned to our own passions and perhaps don’t do the things we used to do and enjoy as much, or at all.
Spend time doing something you LOVE every day! Even if its just 20 minutes.
I guarantee that this will make an enormous difference to your overall energy levels!
So, in a nutshell, if you experience symptoms of chronic fatigue, I highly recommend looking at the following factors:
- Circadian rhythm and sleep – this is where cellular regeneration happens! Invest in a pair of Blue-light blocking glasses to wear at night and maximize your important 12 hours of melatonin function.
- Address stress and anxiety. Consider exploring what fears are underlying, and any other emotions
- CBD oil is an AMAZING natural remedy for stress & building resilience, and also to support healthy cellular production & mitochondria building.
- Address toxicity & start by eliminating toxins from your everyday life.
- Introducing healthy hormetic stressors into your life such as hot/cold therapy, intensified exercise, sunlight and light therapy, and increasing plant sources of nutrition.
- Heal & balance your gut biome and consider additional nutritional support for mitochondrial health.
- Ditch the coffee crutch and use intermittently.
- Do something you LOVE every day!
What About You?
I’d love to hear from you! How have you coped with fatigue as a parent? What has helped? What do you feel you need additional support with?
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