Chronic lack of energy is an epidemic that destroys lives. It goes by many names, including chronic fatigue, burnout, even adrenal exhaustion. If you're suffering from it, you know the symptoms all too well.
You feel tired.
Anxious and depressed.
When you get home from work, you don’t feel like being with your family. You just don’t have the drive to spend quality time with them.
Dragging yourself through another day always requires caffeine. You're constantly borrowing energy from tomorrow to pay for today with those lattes, sugar or other stimulants.
You're caught in a vicious cycle of bankrupting your energy bank. Like a maxed out credit card you make minimum payments on, you realize building back up the energy you need to feel vital and engaged feels like a losing battle.
You are part of the epidemic, and liberating yourself is a major challenge because of the lack of actionable information to change your circumstances. Especially when you face the challenge of a number of traditional practitioners who believe that adrenal fatigue is a “made up” condition.
Consider the statistics
How legitimate is it to call the spectrum of fatigue-based illnesses fictional when you consider stats like this?
- 1-4 million Americans suffer from full-blown Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- Close to an additional 10 million Americans suffer from Fibromyalgia or FM (which is characterized by widespread body pain in addition to chronic fatigue)
But CFS and FM are just the tip of the iceberg. Fatigue is a spectrum – from severe debilitating chronic fatigue, to mild or moderate burnout or stress-related fatigue or exhaustion.
CFS and FM are “worst case scenarios” in the human energy crisis. These are just a small portion of people, the outliers, who are most sensitive to what’s causing at least minor fatigue in almost EVERYONE. There are 50-100 times more cases of people with mild or moderate fatigue that has not been reported as completely debilitating yet.
Here's a few more stats that might scare you to think about
- In the American Psychological Association's 2012 Stress in America survey, 45 PERCENT of women reported feeling chronically fatigued due to stress.
- The Chartered Management Institute recently conducted a ‘Quality of Working Life' report which showed that insomnia is widespread and more than HALF of us experience feelings of constant tiredness during the day.
- Research also shows that among adults older than 60, nearly 1 in 3 have SEVERE chronic fatigue that’s so bad it prevents them from living their life. 1
Because it’s so common, nobody realizes that there's anything wrong with being fatigued all the time.
The truth is that fatigue, burnout and exhaustion are now becoming so common that our society accepts it as the norm.
Fatigue gets rationalized as an inevitable consequence of working hard, being a parent, stress, busy and overscheduled lifestyles, and dealing with the many demands of modern life.
Being overworked and sleep deprived, and pushing through chronic lack of energy is worn like a superhero cape by some. I used to view it as a sign of how driven and tough I was myself.
Feeling tired and wanting to lay down to rest after a long day of hard physical and mental work is totally normal. But being fatigued or feeling drained constantly is absolutely NOT.
This is your body crying for help!
Is your fatigue a sign of something more dangerous?
Look at this list of symptoms and see how many are routine for you.
- Tired or feel exhausted and fatigued frequently during the day for more than a few consecutive weeks
- Brain fog
- Brain-related fatigue after reading, driving, doing work or other mental tasks
- Depressed or anxious frequently
- Gut issues including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, or food intolerances
- Body aches and pains
- Post-exertional malaise (feeling totally wiped out for a day or more after doing exercise, or avoiding exercise at all for this reason)
- Addicted to sugar or having a need for food every couple hours to maintain your energy
- Can’t sleep or a combination of being tired and unable to rest no matter how long you try
If you have a combination of fatigue or exhaustion during the day, anxiety or brain fog, plus sleep problems, then you have Chronic Fatigue. In other words, your body and brain are in a severe state of dysfunction far beyond normal tiredness.
And if you’ve got post-exertional malaise or widespread body pains in addition to all that, then you likely have full-blown chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
The worst thing you can do when you are on the fatigue spectrum
If you keep trying to push through and get things done to compensate for your slower performance, it’s the absolute worst thing you can do.
The cells of your body and brain are already in a state of serious dysfunction. And, unless you do something to fix that dysfunction, it will only get worse. Eventually, disease or debilitating chronic fatigue, or both will take over.
Pushing through causes you to become HALF the person you’re capable of being.
Your career suffers.
You lose your passion and sex drive so your relationship suffers.
Your ability to parent or be a good friend suffers.
Taking pleasure in life and living to the fullest doesn’t exist.
Now here’s the big problem: Neither conventional medicine nor holistic or functional medicine has much to offer people with fatigue.
Solutions proposed by conventional medicine
According to the latest research published in the American Family Physician journal, conventional medicine does not know what causes fatigue and basically just aims for symptomatic relief. 2
Common treatments from conventional practitioners are:
- Exercise (stretching and walking)
- Stimulants (caffeine and Modanifil)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (interrupting negative thoughts)
That’s the best modern medicine has to offer according to their own research and recommended practices. 3
On top of that, blood tests are notoriously worthless in diagnosing or treating someone with fatigue.
You go to your doctor looking for answers, and you think you’ll get what you’re looking for there. Your doctor orders a blood test thinking it will clearly show what’s going wrong..
Here’s the reality according to the latest research. In only a 5% fraction of cases do blood tests actually show anything useful that changes anything your doctor recommends. In other words, 95% of the time your blood test will not show anything to help you develop a strategy to get better. 4
In that 5%, usually things like diabetes, heart disease, anemia or hypothyroidism turn up. Or, they might find that the fatigue is a side effect of a drug you’re already taking.
Solutions proposed by holistic and functional medicine
Unfortunately, naturopaths don’t have very effective answers if you’re dealing with fatigue either. “Adrenal fatigue” and cortisol levels are at the center of their beliefs surrounding CFS.
Unfortunately, there is a big gap in understanding on this topic between those in the functional and holistic medical space and the actual scientific evidence on the topic.
Over 25 years of research assessing the relationship of cortisol levels with various fatigue syndromes shows the following.
From 59 individual studies and 20 literature reviews-
- 11 of 59 studies give evidence for higher morning cortisol levels in people with CFS, FM or burnout syndrome
- 15 of 59 studies give evidence for lower morning cortisol levels in people with CFS, FM or burnout syndrome
33 of 59 studies show no significant differences in cortisol levels in people with CFS, FM or burnout syndrome (as in, cortisol does not change as symptoms improve). 5
According to the majority of reviews
According to the majority of 20 additional studies, they show conflicting and contradictory findings. The studies conclude that the majority of people with CFS or burnout have no adrenal (or HPA axis) dysfunction and have normal cortisol levels. 6
As you can probably guess, the studies concluded that research does not support the adrenal fatigue theory. Most people with fatigue syndrome have perfectly normal adrenal function and cortisol levels.
Unfortunately, holistic medicine decided awhile ago to adopt the adrenal fatigue theory and blamed cortisol levels and adrenal dysfunction as the key causes of the fatigue epidemic.
The science shows that view is simply not correct. Still, most holistic practitioners target adrenal fatigue as the root cause of exhaustion for their patients.
Ultimately, this is why fatigue, to me, is an epidemic hiding in plain sight without a viable solution. Conventional medicine basically says “we don’t know what causes it, but we can offer antidepressants, stimulants, and psychotherapy for some symptomatic relief.” Functional medicine chooses an outdated, unscientific, and largely ineffective paradigm to help patients with fatigue.
We have got to do much better than this. This is exactly why I defer to Ari Whitten's program, The Energy Blueprint, to get science-based, effective advice on increasing energy levels that addresses the real root causes of fatigue.
The New Fatigue Paradigm and How to Use it
In just the last few years, research into mitochondrial health has taken center stage as an indicator of unhealthy fatigue levels. Mitochondria are our cellular energy generators, and in them lies a solution to the fatigue epidemic.
Mitochondria are not just mindless energy generators either. They are actually exquisitely sensitive environmental sensors, which we know thanks to Dr. Robert Naviaux’s research on the “Cell Danger Response”.
The mitochondria are the first thing sensing what’s going on in our bodies, including inflammation, psychological stress, exposure to toxins. When any of these situations is sensed, mitochondria literally communicate back to the nucleus of the cell, and dictate our gene expression in response to what they’re sensing about the environment. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
They decide whether the body stays in “Energy Mode” or shifts the body into “Defense Mode” to devote energy and resources into defending against threats. Mitochondrial decisioning in response to your environment is most likely the core reason you either have a high energy body or a fatigued body.
New research in positioning our mitochondria as being the key player in things like:
- Chronic fatigue
- Lack of resilience (low tolerance to stress)
- Depression, anxiety, brain fog, psychiatric disorders (which are all common in people with chronic fatigue) and even neurodegenerative conditions
Depending on our how big, strong, healthy and robust our body’s mitochondria are, stressors can overwhelm our mitochondria’s capacity to deal with stress. This leads to fatigue, fragility (loss of resilience), depression, anxiety and brain fog. Or, our mitochondria can cope with the stress load and maintain homeostasis.
This is your body’s “Resilience Threshold.” And it is directly dependent on how strong your mitochondrial system is. The stronger and more numerous your mitochondria, the more your body can tolerate the stressors of life and maintain a healthy brain. Depression, anxiety, and brain fog are less likely in this case, and you will have a high energy body.
Important Points to Consider about Eliminating Fatigue
To solve the fatigue epidemic, knowing what causes a state of weak and fragile mitochondria that are prone to be lost in larger numbers is a requirement.
Also, we need to know the key stressors that overwhelm our mitochondria and shift our bodies out of “Energy Mode” into “Defense Mode” so we can systematically eliminate them. After that, the question becomes, how do we build our mitochondria back up and switch them back into “Energy Mode”?
Exploring mitochondria as the root cause of fatigue, and how to fix it, is at the core of everything Ari teaches in The Energy Blueprint. If you suffer with CFS or FM and both conventional and functional medicine approaches have failed to help you regain your vitality, Ari's program is worth checking into.