One day in January 2016, I sat at my desk looking at my labs in shocked silence. No one was home, I was alone staring at my lab report.
I knew something was wrong. For weeks, I had been crashing in the afternoon. Nothing in the tank and no energy to do anything about it.
But I had no idea I was nearing death.
As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I ran several lab tests on myself. And they confirmed that I needed attention in a few areas. I already knew stress was a problem.
I had recently lost a cat to a bowel obstruction two weeks after I lost my mother to cancer, and 6 months after I lost my step-mother suddenly to heart disease. I had been on leave without pay for months taking care of family issues, and once back at work the pressure was piling on to take care of lost production time.
Additionally, I had my father to take care of, an estate to deal with, houses to care for and I was planning to move.
Yes, stress was a BIG factor. I knew it, expected it…but I didn’t expect how close to death I was.
I didn’t realize I wasn’t managing, because I was sleeping. I did wake up at night, but still felt like I was sleeping okay. But my afternoons were horrible. I was so physically tired in the afternoons, that I would take unintended naps.
Looks at my lab report though, I didn’t know how I was sleeping at all. I was barely producing any Melatonin at all. Melatonin is the hormone that supports sleep and helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
However, once I was able to grasp what my Cortisol sum was telling me, I realized why I was sleeping – and why I couldn’t help but fall asleep in the afternoons.
I wasn’t producing very much cortisol.
Not literally, but essentially, if your cortisol sum is 0 – you’re dead. I was looking at a 9.
And all my hormones were low. All of them!
I was in major Burn Out territory.
The International Labor Organization estimates that at least 10 percent of the workforce in the United States experiences Burn Out.
You may not even realize it’s happening to you.
The symptoms can be subtle and seem ‘normal.’ Fatigue, headaches, unable to focus – easily distracted, disturbed sleep patterns, aches & pains, feelings of apathy and meaninglessness, and detachment.
Sounds a little like getting older and having a mid-life crisis to me.
The problem is, you are expected and rewarded to doing more, pushing yourself to achieve more and women in particular tend to put themselves last.
And the root cause within the body isn’t being addressed.
According to Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium, burn out is characterized by a burning out of their hormones – altogether. “When hormone levels are measured, there is a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone/estrogen and progesterone deficiency and oxytocin deficiency.”
The endocrine system – your hormone system – is connected to your nervous system via the Hypothalamus. There are three axis, with the stress axis Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal (HPA Axis) being the primary one. The other two; HPT (Thyroid) and HPG (Gonads; Ovaries and Testes) also share the Hypothalamus and the Pituitary to function. If one system burns out, this can cause a ripple or cascade affect across the other two.
Additionally, all hormones start out with the same building blocks and many rely on the same prehormones – hormones that are the necessary precursors to other hormones.
If one system is burning out, it will pull additional resources away the other two systems.
Now you can see how stress can lead to not only burn out, but hormone dysregulation period, even if you don’t reach the low levels of cortisol that induces burn out.
Hormone therapy may help alleviate some of your symptoms, but it doesn’t address the cause of them and that may make your situation worse.
Anyone with a nurturing predisposition is going to want to take care of others before they take care of themselves.
But that can kill you.
You want to take this seriously. If you really want to put others before you, think of it this way – if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be there for them.
Start with restructuring aspects of your lifestyle. I’m not suggesting a complete overhaul or running off to a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand. I’m suggesting a few shifts in how you to do thing snow, and over time you can continue to shift until you find a happy place.
The 5-Step Burn Out Solution
Optimize nutrition – eat more according to human dietary needs and adjust according to your unique requirements. This may mean removing foods you are currently sensitive too. Food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies, and over time you may be able to reintroduce them into your diet.
Optimizing nutrition doesn’t just mean eating healthy. It also requires ensuring you can digest and assimilate the nutrients you are consuming.
Back in 2013, I took a test that also shocked me. I ate very well, and yet I was malnourished. I wasn’t digesting my food and transporting nutrients to my cells due to several factors.
So always pay attention to gut health and your ability to digest your food.
Move your body – your body needs to move to flush your lymph system, to move fluid throughout your body so you can get nutrients to your cells.
Additionally, movement helps to metabolize remove excess hormones – including stress hormones, toxins and waste materials from the body. It helps to improve heart and lung function, and increases feel-good chemistry. And supports muscle tone and strength – you’ll look and feel better.
Rest & Practice Stress Relief – You want to get to know your limits, understand your triggers and know how to stay within your energy envelope.
“Energy Envelope Theory is a self-management tool developed and tested by Dr. Leonard Jason to reduce symptom severity and the frequency of relapses for people with ME/CFS. According to this theory, ME/CFS patients should not expend more energy than they perceive they have, as this results in post-exertional malaise and higher disability.”
As a woman with fibromyalgia, I am very familiar with what an energy envelope is. However, this concept I find is quite beneficial for everyone. We all have energy limits for one reason or another. It could just be for the day after little sleep or it could be due to ongoing issue, such as Burn Out.
Dr. Jason’s theory revolves around physical energy, but I recommend you consider mental and emotional energy as well.
Influence Your Environments – You have both internal environments and external environments. Internally, the two environments you have the most direct influence over are your mind and your gut.
In regard to your mind, I’m not an advocate for ‘positive thinking,’ because I believe your negative thoughts have a very important purpose. For now, I recommend that when you are feeling negatively, try to understand why and consider if there is something you can do at the moment or if it’s important to you and your happiness.
Gut health may require some additional support, but how you can immediately influence it is by eating lots of greens and other vegetables, high-quality lean protein and quality fats like avocado, olive oil and grass-feed butter or ghee. And eating calmly, and chew well.
External environments may seem out of your control, but you actually have a lot of influence over them as well. Take a moment to assess your living and work areas. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable – change it.
For instance, I had two recliner chairs I had inherited from my mother. They were nearly brand new and beautifully upholstered. They went very well in the room. But I hated them. They kept my husband and I separated from each other – we couldn’t cuddle. The fabric was being pulled by my cat’s nails just because he got up on the chair, and I felt they were getting shabby which created guilt. My mother loved those chairs, she did a lot to pick them out and get the fabric right. So, I donated them and bought a big comfy couch I love. The whole room changed, and I have no guilt when I walk into the room.
Work on the physiological Root Causes – This requires assistance. You will need to do some testing to determine what your physiological root causes are. Understandably, we know that external stress is to blame for much of what’s going on, but you also have internal stressors.
At a minimum, you want diagnostic testing that assesses your gut function, metabolic profile and a broad-spectrum hormone panel that includes an in-depth look at your stress hormones and prehormones – hormones that are the necessary precursors to other hormones.
And this could be the very reason why your hormone therapy only worked for a while.
I also recommend food sensitivity testing and possibly a neurotransmitter panel. Food sensitivities trigger your immune response triggering your stress response and diminishes your ability to digest food.
The neurotransmitter panel can help provide insight on how to achieve more immediate relief.
Testing also provides a foundation in which your health practitioner can build a natural supplement protocol.
Natural Supplement Protocols
You can search the Internet and find lots of advice for supplements that ‘will reverse’ your condition. But do you know exactly what your condition is?
That’s the problem with taking random supplements you read about.
You can have the same exact symptoms, but have very different root causes. It’s possible to have both high and low cortisol levels for instance. One supplement may help with low cortisol, but exasperate your condition when you have high cortisol.
Or you could take a supplement that increases your ratio of estrogen tin relation to your progesterone causing you to have estrogen dominance, creating new problems.
And if you’re on medications, your supplements can interact with them having a negative effect. For instance, St. John’s Wort commonly used for aid with reducing stress reacts negatively when on anti-depressants.
In my practice, I often develop supplement protocols for my clients. They can help speed up relief and correction. But my aim is to support the body’s natural ability to heal and function, and that means supplements are only a short-term solution, not a total solution.
The only time a prescription or a supplement should be long-term is if the body is unable to function without it such as in the case of my mother needing thyroid after having her thyroid gland removed. The other time is when your natural sources are lacking for instance, depleted soil resulting in lower nutrient density.
I encourage everyone to work with their body as naturally as possible. We do not understand everything about how our bodies work. Medicine is an evolving science. However, both prescription medication and supplements do have a place – you just want to have assistance when using them. Someone who understands what to look for to see if they are working or not, and to help you avoid taking them unnecessarily or dangerously.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed – easy to do when you’re feeling Burned Out, and need advice…I can help.
It’s important to realize that if you continue what you’re doing now, your condition will not improve. It is most likely going to get worse. You deserve to feel great, be the person you know yourself to be – can be.
I’m no longer on death’s door, and you don’t have to feel like you are. Click on the button below and fill out the health questionnaire and once you click Submit you can schedule your FREE Hormone Troubleshooting Session.
We’ll to two things. First, we’ll dig deeper into your health history and identify possible root causes. Next, you’ll get a short-term and a possible long-term solution to help you toward feeling like yourself again.
You can have energy all day, sleep well at night, have happy hormones and feel like yourself again. And it doesn’t have to take a long time or be stressful. The key is to know what you’re dealing with.
Your partner in health,
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