IBS stress management

Chronic fatigue is real. Trust me, I’ve been there! I used to be that guy that would sacrifice my morning shower just to get 10 more minutes of sleep in the morning before work. Eeek! I’d wake up so tired, chug coffee way too fast, and get the jitters so bad I wouldn’t be able to think straight. I’d be energized for a few hours then crash yet again in the afternoon. It was not a sustainable routine. So what was wrong, what did I do? I started asking for help. Most doctors said it was all in my head, but no matter how hard I tried, I was definitely not thinking the brain fog away.

Chronic fatigue can be a big trigger of depression, and they often go hand in hand. Being productive is one of the most energizing and inspiring parts of being human. Hence why chronic fatigue, which can be debilitating, can be so depressing and demoralizing. Not all of us want to be an eternal couch potato!

It’s so important to have a healthy relationship with what you do and honestly, it’s not ok to be living a life of barely getting out of bed every day. But is there a fix? There is and there is light at the end of that long dark tunnel. So let’s nerd our for a minute and talk about the research on this debilitating condition. 

What is chronic fatigue?

The real frustrating part is that…fatigue can be from so many different causes that it’s one of the hardest to pin down. One of the more common yet unheard of causes is something called mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are little organelles that live inside your cells and help you produce energy out of the energy stored in our body. Thus when they break down everything breaks down and ya gonna start to feel like crap. 

So how does this work? It starts with the production of a tiny molecule called ATP, forged out of the breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins. ATP is the primary molecule for energy production in our body and is extracted from glycogen or fat stores like cash withdraws at a bank. 

Fun fact: Science has it that these little critters used to be different organisms and actually merged with us at some point to become a part our metabolism. They even have their own DNA ? 

The bottom line is that we need healthy mitochondria to process the nutrients like carbs and fats inside each cell. However they can be damaged by all kinds of stressors like toxins, inflammation, and nutrient deficiencies, etc. So when they start to meltdown… and we don’t get the energy we need… GUESS WHAT?

WE get TIRED AF!

How do you test for chronic fatigue?

You can test your mitochondrial function with something called organic acid testing or OAT. Based off your urine, you can see if your little engines are over worked, stressing out, or completely kaput! OAT testing offers a multitude of biomarkers to assess your energy metabolism. The markers mostly make up the TCA cycle we all learned about in our high school biology class… although for those of you who have not, I’ll do a little crash course. 

First it starts with a little molecule called Acetyl CoA which is transported into the mitochondria from other places of the cell as a byproduct of the enzymatic breakdown of fats, carbs, and proteins. When this builds up it gets converted into a multitude of other molecules one step at a time, ending back at acetyl CoA once again, creating a full cycle. Each metabolic step of the process creates an accumulation of byproducts such as NAD and FAD which are then processed through the electron transport chain which uses these molecules to produce ATP. 

Sometimes the mitochondria get overwhelmed, damaged, or just simply destroyed and various byproducts will be produced which can be measured to screen for it. For example, the breakdown of fats gets outsourced into little mini energy producing engines known as peroxisomes. When this happens it produces a few specific byproducts that can then be measured such asadipic, suberic, and ethylmalonicacids. Another sign of mitochondrial distress is when there happens to be high levels of oxidative stress present, which happens naturally as a byproduct of energy production (similar to how engines produce smoke). This could indicate that the mitochondria are processing too much and don’t have enough protection from antioxidants. 

What causes mitochondrial issues?

Mitochondria can be stress out or damaged from a number of different causes, things that come from outside the body and things that come from within. 

Things that come from outside the body:

So outside the body you can develop a toxicity from things that can be straight up poisonous like chemicals or heavy metals in food, air, water, cosmetics, etc which can build up in your body if you’re exposed to enough of them or struggle to detoxify them adequately. You can also develop a toxicity from health promoting foods by simply over eating or drinking foods and beverages which forces your body into overload.

Aside from poisons, the body can develop a toxicity from microbial infections such as viruses, bacteria, mold, parasites, etc that release toxins into the blood stream and damage the metabolic proteins in your tissues.

Things that happen within the body: 

 Theres a multitude of possibilities that could go wrong inside the body and produce mitochondrial stress. However, it primarily involves the natural production of chemicals per the natural detoxification process of things like hormones and such, the production of toxic chemicals by non-infectious microbes in the gut, and inflammatory reactions to foods or even self tissue by the immune system. 

Inflammation is essentially like a little war happening inside your body. The soldiers (or white blood cells) are fighting off what they think to be a threat, based on the messages they receive from commanders in charge, and using a form of attack that may or may not produce collateral damage. Ultimately if the body is attacking more things, whether it be a true threat or not, the collateral damage creates oxidative stress which can damage nearby cells and their mitochondria. 

How do you heal chronic fatigue with diet? 

Well, first you have to start by removing any triggers of toxicity from your outside environment. Whether that is shifting down your caloric intake to avoid eating too much overall, or changing which foods you eat and how you prepare them to to avoid consuming too many toxins or inflammatory triggers.

One of the best ways to help mitochondria heal is to eat a lower carbohydrate diet. Carbs will burn fast in the mitochondria, but will also produce a lot of excess oxidation. Unlike fats, excess carbohydrate combustion may induce more mitochondrial damage when there’s already issues present. Thus, an ideal carb intake is recommended to include around 20-40% of overall calories coming from carbs. Low carb paleo, and mild ketogenic diets may give you good ideas on how this may look.

Next is to focus on removing any triggers of toxicity from the internal environment such as in your gut , your brain, your blood, etc. Thus you may have chronic infections that you need to address, you may have heavy metals that require moving through a detox program to support the excretion of those toxins.  This requires testing to confirm the issue and following a personalized protocol to eradicate whatever you test positive for. If infections happen to be in the gut, then I’d recommend checking out my webinar about personalized gut restoration to get a feel for what that could look like. Otherwise, detoxification protocols can be personalized to address specific toxins that are present, or genetic issues identified by a few genetic tests on the market. Either way, detoxification will support the bodies ability to reboot your energy producing pathways.

One thing to know is that some chronic infections, like the Epstein bar virus or Lyme disease, can be difficult to eradicate. Thus, if you have chronic infections that won’t go away then it may be helpful to support the immune system with plenty of high vitamin C and zinc foods like bell peppers, strawberries, pumpkin seeds, and oysters. Of course, supporting gut health is crucial to this as well. Certain herbs such as beta-glucan and medicinal mushrooms can be very helpful in this regard. 

Once you have done a good job of removing various infections, toxins, and other inflammatory triggers it’s time to start focusing your attention on healing. The mitochondria can be healed by supporting their physical structure with omega 3 fatty acids, and by supporting the environment with antioxidants like zinc, selenium, manganese, glutathione, and vitamin E. You can also support the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria with L-Carnitine and riboflavin. As your energy improves it will be best to start reducing caffeine intake and replace it with some adaptogenic herbs that support your adrenals like rhodiola, holy basil, or ashwaganda. Aerobic exercise is also a great way to start building healthier mitochondria.

Conclusion

Chronic fatigue can be a real challenge to figure out. However, with a specific set of goals like identifying the root issue and the drain in the ocean you can produce a personalized protocol to address it. With enough time and health eating you can recover. It just takes a little focus, a little discipline, and a lot of self love.

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