Exhaustion - Nutrition

Do you feel sluggish all the time? … The cause may be adrenal exhaustion, protein breakdown, or some health factor not considered.

The Fatigue Series

We divided ‘Why am I so Tired?’ blogs into three subtopics: i) energy nutrients and food intolerances, ii) sluggish thyroid function and heavy metals, and iii) adrenal exhaustion and protein breakdown (current blog).  The human body has about 15 top syndromes associated with fatigue and physical and mental health.

This article is part of the BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND.   Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

Adrenal Exhaustion as a Cause of Fatigue     

Low adrenal function is so common today.  The adrenal gland is involved in the body’s stress response and produces metabolites that are involved in regulating blood pressure, sugar metabolism, protein breakdown (discussed herein), nervous system metabolism, female and male hormone metabolism, and immune/inflammatory metabolism.  As described in Part 2 of this series, the adrenal gland works with the thyroid gland and if the thyroid is depleted the adrenal gland is often under-supported.  Low adrenal function often reveals itself as a form of adrenal anxiety in adults and kids.

People who suffer from fatigue often suffer from global symptoms related to adrenal exhaustion.

The Adrenal Stress Response

If your adrenal is sluggish you can’t adapt to temperature or other aspects of your environment (e.g. the external stress of life, or the raising of blood pressure to your head when you stand up).  Your ability to adapt to a changing environment is dependent on the efficient production and appropriate release of adrenal hormones; the main adrenal hormones are cortisol and adrenaline.  Cortisol elevation is common in our response to stress but problematic if it stays elevated.  Often see vacillating spikes of cortisol and adrenaline and if the problem is not addressed, the adrenal gland eventually gives up (the adrenal exhaustion stage) and stops producing one or more adrenal hormones.

Adrenal Exhaustion: The BodyMindLink

Sluggish adrenal function is often associated with a slow metabolism.  Physical symptoms of low adrenal metabolism include tiredness, mid-day sluggishness, frequent infections, allergies, arthritis, difficulty losing weight, and feeling worn-out.   Mental symptoms associated with a sluggish adrenal include brain fog, lethargy, anxiety, depression, nervousness, fear, poor memory, difficulty concentrating and insomnia (waking in the middle of the night).

Exhaustion Due To Protein Breakdown

Protein makes up 45% of your body weight.  The adrenal hormone cortisol breaks down protein.  If the cortisol system is dominant then you are in a state similar to that of a protein deficiency state.  Protein breakdown affects all protein dependent body systems.  The immune system for example requires protein immunoglobulins to fight infection.  Your brain requires protein communication molecules, neurotransmitters.

For energy maintenance your body needs energy molecules (ATP) which are made with protein metabolites.  

Your musculo-skeletal system requires muscles, connective tissues, and bones which are protein structures.  Musculoskeletal pain can result from the lack of protein.  We see kids with a ‘failure to thrive’ characteristics that don’t reach developmental height-weight landmarks; we also see adults with protein dependent body mass depletion.

Your digestive tract is a protein structure that regenerates daily to maintain its integrity.  Digestive enzymes are proteins that are required for nutrient absorption.

The body requires specific protein metabolites which are derived from dietary protein and the body’s use of these building blocks.  Forming specific proteins requires zinc and vitamin B6 and the efficient metabolism of various body systems.

Protein breakdown and its effects on mental health are discussed in my mood/behavior disorder review and in my orthomolecular treatment response case series.  The use of high quality protein and protein rich diets and snacks are integral to our physical and mental health.

Protein Breakdown: The BodyMindLink

Physical symptoms associated with protein breakdown include tiredness with reduced stamina, general weakness especially while doing strenuous activities, flabby muscles, poor wound healing, brittle hair, hair loss/thinning, ridges on nails, swelling extremities, pale skin, skin rashes, headaches, fainting, anemia, low blood sugar, and weight imbalance.  Mental symptoms associated with protein breakdown include insomnia or any mental health symptom/condition including irritability, nervousness, poor memory, poor motivation, disinterest, ADD, anxiety, depression, OCD, and schizophrenia.