“Hey Doc, why is my wife always so tired?”
“Well, she doesn’t have the energy to exercise. She takes loads of vitamins but those don’t do a thing. I worry about her because she always seems down on herself. She’s not the same person I married anymore. Do you see any of that in your practice?”
Do I see any of that in my practice? Hmmm . . . let me see. Of all the complaints women come into our clinic with, fatigue is by far number 1. Number 2 is probably anxiety and mild depression. These women are trying to fight it, but they are losing the battle. If they fight for very long without any success at all, they give up.
Let’s look at an example. I had a lady and her husband come in for a consultation about five months ago. She was probably 5’2” and weighed about 280 pounds. Her biggest complaint was acute anxiety, followed by fatigue, then weight. She was pretty much hopeless, having been yo-yo dieting for years. We sent her in to have all her hormones tested (which had never been done before, despite multiple visits to various doctors) and, just on a hunch, because of her high anxiety levels, I added a couple of other tests. Sure enough, it came back telling us that she had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis—an autoimmune condition that is the most common cause of thyroid problems in women today.
That means that her immune system (which is normally her friend) was attacking her thyroid, trying to destroy it. This, in turn, was causing inflammation all over her body. Once we made the necessary dietary changes (especially the one single food she could never again eat) and got her thyroid corrected, here is what happened: within a little over one month, she had literally no anxiety (which actually really surprised me), and she had lost 31 pounds. The last time I saw her she was down 81 pounds and had so much more energy I hardly recognized her.
Now why do I tell you this story? Because she actually did something positive for herself. Let’s talk about why 95 percent of women will never do this. You will read this article and do nothing. You will never get your blood tested to see if your hormones are imbalanced. You won’t ever ask your doctor to even check your hormones. You probably will never change the way you eat, and you certainly won’t ever stop drinking your diet sodas. You will not begin a simple program to change your health for the rest of your life. You will continue on your current path. You will complain that you are tired and moody and don’t even want to be around those you say you love. And you will tell people it’s not your fault because you have tried things in the past and nothing worked.
Why? Why do the vast majority of sophisticated, intelligent people like you end up in this trap? It’s called the “normalcy bias.” It’s difficult for people to try new things or understand something when it is a complete break from their previous experiences. They have a bias toward their own, cozy little comfort zone. This bias isn't logical—but people simply cannot conceive of ideas that are too far outside what's "normal." I understand. It can be very difficult, even painful, to try something new.
This reminds me of the two frogs hopping down a muddy back road. All of a sudden they had both fallen into a big tire rut, so deep they couldn’t get out. Finally one of the frogs jumped high enough to get out of the rut. He encouraged his buddy to keep trying—but to no avail. The unsuccessful frog just could not make it out no matter what he tried. So the successful frog, seeing the sun going down, said good bye and hopped off to the nearest pond. About one hour later, the unsuccessful frog joined the first frog on the lily pad. “How did you make it out of the rut?” the first frog asked. “Well, I was sitting there in the darkness feeling sorry for myself, and all of a sudden a truck came heading down the rut, and then I had to get out!”
Here’s what I suggest for dealing with your fatigue: first, take baby steps to get out of the health rut you are in. What you’ve been doing hasn’t been working for you, so do something else. Tell your doctor you want all your hormones tested. That’s a baby step. Tell him you don’t want an antidepressant—that’s not your problem. The chemicals in your body (hormones) are out of balance—and when they are out of balance, you are out of control.
Here are some questions for your doctor:
• “Doctor, I’m constantly tired. I think my thyroid is low. Would you please check my T3 this time?”
• “I’ve told you about my PMS problems, doctor, but you’ve never tested my progesterone levels. Why not?”
• “Doctor Smith, I have a question. I’ve been complaining to you about my weight for years, and all you tell me is to eat less and exercise more, and it’s not working. Would you please check all my hormone levels?”
• Go to the Utah Wellness Center’s website and take the online thyroid test: http://utahwellnessinstitute.com/the-learning-center/thyroid-test/
Take that baby step before you hear that truck coming down your rut.
(Dr. Jones is the clinic director at the Utah Wellness Institute and Center for Hormone Therapy in Draper, Utah. 801.576.1155, www.utahwellness institute.com)