Update August 13, 2017: My theories on this subject have changed. Until I can get my act together to update this content, please see this post.
The content below was last updated December 24, 2013.
After reclaiming a huge chunk of my health with some major diet changes, I was so busy enjoying my new peaceful existence that it was two years before I started worrying about the disappearance of my energy. I had gone from sprinting up 50 stairs at a time and biking in snowstorms to being passed on a mountain trail by a pregnant woman in high heels. (I was too demoralized to ask her why she was wearing pumps in a national park.)
If I tried walking around the block for say, three days in a row, my muscles and lung power would recover quickly, but a profound mental exhaustion would set in. It was as if my energy was at 30 percent of normal and had to be carefully allocated among ALL of my biocontainer’s functions.
All the energy I had went into my job. Luckily I only had to drive into work twice a month. Going to the office — driving, parking, walking, carrying a heavy backpack, etc. — meant I would be too tired to fix dinner.
I’ve learned not to mention the fatigue outside my family because it encourages every idiot with a gym membership to tell me how to get back into shape. This isn’t being out of shape. Neither is it chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia or adrenal wackiness. It is undoubtedly partly due to low iron levels and insomnia, but I keep running into a wall just trying to address these.
To wit: iron supplements get my energy level and concentration going in two days, but after two more days I completely stop sleeping. Something is amiss here, but I haven’t been able to figure it out, and all the doctors I’ve mentioned it to, both traditional and alternative, have no answers.
Which brings me to another lesson I’ve learned: if you return repeatedly to a conventional doctor with a problem they can’t solve, they will eventually suggest you need antidepressants. (Never mind that even at the worst of my depression I was walking at least 45 minutes a day.)
In addition to the conditions mentioned above that have been treated or ruled out over the years, I’ve tried repleting the following in big or even megadoses:
- calcium/magnesium (great for 2 months, then lowered my iron levels too much)
- lactoferrin (supplies iron without involving the liver too much, which seems to be an issue, and also reduces inflammation in the liver and everywhere else; was very helpful, but then began contributing to the insomnia)
- methionine or maybe glutathione (my notes say this helped a lot for a while but I cannot remember what it did or how long)
- protein (in powder form)
- vitamin B-complex (helped a little, but worsened insomnia, then induced insanity briefly, but that’s another story)
- vitamin B6 in the form of P5P (big doses helped significantly, then began to cause debilitating headaches)
- vitamin B12
- vitamin D3 (following this neurologist’s guidelines for repletion; helped significantly for five months, then more headaches)
- zinc (worked a bit for a month or so)
- thiamine in the form of benfotiamine and thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD), recommended by someone on Yahoo’s iodine group. Benfotiamine made a huge difference for a month, then stopped working and caused complete insomnia. Had a bit more luck when switched to TTFD and added vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
My adrenal treatments, by the way, included hydrocortisone, acupuncture, adrenal glandulars, traditional Chinese medicine herbs (adaptogens), and cortisol-lowering supplements such as phosphatidylserine and Holy Basil (that’s an herb). All helped a little, but not much.
Other potential issues I investigated to no avail: candida, pyroluria (a chronic vitamin B6 deficiency problem), copper and mercury poisoning, and amino acid/neurotransmitter imbalances.
I also tried increasing my daily caloric intake to 1900 calories for 18 months, which isn’t easy when you have to avoid gluten, goitrogens, and high-histamine foods. This gave me more physical and emotional stamina to get through my usual daily activities, but nothing else. Except for the 20 pounds I gained.
To rule out chronic fatigue syndrome, I visited a specialist at our much-ballyhooed local clinic. When I mentioned the mild success I’d had with zinc, he said it was in my mind: I wanted it to work and it did. When I pointed out that 80% of the things I tried didn’t work, he changed the subject. Then he offered me an antidepressant.
Dr. CFS’ lack of basic reasoning skills did nothing to rebuild my confidence in the health care system. And then there’s his arrogance in assuming that observations outside his purview are not valid data. He should at least have acknowledged that nutritional effects were the territory of another type of doctor.
Yet another reason to never trust a doctor with a beer belly.
(By the way, in case you aren’t familiar with chronic fatigue syndrome, it can be vicious and I am glad not to have it. It typically has a sudden onset and tends to come and go. It first showed up in 1934 among the staff of a Los Angeles hospital and was thought to be a form of polio.)