Low Energy, Fatigue, and Hashimoto’s: Do they Have to go Together?
As someone with Hashimoto’s, I probably don’t need to remind you how you feel from day to day.
It’s not uncommon for women (and men) with this condition to suffer from what some refer to as debilitating fatigue.
This is the type of fatigue that keeps you from enjoying your life. The kind of fatigue that keeps you in bed even after a night of restful sleep. The kind of fatigue that is crushing and relentless.
And while it can feel hopeless if you suffer from this type of fatigue, you should know that it’s something that can be both treated and managed.
And that’s exactly what we are going to talk about today.
Today you will learn…
- The top 5 causes of soul-crushing fatigue in Hashimoto’s patients
- What triggers these conditions and the differences between them
- How to manage these conditions so that you can get your energy and your life back
- And more
Let’s jump in:
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Top 5 Causes of Fatigue in Hashimoto’s Patients
Fatigue in Hashimoto’s is multi-faceted.
That is to say that there is no one single condition that causes fatigue.
Instead, it’s typically a myriad of conditions that blend together and in with one another to create a scenario in which it’s very difficult for your body to create the energy that it needs.
Believe it or not, we don’t actually know what exactly produces the energy that your body needs on a day-to-day basis.
We do know that the energy currency of the cell is something called ATP but it’s not clear whether problems in mitochondria function result in the fatigue that thyroid patients experience.
Even though we don’t know how or where energy is produced in the body, we do know that certain conditions impair this process.
And it is these conditions that we will focus on.
Because they are TREATABLE.
#1. Low Thyroid Function.
The FIRST place you should look if you are feeling low energy is in your neck.
And by your neck, I am referring to your thyroid gland.
Thyroid hormone is probably one of the most important regulators of energy in your entire body (along with your adrenals) and Hashimoto’s causes problems with your thyroid function.
Hashimoto’s results in damage to your thyroid gland which impairs thyroid hormone production.
If you can’t produce enough thyroid hormone then you will feel the symptoms of hypothyroidism and fatigue will come along for the ride.
The key to managing fatigue in a low thyroid state is to simply improve thyroid function.
You can do this in one of two ways:
#1. Take thyroid medication.
This one is obvious.
If you take thyroid medication by mouth then you will automatically increase thyroid function.
If you aren’t taking thyroid medication already then you can start taking it.
If you are taking thyroid medication and you are STILL fatigued, then you would need to increase your dose.
#2. Improve thyroid function naturally.
The second way to improve thyroid function is through natural methods.
My recommendation is to take advantage of BOTH steps as this will provide you with the best results.
Inflammation and Hashimoto’s tend to go together like birds of a feather.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease and inflammation stems from problems with your immune system.
So autoimmune disease and inflammation are basically synonymous with one another.
Widespread inflammation can damage your cells, reduce mitochondrial function, impair energy production, and cause fatigue all by itself.
But it gets even worse when that inflammation is directed RIGHT at your thyroid gland.
Inflammation from autoimmune disease is what causes the permanent and sometimes irreversible damage done by Hashimoto’s to your thyroid gland.
It’s, therefore, in your best interest to reduce inflammation if you have Hashimoto’s at all costs.
General inflammation can stem from a number of different areas so you may need to play around with several changes until you figure out what is causing it.
In my experience, these tend to be the most common sources of inflammation in Hashimoto’s:
- Diet – foods that you are sensitive to can trigger inflammation
- Gut – changes to gut bacterial concentrations may impair your body’s ability to reduce inflammation naturally
- Imbalances in omega 3:6 fatty acids – changes to this ratio come from consuming foods that contain unhealthy oils and which are naturally inflammatory
- Chronic infections (more on this below)
- Lack of sleep
- Selenium deficiency – selenium helps prevent thyroid gland inflammation
Each of these areas can be targeted and treated with some trial and error.
And note that you may want to treat several at once if you notice you have problems in more than one area.
#3. Viral infections (EBV).
Do you remember the last time you were sick with a viral illness?
Something like the flu or another type of flu-like illness?
How was your energy when you were sick? Pretty bad I’m guessing.
So it will probably come as no surprise when I say that certain infections, such as EBV, can perpetuate fatigue in patients with Hashimoto’s.
If you’ve never heard of EBV before, let me introduce you.
EBV is a viral infection that sticks with you for the rest of your life, much like the herpes virus, and it’s been implicated in TRIGGERING Hashimoto’s.
That’s right, EBV can actually CAUSE Hashimoto’s (1) in certain cases.
Not only that, but it sticks around in your body for the rest of your life once you get it.
This virus will come out when it notices that your immune system is weak and some people experience chronic long-term infections.
You can imagine, then, that a virus that is sticking around with you for a long time may obviously cause problems with your energy levels.
And you would be 100% correct.
The fatigue caused by chronic EBV infections is often wrongly attributed to thyroid problems.
And most doctors are not thinking about testing for this infection which sets up a scenario in which diagnosis can be difficult.
The good news is that diagnosing a chronic EBV infection is actually not hard.
You just need to get your doctor to check for IgG and IgM antibodies to the virus.
If you identify that your EBV titers are positive then you can go about taking either prescription medications and/or supplements to treat and suppress the virus.
#4. B Vitamin Deficiencies.
B vitamins, several of them, play a very important role in mitochondrial function (2).
If you don’t have enough of these B vitamins your body will be unable to produce enough ATP in your mitochondria.
As your ATP levels fall, then your body will be unable to perform basic cellular functions and this will be felt as a sense of fatigue or low energy on your part.
What do B vitamins have to do with Hashimoto’s?
Well, it turns out that people with Hashimoto’s have a very hard time absorbing enough B vitamins in their intestinal tract.
This stems from the fact that low thyroid impairs stomach acid production as well as intestinal transit time.
You could be doing everything right, eating a healthy diet, consuming foods high in B vitamins, and still not getting enough.
What’s the solution?
The trick here is to take what I refer to as supraphysiologic doses of B vitamins.
A supraphysiologic dose is a dose that is much higher than what your body would normally mean.
And the reason for doing this is simple:
If your body is only absorbing, let’s say, 20% of B vitamins that you swallow by mouth then you can increase the absorption by increasing the dose that you take.
You are basically flooding the system with extra B vitamins knowing that not all of them will be absorbed.
I recommend using a B complex that contains a wide array of B vitamins that are pre-methylated.
Pre-methylated B vitamins are more rapidly used by the body because they don’t require methylation.
This methylated process is impaired in up to 40% of people who have MTHFR genetic mutations (3).
In addition, you should also take a B vitamin complex that contains vitamin B1 (known as thiamine).
B1 is not frequently found in most B complexes so keep an eye out for it.
#5. Lack of Sleep & Stress
I’m lumping these two areas together even though they could absolutely be separated.
The connection between sleep and your sense of energy levels is so strong that if you aren’t sleeping 8 hours per night then I won’t do anything else until THAT problem is fixed.
You’d be surprised at how many people think that they can thrive on less than 8 hours of restful sleep each night.
It’s just not possible, even if you think your body can handle it.
Those people who get less than 8 hours of sleep each night ARE causing problems and damage to their adrenal system as well as other hormone systems (4) in their bodies.
And these problems can be completely reversed by simply increasing how many hours of sleep you get each night.
Make it a priority to fix or improve your sleep if you aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep each night.
I’ve included stress here as well because stress is often the culprit behind the lack of sleep in women with Hashimoto’s.
Stress leads to a rise in cortisol which impairs sleep duration and quality.
It also can cause anxiety or a racing mind which can be difficult to turn off as you lay in bed at night.
There are all sorts of therapies designed to help improve sleep and stress.
Here are several that you can take advantage of:
- Meditate before bed
- Practice mindfulness and focus on a mindset of gratitude
- Completely avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid technology and screens after 5 p.m. each day
There are many others but I would start with the 4 areas listed above.
#6. Mindset and view of your condition
How you think and what you think plays an important role in determining how likely you are to improve.
This applies to all aspects of life, by the way, but most people don’t really appreciate this concept when it comes to their thyroid health.
As a thyroid patient, you have plenty of things to be frustrated and upset about…
Doctors that don’t know what they are doing, insurance companies that won’t cover the medications you want, the general lack of help and resources for those with Hashimoto’s, the list goes on and on.
But instead of focusing on the things that are not within your control, try to focus on those things that are.
Hashimoto’s is a condition where you can do a LOT of good just by making a few small changes.
And a good mindset can take you the rest of the way.
What do I mean by a good mindset?
You should focus on the GOOD that is in your life. You should focus on gratitude and the things that you are thankful for.
You should have faith that your condition WILL get better and that you WILL find the resources that you need to help your body recover.
I’ve noticed as a physician that mindset plays such a big role in how likely someone is to feel better that I won’t treat people who are not absolutely convinced that they can get better.
And you will see this trend among many physicians who understand the role that mindset plays in restoring optimal health.
Don’t believe me? Why do you think many physicians ask you to fill out a questionnaire before they take you on as a patient?
Patients who KNOW they are going to get better often do.
Just like patients who KNOW they are not going to get better never do.
Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. This applies to many areas in life but also when it comes to your health.
If you have Hashimoto’s, fatigue is not something that you have to live with for the rest of your life.
As you try to figure out what is causing fatigue in your body, make sure you remember that fatigue is often a symptom of something else.
Inflammation, hidden infections, thyroid hormone disruption, lack of sleep, and a poor mindset can all contribute to fatigue in any given patient.
In fact, it’s often more than just one condition… it’s usually 2-3 or more conditions all layered on top of each other.
To manage your fatigue effectively, I recommend taking advantage of the treatment recommendations I’ve listed above.
Now I want to hear from you:
Do you suffer from fatigue from Hashimoto’s?
If so, how would you rate your fatigue on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the WORST and 1 being the best?
Is your fatigue manageable or crushing?
What type of therapies have you tried to improve your energy levels?
Leave your questions or comments below!