Low energy affects everyone at some point. But with so many possible causes, it can be difficult to determine whether your lack of energy is due to something benign, like a snoring partner, or something a little more sinister such as an underlying health condition.
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that play a major role in low energy. Assessing your thyroid health may be important especially if you find yourself always exhausted, or if you constantly need coffee to help you get through the day. In fact, your family doctor may sometimes overlook your thyroid condition especially if he or she is only relying on basic screening. Thyroid hormones are under the control of the brain and it is sometimes important to take a deep dive to properly assess your thyroid health.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re experiencing low energy and how a naturopathic doctor can help balance your hormone levels naturally.
Low energy is usually caused by an underlying hormone imbalance. The main job of your thyroid gland is to produce hormones that are needed to regulate metabolism, energy, and proper growth and development. Problems occur when there is an imbalance in your hormone levels.
There are two primary thyroid conditions that affect your energy. Most people suffer from hypothyroidism, which occurs when your thyroid does not produce enough hormones. This leaves you feeling lethargic, sleepy, cold and weak all the time, in addition to feeling puffy and unable to lose weight.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces too many hormones. This can make you feel anxious and nervous with bouts of diarrhea, as well as lead to heart flutters and insomnia.
A hormonal imbalance may be genetic, but most of the time it is caused by diet and lifestyle choices. Research shows that stress can alter thyroid hormone secretion and affect energy levels (1). Hypothyroidism is also largely driven by inflammation and oxidative stress in the body (2). You may experience oxidative stress when you eat too many processed foods, experience chronic stress, and don’t exercise enough. This sparks chronic inflammation in the body (3) and hence hormone imbalances.
Thyroid problems rarely occur in isolation. It is important to take a full body approach to treating thyroid conditions. The adrenals and ovaries (or testes) have to also be addressed in order to treat the underlying dysfunction of the thyroid. The liver, kidneys, brain and skeletal muscle are all involved in the conversion of less active to more active thyroid hormone and should also be addressed as part of a comprehensive plan.
Some people may experience low energy due to an underlying autoimmune thyroid condition. An autoimmune disease occurs when your body mistakenly attacks its own tissues and cells. Research shows that autoimmune conditions are largely triggered by inflammation. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and eventually destroys it. This affects the amount of hormones that the thyroid gland produces, which leaves you feeling fatigued and sluggish. Luckily, there are ways to control inflammation naturally without the use of harsh medications.
The key to restoring your energy levels naturally is to balance your hormone levels. This can be done by restoring the body’s biological clock, adopting the proper diet plan, exercising, and finding healthy ways to reduce stress.
The first thing you’ll want to do is visit a certified naturopath who can confirm that your hormone levels are low and rule out an autoimmune Hashimotos diagnosis. Most general practitioners do not test for antibodies, which can help detect an autoimmune disease. This is why so many people with Hashimoto’s aren’t even aware of their condition.
Your naturopathic doctor can help you make the following changes to your diet and lifestyle habits to address your thyroid problem and other hormone imbalances:
Diet is perhaps the best treatment for controlling any autoimmune condition and maintaining a healthy thyroid gland. Keep in mind that there are certain foods known as goitrogens that you want to stay away from if you have a thyroid problem.
Your naturopathic doctor can do food sensitivity testing to determine which foods you are compatible with and which foods contribute to inflammation.
If you are suffering from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune paleo diet (AIP) may help reduce inflammation in the body and ensure that the thyroid gland is not under constant attack by the immune system.
It’s important to find a healthy outlet for stress. Proper exercise that is not too strenuous can help reduce stress that nags at your thyroid gland and help you feel more energized. Exercise can also help you sleep better, which impacts your hormones and thyroid gland. Your sleep cycle is known as the circadian rhythm and improving this can greatly improve thyroid function.
Stress can affect hormone levels such as cortisol that keep you awake at night. Getting proper rest is important as it ensures that you have more energy throughout the day and better concentration levels.
If you are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, then it’s important to stay away from certain nutrients that can make it worse, such as too much iodine. Selenium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin A are important nutrients for the maintenance of good thyroid health and you may need to supplement. Along with providing a personalized diet and exercise plan, your naturopathic doctor will likely recommend a full supplementation plan and or herbal remedies as required.
Conventional pharmaceutical treatments are commonly prescribed to address thyroid conditions but these may not address the underlying cause.
- Helmreich DL, Parfitt DB, Lu XY, Akil H, Watson SJ. Relation between the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis during repeated stress. Neuroendocrinology. 2005;81(3):183-92.
- Mancini A, Di segni C, Raimondo S, et al. Thyroid Hormones, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:6757154.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does the thyroid gland work? 2010 Nov 17 [Updated 2018 Apr 19]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/