It is normal to have periods of feeling stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. But what happens to the body when it doesn’t stop? Well, it only takes 6 weeks of constant stress to cause neurological changes in the brain affecting your stress resilience, hormones, moods, digestion, and libido – to name just a few worrying changes.
This article will shed some light on the difference between fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout, signs to look for, a self-test to check your status, must-do testing, and corrective treatment options.
The difference between fatigue and burnout
Feeling tired is normal, and is how our body communicates with us that we need some downtime. Tiredness is common and usually resolves itself quite quickly with good sleep or a break away, or for more serious cases like the flu, a convalescence period.
Some common causes of feeling tired include;
- Having a bad night’s sleep
- Having a larger workload on
- Having visitors for a period of time
- Having an infection – such as gastro, a cold, or a flu such as covid.
So when does tired turn into fatigue, burnout, or exhaustion?
People often intermix the terms tired, and fatigued, but medically they are different things. Unlike being tired, fatigue is constant and can be acute (lasting up to a month) or chronic (lasting more than one month). It can be physical, mental, or a combination of the two and is a symptom that can result due to a number of factors. It does not resolve with a night of good sleep, or a short holiday, and has several underlying factors that need to be addressed to fix it. It can take several months to truly overcome without a holistic approach that incorporated testing, nutritional correction, stress management, and a healthy diet.
Non-hormonal reasons for fatigue:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Excessive caffeine consumption
- Over or under-exercising
- Shift work
- Job boredom and stress
- Insomnia or sleep hygiene issues
- Excessive physical labour
If the above doesn’t really apply, then it could be due to hormones, illness, medication side effects, nutrient deficiency, and/or toxic burden in the body.
However, you know your body. If you know that you are feeling very different than you did 5 or 10 years ago, then there is something out of balance.
Running functional pathology is advised to get answers.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. The term was coined by WHO – the World Health Organisation – in 2019 for workplace-related stress that had not been successfully managed. However, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or relationships.
What is exhaustion?
It is a shorter-lived form of fatigue that can be experienced emotionally, mentally, and physically. If the pressure persists, these periods of exhaustion can build up to become fatigue, or can even contribute to burnout.
Ok, so we have got some basic definitions down pat! Let’s have a look at what your body is really telling you when you are fatigued, exhausted, or burnt out.
Adrenals – 7 signs of men’s burnout
These are classic adrenal dysfunction signs. If you have any of these, you want to get your cortisol levels checked.
- Unable to fall asleep despite being tired
- Craving salt and sugar
- Exercise helps at first, but then makes fatigue worse
- Consistently low blood pressure
- Feeling extremely tired in the afternoon around 3:00 pm
- Abdominal fat accumulation around the gut and back
- Fatty deposit accumulated on the back of the neck.
Here’s a little test to assess your adrenal health
No = 0 | Rarely = 1 | A few times a week = 2 | All the time! = 3
- Are you constantly exhausted and tired?
- Do you have a low sex drive?
- Have you lost muscle tone?
- Are you stressed out?
- Do you have digestive problems?
- Do you have eczema, psoriasis, skin allergies or rashes?
- Do you fall asleep in front of the TV, computer, or reading before bed?
- Do you need to read or watch TV for 15 minutes to be able to get to sleep?
- Do you have a rapid heartbeat?
0 – 5 = Nice! You probably have pretty healthy adrenal glands!
5 – 10 = Elevated – further testing and herbal and nutritional intervention required.
10 + = Severe. Further testing needed. Lifestyle modification and treatment required.
What do the adrenal glands do…
The adrenal glands are small glands that sit above each kidney. The adrenal glands produce steroid hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, and sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen). Cortisol is what people generally refer to as a “stress hormone”.
The purpose of cortisol is to allow our bodies to respond to stress – this could be physical, emotional, hormonal, or mental stress. Cortisol is really beneficial for us in small amounts, over short periods of time – it gives us bursts of energy, focus, and strength.
However – too much cortisol for too long negatively affects our blood sugar levels, our thyroid function, disrupts our sleep, and leads to feelings of anxiety and depression.
What happens when we produce too much cortisol?
The body is only designed to handle stressful situations for short periods of time. However, our lives are becoming more and more stressful! This means that cortisol is constantly being released. If you are in a chronic state of stress, your adrenal glands will be working in overdrive– flooding your body with cortisol. There reaches a point where the adrenal glands cannot keep up with the constant demand for stress hormones – leaving you in a state of adrenal fatigue.
- Increased insulin levels (causing you to store fat – particularly around the gut)
- Increased appetite (leading you to eat too much)
- Increased cravings for sweet, high fat and salty foods (leading you to eat higher-calorie foods)
!!! This is why weight loss is very difficult without first addressing the adrenal glands – and balancing cortisol levels.
How are adrenal hormones linked to thyroid function?
On top of the direct effect of cortisol in affecting our energy, high levels of cortisol also reduce thyroid function.
Men with thyroid dysfunction may have symptoms that are more specific to males, such as:
- Balding/hair loss
- Lower sex drive
- Decreased testosterone levels
- Gynecomastia, male breast enlargement
- Loss of muscle mass and/or strength
There are two main reasons for this:
- Cortisol signals to the pituitary gland to slow down its production of hormones (including thyroid stimulating hormone). This means that as cortisol levels rise, the rate of thyroid hormone production slows down.
- High levels of cortisol will also slow down the conversion of T4 into T3 (active thyroid hormone). This means under periods of continued stress, where cortisol levels are continually high, the levels of active thyroid hormone will drop.
Graves’ disease is relatively uncommon in men, occurring at a rate of around 1 per 10,000. The rate is nearly eight times higher in women. Once Graves disease is treated, men will often swing into hypothyroidism:
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Weight loss
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Faster heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling hot
- Enlarged thyroid
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
Unfortunately, your GP may overlook thyroid symptoms in men since thyroid dysfunction is not nearly as common as it is in women. So if you are ticking a lot of those symptoms, then contact us to get a more thorough screening to pick up the problem.
How you can improve your hormones
For most of us, there is no way to avoid stress, however, it is really important that we learn to manage and reduce our stress levels to avoid a state of adrenal fatigue. Below are some tips to reduce your overall stress levels. This will help you to improve both your adrenal and thyroid functioning and assist with weight loss as a result!
- Eat well: A healthy, balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, and good-quality protein is vital to ensure optimal adrenal and thyroid health. Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar in your diet will also help. It is also really important to eliminate any foods that are causing inflammation in your body – we recommend food intolerance testing to determine exactly what foods will be beneficial for you, and which ones are causing inflammation.
- Ensure adequate vitamin/ mineral intake: you may want to consider adding some vitamins/ minerals to support your thyroid and adrenal functioning. Essential vitamins and minerals to consider are iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. We always recommend working with a professional to determine which supplements will be most beneficial for you.
- Sleep well: it is really important to get good quality sleep, as well as getting enough sleep each night. This is when your body has the chance to heal and repair itself. There are lots of ways we can help you to improve your sleep hygiene as well as to provide supplements to help promote good quality sleep.
- Take time out to relax – this can include things like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, and walking outside in nature. All these things help to reduce stress levels and balance your overall health.
These tips are great, but if you are dealing with fatigue, exhaustion, or burn out, you need some science-based holistic medicine to set you back on track.
Testing and pathology for burnout
This is a list of the most commonly run tests we do for fatigue and burnout, but you may need other specific cases depending on your health history.
- Nutrient deficiencies or excesses. Too much, or too little of a nutrient, drives diseases and imbalances causing fatigue. CLICK to learn more.
- Adrenal hormone status – vital for anyone with an energy issue. The Adrenal Plus Profile provides a much more in-depth examination of your adrenal hormones, including Diurnal (3 times in the day) salivary cortisol – stress and energy hormone. Close examination of your melatonin -sleep neurotransmitter. DHEA hormone levels – antiaging and adrenal hormone
- Functional thyroid hormone testing. A full Thyroid Blood Profile includes the testing of several blood markers including TSH (the standard blood test to screen for thyroid dysfunction through medicare) as well as Free T3, Free T4, Anti-TPO, Anti-TG, Reverse T3, and SHBG. (TRABs available on request) CLICK to learn more.
- Blood Sugar Profile. Energy and sleep issues always have some functional disturbances with the blood sugars in the body. Testing is essential. Blood Sugar Test – Insulin and Glucose Test – The Lucy Rose Clinic
- Sex hormone balance – E2, Progesterone, Testosterone. As we age the ratio between these hormones varies, and imbalances in these ratios can have a wider impact on every other system in the body. CLICK to learn more.
- Cardiovascular markers. This test examines your inflammatory & cardiovascular markers. Triglycerides, CRP, LDL, HDL, Total Cholesterol and Homocysteine. By examining these, we’re able to check for systemic inflammation and disease risk associated with poor thyroid, metabolic functions, and hormone levels. CLICK to learn more.
- Iodine status. Iodine is an essential element for detoxification, thyroid function, cellular health, immunity and for the healthy functioning of the entire hormonal system, including testosterone production in men. CLICK to learn more.
- Food intolerances. Using immunoglobulins, this test is able to see if you have a particular intolerance to certain food types by their reactions in your blood sample. Food reactions can be a major driver of fatigue. Food Intolerance Test – Allergy Test – The Lucy Rose Clinic
Natural medicine for burnout
Addressing fatigue, exhaustion, or burnout needs more than medication to band aid the symptoms – such as anxiety or depression drugs. It is usually more complex than that, involving deep nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalance, toxic load, poor diet choices and an unsupportive lifestyle. Working with a holistic practitioner allows you to get guidance from a trained professional who is experienced in treating the body holistically – taking all these functional factors into account.
We have access to scientifically validated, pharmaceutical-grade herbs that can be used to support adrenal repair, improve cortisol output, calm anxiety, soothe the nervous system, and help to calm a busy mind.
Nutritional deficiencies have a major impact on the body and good diet alone will not correct this, this is where testing your levels first is needed so that supplementation doses are adequate. Most nutritional deficiencies can be optimised in 12 weeks, resulting in a great turnaround in health symptoms!
We use a compounding pharmacy to combine the nutrients you need making your treatment program as easy as possible.
Here is a Google Review left by one of our male clients.
If you would like to discuss your health with one of our experienced and caring team, book in a free 15-minute appointment – to connect and discuss how we can help!