Posted by: seattledizzygroup | February 28, 2017

Managing Fatigue Naturally

Natural Ways to Decrease Fatigue

by Jennifer Pilon, ND

of Bastyr Center for Natural Health

(Presented to Seattle Dizzy Group on 1/14/17)

This presentation gives an overview of common medical, emotional, and foundational causes of fatigue and offers natural ways to manage fatigue and increase energy and vitality.

Presentation Goals:

  • Outline common causes of fatigue
  • Understand how managing chronic medical conditions properly can impact fatigue
  • Understand the role of naturopathic medicine in treatment of fatigue
  • Understand the importance of foundations of health in managing fatigue
  • Empower you to address fatigue in foundational, sustainable ways

What Is Fatigue?


Weariness, weakness, depleted energy


Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Drowsiness, decreased alertness, falling asleep easily

Causes of Fatigue

Physiologic Causes

  • Poorly managed chronic medical conditions
  • Medication side effects
  • Adrenal gland dysfunction
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Chronic viral infections
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Food sensitivities
  • Toxic accumulation

Psychological Causes

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

Foundational Causes

  • Lack of exercise/deconditioning
  • Disordered sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of purposed and meaning

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Fatigue

Medications and Fatigue

Many commonly used medications can cause fatigue. Some examples:

  •  Blood pressure medicines (especially beta-blockers)
  • Antidepressants
  • Sleep aids (“hypnotics”)

Medications may deplete important nutrients. Some examples:

  • Metformin depletes B12 (important for nervous system and blood cell production)
  • Statins (for cholesterol) can deplete CoQ10 (can cause muscle pain and muscle fatigue)
  • (*This website gives what nutrients might be depleted by which medications–so you may want to supplement)

Talk to your doctor about your options for medication management.

See your ND to talk about mitigating side effects.

Adrenal Gland Dysfunction

Adrenal Gland Anatomy and Function

Cortisol – Friend or Foe?

Released by adrenal glands in response to stress and low blood sugar


  • Stimulates release of epinephrine – “fight or flight” response
  • Suppresses immune system
  • Decreases bone turnover
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases formation of short-term memories, decreases recall

Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Dysfunction

Supporting Healthy Adrenal Function

Persistent Viral Infections

  • This is a controversial topic in medicine
  • Some viruses like to live in immune cells and may “reactivate” during times of stress or immune suppression
    • Most commonly Epstein-Barr virus
  • Possible symptoms:
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Flu-like symptoms
    • Brain fog
    • Recurring sore throat and/or swollen lymph nodes
  • Diagnosed with antibody lab testing
  • Your ND can provide nutritional medicine, hydrotherapy and herbal medicines to help

Food Sensitivities

Factors Contributing to Food Sensitivities

  • Low stomach acid
  • Impaired integrity of gut lining (“Leaky Gut”)
  • Intestinal dysbiosis
  • Total toxic burden (“full bucket”)
  • Immune hyper-reactivity


Food Sensitivities – How Your ND Can Help

  • Guidance through Elimination/Rechallenge Diet with symptom tracking (eliminate foods for period of time, usually a few weeks, and then reintroduce foods one by one to test tolerance)
  • Expertise in diet modification, especially in the presence of chronic disease
  • Target digestive support to heal the digestive tract
  • Symptomatic relief from digestive symptoms with herbal medicine
  • Identifying other potential immune-exciting triggers
  • Addressing toxic burden and other contributors to a “full bucket”

Dietary Deficiencies and Fatigue

Toxic Burden and Fatigue

Certain toxins have clear links to fatigue and cognitive problems (lead and mercury, for example)

We are exposed to toxins daily, through food, air, and skin

Toxins can affect:

  • Nervous system
  • Immune system
  • Kidney function (especially lead)
  • Skin
  • Liver function

Living Clean – The Basics

  • Eat a varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables
    • Cruciferous veggies
    • Beets
    • Artichoke
    • Onions, garlic
  • Buy the Dirty Dozen organic
  • Fiber is your friend – ideally 30g/day from food
  • Consume adequate protein – important for phase 2 metabolism
  • Sweat regularly – careful with chronic diseases
  • Exercise!
  • Be Seafood Savvy – stick with smaller fish (mackerel, anchovies, sardines)
    • King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and big eye tuna all contain high levels of mercury

Clean 15

Pesticides in Produce

The growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood.  Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends buying organic produce whenever possible in order to reduce exposure to pesticides. However, organics are not accessible or affordable for everyone, so the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen shopping lists help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances. Conventionally grown produce is still better than not eating fruits and vegetables. (

EWG research has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily.  The Guide helps consumers make informed choices to lower their dietary pesticide load.  (Learn more at

Clean Fifteen

  • Onions
  • Avocadoes
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mangoes
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potato
  • Honeydew Melon

Dirty Dozen

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Cherries
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes

Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Detoxification – How Your ND Can Help

  • Expertise in identifying specific toxins of issue
    • Exposure history 
    • Evidence-based laboratory testing
  • Targeted nutritional and supplemental detoxification support
  • Strategies for maximizing diet and lifestyle to minimize exposures
  • Perspective

Disordered Sleep

Consequences of Poor Quality or Insufficient Sleep:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Frequent illness
  • Weight gain
  • Hormonal imbalances (thyroid, reproductive, adrenal)
  • Decreased healing ability
  • Impaired blood sugar regulation
  • Decreased ability to form and recall memories
  • Poor work performance and decreased productivity
  • Increased blood pressure

Factors that Disrupt Melatonin:

  • Blue light exposure in general
  • Shift work
  • Lack of daytime sunlight
  • Exposure to light at night
  • Aging (may decrease melatonin production)

Sleep Hygiene Basics

  • Cut out stimulants
    • coffee, black/green/white tea, colored soda, energy drinks, dark chocolate
  • Consistent sleep/wake times
  • Pay attention to your body
    • Pushing past initial sleep signals an increase stress hormones
  • No TV or work in the bedroom
    • Create positive associations with your bedroom
  • Exercise regularly
  • Dim light in your home after dark
  • Avoid screens 1-2 hours before bedtime (or at least use a blue light filter, for example tinted glasses or an app for screens like F.lux)
  • Use a bedtime alarm app to remind you to wind down for a chosen bedtime
  • Optimal sleep environment: cool, dark, and quiet

Sleep – How Your ND Can Help

  • Addressing depression and/or anxiety
  • Supplementation and diet to stabilize blood sugar
  • Herbal medicine to calm the nervous system, improve sleep quality, and balance adrenal function
  • Stress management techniques
  • Physical medicine to decrease chronic pain that may be affecting sleep
  • Screening for symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and referral for sleep studies

Mood Disorders – The Basics

  • Approximately 6.6% of American adults have active depression
  • 16.6% of Americans will experience major depressive episode at some point
    • Prevalence of depression is higher in individuals with chronic disease
  • Fatigue is a symptom of depression
  • Sleep disturbance, lack of interest and difficulties with concentration and memory may be confused with fatigue
  • Depression can cause physical symptoms, too!
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
    • Seasonal pattern of major depressive episodes

Mood Disorders – How Your ND Can Help

  • Addressing foundations of health – diet, exercise, sleep and meaningful living
    • Light therapy for SAD – Fluorescent 10,000 lux light
    • Start with 10 minutes in the morning, eyes open, 16-31 inches from the face
  • Counseling, support groups, etc.
  • Identifying and treating physical problems affecting your mood
    • Blood sugar regulation, thyroid dysfunction, menopause, etc.
  • Herbal and nutritional mood support
  • Medication and side effect management

Exercise and Energy


  • Improves mood and memory
  • Increases energy production by cells
  • Improves brain function
  • Provides an opportunity for social connection
  • Increases muscles strength and endurance, conditioning you for everyday life

Start with regular, low-moderate intensity

Overtraining can also cause fatigue and mitochondrial dysfunction

Sustainable Skills for Increased Energy

  • Prioritize your health – manage chronic disease (including mental illness) well
  • Prioritize your sleep
  • Manage stress well
  • Diet, diet, diet!
    • Increase fruits and vegetables and emphasize lean proteins and whole grains that you tolerate
    • Identify and eliminate food sensitivities
  • Exercise regularly
    • Apps like 7 Minute Workout and Nike Training Club
    • YMCA is a great resource
  • Identify and eliminate toxic exposures

Additional Health & Wellness Blog Posts:


Jennifer Pilon, ND

of Bastyr Center for Natural Health

Dr. Pilon combines the strengths of conventional medical care with naturopathic wisdom to ensure that patients get safe and effective treatment. She uses counseling, clinical nutrition, supplements, herbal medicine, hands-on therapies and medications when necessary.

Dr. Pilon believes the key to creating long-term changes in your health is to take small, sustainable steps.  She practices from the Health at Every Size philosophy, an approach that focuses on health instead of weight.

Dr. Pilon’s clinical interests include women’s health, male and female infertility, adjunctive treatment of depression and anxiety, environmental medicine and detoxification, hormonal problems (thyroid, adrenal, menopause, etc.), and management of common chronic health conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, arthritis, IBS and pre-diabetes.

More information about Dr. Pilon



Presentation information is not meant to be taken as medical advice.

Presentations posted online may include discussion notes, links, images, and other information added by Seattle Dizzy Group.


© Copyright 2017, Seattle Dizzy Group. All rights reserved.


  1. […] 2017, we had guest speakers on the topics of “Decreasing Fatigue Naturally” and “Tinnitus” as well as “Exercise & Tai Chi Moving for Better […]

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