The Irritable, Tired, Foggy-Brained Woman

Is this you? Maybe your wife or your friend? In my practice I treat women with these issues on a daily basis. Who are these women? It used to be working mothers typically in their 30s and 40s, juggling careers with children and marriage, social obligations, personal health, and beauty regimens. But lately the spectrum has broadened, from teenage girls battling anxiety to 20 year-olds fresh out of college but utterly burnt out, to 50+ year old women struggling through menopause and feelingl like their bodies and brains are betraying them.

I want to talk about this because it’s deeply relevant to so many of my readers. In this particular season in my life, I don’t want to write another science-y blog about how gut dysbiosis can disrupt the proper regulation of estrogen circulation (which can be shown on a DUTCH hormone test), or how low levels of methylmalonate on your GI-MAP gut test indicate not just low levels of vitamin B12, but also point to the possibility of poor digestion at the stomach level, or even psychological stress as it suppresses the vagus nerve and consequently stunts digestive function throughout the entire GI tract. I love the science and I thoroughly enjoy analyzing Functional Medicine lab results for my patients, but it’s not what I want to write about today. Some of us like the science, but most of us get lost in the lingo. So let’s talk about something most everybody can relate to: irritability, fatigue, and brain fog.

IRRITABILITY

Irritability is often the first sign that we are off-balance. When we are easily triggered, increasingly sensitive, and short-fused, it’s a clear indication that we are not right within ourselves. We need to refocus our priorities and realign our activities with what truly nourishes our bodies and restores our souls. Irritability happens when we’ve gotten lost in the mundane and forgotten that we are creative, purpose-filled women who need play and fun and adventure and wide open spaces of time to connect and create. Irritability happens when we’ve been living at either end of the spectrum – either giving too much of ourselves and not refueling, or focusing too much on ourselves and not giving enough to others. Of course, lack of movement and poor food choices can increase our irritability. Eating too many sugars and refined carbs, and not enough vegetables like leafy greens  – increases inflammation in our brains and bodies. This in turn disrupts our hormones and neurotransmitters and zaps our joyful moods. We lose resiliency. We fall short of our best selves.

FATIGUE

Fatigue is another pervasive issue with women. Waking up tired and unrefreshed, dragging throughout the day, crashing around 3pm – these are common phenomena, indicative of classic adrenal fatigue. The roots of adrenal fatigue lie in blood sugar imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, low afternoon cortisol, insufficient sleep, overwork, and of course, unmitigated stress. There are other roots, but these are the most common. This is why conventional medicine is so ill-equipped to treat fatigue. What can a pill, shot, or surgery do for diet, stress, and lifestyle issues that are at the core of fatigue? And this is why Functional Medicine is the answer, because it looks at the whole you – spirit, mind, and body – in the context of your life experiences. Maybe you’re fatigued because your spirit isn’t connected to God, the source of all life. Maybe you’re fatigued because your mind never rests. Maybe you’re fatigued because your body is stuck in a cycle of fatigue → too tired to exercise → weaker muscles → weaker and fewer mitochondria → less cellular energy production → more fatigue → too tired to exercise → weaker muscles → etc…

You have to break the cycle. And I will add here that to break the cycle, you have to break away from social media and screens in general. The fast and false dopamine hits from superficial likes and comments, the blue lights that disrupt your circadian rhythm, the unedifying chatter, the deluge of messages and propaganda and marketing and catastrophe-bent news, and the addictive nature of the machine that is the internet – these are all energy-zappers, joy-depleters, and peace-robbers. You must guard your mind if you want to have more energy.

BRAIN FOG

Brain fog, like fatigue, can be caused and influenced by a great many things. Stress, food, and movement top the list, as always. Brain fog often clears up once stress is managed, food choices are optimized, and exercise becomes a regular, habituated activity. But sometimes there are unique health situations that are at the root of brain fog. Specific issues like mercury toxicity, mold exposure, and yeast infections can all damage cognitive function so you can’t think straight or focus well. It’s surprisingly common to have mold exposure (from water-damaged buildings) or yeast overgrowth (from stress, eating too much sugar and carbs, taking antibiotics, etc). The problem with molds and yeasts is that they release biotoxins such as spores and acetaldehyde that inflame your brain, resulting in brain fog and feelings of intoxication and disequilibrium. In other words, you can feel unclear, drunk, and off-balance. Fortunately, we can test for these types of exposures with Functional Medicine tests like a heavy metals hair analysis, mold (mycotoxin) test, or a gut test that pinpoints yeast overgrowth. Brain fog can seem like an elusive issue to fix, but it’s actually quite simple to clear with the right diagnostics and therapies.

Do you want to be less irritable? Would you like to feel energized, sharp, and motivated? Would you like to be a more pleasant, enjoyable person to be around? (tip: ask your partner / children how they feel being around you).

Here Are 5 Things You Can Do To Become Your Best Self:

START WORKING OUT

Don’t deceive yourself with your walks around the block or your 10,000 steps a day. Please understand that taking 10,000 steps a day is certainly better than lying stagnant on a couch all day, but I’ve observed hundreds of patients who do their daily steps and afternoon walks, but are still obese, inflamed, in pain, and fatigued. Simple walking is not transformative enough. You have to sweat. You have to actively build and preserve your muscles with resistance and weights. You have to engage and mobilize all your joints, all your muscles, your body’s full range of motion. I recommend High Intensity Interval Training, heavy weights, hiking, biking, swimming, dancing, jogging on beach sand, and yoga.

EAT AS A HUMAN BEING SHOULD

Think pre-industrial revolution, before mass-produced boxes of cereals and plastic packages of bread and fast-food restaurants on every corner. Think gardens and farms – eat what grows from the earth and, if you’re not vegan, what roams the earth. Greens, beans, seeds, berries, nuts, fish, meats. These are God’s food for us, what we are designed as human beings to eat. These foods are loaded with all the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids, and fibers we need to heal and to feel strong, stable, and sharp.

GET MASSAGED

Getting massaged is the quickest way to get un-irritated, refreshed, and clear-headed. It might not be in and of itself curative of all your woes, but it’s certainly an important part of a balanced woman’s lifestyle. It’s the necessary luxury. Decades of scientific studies show how massages reduce the stress hormone cortisol to quell anxiety and irritability, boost neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin so you feel more cheerful and focused, and improve blood circulation and lymphatic drainage so more oxygenated blood energizes your cells and fewer energy-zapping toxins are lingering in your system.

Could you use a massage asap? CLICK HERE TO LOCK IT IN.

MEDITATE

It’s such a buzz-word in our culture lately, but the science 100% supports it. Meditation calms irritability. It counters physical and especially mental fatigue. It restores brain function. It takes you out of “fight, flight, or freeze” and into “rest, digest, & have sex.” It reduces the perception of pain. It relaxes tense muscles. It reduces blood pressure. It reduces inflammation. It’s one of the closest things we have to a magic pill. That’s why meditation has been a central practice of virtually all religions and ancient cultures. Again, meditation is a practice, not a goal. You just have to, well, practice it. In the practicing of it comes the benefits, the deep states of relaxation and delicious stretches of bliss. Meditation is at once the simplest and hardest thing for many people to do because we’re stuck on the spinning wheel, the rat race, hurried and anxious and busy busy busy. Who has time to meditate? But the truth is, if you don’t have 20 minutes in your day to meditate, something is gravely wrong with how you’re living. All it takes is a choice. Will you choose to do something that’s scientifically, historically, and spiritually proven to reduce stress, strengthen your immune function, increase energy, and sharpen your mind?

GET FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE

Functional Medicine is a systems-based approach to finding and treating the root causes of your health issues. It aims to create health, not band-aid diseases. Let’s meet for a personalized Functional Medicine consultation where you can tell me your whole story and I can help you connect the dots and address the root causes of your health problems. We’ll run the best lab tests for your specific symptoms and get some real data about your brain and body – data that’s actually going to be useful in figuring out a road map to your healing. I’m all about your health and wellness. You’re ready to end the irritability, tiredness, and brain fog. Let’s partner up!

Dr. Jamie is available for Functional Medicine consultations in-person or via webcam. Call us at 562-789-1588 or click here to book your initial session.