Ask The Doctor: Fatigue, Arthritis, Weight Loss

Every month we ask top practitioners to address your health concerns. This month find solutions for fatigue, arthritis, and weight loss.

Recently I’ve been having a hard time waking up in the morning and can’t seem to get enough sleep. Then, as the day goes on, I am fatigued and have a hard time finding motivation to get things done. What can I do to get more energy and stay alert besides caffeine?
 
Answered by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD is medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!and Beat Sugar Addiction NOW!
 
You’re not alone. Did you know that 31 percent of adults suffer with chronic fatigue? When accompanied by widespread achiness, “brain fog,” and severe insomnia, it has often progressed to what is called fibromyalgia.
 
Unfortunately, pushing sugar and caffeine to try to boost energy is like going to a loan shark, making the problem worse overall. The good news? It’s not hard to improve energy–even in severe cases such as fibromyalgia. You can do this with what we call the “SHINE Protocol”:
 
1—Sleep. Take a mix of herbs as needed to get eight to nine hours of sleep at night. I prefer to start with the six herbs present in the “Revitalizing Sleep Formula” by Enzymatic Therapies.
 
2—Hormonal deficiencies. Check for and treat thyroid deficiency (even if lab tests are “normal”. Irritability when hungry suggests adrenal fatigue as well.
 
3—Infections. Treat for Candida if you have sinusitis or spastic colon.
 
4—Nutritional support. The “Energy Revitalization System” vitamin powder (by Enzymatic Therapy), replaces over 35 supplement tablets with a single drink. In addition, I recommend a special nutrient called D-Ribose (a 5g scoop twice daily—Corvalen by Bioenergy) which in our recent study increased energy by an average of 61 percent after three weeks.
 
5—Exercise as able, preferably out in the sunshine and fresh air. There is also a free Symptom Analysis program at Vitality101.com, and it can help to determine what is causing your fatigue (and even fibromyalgia). It can help to tailor a treatment program that will leave you feeling great!

My arthritis is worse during the cold winter months, what can I do to help my body naturally? Also, what’s the difference between treating arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?
 
Anwered by Roberta Lee, MD, who is vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center, co-director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, and author ofThe SuperStress Solution.
 
Arthritis describes the sensation of joint discomfort, achiness, and sometimes pain. From a doctor’s perspective, it can be classified as inflammatory (Rheumatoid and autoimmune
arthritis) or degenerative (osteoarthritis). Most people have degenerative arthritis—a condition that stems from wear and tear in the cartilage.
 
Both types of arthritis respond to anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen for example), but few hear about the anti-inflammatory supplements or foods that also can help. On the diet side, anything that is highly saturated with fat or is high in sugar content (including high fructose corn syrup) will increase inflammation. So avoid any foods that are high in fat like fried foods, sugary foods, and saturated red meat. To decrease inflammation, eat foods with high nutrient contents such as leafy green veggies, whole grains (not too much), and high-fiber foods such as raspberries, pears (with the skin), and whole-wheat spaghetti.

There are also a number of supplements that have been shown to reduce inflammation. Some studies have indicated that turmeric, ginger, hops, fish oil, and ground flax seed are great for helping to relieve joint pain. Some of my patients have even added glucosamine and chondroitin supplements and found good results, though the clinical studies have had mixed results.
  
Lastly, lifestyle modification goes along way for relieving joint pain because it gives the body more healing time. Giving yourself adequate sleep (enough to be refreshed) and paying attention to balancing and decompressing stress can reduce inflammation and enhance your body’s capacity to heal by leaps and bounds.

I need to lose about 40 pounds, and right now I am on day four of the Atkins diet. I don’t really like the way I am feeling right now, and I feel like I am eating too much meat/ poultry/eggs. Do you have any suggestions on what kind of diet would better suit my normally vegetarian lifestyle?

Answered by Bradley West, ND, of Santa Cruz, California, who specializes in diet, food allergies, gastroenterology, thyroid, adrenals, and traditional and functional medicine.

The ability to lose weight or regain an optimal weight depends on many factors such as your age, individual biochemistry, metabolism and digestion. If an extra 40 pounds has accumulated over the years from poor food choices (such as too much processed foods), over-eating, or under-exercising and you are less than 50 years old, simple changes could be all it takes to lose those extra pounds.
 
Adding extra walking, stretching, running, and weight training not only burns calories and speeds up metabolism, but these activities also improve your mood, circulation, and overall health. By cutting out over-processed foods and grains (such as wheat, corn, and rice) and relying more on whole, fresh, and organic foods in a plantbased, vegetarian diet can work wonders. This means you need to eat lots of veggies and greens, some fruits, and a good amount of essential fats found in nuts, olives, and avocadoes—to name a few. Oftentimes, vegetarians will need to add eggs and wild caught fish a few times per week to be optimally healthy and control cravings.

If you are older than 50 or struggling to lose weight while eating a low-calorie and healthy diet, it’s time to check your hormones. Low-functioning thyroid disorders are very common and can make it nearly impossible to lose weight. Too much stress, not enough sleep, environmental toxins, and food allergies can all weaken the thyroid, in additionto causing problems with digestion, metabolism, and many other body functions and systems. Have a thyroid blood panel done, but also go by your symptoms and basal body temperature, as thyroid blood tests are often misleading.

I also see great results with periodic juice-fasting to bring back balance. But be sure to consult with your local naturopathic or integrative doctor before starting a fast. The above strategies will take a bit longer for your weight to normalize, but ultimately, you will feel and look much better without yo-yoing and struggling with a diet that isn’t fit for you.