My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found It

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Would you like more energy? Do you have a hard time keeping your eyelids open some days? I did.

I didn’t have enough energy to do what I wanted. I lived with an anxiety that I simply didn’t have enough energy to meet the demands of those days when life throws us a curve-ball and we have to work flat-out.

I knew that my ancestors would have run from tigers but I felt like I’d become a large feline breakfast patty in pretty short order under similar, modern-day circumstances.

In order to work out what was going on, I decided to give up caffeine and give myself permission to nap whenever I wanted. No pushing myself through, no struggling on, or propping my eyelids up with matchsticks as I forced myself forward before I finally, inevitably gave up the ghost and succumbed to my bed.

The result

I napped nearly every day. Sometimes it was for thirty minutes (if I had to get somewhere,) other times it was for two hours. Often I felt sleepy within an hour of waking up and sluggish after my nap for the rest of the day. Whole days felt lost to fatigue.

Hypercholesterol or hypothyroid?

A couple of months ago, I was delighted when a CT scan showed my heart to be completely devoid of plaque after repeated tests had resulted in very high cholesterol numbers. The strong recommendation made by doctors that I take statins for the rest of my life was completely dropped for at least five years.

While the concern of my doctors was that a high cholesterol number indicated I was heading for heart disease, the extensive research I had done while investigating this situation had led me to suspect that I might, instead, be suffering from an under-performing thyroid.

For years I suspected that this small gland in my neck wasn’t performing quite right despite repeated tests showing normal results. In addition to napping most days, a low basal body temperature and sluggish digestion were clues. The hormonal disregulation that has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember was another sign.

Fixing my diet had resulted in enormous progress in balancing my hormones but I still felt I didn’t have enough energy to do even the normal amount a healthy woman would expect. So news that thyroid issues can result in low energy and high cholesterol made a light bulb go off in my head.

Was low-carb the problem?

There’s a lot of discussion in the paleo community (Paul Jaminet, Dr. Cate Shanahan, Stephani Rupers) about the importance of carbs in the effective functioning of the thyroid especially for women and certainly after a period of low-carb last year, I discovered on a trip to England (where it’s potatoes with practically everything) that adding carbs to my diet improved my mood and energy. I eat sweet potatoes and parsnips as my ‘go-to’ starchy tubers but it still wasn’t enough.

So with the elimination of low-carb being the culprit for my low energy and my subsequent reading up on the subject, I resolved to add iodine into my daily diet. The body needs iodine for correct functioning of the thyroid and while we only need tiny amounts of it, if you have been fighting infection, especially sub-clinical or otherwise unseen infection on a chronic basis, iodine can become depleted in the body. Not eating enough seafood or iodized salt can have the same result.

Risk factors

This seemed to make sense in my case. When my kids were about 7, I was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus that, based on the high levels of my antibodies in my blood, indicated I had been likely suffering from for an unknown number of years, yet, like many women, I put my tiredness down to having young kids. I don’t add iodized salt to my food, preferring sea salt, and like many people, I could eat more seafood.

Chris Kresser says that 9 out of 10 women who have hypothyroid actually have Hashimotos  autoimmune disease and that iodine supplementation in these cases is dangerous. However, I have been tested more than once and knew I didn’t have it. So I went forward with the iodine supplementation.

Purity or puritan?

Now, I am a supplement snob. For better or worse, you won’t find me buying cheap supplements from my local drug store. I also prefer to avoid supplement combos, choosing to research dosages carefully and take what I learn is appropriate for my situation. Multivitamins take that dosage control away from me.

Ever the “cost-conscious Connie,” however, I did check my drawers of supplements left over from days past and I found I had one that contained iodine and selenium as recommended by Paul Jaminet. And in dosages recommended by Chris Kresser.

Given my ingrained snobbishness, I’m almost embarrassed to tell you what I took. It is a multivitamin from a sports nutrition franchise whose marketing materials alienate me and irritate me (presumably I am not their target market.) But I took it anyway, for no other reason than I had it in my drawer, could take it immediately and save some money.

Gluteus maximus!

It was a revelation. I take the supplement first thing in the morning – it is now as essential to my day as cleaning my teeth and getting dressed. I will not leave home overnight without it.  The results:

  • No napping. I have completely reversed the trend of napping nearly every day. Now my nap days are a frequent as my formerly nap-free days which is, at most, once a week.
  • More energy. I recently spent weeks traveling, taking on most of the driving, cooking, planning, child-care, and socializing, and dealt with some serious, critical responsibilities without any problem. I didn’t need to take rest days as I had in the past. And I often functioned perfectly well on much less than 7 hours sleep.
  • Daily bowel movements. I still have to watch what I eat but as long as I do the things you’re supposed to do – hydrate, eat healthy and balanced, this is now no problem. Before, doing the right things rarely ‘moved’ me and I needed to constantly monitor my diet to push things through.
  • Minor but residual hormonal issues have resolved. No headache or overwhelming fatigue on day one of my period and breast soreness in the second half of my cycle has evaporated.

The solution to the puzzle

Now you want to know what I took, right? I know I would if I was you. Thing is, it’s being discontinued. Aaarrrgghh.  So my plan more energy(after I’ve cleared out the shelves of my local store) is to start with an iodine/selenium combo as I had originally planned and maybe add the other supplements that make up this multi as necessary. If you’re interested and you can find it, this was the supplement I took.

I can’t say that the iodine/selenium in this multivitamin have been the heroes here, there are too many variables to be sure. But I do know that I have more energy than I’ve had in a couple of decades. My anxiety about coping with stress has gone away and I find myself more confident about my ability to handle whatever life can throw at me.

I’m more like my younger, ‘I can do anything’ self. And that can’t be bad. Not at my age. :-)

Do you suffer from thyroid issues? Do you take medication or supplements? Have you seen benefits? Tell us in the comments?

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Written by 

Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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