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

39 comments

Post image for My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found It
146 Flares 146 Flares ×

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?

If you liked this article, please do me a favor and share on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Google +. There are buttons in the floating sidebar to your left and also below.

Or ‘like’ PaleoNonPaleo Facebook page. I would so appreciate it! Thank you.

 

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.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

April July 31, 2012 at 8:56 am

This is really interesting and making me wonder if I am low on iodine as well. SOmetimes I feel low energy for no apparent reason. I also feel it during my period for sure. I sue sea salt as well. Is iodized salt just regular table salt?

Reply

Alison Golden July 31, 2012 at 9:58 am

Hi April: Table salt is generally iodized. It should tell you on the container.
Alison Golden recently posted..My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found ItMy Profile

Reply

Richard F August 9, 2012 at 9:32 am

Even though most common table salt is iodized, the quantity is so low that you have to consume many teaspoons of it to get your RDA for iodine alone. Most salts that are iodized contain 2%-10% RDA (depending on the brand, of course. Morton’s contains 45% per 1/4tsp, most aren’t even close to that) so you’d be eating a ton of it. Unfortunately, most sea salts — wet, dry, grey, white, pink, or anything else — are basically devoid of dietary sufficient amounts of iodine, so much so that most do not even list iodine on the label, and if they do, they list it as a “non-dietary source of iodine” which means <5% per serving.

I love sea salt and it took me a month to find a sea salt that was both iodized and affordable, I settled on RealSalt Kosher Sea Salt. While it doesn't contain as much iodine as Morton's, it has more than most sea salts, so I can still supplement iodine with J Crow's Lugol's 2% liquid iodine.

Reply

Jill July 31, 2012 at 9:45 am

I did test hypothyroid, but two tests showed it was not autoimmune. I went ahead and started supplementing iodine, even though my naturepath didn’t recommend it. I feel *wonderful* on the extra iodine. I’m alert and not slumping in the afternoon. I also don’t do low-carb anymore. I tried it, and I felt so awful and didn’t lose weight. I eat a low-carb diet compared with SAD, of course, but somewhere around 130 grams of carb a day.

Reply

Alison Golden July 31, 2012 at 9:59 am

Hey, that sounds great, Jill! I love it when we can easily address chronic problems that we’ve suffered from for years. It feels like finding the key to the secret of life. :-)
Alison Golden recently posted..My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found ItMy Profile

Reply

Lauren July 31, 2012 at 10:47 am

This business of dismissing women’s thyroid suspicions really gets my goat! I can’t seem to get my doctor to test anything other than TSH but I’m SURE there’s something not right, AND my serum cholesterol numbers are not good (that, of course, she’ll check!). I’ve been idly wondering about iodine and selenium for a while – now I mix iodised salt in with my sea salt and seaweed in my pepper mill – so I think I’ll look around a bit and see if I can find your wonder elixir!
Lauren recently posted..Imagining a New NormalMy Profile

Reply

Alison Golden July 31, 2012 at 11:03 am

I hear you on the dismissal of thyroid suspicions, Lauren. I *just* got off the phone with my local store and learned this product is being discontinued. Hell. So I suggest if you have a local store, hot foot it down there, like I’m going to do, make up your own based on the ‘ingredient’ list or start with iodine/selenium if you’re sure you don’t have Hashi’s.
Alison Golden recently posted..My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found ItMy Profile

Reply

Lauren July 31, 2012 at 11:07 am

…or maybe not. Damn. As nice as it would be to have that many helpful things in one supp, the manufacturer has an intensely annoying website with terrible contact possibilities, and no search function for international suppliers. At that price I’m not going to chase them very far! But I’ll keep it in mind should I be in the US in the near future. Thanks anyway for the tip, Alison :)
Lauren recently posted..Imagining a New NormalMy Profile

Reply

Suze August 1, 2012 at 9:39 am

OMG, Lauren, I LOL’d at this post. My doc is the same. Only wants to test TSH, which says it’s normal, but I still have many Sx of hypothyroid. But boy, oh boy, does he want to hit on the cholesterol. Grrr. I finally cured him of nagging me to take statins. I told them I was allergic… HA. I truly think they are evil and bad for you. Period.
Alison, you have inspired me to dig in my drawer for the selenium and iodine I had bought when toying with this idea before. I am going to give it a whirl, My basal temp is over a degree lower than normal and has been for a long, long time. Maybe this will be the kick I need.

Reply

Helen July 31, 2012 at 11:02 am

Could powered Kelp help I wonder? Or is the dosage too low? (389 mcg Iodine per serving, link below). I have some of your symptomes but not all.. so I guess I maybe should check with my GP first in any case… :) And thanks for sharing – very interesting!

http://www.iherb.com/Frontier-Natural-Products-Powdered-Kelp-16-oz-453-g/30928?at=0/bix900

Reply

Alison Golden July 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

I would try it Helen and see how you feel. You should start with a low dose of iodine and work your way up anyhow. And 389mcg isn’t much less than the 450mcg I have in my supplement and that dosage works for me (sometimes I take only half of that.)
Alison Golden recently posted..My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found ItMy Profile

Reply

Helen July 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

Thanks for answering! :)
Helen recently posted..Sukkerfri sjokolade fra iHerbMy Profile

Reply

Sandie July 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Alison, thanks for this thought-provoking and well-written article. There’s a lot to consider.

I want to make sure that I’m not misunderstanding this sentence: “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.”

Have you given up low-carb altogether or just amped up carb intake with sweet potatoes and the like.

Great site and thanks again.

Reply

Alison Golden July 31, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Thanks, Sandie! That’s a good question. I eat meat and veggies, mostly, with parsnips and sweet potatoes or perhaps beets, carrots each day. Sometimes I eat paleo brownies or paleo chicken pot pie but that’s rare. I definitely notice the difference if I don’t keep that level of carb up but beyond that level I describe it doesn’t seem to make a difference to my energy, hence the iodine. Does that clarify?
Alison Golden recently posted..My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found ItMy Profile

Reply

Joshua August 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

Sandie – I think you misunderstood the sentence.

Depending on your definition of low-carb, I don’t think Alison has eliminated low-carb. She has removed it from the list of things that could have been causing her low energy because adding starch still wasn’t enough.

Reply

Jane July 31, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Hi Alison, I’m the same. If I don’t keep my carbs up a bit (sweet potato, beets and parsnips roasted are my fave), I feel terrible. Especially in the morning, with tiredness, sore feet and kidney region/back pain. I definately suffer this more during my period. Reading about adrenal fatigue and hypothyroid over at Paleoforwomen helped me work out what the problem was. I should probably try some supplementation to assist my menstrual symptoms. Thanks for the link to the product, I’ll hash something together from the health food store as I am in Australia.

Reply

Alison Golden August 1, 2012 at 6:09 am

You’re welcome, Jane. I’m glad it was helpful. Don’t you just love beets? Can’t understand my kids who simply can’t stand them! ;-)
Alison Golden recently posted..My Exhausting Search For More Energy and Where I Finally Found ItMy Profile

Reply

Karen August 1, 2012 at 7:35 am

Ok, I have been following you for a while now, and I have to comment on this article. Only for the supplement mentioned. I will most likely experiment with the Selenium addition, but I regularly take kelp, magnesium and zinc and I havn’t experienced this surge of energy, not to say it won’t help some, just my experience. The back story is I have been struggling with severe fatigue for 8 years now. Like many of you I have been to numerous doctors, endocrinologist, GI specialists, hormone docs, even Mayo Clinic as of late and nothing is wrong, I am just stressed and depressed…
I have tried numerous supps and my daily list is pretty long. When I was 25 my get up and go just got up and went, I was active and energetic up til then and then I could barely drag myself around. It has been very disheartening and exhausting and I have tried everything, the docs gave up on me years ago, are sticking with the CFS diagnosis and want to shove more pills down my throat, I feel like a Rx guinea pig.
My muscles and joints ache severely, especially my neck and upper back, and I don’t think I could be anymore stiff. Severe fatigue, insomnia, no libido, get winded easily, easily gain weight, play hell to lose it, constipation…its a very long frustrating story, like many of you already personally know.
I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, then IBS/C, depression, finally hypothyroid after I kept insisting to be sent to a specialist, it wasn’t crazy high, but the symptoms were there, Synthroid made me spacy and foggy and he wouldn’t try anything else. Then came the hormone doc, he put me on Armour Thyroid, along with testosterone (it was very low) and B12 injections, switched my Trazadone (sleeping pills I have been on for 10 years) to Ambien, then added Progresterone. I was miserable and sooo tired. He told me to suck it up, my voice deepened my facial hair became thicker…it was a nightmare. Then to Mayo, where I stopped the hormones and eventually the thyroid b/c according to my levels I was now hyper…diet maybe (I’d been on Primal for a about 3 months). Sleep study a couple of months later, then my Insurance through work changed, so that was over.
My reg doc just wants to write prescriptions, I have tried every sleeping pill out there for my insomnia, he even put me on Seroquel(an anti-psychotic) to help me sleep, that was a nightmare, talk about being a zombie…I should have tucked tail and ran when he did that.
Anyway, I digress…at one time I tried NOW brand Thyroid Energy. Very similar to what you used but no Magnesium. The blend on yours is what is in mine. Guggul, L Tyrosine, Ashwagandha help with energy. So even though it says non stimulating, it definitely is. I got energy on mine for a while too. I quit b/c I thought it was making my insomnia worse, but my point is the herbal blend is most likely where the energy is coming from. Although Magnesium is supposed to be calming and help with constipation….I take mine before bed.
Since I am sleeping harder maybe I should start taking it again though. If you are going to continue check out the NOW brand, you will see its comparable.
Supps I take are: multi vit, vit D3, omega 3, kelp, b12, zinc, magnesium, vit k2, biotin, digestive enzymes, probiotics, acacia fiber. Rx: wellbutrin(I finally let them put me on something, figured at least I won’t care so much…), muscle relaxer, ambien, singulair, ritalin sometimes(for energy).
Oh and aloe juice and pomegranate juice in the morning, grassfed and goat protein powder and l-glutamine after workouts.
I recently added Ubiquinol to the mix. In addition to eating primal, I use natural/organic soaps/shampoos/detergents/fabric softeners and cleaners. Organic mostly fruits and veggies, grassfed and pastured meats. I honestly have no idea what to try next, I can’t give up though, doctors certainly aren’t going to figure it out, they could care less.
Whew! That was quite a rant! :)

Reply

Jenelle August 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Contact Ms. McCain at http://www.herbalhealer.com/. She may know something that can help you outside of the RX pills.

Reply

Karen August 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Thanks for the link, Jenelle. I keep saying it’s just some vitamin or mineral I am lacking, I am getting to where pills gag me, I have to take so many.
The research is as exhausting as the condition.

Reply

carmen November 17, 2012 at 10:12 am

Karen,
Your story sounds like mine! I have been looking for 14 yrs and have done what you have… six months ago I found a great national traveling doctor who found out that I have lyme disease. I feel the best I have felt in over 12 years!! To my fellow “health searchers” don’t give up!! you never know where you will find answers…

Reply

Karen S. August 2, 2012 at 9:33 am

Wow!!! You all sound like me. I have years of being so tired I could barely get up off
of the couch. Total brain fog and many of the other symptoms!!!! I too have had to
battle the doctors on the whole thyroid issue, even though I was diagnosed with an
underactive thyroid in my teens(it runs in my family for several generations back).
I too have turned to the natural supplements to support my thyroid, that and having
found out that I have Celiac Sprue disease. So, no more gluten!!! That seems to be of help. I am so sorry that others have had to go through not being listened to by their
doctors!!! What can be done about this??? When will doctors begin to listen to the patients that they have vowed to protect and keep well????
Thanks for letting me rant some here. I wish you all well and hope that you can find some supplement or foods or whatever to help you out. I know what it is to
be tired all of the time and still work!!!! Hang in there!!!!!!

Reply

Suz@Paleo Australia August 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

Very interested in what you said about napping – interested to hear more about how you stopped this. Is your night time sleep of better quality now too?
Suz@Paleo Australia recently posted..Paleo Weight LossMy Profile

Reply

Brian August 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Calcium-D-Glucarate. Allison – have you read much about this supplement to reduce LDL. Dave Asprey at bulletproof recommends it highly. Just bought. Will let you know

Reply

Candice August 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

You had me at “Exhausting Search For More Energy”! I have been on Nature-Throid but I am still struggling with a constant feeling of being in an energy deficit and despite pretty clean eating (not calorie counting) still holding on to an extra 10/15 lbs. Maybe I’m just eating too much of the clean food but the energy (and one other still unresolved issue) are what makes me think something isn’t working and I’m not sure what. I also have consistently high cholesterol but years ago after reading Chris Kresser’s info and a few of the other cholestrol-con type posts I stopped worrying about it. As far as supplements go – that one looks pretty clean but I’ll watch with interest to see where you go with this.

Reply

Alison Golden August 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Hi Candice:

I’m doing great! Better than when I wrote this article in fact. I’m still taking the supplement (cleaned out my local suppliers shelves before they disappeared) and just half the dose. I don’t think you can be eating too much clean food. Are you willing to try chicken broths, fermented food, green smoothies or offal? I’ve added these recently and think they’ve been enormously helpful as well as filling and I avoid cravings.
Alison Golden recently posted..10 Super-Efficient Steps to Hacking Paleo School LunchesMy Profile

Reply

Mary August 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I am new to all this. I have energy issues, but I am just into researching Paleo. It seems like a lot of comments are saying that the clean eating created more of an energy problem. Am I getting that wrong? Is that from a reduction of the processed carbs or sugar that is typically around?
Thanks.
M.

Reply

Alison Golden August 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I think what happens, Mary, is that an existing energy problem is uncovered by eating paleo. Taking away the props – sugar, caffeine, etc, exposes the problem for what it is. Does that make sense?
Alison Golden recently posted..The 3 Different Body Types: Which One Are You and Why You Should CareMy Profile

Reply

Seppo August 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm

This is something I’m also struggling on and off. Scaling back on coffee has helped. As has paying attention to my digestion and avoiding foods that cause rumblings in the tummy. I have to say I’m not a big fan of naps. I find that I’m next to useless after a nap, brain fog and sleepiness lasts most of the remaining day. Next thing I’m going to try is to scale back on carbohydrates a bit, perhaps drop them to around 30% of calories and see if that helps.

Reply

Alison Golden August 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Yup. Naps can kill the day’s productiveness. Sometimes though, eyes won’t stay open I found. Whole days were lost. So glad to have found a solution – and so easy too. Interesting to see how your carbs experiment pans out.
Alison Golden recently posted..The 3 Different Body Types: Which One Are You and Why You Should CareMy Profile

Reply

amber October 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I found this article at the PERFECT time. I’ve been suffering from awful fatigue and having to nap atleast once a day. I went to the doctor this afternoon (Actually fell asleep waiting on the doctor) and they tested for hypothyroid. My fatigue has increased since starting paleo and i’ve actually gained weight. After speaking with my doctor we both decided I should increase my carbs.. turns out they aren’t the enemy. After reading this, I will make sure to ask about iodine supplements as well.

Reply

Sondra January 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I am thyroid deficient for almost nine years now. Many symptoms defined here I experienced prior to my diagnosis. However, early treatment only improved half the issues. It wasn’t until another endocrinologist tested both my T3 AND T4 levels, then put me on levoxyl AND cytomel to address both low levels, that I felt completely improved. Shortly there after he tested my Vit D levels and placed me on 5k units per day, to bring my Vit D levels up from a startlingly low 12, to an avg 50. And added a B complex vitamin as well. I had so much energy then!
I’ve just started Paleo, having been introduced by a friend. I feel great, intestinal issues have been reduced, some weight loss, great energy UNTIL I work out heavily. Like today, in a heavy cardio/weight session, lost all energy, hyperventilated, became nauseous. My trainer thinks its lack of simple carbs to draw energy from. Has anyone experienced this? Or is it thyroid/vitamin issues?

Reply

Alison Golden January 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Hi Sondra:

My suggestion would be to go to someone like Jason Seib or Robb Wolff or even Mark Sisson and ask that question. They’re paleo/primal *and* trainers. You could also try PaleoHacks or the forums on Marks Daily Apple although be discerning about answers.
Alison Golden recently posted..How I Thrashed My Sugar Temptations and Lost Weight Over The HolidaysMy Profile

Reply

Alison Golden January 18, 2013 at 1:01 pm

You might also want to check out Robb Wolff’s recent posts on carbs and starches: http://robbwolf.com/2013/01/09/thoughts-carb-paleo-episode-3-hope/
Alison Golden recently posted..How I Thrashed My Sugar Temptations and Lost Weight Over The HolidaysMy Profile

Reply

What Is Epstein Barr Disease February 3, 2013 at 6:00 am

Hey there this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering
if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code
with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
What Is Epstein Barr Disease recently posted..What Is Epstein Barr DiseaseMy Profile

Reply

Lauren April 10, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Hi! Curious if you are still taking these and having less fatigue? Or, have you had to switch supplements? Would love to know where you are at in your journey!

Reply

Erin May 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Hi! I’ve been following you for awhile and haven’t commented.. this article really intrigued me. I’m in a similar spot as you were and so many that have commented.. did your supplement raise your body temperature? I found resistant carbs (potato starch for me) raised it temporarily but it didn’t stick after weeks of regular use. I’m really curious how you’re supplementing now and how it’s working for you… Thank you for sharing and helping us all!

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: