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Fatigue is one of the most common health complaints today. Here is a suggested protocol to support you while working with your healthcare provider.
h e a r t s c e n t
Fatigue is a frequent complaint in the doctor’s office. It accompanies a host of other symptoms and is often times the main complaint. It can be a sudden or acute occurrence or a more gradual decline in energy and more chronic in nature. It can be an annoyance or of such extreme nature that an individual is bed ridden. Studies have shown that between 8-10% of adults report fatigue as their chief complaint. This ranks fatigue as one of the ten most common symptoms reported to the physician (1).
First and foremost, the treatment of fatigue or any other health concern should be elimination of the cause. In most cases that is easier said than done. If we are responsible for our own health care or that of another’s, we need to make this effort.
Unfortunately, as a culture, we have become very dependent on the current health care system. As a result, we have given up some of our personal power with regard to our own health. This includes everything from what we eat to how we handle everyday physical complaints. As a part of this dependency, we have gotten a little ‘lazy’ with regard to taking care of ourselves. It is much easier to just take that pill, or have someone else figure it out for us. How many of us actually think about solving our current situation without the use of drugs or doctor’s visits. If we are responsible with respect to our own health, we need to review any physical or emotional complaints for cause and effect.
For acute situations; sunburn, cuts, bruises, hangovers, common cold and all self limiting situations – the cause and effect is obvious. However, most chronic concerns require a little more work. Doing a simple investigation into the cause and effect of any health complaint can be very valuable. Any health care provider will try to incorporate this into their questioning, but will often times focus on symptoms and how they fit into a diagnostic model. Labeling of a health concern has become the number one priority. The second priority is the treatment; drugs or surgery being the only options currently available to traditional medicine.
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CAUSE AND EFFECT
In general, fatigue is the bodies’ way of letting us know that we need rest. Our bodies are always trying to regain balance or homeostasis. It is telling us that we need to slow down and/or sleep to rejuvenate our energy level. It is no different than video games that require the player to seek various prizes to continue to maintain strength and endurance for the video hero. We need to take the time to find these prizes and rejuvenate ourselves with quality rest.
In some cases fatigue may be relieved by sufficient period(s) of rest. In our modern culture we are reluctant to allow ourselves this luxury, even though it is a necessity. The current workaholic mentality in the US and most of the developed world is to persevere and disregard the feedback from our bodies to slow down. Incorporating essential oils in daily use can also give us that little pick up that we occasionally need. Try dropping a few drops of Eucalyptus globulus (Eucalyptus), Rosemary officinalis (Rosemary) or Mentha piperita (Peppermint) into the shower stall in the morning prior to taking your shower. It is a nice little pick me up that may help reduce your need for caffeine to get going in the morning.
If the message of fatigue is disregarded from our bodies for too long we will be dealing with a more chronic version of fatigue that is more difficult to treat by just illuminating the cause. Adrenal exhaustion is increasingly being diagnosed and is much more complicated to treat than needing a good night’s sleep. Proper diagnose of more serious conditions associated with the chronic long term stress is very important.
Other causes of fatigue to consider:
- INGESTION: detective work here can be very helpful. What and how we eat can have a MAJOR effect on our energy level. Either the type of the foods we consume (caffeine, sugar, salt), or the quantity of food. Food allergies are also notorious for generating fatigue along with a number of other symptoms. Simple elimination diets can be very helpful in the discovery of the offending food item(s). Digestion of food requires an enormous amount of energy. If we are over eating than a good deal of our energy is used to process the food, not to mention the reduction in energy from carrying around excess weight.
- INHALATION: What are we inhaling that could affect our energy level? The concept of ‘sick building syndrome’ has been around for over four decades. We are not always aware of what is in our environment that could affect us adversely. This includes toxic compounds from building materials or cleaning products and allergens. Also, what are we NOT inhaling that could affect energy level? Sometimes we forget to breathe. In this fast moving stressful world we live in all of us could benefit from deeper inhalation.
- ALLERGIES – similar to the cause and effect strategy, it is extremely beneficial to reduce our exposure to known allergens.
- If you are allergic to your pet, at least keep your bedroom out of bounds to them. Create an allergen free, safe haven for at least 8 hours every day.
- If you have a dust allergy, perhaps you can find someone to dust for you so that you do not have to expose yourself to the allergen. It is very vogue to barter these days. Perhaps you have a friend that would love help with her windows in the spring and fall. Otherwise, a cleaning service hired just for dusting and vacuuming is possible for some of us. At a minimum, use a dust mask when you dust or vacuum your home.
- If you have outdoor allergies, stay inside on days with a high pollen count. Keep your windows closed during especially difficult times. Install an allergen filter in your home’s heating/cooling system. I like the ones that you can take out and rinse as often as needed. It is a onetime purchase price and can make a big difference.
- It can be very beneficial to rinse your face with clear water morning and night to remove pollen and other allergens. This also reduces the allergens brought into your bedroom as well.
- TOPICAL EXPOSURE: Our skin is our largest organ, it is semi-permeable so anything we apply to our skin will enter our blood stream and have impact on our general health and well being. Are we using toxic products on our skin or when we clean our house?
- EXERCISE: too much or too little. We all know the lethargy associated with not getting enough exercise. It is also possible to overdo exercise, to wear ourselves out in search of the perfect physique.
- DRUGS: prescription, OTC, herbal remedies etc. Fatigue can be the side effect of many remedies that we take to improve other conditions. It is always good to re-evaluate what we take and why. This is summed up well by Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D. – “ the conventional medical approach for ‘treatment’ is predominantly symptom orientated and fairly useless with respect to the real causes of the illness. The exclusive treatment of symptoms often leads to a multilayered dependency for the patient. More often than not, patients find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of symptom relief and negative side effects.” (7) Do we still need to take this remedy? Do we want to continue taking this drug? Always consult with your health care provider for their feedback regarding any changes in medication.
- EMOTIONAL/SPIRITUAL COMPONENT: for many years we thought the concept of psychosomatic illness was with regard to weak minded individuals or weakness of character. Today we are starting to understand the mind body connection, and that all illness is as a result of this connection. PNI (Psychoneuroimmunology) is the study of this connection. Mystics have known for years that this is all connected. Caroline Myss indicates that our “Biography is our Biology” (2). Many authors have studied the link between emotions and health. Louise Hay indicates that fatigue is due to “resistance, boredom. Lack of love for what one does “(3).
If we are successful in finding a direct link between our health concern and a behavior or external substance, the solution is simple. It may be simple, but not always easy. But at least we know how to help ourselves if we choose to make the needed change(s).
If we are not successful in finding a cause, we should never stop being aware as we proceed with using treatments for fatigue or any other health concern. It should always be in the back of our mind. It can be beneficial to keep a diary in exploring cause and effect. If you are having an increase in severity of symptoms, or an exceptionally good day (reduction in symptoms) make a quick entry as to what you ate for the last 24 hours, activities, changes in any medications you are taking etc. Add anything that stands out in your mind. Over a period of time, patterns may emerge.
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No matter the treatment used prescription drugs, surgery, herbs, essential oils, if it is done on a long term basis, there may be side effects or complications. We are all familiar with the side effects associated with the use of prescription drugs. Rarely can an individual take a prescription drug long term without some side effects; mild or major. It is also easy to assume that just man made pharmaceuticals are the issue, but if we are honest, even long term use of all natural herbs and remedies can have their issues as well. It is my belief that it is not in our best interest to be on long term treatment for any condition. There are obviously exceptions to this belief, but it will always be best if we can determine a cause and effect and eliminate the cause or causes. Therefore, as Dr. Edward Bach said, ‘Treat the cause not the effect.”(4).
After eliminating the most common causes of fatigue, here are some common scents options that may help:
- ART-AGGRESSIVE REST THERAPY – this is the practice of resting until your energy reserves exceed your activity level. So often we push until we are exhausted. This practice requires us to stop doing, and rest. And to do this long enough to build up our energy reserves. It is like taking off on a hike. After a time, it is important to evaluate the reserves. Do I have enough water, energy, food to make it back to camp? This is a round trip journey and I need enough for both directions. Using essential oils to help promote restful sleep and relaxation can be very beneficial. See the Insomnia link below for suggestions.
- DEEP BREATHING – increase intake of oxygen. Watching a small child breathe is a great example of how we need to breathe. Years of stressful situations has caused us to breathe shallow and to even hold our breath during difficult moments. Yoga is helping millions to re-learn how to breathe using our abdomen. For those suffering from extreme levels of fatigue, just simply breathing deeply numerous times during the day may have a positive impact on energy level. “While breathing exercises do not cure ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) they can help to readjust autonomic nervous system functioning, leading to better health and a higher-quality of life. “(5)
- EXERCISE – moderate exercise has huge benefits for fatigue. As indicated in Connie Lynn Hayes list of “Ten Habits of High Energy People – #2. The habit of exercise – 15 minutes per day minimum.”(6) First evaluate your current level of activity. It is enough, too much? If you are exercising excessively, cut back to 2-3 times per week and re-evaluate. If you are not getting enough exercise, determine what activity you are most attracted to; do you like to dance? Do you like to swim? Do you enjoy walking or running? Slowly start to incorporate and evaluate after a week or two to see if there is any change in your level of fatigue.
- AROMATHERAPY can be beneficial for treating fatigue based upon its origin. In some cases, I list generalizations about chemical families that can be used for a certain situation. However, it is important to review the GC/MS to determine if an oil is appropriate for all of the details of a specific situation.
- ALLERGIES – Essential oils can be very helpful when dealing with allergies. Using an aromatherapy inhaler for inhalant allergies with the following oils frequently during the day can relieve many of the symptoms without drowsiness and may actually reduce the fatigue associated with the allergic reaction.
- ASTHMA is notorious for reducing a person’s energy level. Aromatherapy can be very beneficial in this case.
- The first thing to remember is that each person with asthma will be unique. They each may react differently to the same oil. It is best to treat between asthma attacks, not during an attack.
- I also prefer a very simple approach to this condition. I allow a client to test any potential blends, as they will intuitively be attracted to beneficial blends and repelled by those that either will not be as effective for them or will be detrimental.
- To date Boswellia carterii (Frankincense) has been the most effective oil for my clients with asthma. Each of them has chosen it from numerous other blends and each has found improvement in symptoms and energy level. I give credit for this very simple therapy to Andrea Butjie at Aromahead Institute – http://www.aromahead.com/. It can be incorporated into daily use thru aromatherapy inhaler, linen spray, hand and body lotion, etc.
- ADRENAL INVOLVEMENT – after periods of intense and/or lengthy physical or emotional stress, the adrenal glands may not function at their pre-stress level. This is known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion. As per Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D,; “these oils strengthen the functions of the adrenal glands, without over stimulating them the way coffee does”: (7)
- Equal parts Pinus sylvestris (Scotch Pine) and Picea mariana (Black Spruce) in a base oil to 10%. Apply this mixture daily to the area over the kidneys.
- 5 ml Picea mariana (Black Spruce), 2 ml Cedrus atlantica (Cedarwood), 1 ml Mentha piperita (Peppermint) or citrus oil in 100 ml of carrier oil or lotion. This can be applied all over the body after the morning shower.
- FIBROMYALGIA / ME /CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME – is a complex syndrome with many symptoms along with fatigue. Using some of the tools mentioned in this paper as needed based upon the clients predominant symptoms, may provide reduction in pain, inflammation, insomnia etc that can give the client some much needed rest for healing.
- PAIN AND THE ASSOCIATED FATIGUE – there are numerous essential oils that can help with chronic pain. Use 3-5 different oils representing 2-3 different chemical families. A water soluble base (lotion, aloe vera) will give faster relief, and an oil based blend (oil, salve) will give a more long term benefit. Create a 1-5% blend for chronic pain and a higher concentration (up to 15%) for acute pain. Apply as needed to reduce pain to enable the client to rest well;
- Essential oils high in sesquiterpenes are analgesic, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. They are also grounding which can help with relaxation and quality sleep: Black Pepper, Ginger, Cedarwood, Helichrysum, Spinenard, German Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Opoponox, Patchouli, Myrhh, vetiver
- Essential oils high in ketones are very effective for pain; Peppermint, Spike Lavender, Rosemary and Vetiver, but need to be combined with skin nourishing oils such as those high in Esters: Bergamot, Cardamom, Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum.
- SLEEP – it is difficult to speak of insomnia treatment and not mention dealing with the causes; stress, caffeine, alcohol, exercise or lack of, etc. If these have been addressed, there are a number of essential oils that are very beneficial for a good night’s sleep. Use 3-5 different oils representing 2-3 different chemical families. A 1-3% blend will work in most cases. Oils can be administered in a bath salt prior to bed, as a spray for the linens, inhaled, applied to upper body so that they can be inhaled over a period of time or applied to the bottom of the feet for a time release effect.
- Essential oils high in sesquiterpenes have a sedative action on the body: Cedarwood, Helichrysum, Spinenard, German Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Opoponox, Patchouli, Myrhh, vetiver.
- Essential oils high in Esters are balancing and soothing to the sympathetic nervous system; Bergamot, Cardamom, Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum.
- Essential oils high in Linalol (Monoterpenol) provide an emotional balance and sedative effect; Lavendar and Rosewood
- HYPOTHYROIDISM –There is a connection between stress, the adrenal glands and thyroid function. Stress causes the brain to release a hormone (CRH) that tells the pituitary to communicate with the adrenal glands to make Both cortisol and CRH inhibit thyroid hormones. Reduction in stress thru the use of calming essential oils and adrenal gland friendly oils as indicated above may help improve thyroid function and reduce the fatigue associated with this condition.
- CANCER TREATMENT– cancer and its treatment have a number of different concerns that cause fatigue. This paper has addressed pain and insomnia. The most other common other complaint associated with cancer and its treatment is nausea. Essential oils can be very effective for reducing symptoms of nausea. The most commonly used oils include: Mentha piperita (Peppermint), Zingiber officinale (Ginger), Mentha spicata (Spearmint), and Myristica fragrans (Nutmeg). A combination of these oils (2-3) can be inhaled and/or applied to the abdomen (1-3% blend) for relief of nausea.
After eliminating any of the obvious causes for fatigue, we have a number of simple tools in our good health tool box to help with fatigue or other chronic complaints. These include; stress reduction, quality rest, deep breathing and exercise. However, if these common sense actions do not alleviate the fatigue, we can use other common scents to treat with all natural, plant based essential oils.
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OUR BODY’S WISDOM
Our energy level is determined by two main things, our constitution and our environment. Our constitution is what we are born with, while our environment includes all of our lifestyle choices; diet, exercise, stress levels etc. The lack of stillness in our life throws us off balance. For more about VITAL ENERGY
Our bodies are amazing. They are always trying to bring us back into balance. All we need to do is be still and listen.
- “Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen to them.” – Shakti Gawain
- “Preventing diseases rather than curing them makes more sense – Doctors of the future will be clinicians, dieticians and personal trainers rolled into one!” – Deepak Hiwale
- Each of us has an intuitive awareness about what is best for our body. It is important that we listen to that voice. “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.” – Norman Cousins, Anatomy Of An Illness
- And sometimes we heal, despite modern medicine. “Though the doctors treated him, let his blood, and gave him medications to drink, he nevertheless recovered.” – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
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- Sloane, Phillip D. (2008), Essentials of Family Medicine, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
- Myss and Shealy (1993), The Creation of Health, Random House
- Hay, Louise L. (1984), Heal Your Body, Hay House Inc.
- Bach, Edward. Nature Healing. http://healthace.wordpress.com/health-quotes/
- Johnson, Cort. Waiting to Exhale: Breathing and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). http://phoenixrising.me/treating-cfs-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-me/living-ii-mindfulness/meditation/waiting-to-exhale-breathing-and-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-mecfs-by-cort-johnson
- Hayes, Connie Lynn. (2009), Energy Fix, Hayes Communications, Bountiful, Utah
- Schnaubelt, Kurt, Ph.D, (1995), Advanced Aromatherapy – The Science of Essential Oil Therapy, Healing Arts Press
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.