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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Advice for a pro runner who has run herself into a state of chronic exhaustion

I am a retired competitive athlete aged 55. When I stopped competing about 15 years ago I was pretty much exhausted and had pushed myself hard for several decades pursuing my goals.

The break from daily exercise was welcome and I pretty much cold-turkeyed the daily exercise routine for quite a few years. However I have never quite been able to establish a fitness routine since, often just too tired to make the effort. But I do know how to rally, mind over matter is my MO.

In the past few years I have steadily put on the weight, not fat but from skinny to solid, and am surprised at the extent to which I have lost my lungs. My muscles get very sore the next day after I exercise. I also have bouts with insomnia, itchy dry skin and feelings of lassitude/apathy.

Most of this I put down to the hearsay of menopause, except that I have no symptoms in that area and still get a normal regular period every month.

Just recently a doctor told me I had a swollen thyroid and sent me to get a TSH test, which I have not done yet. I don’t like the idea of being coerced into using synthetic hormones and risk creating another set of problems that people will then tell me I have to accept as old age.

Having been an athlete I still believe in the wisdom and resiliance of my own body given the right conditions and some good guidance. Have I burned myself out and if so how do I use this great mind over matter skill to get back to a feeling of zest for life?

Gary responds:
This question is my bread and butter nowadays: Hard working professionals, be they athletes, working mothers or CEO's struggling with exhaustion and all the negative health and quality of life issues that go with it. Professional athletes, at or nearing the end of their careers, consistently take first prize for the most depleted and exhausted states. hardly surprising really.

Runners don't retire: They slowly grind to a complete standstill

Have a look at the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) charts to the upper right. These are of a woman several years younger than MA, extremely fit but complaining of most of the same items as MA, including extreme fatigue, insomnia, cold hands and feet, PMS, poor concentration and food cravings.

With reference to these charts, here is an explanation of what is going on with this younger athlete and what may also be going on with MA (Of course, we would have to do the testing to be more specific).
  • Fatigue: High calcium to potassium is associated with an underactive thyroid. Foods like yogurt that are fortified with calcium are root causes of the epidemic of thyroid dysfunction in women.
  • Depression: High calcium relative to potassium is associated with depression. The low fat, low salt, high calcium diet is a root cause of the depression epidemic.
  • Cardiovascular irregularities: An imbalance between the normal calcium to magnesium relationship can lead to cardiac irregularities such as arrhythmia, bradycardia and tachycardia. This is especially true if potassium is disturbed as can be seen in the 2nd chart (ratio should be 4:1 - actual is 89:1). Correct this imbalance and there is usually no need for heart medication and even pace makers.
  • Hypoadrenia: Low tissue sodium and potassium relative to magnesium and calcium is associated with adrenal insufficiency. This may result in low blood pressure, postural hypotension and fatigue.
  • Premature ageing of the skin: High calcium relative to magnesium in the presence of low B6 may cause calcium to precipitate out of solution into soft tissues, including the skin. This may be seen as premature aging of the skin, loss of elasticity, dryness and itching, including dermatitis and infection. Get excess calcium from the diet and it is beauty therapy from the inside out.
  • Muscle and joints disease: The process of calcium deposition into soft tissue that causes skin ageing will also cause muscles, tendons and joints to ache, hurt and tire quickly. Early onset arthritis is often the case.
This pattern of elevated calcium, low magnesium, sodium and potassium is repeated time and again in the hair tissue mineral analyses of hard working over-achievers who are showing signs of running out of gas.

From Hero to Zero in a single race
The chart to the upper left is of a former world class female cyclist. To use her words, she "went from hero to zero" in the time it took to ride just one race. The profile above is from her hair almost one year later. The chart shows the typical patterns of endocrine exhaustion and nutrient depletion which is further complicated by significant levels of the toxic metals arsenic, mercury cadmium, lead and aluminium. Her road to a full recovery is proving to be complex and slow.

Both of these women have nutrient profiles of depressed metabolism, often referred to as "slow metabolisers". The tendency upon retirement, will be to gain weight, principally about the waist and hips (A sign of adrenal and thyroid dysfunction in both men and women).

The Solution in these cases of chronic exhaustion is
a programme of nutrient supplementation tailored to correct the imbalances that are found in their hair tissue mineral analysis and as indicated by individual signs and symptoms. There are dietary changes to be made as well. Investigations (if warranted) may identify external sources of heavy metal contamination, such as exposure to treated timber or corroding water pipes. There has never been the need for medication such as thyroxine or HRT.

Body: Heal thyself!

What we can expect from a nutrition based intervention are subtle improvements over several months in measures like energy levels, mood, sleep, smoother skin and stronger hair and nails.

Oh! - and back to running and cycling fast as!

If they want to.

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Anonymous said...

I thought you might say more about what we can expect as we age and a word about menopause. - just a note about how we attribute the bad effects of poor lifestyle habits and nutrition to aging, along with it the popular myth that menopause means old age for a woman.

Gary Moller said...

Healthy adrenals reduce the hormone fluctuations of menopause. Exhausted ones allow wild swings in female hormone balance.

Adrenals produce about 90 different steroidal hormones including the sex hormones. As the ovaries decline in hormone production, healthy adrenals increase their production. Not to the same extent but enough to make the menopausal process much more tolerable and without the need to resort to external hormone therapy.

In men the adrenals produce testosterone. Adrenal exhaustion in an older man will show as a gain of weight about the hips and waist, loss of lean muscle and reduced sex drive.

James C said...

Fancinating! I can't wait to do this test (HTMA), just saving the pennies.