Exhausted Gluten Free Woman

Answers from a Gluten Doctor – Part 10: Gluten Intolerance and Exhaustion

Dr Vikki PetersenWhen I first went to Dr. Vikki, I was EXHAUSTED. Despite being young and having seen numerous doctors who all said I was perfectly well, I was tired.  All the time!  I was in fact, sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Fortunately for me, Dr. Vikki took the time to really get to the bottom of what was going on.  It was then we discovered I am gluten intolerant and that the continual eating of gluten based foods was at the root of my health issues.

Here is the next question addressed by Dr. Vikki.

Q – I discovered I was gluten intolerant because I was severely exhausted and as it turned out had Stage 4 Adrenal Exhaustion. Can you tell us if this is a common situation and why you thought to check for gluten intolerance because of exhaustion?

Thank you for this excellent question, as it addresses one of the many systems of the body that gluten affects. The adrenal glands are the stress glands. You have two of them and they are located above your kidneys. They are responsible for many different aspects of health. When they are fatigued or exhausted, one can expect such symptoms as:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight gain (esp. around the mid-section)
  • Sugar cravings
  • Unstable blood sugar / Hypoglycemia
  • Sleep trouble
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Depression, irritability, anxiety
  • Thyroid problems
  • Joint and organ inflammation
  • Allergy and asthma symptoms
  • Light headedness

As you can see by the diversity of the symptoms, the adrenal glands are responsible for the functioning of many systems of the body.

When evaluating why someone would be suffering from such symptoms, it is critical to evaluate the most issues that stress the adrenal glands themselves. In addition to extreme lifestyle stress, the most common source of stress is poor absorption of nutrients. It makes sense that if the body is incapable of absorbing the nutrition from the food that is being ingested that would result in bodily malfunction. That is indeed the case and the adrenal glands are very sensitive to malabsorption as they are responsible for keeping blood sugar levels stable. Such a job is next to impossible with the malabsorption seen with gluten sensitivity and digestive problems.

It is interesting to note that the number of systems affected by adrenal stress are unique to the individual. In other words, the entire list of symptoms mentioned above would not all be present in each and every individual suffering from adrenal fatigue. Typically one finds two to four symptoms positive. Occasionally in a more severely ill patient, most symptoms are present, but that is not typical.

Knowing the symptoms of adrenal fatigue well allows us, as clinicians, to go beyond the concept of one treatment for every symptom and to delve deeper into isolating the root cause of the symptoms. Which would you prefer? A separate drug for your fatigue, sleep problems and joint pain OR discovering the root cause beneath all the symptoms such as gluten intolerance or malabsorption of nutrients. We prefer, and are dedicated to, the latter.

Therefore when a patient arrives to see us with symptoms such as exhaustion, a red flag goes up. We “know” that we are likely looking at adrenal exhaustion but the next question is, why? What is the underlying cause of this condition? Yes, we could simply “treat” the adrenals with nutritional support. But what good is that if the reason behind the problem is not revealed!

It is the search and determination to reveal the root cause that defines our practice. I think it should define more of health care in this country, but I realize that I am extremely biased on the topic! The human body has an amazing capacity to self-heal once enough stressors are removed from it. Adrenal exhaustion is quite epidemic in this country and little is done to treat it until the symptoms have become diseases in their own right. There is no reason to wait.

One of the most exciting aspects of treating the adrenals is that they prefer and respond well to a natural program. No drugs nor surgery are required. Lifestyle changes are a must, but those are not difficult to sustain once improved energy and vitality result.

I hope you find this helpful on your gluten free diet. Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require any assistance.

Yours in health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

For more on adrenal exhaustion please read here.

Tags: Answers Celiac Doctor Dr. Vikki Petersen Exhaustion Gluten Sensitivity Healing Symptoms
  1. Deanna
    August 5, 2010

    Interesting post! I wonder if I had that before going gluten-free. I certainly had a lot of those symptoms. Sometimes, I wish I would have gotten more tests to find out exactly what was going on before I got better. But, I didn't even realize how sick I was until I started feeling better. Not going back now, though!

  2. Janice
    August 5, 2010

    Thank you for this post because I thought that I was going crazy. I had a lot of these symptoms plus some others and at first thought that I was either hypothyroid or going through early menopause. Test results showed that everything was where it was supposed to be but I knew something was wrong. I have been GF (self diagnosed) for a few months now and what an improvement!

  3. Theresa
    August 5, 2010

    I was tired too, really, really tired. Example: I use to have to rest between batches of muffins – but a few months ago, after being gluten free for a year, I made 558 cupcakes for an event and then went out that evening! I still can't get over the fact that I have that much energy!
    Love your Gluten Dr posts!

  4. Tasty Eats At Home
    August 6, 2010

    I was much the same way as Janice described. I was exhausted and was coming down with frequent infections, etc. I was only 29. I had my hormone levels checked, my thyroid checked, and the only thing that was off was my B12 level. I went gluten-free, and now, a year later, I'm regaining my energy!

  5. Anonymous
    August 6, 2010

    I had ALL but one of those symptoms. NO ONE could tell me what was wrong. It was always.."Lose weight, you'll feel better." Problem was, I had no energy to work out and had MAJOR asthma problems when I did! I am so thankful for an awful sickness taking my appetite for showing me that gluten was bad for me.

  6. Lisa (bakebikeblog)
    August 8, 2010

    What a great post! Fatigue was a HUGE symptom before I had my allergies diagnosed!!!

  7. GF in Athens
    August 14, 2010

    I WISH I had read this years ago. I kept going to the doctor saying "I'm tired ALL the time." Doctors kept blaming it on anemia, but even when my numbers were normal I was still so tired. I've been GF for 1 year and am slowly getting a higher energy level. I also used to have that mid-area pooch I couldn't get rid of and at 23 I knew I shouldn't have such a hard time. It went away within 6 months of going GF! I knew it was something more than stubborn fat! So grateful to have gone GF!

  8. Anonymous
    August 20, 2010

    I have a question. Everything I have read has lead me to believe that once you have celiac sprue, you have it for life. But my mom was diagnosed with it (via intestinal biopsy) and then after a year and a half of gluten free diet she did another gluten challenge/biopsy and came out fine. I have dermatitis herpetiformis, which I think means I am also celiac sprue. But after 3 years of gluten free diet I am finding that occasional contaminations of gluten are having no effect on me (like eating half a bag of what I thought were rice cakes and turned out to be multigrain cakes). What is up? Can you loose you immune response to gluten?

  9. Pingback: Breaking Up with Gluten

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