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  • Joy Stevens ND

Fatigue is NOT Normal

Have you ever carried in too many bags of groceries because you didn't want to make two trips? Do you recall the feeling in your muscles just before you set them on the counter, just before your muscles failed? In a healthy person, this feeling passes quickly. For someone with fatigue, this is a whole body feeling that doesn't go away. Naps and sleep can help somewhat, but they are not fully refreshing. Worse, someone with fatigue may not have the motivation to do anything about it.

This is how I went through medical school. I was tired all the time, but I normalized it. I blamed it on age as I was the age of the parents of many of my classmates. I blamed it on weight gain. Medical school is not an ideal place for a stress eater like me, not even naturopathic medical school, but at least it was healthy food I chowed down on. I blamed it on lack of exercise even though I was able to take my pup Emma (pictured) for longer walks at the end of the four years than I was able to when I started school. I blamed it on the grueling curriculum. Thirty credit quarters are bound to make anyone tired.

The problem was, even after taking four months off to recuperate after boards, even after working on my adrenals, even after treating my low thyroid and maintaining a healthy, clean diet, my energy level wasn't improving. Not one bit. Finally it was time to update labs. I decided to review old labs to see if there was anything that needed extra attention. There it was, on a lab from eight years ago, a lab run long before I attended medical school and learned how to read labs. There it was as clear as day. I was positive for reactivated Epstein Barr Virus (EBV).

EBV is the virus that causes mononucleosis in teenagers. Once infected, you carry the virus for the rest of your life, usually in a dormant state. When the immune system becomes weak, it can reactivate. Fatigue is often the primary complaint. Finally, I had something that made sense.

My doctor at the time didn't explain this test result to me and didn't treat me for it either. Of course, I didn't have the knowledge then that I have now and I trusted him to give me the best care possible. It never occurred to me that something this important would have been overlooked. Granted, allopathic medicine has few tools with which to treat reactivated EBV, and certainly not the tools I have as a naturopath physician, but that's no excuse for not explaining this to me and for not trying.

Naturopaths use antiviral herbs, immune support, mitochondrial support, and anti-inflammatory supplements to treat EBV. Treatment will likely take several months as knocking down viruses can take time. But at least I am now on the road to recovery and hopefully more energy.

The important lesson here is that there are many causes for fatigue. Don't normalize it as I did. Find a physician who is willing to keep searching until the cause is found. No one has to suffer with fatigue.

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