Is low energy really adrenal fatigue? Autoimmune? Or something else?

Tired? Is fatigue really because you’re not sleeping? Or is “can’t sleep” another symptom that it’s something else? Wake up feeling OK, but having a mid-afternoon slump? Burned out? Sure, we all know this feeling well—maybe all too well as we live a fiery, fast-paced life.

Yet the blogosphere will tell you it’s either adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, or thyroid problems… and everything seems to be caused by autoimmune responses.

Have you ever stepped back and asked: What causes autoimmune diseases?

Ever heard the phrase, “If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”?

In other words, if you have knowledge (or even opinions) in one area, then that’s the solution to everything?

Even the best of us are guilty of our hobbyhorses. I learned about all the benefits of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) many years ago—hundreds of pathways in the body require adequate B vitamins and B12 is special among them all. I became convinced everyone with low energy was deficient in B12 and that supplementing it was the ultimate cure.

Then in herbology I learned about the fascinating world of adaptogens. These amazing herbs do help the body adapt to stress; they do that by normalizing our stress response. Adaptogen herbs can both energize and calm. Sounds great, right? Everyone needs them, right?

Tunnel vision.

The cause of all energy declines, according to current blogosphere wisdom, is either adrenal fatigue and cortisol or thyroid and its hormones. Yet in all the discussion about natural “remedies” or getting the “right” medication, there isn’t much mention of primary signals that affect these glands.

Energy production in the body has a master switch: the mighty hypothalamus.

The master regulator of hormones, the hypothalamus releases hormones that signal the pituitary gland, which then send signals further downstream to your other glands. Essentially, the hypothalamus is the master conductor, orchestrating all the different instruments in harmony: the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, ovaries / testes… Your hypothalamus coordinates everything from body temperature, to energy balance, to metabolism, your stress response, even circadian rhythms.

Recently, this organ garnered more blogosphere attention. But before we get too caught up in a new myopic focus…

WHY have these organs started misbehaving.

Well, you say, it’s because I have Hashimoto’s. Well OK, I say right back, why did your body start attacking itself?

Isn’t it genetic? Well, no, not really.

Yes Hashimoto’s can run in families; and, yes, there is genetic information that regulates the immune response—genes that help our immune system distinguish proteins we make and exist on the outside of our human cells from proteins unique to bacteria and viruses. And, yes, you can be tested to see if you have the have the stretches of that genetic information that make us more or less susceptible… and you can also be tested to see whether your immune system has begun to make antibodies against itself.

In people with Hashimoto’s, only 50 percent of their identical twins also developed thyroid antibodies. Why?

Or, you say, my adrenal glands are crashed and I have Addison’s. Why did your your immune system turn against you? And, of course, modern tests that can show if you have antibodies against yourself or stretches of genetic information that might predispose your body to make them.

Everything is connected to everything; the body is a web.

The answer is not solely in the adrenal glands, or in the latest thyroid test, let’s zoom out a bit.

Three things are needed to develop autoimmunity:

  1. Environmental triggers that “turn on” specific genes
  2. Intestinal permeability
  3. Genes

All of us have the genes that help our immune system recognize ourselves from foreign invaders. Some of us have more precise genes; others, more “careless” ones 😊.

Your genes are not your destiny: Regardless of which set of genes you inherited, you are in control of environmental triggers and any intestinal permeability.

What’s more exciting is that we can “turn off” autoimmune gene expression by eliminating the triggers and healing intestinal permeability.

Does this mean my low energy is because of an autoimmune disease?

Not necessarily.

Here’s one scenario:

  1. Environmental triggers stress the body—what the stress is doesn’t matter
  2. The body sends the brain a signal so the conductor (hypothalamus) can coordinate the response to stress.
  3. A web of hormones cause:
    1. The adrenal gland releases fight or flight hormones.
    2. Fight or flight hormones elevate blood sugar by breaking down liver and muscle glycogen.
    3. The thyroid slows down.
    4. The stomach holds onto any food it might contain (delayed gastric emptying). Stomach upset, even nausea and heartburn.
    5. The intestines push food through faster (diarrhea, often followed by constipation).
  4. Once danger is averted, the hypothalamus coordinates a return to normal.

What if normal never happens?

I had not realized how bad my health was. I now know that if I stick to the doctors plan I will start getting healthy. —ML  

I thought I was ‘OK’ until I referred to Dr. Greg, since that consult I now have really good understanding and education of health and my body. I didn’t realize my headaches were something I could ever get rid of and overall, I have energy and generally feel stronger. —GK

Before I saw the doctor I was in constant pain and tired all day long. The pain was in my neck and back. I was following the doctors advice and I was getting better. I found out it was my diet. However I was going on a trip to my families house. I thought I was going to go back to ground zero. I was doing good for a few days but I caved in. After eating the foods I was not supposed to my neck started to hurt. It was a burning sensation. So to cope with this pain I went to my comfort drink a Coke. It made everything even worse. I was not comfortable at all. I returned I few days later I went back to my normal healthy eating habit and my body recovered within one day. It was a great vacation. —MA 

“I now no longer suffer with depression; my husband says I seem vibrant again. I have no more joint pain and my energy is returning. I am slowly losing weight. My thyroid health is improving and I have hope again.” —TT

I had no energy and was in lots of pain, I just felt very old. I now have so much energy, learning that most problems do not need a pill to fix. —KS

After talking the eating to restore balance class I learned a bunch of new things. I am more aware of foods I eat. I learned the reason for eating what I’m eating and what is bad for you.—RH

I was always having asthma problems and I was suffering. I have no asthma or pain now. I am almost off all my medications also. I feel so good. I can now go running for a mile with my dogs every evening. —KS

I am learning more about what different things do to my body. I need to do this class again to pick up the stuff that I missed. —JG

I was certainly tired all the time and never motivated. I was soooo ready for change. I do appreciate your step-by-step friendly help. I feel g-r-e-a-t! and am doing all those things I could only “wish” for before. —SM

After taking the eating to restore balance class I feel more accountable for my health.  It has shown me how little of somethings that I am getting that I need. I have given up things. I have more energy. —TV

That’s the problem. Your body is designed to deal with stress but not day in and day out. While we can blame our fast-paced, go-go world with ever-expanding “to-do” lists, all stress is created equal.

Environmental triggers do include the mental perception of impending doom, or just “too much going on” or limitless other concerns.

Environmental triggers also include excessive iodine intake, toxic chemicals and metals, medications, molds, various infections, and anything that your body finds difficult to digest.

When, day in and day out, we continue to irritate and imbalance our systems, they rev up to address the situation but are never allowed to recover. Our hormones remain imbalanced.

  1. The constant strain on our organs cause them to need more nutrients
  2. Because digestion is affected, nutrients are no longer being released from food and absorbed in the gut;
  3. Organs become fatigued and inflamed, sometimes other organs compensate—for a while;
  4. We grow sensitive to more and more environmental triggers from all corners;
  5. The gut cells, not being fed, stop functioning as a barrier;
  6. As incorrect particles leak through, the immune system becomes confused. We develop food hypersensitivity to foods we’ve eaten all our lives;
  7. Some what leaks through looks like “self” or “healthy bacteria” and more.
  8. Autoimmune

Reversing what’s really wrong

Hopefully you notice the change problem early. You’ve noticed signs that something is going off even before they’ll show up on blood tests.

Unfortunately, too many of us write off early clues as “I’m getting old, I guess.”

Or we search the blogosphere for possible remedies and start drinking Ginseng tea because we read about it on Facebook. When that doesn’t work, perhaps we up the B vitamins (most of which are synthetic; not from natural sources) or…

For a minute, we feel better. Maybe.

And if this doesn’t work, we may wind up spending $thousands on all the expensive tests.

Keep the treatment plan simple—stop guessing

“I was skeptical, but mostly because others had run on about it being expensive. These people really need a reality check. Yes, this program is for those who want to take responsibility for their health. If you are that person, this program is such a great value for the money. I have never known any other doctor or group who works as hard as the AHIC team to educate and truly set people free armed with the knowledge and ability to move forward.” —BW

In your Eating to Restore Balance group I learned a LOT on how food truly works. It was great! I’m looking at everything I put in my body differently than I have ever looked at it before.

I’m sure this is a lot of stuff I will have questions about in the future—that’s why you and Greg are here. Thanks! —SS

With or without expensive, multiple, testing to diagnose your specific form of organ stress or determine whether it has progressed to autoimmune, of which sort… reversing the problem is the same as preventing it:

Understand and remove the environmental stressors while giving the body the building blocks it needs to heal and repair.

Nutrition Response Testing® can evaluate all your organs and systems in one office visit. We can determine which organ or system needs the most help and exactly the remedies to help them—we answer “what’s wrong” right from the source: your body, immediate answers.

leaky gut syndrome Everyone on this trajectory needs to understand what is irritating the digestive tract and exactly the steps that will fix any inflammation.

Nutrition Response Testing and restoring gastrointestinal health are my specialties. There is hope and I can help. Call 907-743-3040 and ask about our internet special.


The thing that I got out of the eating to restore balance class was I need to eat more fats. I need to stay away from the carbohydrates and eat more vegetables. I am more aware of what I put in my mouth. —DI

Marie Sternquist

Marie Sternquist, MS CHHC is a graduate of the University of Colorado, with 30 years of health-related clinical research published peer-reviewed medical journals, Marie's interests lie in how chemical and metal toxicities affect our health, hormones and immune function—and how to heal these problems with whole foods. In 2014, Marie completed the Health Coach program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied 100’s of dietary theories with an emphasis on developing step-by-step nutritional programs and is currently working on her Nutritionist certification through the Masters in Functional Nutrition program and the University of Western States. Marie’s signature nutrition programs have helped thousands of people just like you regain health and quality of life. In 2016, Marie Sternquist completed her Advanced Level in Nutrition Response Testing®, joining her husband Dr. Greg Sternquist as an advanced clinician. Marie is also a wilderness explorer, skier, photographer and mom. Visit her at and

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