This week’s Gluten Free School Podcast chats Dr. Lauren Noel (also known as Dr. Lo) about alternative approaches to resolving chronic fatigue syndrome. There are definite keys missing the current diagnostic approach which can potentially give you back your life.
In this interview, you’ll learn about a focused chronic fatigue syndrome gluten free diet to help you get your energy (and your life) back!
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Gluten Free Diet with Dr. Lauren Noel
The following points were discussed:
00:19 — Jennifer Fugo welcomes Dr. Lauren Noel (aka Dr. Lo) to talk about her experience in the area of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
01:19 — Dr. Lo’s background and what led her away from traditional medicine to a more natural approach to treating gut, adrenal and hormone issues.
02:53 — The main reason traditional medicine doesn’t work.
03:52 — What exactly is CFS and its symptoms.
05:54 — The importance of figuring out what’s really going on, as opposed to ending with a diagnosis or label.
07:56 — The connection between gluten sensitivity and CFS.
09:19 — Energy and fatigue conditions could be caused by a deficiency in any one these nutrients.
11:37 — The importance of healing a leaky gut.
13:28 — Having realistic expectations about the time it takes to heal, and why it worth the effort (in the short and long run).
15:27 — How CFS and various autoimmune diseases are connected, and lifestyle habits to start the healing process.
19:54 — Feel better within a month with these simple diet and herb recommendations.
22:11 — Starting your day with the right kind of food makes all the difference.
23:39 — Concluding thoughts and how to get in touch with Dr. Lauren Noel
Then take a moment and leave a review on iTunes sharing what you’ve learned and why others would benefit from subscribing as well!
Jennifer: Welcome to the Gluten Free School Podcast. I’m your host, Jennifer Fugo. Today, we’re going to talk about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have asked Dr. Lauren Noel to join me to talk about her experience in this area.
Now, Dr. Noel, also known as Dr. Lo is a licensed naturopathic doctor and expert in natural medicine. She received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon.
Since 2010, Dr. Noel has treated over 5000 patients using natural therapies. Her areas of expertise are digestive disorders, thyroid and hormone imbalances and autoimmune disease.
She’s been a frequent guest and lecturer on health radio shows and medical conferences and she’s also the host of an awesome radio show called the Dr. Lo Radio. It’s a top-rated podcast on iTunes that has attracted nearly one million listens.
Dr. Noel owns Shine Natural Medicine in Selena Beach, California where she treats patients locally and all over the country.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Lo!
Dr. Lo: Thank you. It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me.
Jennifer: So why don’t you give us a little bit of background on what piqued your interest in getting into the more natural side of medicine?
Dr. Lo: Well, I think it was kind of my neurotic side. I was a patient years ago kind of going through the conventional medical system. I was sick myself. I’ve listened to a couple of your other shows and a lot of guests oftentimes will share their own personal story of how they were sick and then they saw the light and then they wanted to pay it forward and help other people. That’s kind of how it happened for me.
So back in high school, I was sick from a thyroid disorder and had my own chronic fatigue issues and depression and acne and all kinds of stuff and I just wasn’t finding answers with conventional medicine. I was a Kaiser patient. I just remember stories of these doctors just giving me like a 5 or 10-minute visit and not really getting any help.
Once I learned a little bit more of what was actually out there in the medical realm, I was just amazed that this is a whole new world I knew nothing about.
And so I wanted to learn as much as possible pretty much to protect myself and my family and my friends. And then it just so happens that I get to get paid – you know, I get paid to be bossy now, which is really cool because before, they were like, “Oh, yeah… whatever, whatever…” and now they’re listening.
I think it started from my own stuff, but it’s become my passion. And now, my radio show, like you said, it had over about a million listens at this point. I’ve done it for the last three years. We’ve educated lots and lots of people and it’s a joy to be able to help people in my practice now.
Jennifer: Now I’m curious. Your expertise as you’ve said is these digestive problems, hormone issues, autoimmune. Do you find that people who gravitate more in your direction, like the naturopathic or functional or integrative medicine route, do you find that they tend to do better in that direction rather than going the conventional medicine route?
Dr. Lo: I think everyone probably does a little better with that. The difference is that we’re getting to the root issue. We’re not just treating people’s symptoms.
The biggest thing is that when you go in the direction of naturopathic medicine or you see a functional medicine doctor, integrative doctor, the difference is you’re going to have to change your life a little bit. You’re not going to be able to get away with the same stuff that you were able to before.
So I think someone has to be ready to do it, but if you’re ready and willing, it’s going to change your life and you’re going to feel better and you’re going to prevent disease.
Jennifer: And obviously, that is kind of a given. The doctor does some work, the patient does some work. And for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (and so many people are diagnosed with this), I sort of feel like it’s something that doesn’t really mean anything. That is my impression. It’s sort of a diagnosis that doesn’t really exist. But why don’t you tell me (you’re the expert here), what exactly is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Dr. Lo: Well, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition that’s a diagnosis of exclusion. So once you’ve gone to your doctor and they’ve rule out all kinds of different things like Lyme Disease and various things, then they can actually diagnose with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It’s persistent fatigue that’s been going on for six months or longer and it’s not relieved by sleep, it’s not due to exertion. It’s more often in women.
You have to have four or more of the following symptoms, which is impaired memory or concentration, post-exertion malaise (so basically, you’re tired after you do something that’s tiring), you have muscle pain, pain in your joints. Perhaps you have headaches, you could have sore throats, you might have tender lymph nodes like in your neck or your armpits.
Other common symptoms could be brain fog, maybe dizziness. You could just find that you’re allergic to a lot of things. Maybe you’re allergic to food or maybe you’re allergic to chemicals or maybe even sounds are really too intense for you.
You might even have some digestive issues like IBS symptoms, like maybe gas or bloating or constipation or diarrhea.
Maybe you have some visual changes. Maybe you don’t see as well as you once did or you’re very sensitive to light. Maybe even some mood issues like depression or anxiety or things like that.
So you can see it’s kind of all over the map. It’s pretty much anything, I guess, that could come along with “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”.
Jennifer: So you just don’t feel good.
Dr. Lo: You just don’t feel good. And even when you sleep, you don’t feel better.
Jennifer: And obviously, the Western doctor is going to look at that – and when I say ‘Western doctor’, I’m talking more conventional doctor. What do you think about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Dr. Lo: Well, when I put the condition aside – because I think a lot of times, doctors get hung up on the diagnosis. Maybe they’ve seen a patient who’s been diagnosed with something, they just go along with that diagnosis, but when I actually put that diagnosis aside and just look at those symptoms, to me, that’s looking like, “Okay, maybe this person has nutrient deficiencies, maybe this person has extreme adrenal fatigue, maybe they have malabsorption from various reasons in their digestion tract and they’re not getting the nutrients they need. Maybe they have an autoimmune condition that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.”
So I just look at that and go “There’s more digging.” I would never look at that list and just settle on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I would not. I wouldn’t just stop at that point, I would want to do some more testing and see what it is that’s actually causing those.
Someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, there’s a root cause for that. I don’t care if a doctor says it’s idiopathic, which means there’s no known cause. There’s a cause for it and that’s what we need to find out.
Jennifer: So in essence, the conventional doc will say, “Okay, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is like the end point. You’ve reached your destination…”
Dr. Lo: Exactly.
Jennifer: “…as far as diagnosing you.” That’s really hopeless.
Dr. Lo: Right.
Jennifer: That’s like a hopeless place to be in because as far as I’m aware, there’s really no treatment… is there?
Dr. Lo: Yup. Yeah, exactly. It’s sort of like the doctor looking at it and going, “Oh, the domino fell” versus, “Okay. Well, why did the domino fall? What’s the first domino that fell. Let’s trace it all the way back to the very first event and get to that.”
It’s like what’s the cause of the cause. I’m always asking that. It’s one of those pesky little kids that’s always asking why all the time. I do it all the time in my practice because when you keep asking and doing more digging and finding these answers and all of a sudden – oftentimes, there’s an ‘aha’ moment where you finally see what it is, what is that first domino to fall.
Jennifer: And you mentioned digestive issues. Is there any correlation between gluten sensitivity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as far as your experience from your practice?
Dr. Lo: In my experience, absolutely. In my experience, there’s a clear connection. If you think about it, if you’re eating something that’s causing inflammation in your gut, over time, it’s going to lead to problems.
Over time, it’s going to cause changes in your immune system. We know 80% of your immune system is in the gut, 70%-80% is in the gut. And so that’s going to change your immune system. You’ll be more prone to issues in that respect (which we can talk more about also) if you’re not absorbing your nutrients like I mentioned.
This is something I test for with every single patient. I’m testing for what is it that you’re deficient in. Are you low in certain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants. A lot of those different nutrients contribute to energy. So those are two easy ones.
And then, we know too (and I know you’ve had a show recently that talked about this with Hashimoto’s, with autoimmune thyroid condition) that gluten can highly contribute to that. I mean, one of the main symptoms of a thyroid issue is fatigue. You’re just really tired.
So those are, I would say, three easy connections that I see with gluten affecting energy and contributing to chronic fatigue.
Jennifer: And you mentioned nutrients. Are there a couple or maybe three nutrients you could rattle off to us that are really important that if you saw showed up on a panel as being deficient might be clues as far as like energy issues would be concerned?
Dr. Lo: Yeah, for sure. So the panel that I run, I run a panel through Spectrocell, they give us different categories of nutrients. One of the main categories I would see that’s deficient with someone who has fatigue is the B Complex vitamins.
I like this panel because it measures all the different B vitamins. You can see which individual one is deficient like B1 or thiamine or maybe vitamin B5. Both of those contribute to energy. And then B12 and folate as well – and B6. I mean, literally, all the B Vitamins contribute to energy, but those ones in particular – sorry, I have a train that I live right next to in case you can hear that.
Jennifer: That’s okay.
Dr. Lo: Co-Q10 is also an antioxidant that is a co-factor in something called the electron transport chain, which is the portion in the mitochondria that contributes to making ATP, which is energy. So if you’re low on Co-Q10, that pathway doesn’t happen optimally and so you’re going to have a deficiency in ATP. Simply put ‘low Co-Q10’, you end up with more fatigue.
Those would be clear ones. And then, also, magnesium. Magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 different reactions in your body. So if that’s a deficiency, then a lot of the different body systems are going to be affected whether it’s neurological system or your endocrine, cardiovascular and on and on. But magnesium is your adrenal glands’ – it’s one of its favorite nutrients. Without it, it’s going to have a hard time keeping up with the demands of daily life.
Jennifer: And I wanted to mention too – I’m just aware because my father is a medical doctor that if you take statins, they can deplete your body of co-Q10.
Dr. Lo: Yeah. You absolutely can.
Jennifer: So if you take statins, I guess that’s something – I know he will usually suggest to people like, “Hey, FYI, you need to watch your co-Q10.”
But here’s another issue if you’re probably taking statins and you’re having these symptoms, maybe you might want to think about this, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and looking at some of the deficiencies.
So as far as people who are – you know, obviously, they’re not getting enough nutrients and the gut is leaky (and I’ve talked to different people about leaky gut syndrome). What do you think has to happen if say the gut is leaky? What has to happen in order for someone to start feeling better aside from obviously, just getting their body ramped up with these missing nutrients? I’m sure there’s got to be some healing within that has to happen.
Dr. Lo: Yeah, for sure. It’s really true, you have to get to the root issue. Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying, “Get to the root cause,” but it really is true. You have to get to the root cause. So if it is leaky gut, you got to figure out what it is that’s contributing to that so we can do testing for gluten sensitivity, we can do testing for cross-reactive foods (other foods that could be contributing to that like maybe corn or soy or rice, maybe tapioca or teff or whatever it is).
It’s different for everybody, so that’s important to look and see what it is because you don’t want to do all these wonderful supplements and maybe powders and smoothies and all kinds of things if there’s a food you’re eating on a regular basis that’s still contributing to it.
So that’s important to figure out what it is that’s causing it, so removing those foods. I’ll be honest, it’s not very quickly to heal the gut. It takes probably three months to maybe two years depending on the person. So just reminding the patients to have some patience with it and know that it’s going to be a long-term thing.
So removing the foods that are contributing to it and then that’s what you can add in the power of natural medicine, so maybe things like slippery elm or aloe vera or maybe a marshmallow root or glutamines, some of these really healing nutrients. Using that every day for several months can help to really heal that gut lining.
Jennifer:And I just want to underscore this because I talk to people and I think they brush over the amount of time that it can take to repair damage that’s done. I recognize that we’re in a society where everyone wants to snap their fingers because we’re used to pills and they want to feel better tomorrow.
But for me, for example, when I suffered with adrenal fatigue, it took a good six months to maybe a year to start feeling better. I think a lot of times now, there are folks out there that want to minimize the amount of time or at least that’s how they talk about it as if, “Oh, you start doing this and you’re going to feel better in 30 days or less.”
Actually, I just want to appreciate the fact that you were very honest about how long that may take because I think a lot of times, people have unrealistic expectations of how fast their body can repair itself and then get frustrated and they give up before they really corrected the problem. They didn’t give it enough time to incubate in essence.
Dr. Lo: Yeah. That’s something I’ve really learned. It’s not treating symptoms. I’m not treating based on how you’re feeling. I’m treating the lab work. I mean, I’m not treating your lab, I’m treating you, but the lab work really helps me in guiding me of how we’re doing.
So when you’re noticing that you’re feeling so glorious and the lab work is still suggesting there’s still some work to be done, that’s something you have to trust and just continue with that.
And when patients sign up to work with me from both here in San Diego and all over the country, we work together for a while. Like you said, it’s not a quick thing. We’re checking in and seeing how things are going three months, six months, a year down the line.
When you’re persistent with it and you do work to heal that gut, you feel so much better. You’re preventing diseases down the line, you’re reducing your risk of autoimmune disease, your hormones are becoming more balanced, your immune system gets stronger so you’re not getting knocked down by all the colds or flus that are coming at you. It’s worth doing the extra work.
Jennifer: And I’m curious, you mentioned autoimmune issues. With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is that considered an autoimmune issue or is it just sort of lumped I with all these – because a lot of times, people say, “Oh, I have Celiac Disease and I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” It sort of seems to be lumped in with people who tend to have one, two, three autoimmune conditions. How exactly is that seen?
Dr. Lo: Now, the actual condition, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that, in and of itself, I don’t know if I would classify that specifically as an autoimmune condition, but it just happens to come along with probably most autoimmune conditions. So I would say they’re very much connected.
Jennifer: And do you find from your work that people that have chronic fatigue tend towards adrenal issues or thyroid issues as well?
Dr. Lo: Yes. Yes.
Jennifer: It’s interesting. It’s really interesting. So when you see that, say you see someone who’s got adrenal fatigue – I mean, it’s got fatigue in both of those, so we know you’re going to be tired, but how do you start with like the adrenals, for example? What are some easy ways for people to –
I mean, I’ve talked many times about adrenal fatigue because I think it’s one of those things that so many people, especially those with food sensitivities and Celiac have. What are some easy ways that they can start going about – and I’m sure you do some testing for that, but is there anything that they could do to help support the adrenals?
Dr. Lo: For sure. I think adrenal fatigue is really one of those conditions of modern civilization especially of the typical overworked mom, maybe young kids or maybe the mom who’s been everything to everyone and never says no to anything. Usually, the first thing I would do is more like lifestyle intervention. You need to say no to things. For everything that you say yes to, you have to say no to a thousand things and really driving that home.
Typically, the woman who I see who’s had a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is someone who is, like I said, everything to everyone. They are Superwoman. They can’t do that forever. So you have to start saying no to things and you’ve got to sleep. You have to sleep.
I’ve been reading this wonderful book by Arianna Huffington called Thrive and I love it. She gives so much amazing research and data about the importance of sleep. It’s just reminded me so much about it. I’ve been going to sleep really consistently for the past few weeks and I feel like a whole different woman.
I don’t even have adrenal fatigue – that’s the thing. I had my adrenals tested recently and I don’t have it – nor do I have leaky gut and I used to have both.
So even still, without adrenal fatigue, I’ve felt tired without sleeping enough. So I’ve had a sleep deficit. So if you take someone who really needs that sleep – and I know that the definition says it’s not better by sleep, but it’s probably like maybe a night or two is not better, but if you sleep consistently over time, you’re going to notice an improvement.
So that’s the first thing, saying no to things, carving out time for yourself. If you find you’re a busy mom and you just don’t know how to make things work, ask for help. People want to help you. Maybe you have a friend who maybe she has some kids too. She can watch your kids for a while you go get a massage or vice versa. You guys can team up together. But you have to start saying no and setting those boundaries and getting some sleep. That would be the first thing I would do.
Jennifer: And as far as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is concerned, you said like you don’t necessarily feel better after sleeping. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Sleep is so critically important because when you go night after night after night without sleep, you’re not allowing your body to reboot.
I think of it like a computer. You’ve got to reboot your computer every few days or else, it starts to go haywire. I just think naturally that our body is sort of the same way. It needs to shut down, do its work behind – you know, the brain is filing stuff away or whatever it does and the body is regenerating itself and doing all the important work that needs to be done that can’t be done while we’re awake and then restart, reboot when you wake up in the morning.
So that’s a really great lifestyle tip. Is there anything else for somebody who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A woman comes into your office, she is exhausted, you’re going to tell her, “Okay, you’ve got to sleep better. You’ve got to start saying no,” but as far as some diet and some lifestyle suggestions, what would be – because I’m sure there are women listening to this right now that have been told they have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and they are at their wit’s end. They can’t get any help. They don’t live in an area where there’s even a physician available that believes them that there is a root cause, as we’ve said. What could they do just in their own life right now that maybe they’d start feeling better in the next month or so?
Dr. Lo: The first thing I would say is to cut out the artificial stimulants because they’re only worsening the problems. They’re giving you an artificial boost just for a little bit, but they’re actually making it worst. So cut out the coffee, switch to green tea.
And eat regularly. Don’t skip your meals. Don’t just snack here and there when your kids are eating and you can finally shove something in your mouth. You need to eat consistently. Have breakfast every single day with protein. Do not skimp on that because that’ll change your entire day by doing that.
So have your protein with your breakfast, lunch and dinner and cut out the stimulants. Those are no-brainers.
And then you can maybe add in some nutrients that are going to help to support you. Vitamin C is very supportive for the adrenal glands. So I would have Vitamin C and increase it to bowel tolerance. If you do get loose stools, you want to back up to the previous amount. Maybe start with a 1000 mg. a day and then keep increasing it until you get to that point. That’s going to be the amount that you need.
Also, you can add in some adaptogenic herbs, herbs like eleutherococcus, which is Siberian Ginseng or Ashwagandha (that’s another wonderful adaptogenic herb) or rhodiola. Those are some herbs you can use to help to support you through these stressful times.
Typically, I would have patients do that in the beginning of the day and maybe mid-day or afternoon and you usually don’t need it later on in the night.
And if you’re having a hard time sleeping, add something called Phosphatidyl Serine to your routine. You can do that before bedtime, maybe 100 mg. or 200 mg. before bed. That will help to drop that nighttime cortisol so you can actually fall asleep because oftentimes, women with adrenal fatigue or extreme fatigue, they find that they’re tired all day long, but once the nighttime comes, they’re night owls and they want to stay awake and actually get some things done, but that’s the time you need to start to wind down so you can get that restorative sleep, so that you aren’t such a zombie the next day.
Jennifer: Can I just clarify too with you about the breakfast thing? This is what gets me. We’re a society where we get up and we’ve just got to go. We’ve minimized breakfast in our lives. I love the idea of protein.
If somebody wakes up and they’re eating like a yoghurt and coffee or drinking coffee or they’re just doing a gluten-free bagel with some cream cheese, they’re eating like this very processed, refined sugary meal, little mini-meal for breakfast, is that okay or is it a problem? I would say it’s not okay, but you’re the expert.
Dr. Lo: Totally not okay. You nailed it on the head. I think that if you were to eat that way, you’d feel like a train wreck within a couple of hours and probably will be reaching for another coffee or another – I mean, I would crave probably chocolate or candy at that point if I ate that kind of breakfast.
So I usually eat something that looks a little bit more dinner for breakfast. I might have some salmon. I make salmon maybe on the weekends and eat that for the next couple of days. I might do that in the morning. I know it sounds crazy, but I like doing that. I might have a protein shake in the morning.
One easy thing is you can maybe make something in the crock pot and cook it all during the nighttime. And then the morning time, you have a soup you can have for breakfast.
I mean, there’s no excuse really I think. People say, “I don’t have the time to do it,” that’s BS. You have time to do it. You just got to get creative and find ways to make it work.
Jennifer: No, I agree with you. I 100% agree. I’m so glad that we were able to kind of hash this out. I mean, I know that for people, this is like a starting point for some people. They’ve hit their wit’s end. They don’t know what to do about this stuff, with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Like I’ve said, I’ve talked to patients who have seen my father and they’re just like, “I don’t even know what this is. It doesn’t mean anything to me and I don’t even know where to go with this. I just don’t feel well and it seems like there is no end in sight to this syndrome.”
So I’m really glad that we were able to connect on this and I hope that the information that you’ve been able to share would be a good jumping off point for people. So thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Lo: Of course! Thanks so much for having me.
Jennifer: And so, everybody, please stay in touch with Dr. Lo. She’s fantastic. I’ve seen her lecture two years in a row at PaleoFX. She’s wonderful.
And please go listen to her podcast. I was on it recently and she has some tremendous guests. And like she said, it’s free, it’s on iTunes, so you definitely want to go check it out.
And remember, please subscribe, rate and review this podcast and head on over to Gluten Free School, leave your questions and comments on the podcast for Dr. Lo and myself. We’ll be happy to chat it up with you and talk a little bit more about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I just want to thank you, guys. I really appreciate your support. It’s been a year since we’ve started this podcast. I love this growing community. It means so much and I feel so blessed to be able to bring all these awesome guests to you.
I look forward to seeing you guys the next time. Have a fantastic day!
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