There’s rarely a day that goes by in my practice without a client inquiring about which vitamin/mineral/herb/insert-supplement-of-the-week-here I would recommend. The reality is that I do not recommend supplements indiscriminately or based on the “latest trends.” I don’t have a problem with supplements; I use them all the time with my clients, and take several myself (I’m not just the president, I’m also a member!) But just like medications, they need to be used at the correct time and in the correct way, with the best understanding possible as to why someone might need them in the first place.
When specifically addressing burnout, treatment needs to be comprehensive. The physical causes of burnout are as individual as the people experiencing them. If someone has leaky gut or their 24 hour cortisol rhythm is out of whack, a gratitude journal and the power of positive thinking won’t fix it. To fully heal burnout, we need a combined approach that addresses both mindset and individual chemistry. This is often why supplements are so appealing to individuals who are burnt out; the promise of quick resolution of physical symptoms like fatigue or insomnia feels like a lifeline when we are drowning.
We think of supplements as safe because they frequently don’t require a prescription, but the stark reality is they need to be monitored closely. Melatonin is a hormone. Certain vitamins and minerals can build up in our bodies to toxic levels if we’re not supplementing consciously. We hear individuals and companies say, “if your energy is low take X!” or “if you’re having trouble sleeping, just take Y!” But herein lies the problem: an individual may not have an issue that is rooted in an imbalance of “X” or “Y” and taking one of those indiscriminately could make their burnout symptoms worse.
So what’s a person to do? Seek professional help. A functional medicine practitioner, naturopath, or osteopathic physician is an excellent place to start. These individuals can run lab work to check your levels, but interpret it in such a way that you only supplement that which is critical, and only for as long as is absolutely necessary. They’ll also be more inclined to look for underlying sources. For example, do you have leaky gut? That could be preventing you from absorbing vitamins and minerals efficiently, whether you’re getting them from food or supplementation. In that case, the leaky gut should be addressed so that the nutrients you’re getting are actually being absorbed into your system.
If you can’t access an integrative professional, booking an appointment with your primary care physician is a good first step (and many osteopathic physicians are PCPs so that’s a great way to cover both bases). Explain your symptoms and ask for a general blood panel that includes vitamins and minerals. If anything turns up on the labs and your provider suggests supplementation, make sure that you schedule a follow up with them in a couple months to run your labs again. This will ensure your levels are neither too low nor too high.
If someone is trying to sell you on the idea of taking certain supplements for the rest of your life, do not walk, run to a second opinion. Barring a genetic condition or a lifestyle/dietary choice that prevents you from consuming vitamins and minerals in their natural state (mostly, though not always, through food), you should eventually be able to get all your necessary nutrients through a comprehensive, whole foods diet. Supplementing can be an excellent way to address burnout recovery, but it must be done consciously and is best pursued with professional help.
This post was originally published on Medium via Ellevate Network on 31 March 2022: https://ellevatentwk.medium.com/why-you-cant-supplement-your-way-out-of-burnout-f8541299948c
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Eliza Collins is a burnout recovery expert and all around esoteric.