First For Women
Jennifer Woodward’s doctors couldn’t explain her exhaustion. So she did her own digging until she uncovered the hidden culprit—and the simple fixes that restored her zest for life
What should I do? I just don’t have the energy to make it through the day,” Jennifer Woodward sobbed into the phone, finally breaking down and turning to her sister-in-law for help. “As a perfectionist—maybe even a martyr—I’d always rejected people’s offers to help. But with my fatigue and brain fog reaching an all-time high, I realized I was too sick to take care of my family. That day, I surrendered to the voice on the other end of the line telling me, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll come get the kids so you can rest.’
“A few years ago, I could barely get out of bed in the morning. When I did, I dragged myself around the house, exhausted and on edge. I feared I’d never be able to get the rest I needed to feel caught up.
“This downturn was a total mystery to me. Except for suffering recurrent sore throats and tonsillitis as a child, I’d been healthy and driven my whole life. In fact, I’d been an overachiever… until everything unraveled in my
30s. It was a stressful time—I had four kids and was homeschooling them. But all the other moms I knew seemed to manage their busy lives. What was wrong with me?
“To the outside world, I looked healthy: I tried to cook organic meals and kept up on the latest wellness news. But despite my best efforts, I felt weak. I couldn’t play with my kids. I couldn’t even function after 7 pm. Most nights I hid from my family and cried out of sheer exhaustion, feeling guilty that I didn’t have the strength to be the old me. My emotions were fragile, my health was fragile, my marriage was fragile—I felt like I was going crazy.
“One night, my husband confessed, ‘I’m really worried about you. I don’t understand what’s wrong—you’re obsessed with health. How can you be this tired?’ I was stumped too.
“I sought help, and my doctor suggested I simply ‘sleep more and exercise more.’ When I explained that I could barely get through a workout and had even injured my knee after trying to push through while I was exhausted, he prescribed sleeping pills. But that didn’t seem like the right answer. Another doctor put me on estrogen, but nothing changed.
“My chiropractor tried to help, though she didn’t know what was wrong either. I started to accept it: I’m going to feel horrible forever.
A total turnaround
“The thing is, the overachiever in me wouldn’t give up. So when I didn’t get answers from doctors, I did my own research. After reading about adrenal fatigue, I decided to have my cortisol level tested. It should be between 35 and 45; mine was 11! Cortisol is often described as bad because an excess can cause belly fat, but it’s also known as ‘nature’s alarm clock.’ Without enough, I still felt exhausted after a full night’s sleep. I literally had no get-upand-go hormone in my system. But why? I kept digging…
“Soon I stumbled on an interesting finding: 95% of women have hidden Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in their body. EBV can enter the body at a young age—and one expert suggested chronic tonsillitis can be a sign that the infection is in your system. I thought about all my childhood sore throats and dug a little deeper.
“It turns out, EBV lies dormant in the body, but can ‘wake’ due to stress. When that happens, the body pumps out cortisol in response, and soon the adrenals get overloaded, causing cortisol to tank. I fit that profile to a T. I also read that most traditional doctors don’t think to screen for EBV, so even when adrenal fatigue is treated, the root cause isn’t addressed.
“With this knowledge, I felt hopeful for the first time in more than a year. To truly recover from low cortisol, I had to focus on treating its root: EBV. With the help of functional medicine doctors, I started taking olive-leaf extract, which helps prevent the virus from flourishing. I also supplemented with high-dose zinc and vitamin C. And each morning, I followed the advice of Anthony William, author of the Medical Medium book series, and drank organic celery juice for its antiviral benefits.
“Within a few days, my energy started to creep up. Within a week, I felt stronger. And within three months, I woke feeling rested and relaxed. My husband and I started planning date nights again. Plus, I helped coach my daughter’s volleyball team and even had the energy to sing and pray with my kids when I tucked them into bed.
“Through all this, my adrenals healed and my cortisol rose to a healthy level. I was even inspired to become a functional diagnostic nutritionist so I could help others. It has been a beautiful turnaround!”
—as told to Lisa Maxbauer