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5 Little-Known Causes of (and solutions for) Mama-Burnout


This article is dedicated to all you mamas facing the energy-sucking, mood-killing, soul-draining condition hereto known as: mama-burnout.

Maybe it started with your post-partum recovery and the serious sleep deprivation that came with the birth of your first child.

Or perhaps you’ve felt run down and irritable as your children reach puberty and you approach “the change.”

My goal today is to expose 5 little-known causes of, and solutions for, mama-burnout based on my years of professional and personal experience as a busy mom and physician.

Mama-Burnout Cause #1: Food Sensitivities

Hidden food sensitivities are one of the top causes of low-energy I see in patients. This is especially true for mothers because of how our metabolism changes after pregnancy and as we enter perimenopause.

The tricky thing about food sensitivities is they’re easy to overlook when you’re already feeling tired.   Plus, many foods we think of as “healthy”, like whole grains and dairy products, could be slowly chipping away at our energy stores.

The most common food sensitivities I see in practice are:

  1. Gluten
  2. Dairy
  3. Corn
  4. Soy
  5. Eggs
  6. Nuts

If you suspect you may have food sensitivities, you can either try an elimination diet for 4-6 weeks, then reintroduce eliminated foods one at a time every 3 days to observe your reaction.

OR, ask your Functional Medicine doctor for an IgG food sensitivity panel to pinpoint which foods are causing inflammation and contributing to burnout.

Once you discover and eliminate your trigger foods, you will be astounded at how much more energetic, calm, and happy you feel.

Mama-Burnout Cause #2: Not Eating Enough

Every expert, study, and magazine tells you to eat less…and they’re partly right.

I don’t suggest increasing your calories, rather changing your eating schedule.

You see, if you’re experiencing burnout, anxiousness/depression, lack of stamina, nausea in the mornings, low libido, wakefulness, or a reduced ability to handle stress, you’re probably suffering from adrenal fatigue syndrome.

Your adrenals are small glands that sit atop your kidneys, and produce the majority of your stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenal fatigue syndrome is extremely common in parents because we lead stressful, busy lives and rarely get enough sleep.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, ask for a hormone panel with a 4-point salivary cortisol test or a DUTCH hormone test.

You can also take some pressure off your adrenals by switching from 3 square meals a day, to 5-6 mini-meals a day. 

This ensures your blood sugar stays stable which supports healthy mood and better adrenal and hormonal function.

Aim to eat a mini-meal containing protein every 2-4 hours—to avoid overindulging in snack foods, try saving half your breakfast, lunch, or dinner for your mini-meal.

After a week or so, you should notice a significant boost in energy and mood…plus you’ll likely drop a few pounds.

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, a small snack before bed will help prevent blood sugar crashes and wakefulness.

Eat more often, gain energy, and get a snack before bed? Who could say no to that?

Mama-Burnout Cause #3: No Spiritual/Soulful Downtime

Let’s face it, our culture doesn’t support a whole lot of me-time for moms.

Yet, studies have shown women who have a regular spiritual or mindfulness practice, such as attending religious services1, meditating, journaling2, or even volunteering, live longer than those who don’t.

Spending time in nature has a similar effect, and studies have proved time spent in nature can improve your cognition and problem-solving skills by a whopping 50%3!

Mama-Burnout Cause #4: Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or “underactive thyroid” goes undiagnosed in millions every year…and it will put a real strain on your energy, mood, and ability to lose weight.

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include: 

  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry skin
  • Irregular periods
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Thinning hair

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, have your doctor check your TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, TPO antibodies, and thyroglobulin antibodies.

Be sure to insist all six of the above to ensure accurate diagnosis.

Nutritional recommendations may include eliminating gluten, grains, sugar, and raw cruciferous vegetables and increasing consumption of fruits, lightly cooked vegetables, vitamin D and iodine-rich foods.

Mama-Burnout Cause #5: Dehydration

Despite our SUVs full of half-empty water bottles, most of us on-the-go-moms aren’t drinking enough water.

This is an especially big issue in Austin due to our dehydrating climate.

Studies have shown a mere 2% rate of dehydration can affect our memory, attention, and psychomotor skills4.

So, how much water do you really need?

Aim to drink half your body’s weight in ounces of filtered or spring water every day from glass or stainless steel containers.

PLEASE avoid drinking out of plastic bottles, as they (even BPA-free ones) leach harmful estrogen-mimicking chemicals into your water…which leads to a whole other slew of issues.

I hope today’s article has helped shed light on some the top causal factors of mama-burnout and what you can do to re-empower your health today.


-Dr. Alex

1: “Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings.” Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
2: “Women Who Regularly Attend Religious Services ‘live Longer’ – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
3: Epel, Elissa, Jennifer Daubenmier, Judith T. Moskowitz, Susan Folkman, and Elizabeth Blackburn. “Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2009. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
4: “Cognitive Performance and Dehydration.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.