Supplements may help with burnout fatigue
In a world filled with stress, burnout is a common condition found among many Americans.
Is it possible that a dietary supplement made from the French oak tree could provide a solution to burnout?
The answer is yes and no.
In a recent medical study, a specific extract of the French oak tree (Robuvit) was shown to reduce many of the parameters consistent with a diagnosis of burnout among physicians and other professionals in stressful jobs.
Burnout is loosely defined as a constellation of symptoms resulting from long-term unbearable repeated activity especially associated with profession-related stress.
The symptoms of burnout seem to be more related to mental exhaustion rather than physical activity. Symptoms can include profound fatigue, chronic headaches, insomnia, loss of emotional control and negative/repetitive thinking.
Burnout affects at least 20 percent of American workers and this number is even higher among specific professions. It is a significant factor in job performance as well as job turnover.
People who are burned out are likely to be less efficient at work, make more errors and change jobs frequently. As jobs and professions have become more demanding and more stressful, burnout is becoming increasingly common.
However, there is evidence that dietary supplementation may help to reduce some of the symptoms of burnout.
A recent medical study published in the medical journal Minerva Medica, suggested that a proprietary extract of French oak could reduce a number of the parameters of burnout. This research was done at Chieti Pescara University, Italy, and involved 108 volunteers all with stressful jobs. This included 22 physicians as well as 66 managers.
Half of the volunteers had the usual burnout therapy and the other half had the usual burnout therapy plus the proprietary supplement.
This particular study lasted for four weeks. The greatest benefit was seen in the group that took the proprietary supplement. The greatest improvement in this group was a significant reduction in perceived fatigue.
Although this study is promising in that the fatigue of burnout may be improved, there are several other factors to consider. The study only lasted one month. It is not known whether the benefits of this proprietary extract would last over a longer period of time.
There are a number of other dietary supplements, like ginseng or ashwagandha that, over a short period of time, can significantly improve fatigue. However, they lose potency with extended use.
Another issue I have is that the underlying reasons for the burnout are not being addressed by dietary supplement use. Only the symptoms have improved.
The number one reason for work-related burnout is the unrelenting stress of the work itself.
Twenty-three percent of Americans do not get paid vacations or paid holidays. More disturbing is that the rest of American workers receive, on average, a paltry 10 days of paid vacation per year. European workers get at least double that.
Unless our work environment changes, no supplements or medications will have any lasting effect on burn out.
• Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village. His website is www.alt-med.org.