We all feel tired, oluggish or a bit ‘flat’ from time to time. Usually, we can put it down to a late night or working too hard. But if you’re constantly struggling to get through the day due to your fatigue, something more serious may be to blame.
Fatigue is not something to be ignored: it’s important to investigate exactly what might be causing the problem and how you can fix it.
Here are some of the most common causes of fatigue.
1. Adrenal Fatigue
Today’s high-pressure lifestyle means that more and more of us are suffering from chronic stress-related disorders – namely adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue can strike if you’ve been under serious stress for a long period of time, causing your body to remain in ‘fight or flight’ mode without any time for ‘rest and digest’. When this happens, the adrenal glands are overworked to the point that they become depleted, and can no longer produce adequate amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels drop, you feel slow, sluggish and, well, fatigued.
Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. Cortisol is needed to help the body break down more glycogen (to help us run away from the threat) and stop insulin from delivering glucose into our cells. Low cortisol means your immune system will also slow down, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels may be out of balance, and your brain doesn’t seem to work as efficiently. If these adrenal fatigue symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to start looking at changes to your stressors, diet and lifestyle.
Also known as iron deficiency, anemia is much more common than many people realize. It occurs when your body can’t make enough red blood cells.
Red blood cells are needed to transport oxygen throughout the body. Because iron is the main component of these cells, anemia is often the result of an iron-deficient diet. In other cases, it may be due to heavy blood loss or a condition in which the body destroys red blood cells. Women are more likely to suffer from anemia than men due to menstruation or pregnancy.
It’s a good idea to have a blood test to check your iron levels. If iron-deficiency anemia is indeed causing your fatigue, you may be able to raise your iron levels through diet and supplementation. Include lots of iron-rich foods in your diet, such as lean red meat, tofu, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. A healthy, balanced diet will help.
3. Low B12
B12 deficiency may be linked to anemia, as B12 is also required for the production of red blood cells. B12 deficiency occurs when the stomach cannot produce intrinsic factor, a substance required for the absorption of vitamin B12 from food. Pernicious anemia can also result from a lack of intrinsic factor.
Vegetarians are most often affected by B12 deficiency as vegetables are poor sources of B12. It’s present only in animal products such as meat, dairy, fish and eggs. Other possible causes include poor absorption of B12 due to gastrointestinal problems, alcohol or drug use, or certain medical disorders.
Symptoms include feeling weak, tired, or lightheaded, as well as heart palpitation or shortness of breath. Some may also experience numbness or tingling in their limbs. If you experience these symptoms, it’s worth consulting a doctor for a comprehensive blood test in order to determine whether B12 deficiency is the problem.
4. Poor Diet
You are what you eat – which is why diet plays a major role in energy levels. Think of your body as a car: if you fuel it with food that’s high in saturated fat, refined sugar, trans fatty acids and artificial additives, you won’t get very far!
Sugary foods only provide short bursts of energy because they cause your blood sugar levels to spike suddenly – but this often followed by a crash. Poor quality fats and artificial additives are difficult for the digestive system to process, so you won’t get any energy benefits from them at all.
Real energy is found in natural, ‘whole’ foods: that is, foods that have undergone minimal processing or altering. Your best options are fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and raw nuts.
Fatigue is a major symptom of depression: psychologists state that it’s one of the most prevalent symptoms of major depressive disorders. There is a strong link between depression and fatigue, and indeed they can sometimes be indistinguishable from one another. Both can cause sleep difficulties, poor concentration, irritability and low productivity.
The main differences between depression and fatigue is that those suffering from depression are mentally too sad or low to be active, whilst those with fatigue might want to be active but are physically too tired.
Although symptoms of depression vary from person to person, some common features are unexplained pains in the body, digestive problems, mood swings, withdrawal from social interactions and loss of appetite. It’s important to seek help from a health professional, or even a trusted friend or family member.
6. Food Intolerances
If your body is reacting negatively to a certain food, you may experience mild to severe symptoms that leave you feeling tired and rundown. Scientific studies have shown that food intolerances are a significant contributor to fatigue.
When you cannot digest certain foods, the partially-digested food particles can leak into your bloodstream. This is where they’re recognized by the body as ‘foreign’ invaders, triggering an immune system attack.
When your immune cells begin fighting the invader, surrounding tissues may be damaged by inflammatory chemicals. Symptoms include digestive pain, joint inflammation, stiffness or arthritis, headaches, migraines, eczema or hives. Inflammation in the small intestine further hinders digestion, so you’re less likely to absorb nutrients from what you eat. This of course leads to energy loss and a general decline in wellbeing.
Our recommended ‘sleep quota’ is 8 hours a night – but few of us actually get this much! Late nights, early mornings and a busy mind can severely hinder how long you snooze each night. Caffeine can seriously disrupt sleep patterns, both preventing you from falling asleep and inhibiting deep sleep.
Like your smartphone, the body needs a certain amount of sleep each night in order to recharge. When your battery is running low, your mental and physical performance is at a disadvantage: you’ll feel weak, foggy, and lethargic.
While the obvious cure for sleep deprivation is “get more sleep,” it’s not always that easy. Insomnia can be linked to numerous disorders, lifestyle factors and medical issues, and each case is different. If you’re struggling with getting enough sleep each night, it’s worth seeing a naturopath or doctor to gauge the cause of your problem. Following some basic sleep hygiene strategies can help too.
8. Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Although often the last to be considered, the thyroid plays a major role in fatigue-related disorders. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that makes the hormones required for the way your body uses energy. The thyroid is also responsible for regulating body temperature, which in turn controls your metabolism and a number of other bodily functions to do with your heart, bones, muscles and blood cholesterol.
A malfunctioning thyroid can be due to either hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). An underactive thyroid can result in too little hormone production, which means your body isn’t able to generate the energy it needs to function. This leaves you feeling tired and lethargic, and also more likely to gain weight. An overactive thyroid is the opposite: too many hormones overstimulate the body, causing a kind of hyperactivity that prevents you from getting enough rest.
Thyroid function tests are usually performed by a doctor, who will check T4 and TSH levels.
9. Not Enough Water
The simplest but most common cause of fatigue is dehydration! Most people don’t even think about their daily fluid intake, even though we’re all told to drink at least six glasses of water a day. In fact, a recent study revealed that one in five people who visit their doctor complaining of fatigue are actually suffering from dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration-related fatigue include headaches, poor concentration, body aches and a general feeling of exhaustion.
Clean, filtered water is the best source of hydration. Although fluids such as tea, coffee, milk, juice and soft drinks are more ‘enjoyable’ than water, they do not hydrate the body. Juices and soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar, which contribute to weight gain and chronic health issues. The caffeine in tea and coffee is actually a diuretic, causing fluid loss!
Find The Cause Of Your Fatigue And Fix It
Chronic tiredness and lethargy is not something to put up with. We all need a certain amount of energy to get through the day, and life is no fun when we don’t have the energy to function properly!
Determining the cause of your fatigue is the first step to recovery. Whether your problem is hormonal, dietary, mental or something more serious, it’s only when the cause is eliminated that you will see improvement. Whether you seek help from a medical professional or a natural health practitioner, your fatigue won’t just “go away” without a thorough examination – followed by the necessary changes.
If you suspect that chronic stress and adrenal fatigue may be the cause of your exhaustion, there are lots of things that you can do. Our Adrenal Fatigue Solution program contains a 5 step process designed to eliminate those stressors, improve your diet and lifestyle, and get you back to health.