By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Feeling tired? There may be more reasons for your constant fatigue. What is fatigue? It’s an extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness that often has a gradual onset but can be alleviated with rest. Fatigue is considered a symptom rather than a sign or a disease as it is a subjective feeling that is felt by the person. Fatigue that persists past one month is considered prolonged fatigued while fatigue that is greater than 6 months is classified as chronic fatigue. Fatigue may be consistent or relapsing and can contribute to slow reflexes, moodiness, dizziness, headaches, aching sore muscles, appetite changes, poor concentration and low motivation.
Fatigue can be caused from a number of reasons and it can be difficult in some cases to determine the true cause. People often hit the sugar and caffeine when they feel tired and look for that quick fix to continue on with their day. It is important to get to the bottom of any fatigue that is persistent. It is not normal to feel fatigued and tired all the time. Any short term fix that helps to alleviate the fatigue such as caffeine normally works against the issue that is likely causing the fatigue in the first place and further compounds the problem.
In clinic I see patients and I hear from people that express feeling fatigued frequently, and it has unfortunately become a new normal that they get so used to they forget what it is like to feel energized and well.
Here are the most common causes of fatigue:
It is well understood that good nutrition and a nutrient-rich diet provide many of the cofactors that support energy production along with a healthy immune system. Antioxidants, minerals and vitamins all support healthy energy levels.
Excess caffeine, alcohol, lack of exercise and burning the candle at both ends will certainly contribute to fatigue. Exercise is very supportive of healthy energy levels as is moderating certain lifestyle factors.
Lack of sleep is an obvious one while lack of quality sleep may be less obvious. Restless sleep, lack of restorative deep sleep and sleep apnea will all contribute to poor energy levels. Working on ways to promote sleep is paramount for excellent energy levels.
Excess levels of adrenaline and cortisol will inevitably aggravate and cause fatigue. Being in a state of fight or flight all too often will certainly create tiredness as the body is on the go emotionally, mentally and/or physically all of the time thus exhausting itself out. It is important to practice relaxing techniques to manage stress levels such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and hobbies.
Studies suggest that psychological factors are present in at least 50% of fatigue cases. Symptoms of depression and anxiety include fatigue, restlessness and tiredness. Working on ways to support yourself emotionally will assist in improving energy levels and mood.
Iron deficiency, folate or B12 deficiency will affect your body’s ability to carry oxygen around the body along with the shape and health of the red blood cells being affected thus causing fatigue. Correcting any deficiencies with dietary changes and supplementation where needed will help to restore energy.
Lack of proper hydration has a considerable effect on energy production, even when someone is mildly dehydrated. Making sure you drink enough water is vital for energy.
Irregular blood sugar levels including insulin resistance and diabetes has a strong association with fatigue. Low blood sugar can certainly effect your up-and-go, consuming foods that support healthy blood sugar levels has a considerable effect on supporting stable and consistent energy throughout the day.
Acute or chronic infections can cause fatigue due to the immune system fighting an infection which requires extra cellular energy. Low grade infections can be less obvious while a common cold or flu can be an obvious reason why a person may feel tired. Foods to support your immune system and how to help fight a cold or a flu.
Other more serious concerns:
It’s always important to be aware that fatigue that persists past the normal reasons should always be checked by a doctor or health care practitioner so a medical history can be taken, blood tests and a physical examination can be performed.