When was the last time you sprang out of bed in the morning feeling full of energy?
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints that people come to see me about, often in conjunction with other health issues but often it is the primary presenting problem, so if you think you are the only one who is feeling tired.... You Are Not Alone.
Fatigue is a normal response to physical exertion, emotional stress or lack of sleep. In a healthy person fatigue will resolve after a few early night, good diet and rest. If you experience ongoing fatigue that doesn’t resolve after resting, then it’s time to seek professional advice.
Fatigue can affect each of us very differently, it can occur suddenly if for example you have a significant viral infection, or you become anaemic or are recovering from some trauma. For most of us it is more likely to creep up. It may start as just feeling tired at certain times of the day, or waking tired despite getting a good night’s sleep, or perhaps you just feel like your get up and go went. For many of us feeling like this becomes a normal feeling and the insidiousness of this tired feeling over the months becomes the norm.
What Are The Main Causes Of Fatigue?
There are some very reasonable causes for fatigue that your GP will most likely check if you present to them for help. These include:
Low iron and B12 levels, which contribute to anaemia.
Post viral fatigue or chronic infection.
Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnoea.
Fatigue can be a major symptom more serious health issues and should not be ignored; further investigation may be needed in these circumstances.
Other causes maybe less obvious and difficult to assess. As a naturopath these are the areas that I investigate more comprehensively. These include:
Insulin Resistance and excess weight.
Poor diet especially high GI, processed foods and excess sugar. Missing meals
Adrenal Stress and adrenal fatigue
Digestive and liver issues
Dysbiosis and leaky gut.
Emotional, Physical and Mental Stress
Insomnia not associated with sleep apnoea.
Lifestyle factors also impact on our energy reserves such as.
Smoking and high alcohol intake.
Over exposure to electronic equipment.
And really just being far too busy with no down time or time to ourselves.
As you can see from this list that there are many issues that can contribute to the feeling of fatigue, and many of you may have several of these factors. This may seem like an impossible situation and that you a destined to be tired forever, but as a naturopath I am happy to say that it is possible to get good results and energy restored, once the underlying causes are identified and the necessary changes made. I believe that fatigue is your body’s way of saying that there is something wrong or out of balance and should not be ignored or assumed that this is just normal for you.
Some Top Tips To Help Manage Your Fatigue.
Get enough sleep, this sounds obvious enough, but often it’s the first thing that we miss out on when we are busy or under excessive stress. Our brains need a minimum of 8 hours to thrive, and 2 hours before midnight is worth 4 hours after midnight. Time for sleep needs to be prioritized just like anything else in your day.
Start your day with some exercise. Exercising first thing in the morning has many benefits, including increased energy. It can also allow you to plan your day in a positive way. It can be a simple as a 20 minute walk if it’s a bit new to you. Exercising outside in the sunshine is the best way, but please find time to move that body.
Eat regular meals to help keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is essential for good energy levels. Always start your day with a good breakfast and don’t allow any more than 4 hours between meals. Snack on protein rich foods that wont spike your blood sugars, servings only need to be small but eating regularly makes a huge difference to your energy and cognitive function.
Avoid Sugar and Caffeine. Both these will stimulate your adrenals and increase your production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Excessive production of these hormones contributes to adrenal fatigue and poor energy levels. I know that it is easy to fall into the trap of reaching for coffee and sugar to give you that boost, but you will come crashing down very quickly after having these only to reach for that next ‘hit’. Limit to one cup of coffee per day and make sure it is before 10am. Replace with herbal teas such as green tea, or rooibos for an energy boost and try ginger, cinnamon or peppermint based teas to reduce sugar cravings.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration is the big energy drain and is one of the major causes of fatigue and when we consider that our brain is approximately 83% water it’s no wonder we feel flat when we don’t drink enough water. Many of us don’t even realize that we are dehydrated. Drinking 2 litres of pure filtered water per day will help your body function at its best.
Get some regular body work to relieve the musculoskeletal effects of stress. Regular chiropractic maintenance, massage or acupuncture is a great place to start.
Meditation is a very well researched tool for helping improve our stress response and improve our general wellbeing. Its benefits lie in part in the control of the breath and its effect this has on your nervous system. Meditation does not need to be hard. Focused breathing for a little as 5 minutes per day can make a big difference to your sense of wellbeing. There are may tools available to help get you started I would recommend you find a style that suits you and begin practicing.
There are a variety of natural supplements that you can take that can support your nervous system, stress response, improve energy production in the cell, support sleep and improve your general sense of wellbeing, all of which will help improve your fatigue. These include Magnesium, Lipoic acid, iron, CoQ10, B Vitamins and Vit C herbal such as licorice, ginseng, withania to name a few. However self prescribing is not recommended and these products need to be prescribed by a professional naturopath or herbalist, who understands how they interact in the body.