Fatigue is one of the most frequent health concerns I hear about from my patients in clinical practice.
Although many turn to energy drinks, which, when rich in nutrients, are a better alternative to coffee, in reality this is only a temporary solution. It’s better to find the reason behind why a person is fatigued in the first place. By eliminating each of the possible causes, the real culprit will be found. In this article, I will describe the most common reasons for fatigue and what steps can be taken to increase energy levels once the underlying cause of the exhaustion is pinpointed.
When looking into the reasons behind why a person is so tired, it’s helpful to first determine whether he or she is suffering from a disease that could be causing the fatigue. For example, in one study, all patients with heart failure complained of daily chronic fatigue.
High blood pressure also is associated with increased fatigue as are autoimmune diseases and chronic infections. Therefore, it is important to undergo a thorough checkup to eliminate a specific health condition. Once specific diseases are ruled out, then the less obvious energy drainers mentioned below can be explored.
One of the first steps is to conduct a salivary hormone test (adrenal function panel). This test monitors a person’s morning, afternoon, and evening cortisol levels as well as DHEA levels in order to determine the health of the adrenal glands. We, at Synergetics Health & Wellness are happy to facilitate salivary testing for in office and online clients. We provide the salivary kits for in-home collection. This type of testing is often done in conjunction with testing for other hormone imbalances as well, because all endocrine glands work in concert with each other to provide chemical balance to the body. Once the imbalances are identified, we can create a clinical nutrient protocol to help relieve the stress of the imbalanced endocrine chemistry, reduce fatigue and improve general wellness.
Adrenal burnout and the associated imbalance in cortisol levels is a frequent cause of fatigue. Under conditions of stress, the adrenal glands produce cortisol and other stress-related hormones. When the adrenals are not functioning correctly, our bodies do not realize that the stress-causing event has passed, and continue to produce excess cortisol. This creates a vicious cycle of worsening burden on the adrenal glands, constant stress and a reduction in energy levels.
Fatigue and depression often present with similar symptoms. More than 80 percent of the people who are always tired are misdiagnosed with “depression.” Sometimes when this is case, a supplemental regimen that creates “sunlight” in the body can be the best anti-depressant and fatigue reliever.
Fatigue is often a symptom of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depressive disorder that occurs in individuals who are sensitive to the decreased sunlight that occurs in winter. The onset of winter may lead to more severe bouts of depression that can interfere with ones ability to function at work or in the home. This recurring form of depression usually begins in the fall, increases through the winter holidays, and doesn’t let up until the return of spring. Symptoms of SAD include extreme fatigue and lack of energy, increased need for sleep, sleeping much more than usual, carbohydrate craving and increased appetite and weight gain.
When I note that a client’s fatigue is worse in winter and associated with “the winter blues,” I find that the use of a specific protocol that includes increased vitamin D with other nutrients helps tremendously. Improvement in stress on the body/mind caused by chronic depression and fatigue can be relieved when this disorder is effectively identified.
The thyroid gland is a major controller of metabolic activity in virtually every body tissue. If fatigue is accompanied by other symptoms such as weight gain, inability to lose weight gained, hair thinning or loss, cold hands and feet, low body temperature, depression, slower bowels and dry skin, then hypothyroidism should be suspected and testing for levels of the thyroid hormones free T3 and free T4 as well as TSH is a good approach. In fact, one of the reasons for the strong connection between depression and fatigue mentioned above may be that individuals who present with both conditions may be suffering from underactive thyroid.
When individuals experience fatigue along with weight loss, rapid heartbeat, and nervousness, hyperthyroidism may be the cause.
An iodine deficiency often plays a role in thyroid health and overall energy levels. We have noted that whole body sufficiency for iodine was associated with a sense of overall well being, lifting of “brain fog,” feeling warmer in cold environments, increased energy, needing less sleep, achieving more in less time, experiencing regular bowel movements and improved skin complexion. There are methods you can use at home to determine your need for iodine. Please contact our office to learn more.
It is quite common for blood thyroid panels to miss thyroid imbalances, so we at Synergetics utilize a home blood spot testing procedure which is done at the correct time of the day, which is often the problem with blood work drawn at a lab. I also believe that the standards for acceptable “normal” readings (by today’s medical standards) is exceptionally broad, missing as much as two-thirds of thyroid imbalances. This is why we rely upon the blood spot testing in addition to the obvious symptoms of the client to identify thyroid dysfunction. We see people every day in our practice that have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism, but lab work that shows “normal function.”
By using the home collection blood spot testing kit, we can help both our in office clients as well as those we work with throughout the world obtain accurate information about their thyroid function.
Restorative sleep is essential to optimal energy levels. Fatigued individuals should therefore look to their sleep habits as a possible cause of low energy levels. Snoring and waking frequently during the night can be an indication of sleep apnea and this issue should be addressed. Additionally, anyone who finds it hard to fall asleep or to stay asleep, who suffers from restless legs syndrome or who wakes up with heart palpitations may have sleep issues that are causing fatigue. Chronic, long term loss of sleep is a major factor in high levels of stress on the body, and an inability to reduce weight.
One of the major causes of age-related sleep disturbances is a reduction in the amount, and alteration in the timing, of melatonin production. Supplementation with melatonin has often been shown to relieve these disturbances in the sleep-wake rhythm. In addition to improving sleep, melatonin has been shown to act directly on reducing fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also an important nutrient in reducing risk factors for breast cancer.
Allergies—both allergic rhinitis and delayed food sensitivities—can be another fatigue-causing factor. Recent studies are suggesting that food allergies appear to be an important triggering event in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
In my clinical practice, I also have noted that energy levels often increase in fatigued patients who eliminate offending foods from their diets. Therefore, I always work to identify “hidden” food sensitivities. Delayed food allergies can contribute to digestive problems, body aches, headaches and symptoms typically not associated with classic allergy symptoms. If you have tried everything else to get to the bottom of your fatigue, depression, stress, body pain, foggy thinking, it is time to look at food intolerances.
Food allergies/sensitivities also play a large role in the amount of suffering a person experiences with seasonal allergies. What happens in the upper respiratory system is often a direct reflection of what is going on in the “gut.”
Testing for hidden food allergies can be done at home via a test kit available through our office. Once you make the right identifications, you will know what foods to avoid to produce dramatic results. There are also nutrients that can be used when you cannot avoid exposure to offending foods.
Nutrient Deficiencies and Environmental Toxicity
When the body is not receiving enough of a particular nutrient or is overburdened with environmental pollutants, this can take a huge toll that compromises energy levels. Additional stress on the body produced by excess toxicity, reduces the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and supplements. Therefore, in my clinical practice, I recommend all my fatigued patients take an organic acid test that also checks for environmental pollutants.
Organic acid testing, which I also routinely use to help my patients, is also available at Synergetics Health & Wellness, and is important for those seeking to fine tune or increase a supplement program’s effectiveness. The client receives specific recommendations of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and amino acids and dosage suggestions.
The organic acid test also looks for detoxification markers that help us see how effectively the client is able to remove environmental toxins from their system.
Fatigue can be a side effect from various pharmaceuticals such as statin drugs, blood pressure medications and antidepressants so be sure to check the information that comes with your prescriptions, and have a detailed discussion with your care giver about this.
Additionally, a diet overloaded with processed food, refined carbohydrates and sugar can make a person feel sluggish. Dehydration is another important factor in low energy levels. Drinking 64 ounces of water every day is essential to enhance energy levels.
When trying to determine the reason for fatigue, the only approach one can take is to begin eliminating potential causes. By playing detective and looking at all the factors mentioned above, the reason why a person is fatigued will likely become apparent and steps can then be taken to eliminate exhaustion.