Are you tired all the time? Do you wake up tired – even after a good night sleep? If you wake up every morning not feeling refreshed, you may be suffering from fatigue.
Most people live stressful lives, busy lives, so it’s normal to experience tiredness some of the time. This tiredness generally resolved itself after rest and relaxation. Fatigue is a common complaint but it’s also misunderstood, particularly if there is no easily identifiable courses.
What causes fatigue?
When your body systems are not working at the optimal levels, you may feel fatigued. This can affect you both physically and mentally.
Some of the causes of fatigue include;
- Low iron levels
- Stress and mood changes
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low thyroid function
- Low intake of water
- High toxicity
- Unstable blood sugar levels
- Digestion and liver issues including leaky gut.
- Food intolerances and allergies
- Inflammation and infection
- Mitochondrial dysfunction.
There can be many different causes of fatigue, it’s important to work with your healthcare professional so you can accurately ascertain the correct causes of your fatigue.
If you’re suffering from fatigue, I often recommend the first step is to visit your GP for a routine blood test. The doctor commonly test for iron deficiency, thyroid imbalance blood sugar and any signs of inflammation and infection.
If your medical tests are clear and there are no outstanding medical reasons for your fatigue, complimentary medicine may be of benefit to help isolate the direct cause/s of your fatigue. Complimentary medicine can offer a range of different modalities to help treat those causes of fatigue. This article covers nutritional and western herbal treatments for fatigue, but there are many others.
Causes of fatigue and natural remedies for;
Anaemia from low iron
A simple blood test from your medical doctor can show if you are low in iron causing anaemic. An anaemic person doesn’t have enough iron in their blood to make haemoglobin. Haemoglobin transports oxygen to the cells which is a requirement for health and energy levels. If you have anaemia taking iron supplements for a period of time may be required. If you have a tendency to becoming anaemic it is important to look for a possible reason, either losing blood or sometimes it can be a digestive issue of poor absorption of iron. The form of iron supplements I recommend is a natural form such as iron glycinate or iron biglycinate.
A common cause of unexplained fatigue is subclinical anaemia. About 10% of the female population are subclinical low in iron. Subclinical means not ‘bad enough’ to cause a ‘problem’ on a medical blood test but enough of a problem to be causing symptoms of a deficiency in iron which can cause fatigue. They may require an iron supplement for a period of time, improving dietary sources of iron and check if there is an issue with iron absorption from digestive issues.
Food sources of iron include red meats (especially beef, kangaroo, lamb), fish (especially salmon and tuna), beans (especially kidney and green lentils, tofu, chickpeas) raw nuts (especially cashews and almonds), brewer’s yeast, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, parsley, eggs, spinach, dried apricots and broccoli
Stress and mood changes
High levels of prolonged stress without sufficient ‘down time’ to relax and recover can be a lead cause of fatigue. Simply your body is not designed to be working or emotional charged all day every day. In some cases lifestyle changes are required to overcome fatigue, such as making time to do something you love to do, exercise, yoga, breathing exercises or any activity that has an effect of relaxing your mind.
If stress has been prolonged complementary medicine can be effective in helping your body’s repair and recovery. Commonly herbal medicine and supplements are used for helping the body bounce back from prolonged stress.
The commonly used supplements to help the body cope better with stress and reducing fatigue are Magnesium and B group vitamins. The dosage of these supplements varies depending on the individual requirements. Not all magnesium or B group vitamins are the same, talk to your practitioner as to the best brand for your individual needs.
Herbal medicine which are commonly used by herbalist to help improve the body’s response to stress and have been suggested to improve fatigue include Korean ginseng, LIcorice, Oats seeds, Rhodiola, Skullcap, Withania, Rehmannia, Passionflower, Siberian ginseng, Schisandra, Holy Basil, Skullcap. Herbal medicine are best prescribed by a trained professional (a herbalist) as each of the above herbs is different in its particular indications. Matching the correct herb to your particular symptom picture is important if you want to achieve a favourable benefit from herbal medicine.
Thyroid hormone sets your ‘metabolic rate’
The thyroid gland makes thyroid hormone which ‘sets’ you metabolic rate or how fast your cells work. Having low thyroid hormones ‘slows you down’ and one of the symptoms is fatigue. Again a simple blood test can indicate if you are low in thyroid hormone, medical called hypothyroidism. Your doctor can prescribe thyroid hormone if you are deficient.
Some people have what is called subclinical hypothyroidism. This is also a condition that may not come up on a blood test as hypothyroidism but your thyroid hormone is slightly low – enough to cause symptoms of fatigue. There are other tests including blood test that can indicate if you have this condition.
Mild imbalances of thyroid function may not require a medical prescription of thyroxine but compliment medicines can offer a range of treatments that have been suggested to help. In some cases they require a certain group of nutrients in supplement form these include Selenium, Zinc and Iodine. The common herbs used by herbalist for low thyroid function include Withania, Bacopa, Coleus and Bladderwrack.
Some types of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition, in these cases a different herbal and supplement program may be required.
Mitochondrial health: The Power houses of each cell.
Have you heard of the term ‘mitochondria’? It is simply a name of the part of the cell that makes ATP or the energy the body uses. If your body’s cells are low in mitochondria or are not working efficiently the common symptom is unexplained fatigue.
The mitochondria requires certain nutrients to work efficiently, these include magnesium, omega 3 essential fatty acids, lipoic acid, carnitine and CoQ10.
The mitochondria can also be damaged by high levels of free radical in our diet/lifestyles. Reducing exposure to free radical and a diet high in antioxidants is important requirement for maintaining optimal levels of mitochondrial health.
What is the optimal diet for overcoming fatigue?
The optimal diet for overcoming fatigue depending on the individual requirements and the individual causes of fatigue.
In general the optimal diet is to make sure you are eating a healthy, whole foods diet and drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. Avoid eating processed foods and eat organic, natural foods. Also engaging in regular exercise.
A diet high in vegetables and salads.
Eat protein foods at each meal, such as eggs, fish, chicken, red meat, tofu.
Whole grain food including fibre sources.
Add good fats into your diet including cold pressed vegetable oils such as olive oil, raw nuts and seeds a handful a day, avocado.
Filtered water 8 glasses a day
Avoid sugar especially hidden sugar added to foods by reading the ingredient list on packaging.
Avoid processed and take away foods.
In summary, fatigue can be caused by one or a number of causes. Finding the cause of your fatigue is primary in finding the correct treatment to overcome fatigue. Sometimes it is simply too difficult to isolate these causes without professional help. Never simply consider being tired most of the time ‘as normal’, many people are fatigued but that’s doesn’t mean it is normal.