I came across this quote on the internet and couldn't resist sharing it with you:
"I feel like a potato that's recently been mashed" (Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword)
What better description is there of that deep, mashed, smashed emptiness that accompanies fatigue? How often do you feel so drained and tired that you just want someone to scoop you up with a big spoon?
Many people with fatigue don't have any other symptoms and don't feel sick enough to go to their doctor. So they struggle along quietly, feeling like a lump of mashed potato. If you see yourself here, don't keep ignoring your fatigue because it might be a sign of something deeper that needs to be addressed. In this blog I'll explore a few of the common causes of constant tiredness.
Is your lifestyle making you tired?
Start by looking at your daily habits. Often we ignore the obvious: for example, if you're working too hard, not sleeping well and constantly pushing yourself then you will be tired; or if you're not eating to sustain your energy levels then you'll be tired. These are obvious and I'm sure if you're reading this blog you might be struggling with a much deeper tiredness than that of a lack of sleep or a lack of good food. Many of my clients eat really well, sleep 8-10 hours a night, try not to over-work and yet are still utterly exhausted. This is because there's something going on beneath the surface that's causing their fatigue.
Is an underlying health condition causing your fatigue?
If you can’t find the cause of your fatigue in your lifestyle, then you need to start looking at common health conditions that cause fatigue.
Visit your doctor for a full check-up and ask him or her to run the necessary tests to investigate the following common conditions that are all associated with fatigue:
Common Health Conditions Associated With Fatigue
Anaemia – low iron levels are common in growing children, menstruating or pregnant women and vegetarians and they cause fatigue, decreased immunity, headaches and dizziness. Anaemia can be diagnosed by your doctor with a blood test and can be quickly treated with changes to your diet and, if necessary, supplementation.
Hypothyroidism – this is a major cause of fatigue, especially if that fatigue is accompanied by weight gain, dry skin and hair, constipation and depression. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you through blood tests and can prescribe medication that will quickly improve your condition.
Infection – I feel I am opening a can of worms when I mention this topic. There are so many pathogens that can cause chronic fatigue as a consequence but the most common are Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii (Lyme Disease), Epstein Barr Virus, Cytomegalovirus and chronic lung or gut infections. Your doctor will be able to help you investigate and treat these. Chronic dental infections can also cause fatigue so it may be worth paying a visit to your dentist as well.
Low vitamin B levels – the B-vitamins are responsible for maintaining your nervous system, mental health and energy metabolism. I like to call them the ‘stress vitamins’ because they are quickly used up by your body in times of stress. If you are going through a stressful time or have experienced a great deal of stress in your life, then ask your doctor to check your vitamin-B levels.
Low vitamin D levels – although not really an ‘energy’ related nutrient, low levels of vitamin D negatively affect the absorption of many minerals and result in muscular weakness and bone pain as well as depression. If you are struggling with ongoing fatigue accompanied by a lot of aches and pains or muscular weakness, then have your vitamin D levels tested. This is especially important if you do not get enough sunshine. For example, if you work night shifts, live in a highly polluted city or spend far too many hours in the office.
What else can be making you so tired?
If your doctor has ruled out any health conditions that may be making you tired, yet you are still struggling with exhaustion, then you need to ‘throw the net wider’ and start looking at other causes of fatigue.
Lesser-known Causes of Constant Tiredness
Medications – unfortunately lethargy and fatigue are a common side effect of many medications. Medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reflux/heartburn, antibiotics, antihistamines, antidepressants and those used to treat anxiety and insomnia are all known to have fatigue as a side effect (Neel, 2012). Never take yourself off a prescribed medication as this can be dangerous, but instead talk to your doctor who may be able to adjust your dosage or prescribe an alternative to what you are taking.
Chronic inflammation, dysbiosis or an unhealthy microbiome, leaky gut and food intolerances are all associated with fatigue as well as joint pain, allergies, headaches and so many other health conditions. If you're wanting to learn more about gut health and how you can look after your own gut, then have a look at my collection of blogs on just this topic >
Menstrual problems – many women struggle with painful, heavy or too frequent periods and long term these can be utterly exhausting and even debilitating. Unfortunately, the more exhausted you become, the more irregular and difficult your cycle will be so it is very important that you focus on good nutrition and a healthy routine in order to keep your menstrual cycle as balanced as possible.
Menopause - fatigue is also common in menopausal women whose sleep often becomes disrupted by hot flushes or night sweats. For hints and tips on how to survive menopause, read my blog, Managing Menopause Naturally.
If you're feeling utterly exhausted and a bit lost as to where to start, then I hope this blog gives you a few ideas. To be honest, the best place to start is by visiting your doctor and ruling out the common causes of fatigue.