Fatigue can result from multiple causes, and that a combination of stresses, both physical and emotional, have a cumulative and inter-relational effect.
Here are just a few reasons why you may be feeling tired…
Many of us are chronically dehydrated, increasing our toxic load. This is a major contributor to fatigue, and remember that dehydration itself is a stress to the body, so will augment any existing stresses. Drinking coffee and alcohol also increases the requirement for water. It is important not to drink water during meals, as this may impair digestive function, another contributor to fatigue.
That is, lack of red blood cells caused by either iron or Vitamin B12 deficiency. In most cases correctible by altering the diet or taking appropriate supplementation. This requires a blood test to establish this diagnosis and extent of deficiency. In some cases it may be necessary to obtain these supplements in injectable form, e.g. in the case of severe iron deficiency or pernicious anaemia (an auto-immune disorder preventing absorption of Vitamin B12). Iron and Vitamin B12 are essential for many other biological functions.
Due to poor diet, excessive stress, extra demands placed on the body e.g. pregnancy, certain medications, illnesses. Examples of nutrients important in energy production include magnesium and B group vitamins.
Sometimes we are unaware of food sensitivities we have. This can place continual strain on our immune system, reducing our ability to fight illness, perhaps leading to weight gain and can also make you tired.
Whilst exercise is beneficial, excessive training is also a stress on the body.
Through insomnia, overwork or poor quality sleep.
As we have written about before, our bodies are bombarded with chemicals from the environment, food sources and personal care products. Certain herbicides and pesticides are now known to interfere with our hormonal system (known as endocrine disruptive chemicals), wrecking havoc on our bodies. Fatigue is just one consequence.
Well known culprits in the syndrome are Glandular Fever and Epstein Barr Virus, however there are many viruses that can lead to this enduring and debilitating condition. Often insufficient recovery time is a factor.
Mitochondria are energy producing organelles that exist in every cell in the body. There are many theories as to causes of diminished function, including insulin resistance and oxidative stress.
eight gain is another potential consequence of continual elevated cortisol levels (initiated by stress triggers), together with insufficient time to prepare nourishing meals and to exercise. This creates a vicious cycle whereby the excess weight contributes to fatigue and the fatigue and stress inhibits ability to lose weight.
When we ‘eat on the run’ and then find ourselves with indigestion, we are expecting too much of our nervous system. That is, when we eat on the run, or when stressed, the parasympathetic (rest and digest) system is over-ridden by the sympathetic nervous system, which logically means we don’t digest and we don’t absorb essential nutrients from our food. The solution is not to take an antacid medication, but rather avoid creating a situation where these two important aspects of our nervous system are competing against each other.
Inflammation results from numerous causes from sunburn to injury to certain aggravating foods – sugar in particular.
Fatigue is also a symptom of a number of other pathologies, and adrenal insufficiency can also result from other causes, e.g. Addison’s Disease, which may originate in the adrenal glands or be mediated by the pituitary or hypothalamus.
In other words, the reasons for fatigue need to be properly assessed.
That being said, chronic stress is a major factor in fatigue, and in fact, most of the factors listed are sources of stress for the body.
When referring to burn-out or adrenal fatigue, however, we are generally referring to emotional and/or mental stress. That is, response to an overwhelming event, sustained stress and pressure, or even persistent feelings of frustration or being undervalued. All of these situations have the propensity to overstimulate the nervous system. In turn, this over-taxes the adrenal glands and interferes with signalling and negative feedback systems, effectively ‘re-setting’ the baseline, leaving us feeling ‘wired’ and quick to react, or go into anxiety states. If this goes on long enough, we can go from producing too much cortisol too often, to not enough.
By the time we are in ‘burn-out’, we often feel out of control and completely overwhelmed. When the cumulative effect of chronic stress and sustained elevated cortisol levels is no longer tenable, our bodies go into ‘shut down’ or ‘freeze’, the next survival mechanism open to us when, in this case, the fight/flight response, has been over used and exhausted.
However, because this is usually a cumulative process, it is also gradual, so it is important not to ignore warning signs, recognise when this is a path we may be on, and take action before we reach the burn out stage.
Potential warning signs
- Feeling tired frequently (disproportionate to activity)
- Lacking in motivation
- Unrefreshed sleep
- Tendency towards short term fixes such as caffeine, sugar and other stimulants
Key things to be mindful of to prevent chronic/adrenal fatigue and burnout
- Take time to do things that are restorative to you
- Avoid/minimise psycho-stimulants such as alcohol and coffee
- Eat consciously
- Minimise sugar intake
- Eat organic as much as possible
- Identify situations/people that drain our energy
- Allow sufficient time to recover from injury or illness
I would strongly recommend seeking assistance in identifying causes of fatigue and developing strategies to improve energy levels. If you are close to, or already in the burn out stage, it is even more important to seek assistance.
Feeling tired/not getting enough sleep can also deplete our immune system. Read our article quick tips on boosting immunity to help you stay on track.