Let's Talk About Fatigue!

Fatigue is something we all experiences at one time or another. The issue is not that we experience fatigue, but the issue is when fatigue becomes part of everyday life. Fatigue is a lingering tiredness that is constant, and it can be physical, mental or a combination of both.

If you are experiencing ongoing fatigue, it is important to speak with your doctor to find the cause. Don't simply accept that fatigue must be your lot in life and drag your exhausted self around each day, or worse; fill yourself with sleeping pills before bed each night to fall asleep. Be mindful of the fact that our bodies are not deficient in prescription drugs such as Ambien or Restoril. Instead, we need to be asking the question – what are we deficient in?

Simple blood tests can rule out vitamin deficiency, such as low iron or low B12. A routine complete blood count (CBC) looks at your white and red blood cells, platelet, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels, to detect or rule out any serious health issues such as tissue inflammation, infection, heart conditions, or possibly cancer. Low grade infection of any kind can also zap your energy, so consider any wound you may have that is not healing well, or even a possible dental infection. Your fatigue could also be as a result of a problem with the autonomic nervous system (POTS). A good functional medicine doctor, homeopathic doctor, or naturopathic doctor can often help you get to the root cause.

Hormone levels can also wreak havoc on sleep. If progesterone levels are not optimal, we won’t be able maintain normal sleep cycles. Progesterone can help enhance and improve the quality of sleep. Good levels of progesterone can also help us fall asleep and stay asleep. A functional medicine doctor who specializes in bio-identical hormones can check all your hormone levels to determine those that are high or low, and help keep these in balance. This was a game changer for me!

If there is nothing of concern in your lab results, then it’s time to take a serious look at your life. How is your sleep hygiene? Do you try to stick with the same sleep and wake schedule? Is your room cool and dark enough? Do you sleep with the TV on? Is your phone off and out of your room? How about the Wi-Fi – consider turning this off while you sleep to see if this helps. Avoid eating too close to bedtime as your body temperature will not level out properly and may cause you to wake up. Try not to drink liquid too close to bedtime if you find yourself waking up to use the bathroom.

Check in with your stress levels. Do you find your mind racing when you are trying to fall asleep? Are you staying active enough during the day? Try to adopt some mindfulness techniques such as 4-square-breathing or meditation. Try to get exercise each day. Simply getting out for a thirty-minute walk will help balance the busy mind.

Are you drinking enough water? One of the most telling signs of dehydration is fatigue, so simply staying hydrated can help alleviate exhaustion. When we sweat, use stimulants, or experience stress, we lose water along with chloride, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. The depletion of these key minerals puts stress on the body which tires us out. Not surprisingly, 75% of people in North America are chronically dehydrated. We need to be consuming an average of three litres of water each day. While we consume 1.5 litres from our food, we still need to drink 1.5 – 2 litres. If you consume a high protein diet or if you are pregnant or exposed to toxins, your intake need is even higher. There is little water in processed foods so take a good look at your diet to ensure you are eating high-quality, whole foods.

The top hydrating foods are watermelon, coconut water, strawberries, melons, peaches, citrus fruits, lettuce, celery juice, cucumber, bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower, and cabbage, as well as broth and soups (preferably homemade). Hydrating fruits and vegetables contain sugar, water and electrolytes, and nutrients that are all vital for good health.

Avoid sports drinks or store-bought flavour enhanced waters to hydrate, as they contain artificial colour; preservatives, such as calcium disodium EDTA and potassium sorbate; artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose and acesulfame potassium, taurine, sodium, hexametaphosphate; and artificial flavours. All these ingredients can cause a host of side-effects and are not necessary for hydration. There are some clean electrolyte packs you could use occasionally but be sure to always read the ingredient list to ensure you are not ingesting unnecessary chemicals.

Take a good hard look at your diet. Are you eating a variety of healthy food, including lots of vegetables, fruit, protein, and carbohydrates? Have you been skipping meals or relying too much on processed foods or stimulants? Are you getting enough calories to sustain your energy requirements? Are you eating enough fibre? Are you going to the bathroom enough? Without enough fibre in the diet, hormones, toxins, and heavy metals stay in our body, where they are reabsorbed. This can lead to major hormonal issues (PMS, menopausal symptoms), nutrient deficiency, weight gain, toxicity, high cholesterol; all of which puts strain on the body – leading to tiredness and fatigue.

If you are sick and tired of being tired, thankfully there are ways you can get to the bottom of it. On one hand, it may be something simple like caffeine too close to bedtime or an easy to detect vitamin deficiency. On the other hand, it could be something more serious like heart disease or POTS. With a good hard look at your lifestyle habits and a visit to a functional medicine doctor; one who spends time with you and is open to running a variety of diagnostic tests to rule things out, you will be able to get on the road to recovery.

For further reading about how to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s please check out Tips for Self Advocacy.

You can also find my Roadmap to Self-Advocacy article here.





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