Tiredness and Fatigue

Are you tired of feeling tired?

On one end of the spectrum, there are people who are constantly feeling tired, fatigued, exhausted, and lack motivation. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have a tremendous amount of energy, very little stress and seem to be able to cope with any challenge. They spring out of bed in the morning, looking forward to the day and meeting with their colleagues at work and with their friends over the weekend. You may wonder where they find all their energy.

If you are reading this article, chances are that you are like one of the many people we see in our practice that have no energy, are always tired, are not really motivated and feel that getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle.

On the other hand, perhaps you do have some energy but feel it is not enough and maybe you can do better.

Tiredness is also known as fatigue. It affects most people at some point in their lives.

If only I had more time – if only I could rest more – there is not enough time in the day for me to do all this. All these and many similar statements are something that we deal with on a daily basis at out clinic.

Fatigue is often misunderstood, even labelled as laziness. It often stems not only from lack of sleep–although sleep deprivation plays a major role–but from a host of physical and emotional factors. The cause can often be lifestyle-related.

If you have persistent tiredness you may have:

  • daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy
  • loss of motivation
  • poor concentration
  • difficulty making decisions
  • feelings of depression
  • feelings of indifference

So what is it that makes one person have endless energy and another so tired that they struggle for some of the most basic tasks they want to do every day?

The answer to this question needs to address the underlying issues that affect the individual and cause the lack of energy. While there are some general aspects causing this, each individual may also have their unique needs, so this has been considered and included in this article.

Let us explore some of the possible reasons for tiredness and some of the things you can do to help yourself gain more energy.

First we need to ensure that that there are no underlying health issues, such as anaemia, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism etc. These, if they exist, need to be treated accordingly and would result in increased energy levels. However, commonly we find that an individual has a lack of energy that seems to be unexplainable – then we embark in examining the other factors that can negatively influence their energy levels. Here are some of the causes of low energy levels and what you can do about it.

Overuse of caffeine: Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and although it gives you a temporary surge of energy, in the long term it depletes energy from your body, causing you to feel tired. Depending on how much coffee you have, start to gradually reduce the amount/frequency/strength and substitute it if you like with herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, etc. Reducing coffee and tea intake can increase your energy levels. If you can eliminate it altogether, that would be even better for your energy levels and overall health. Keep in mind that cola and some energy drinks also contain caffeine, so these need to be eliminated as well.

Artificial Lighting: Many of us work in an office and this results in excessive exposure to artificial lighting. Seek some sunlight, especially in the winter months. Go outside for lunch or take a short walk, where possible. Of course it is also important to avoid any over exposure to the sun in the summer months.

Lack of Quality Sleep: Your body uses sleep as a rebuilding time for muscles. Your muscles use energy most efficiently. If they don’t have time to recover then they cannot work properly. Therefore your energy can be depleted.

Poor quality or inadequate sleep is one of the top causes of a lack of energy. There are many reasons why people fail to get the sleep they need, including poor sleep habits and sleep disorders. In order to overcome these problems, it is important to develop strong sleeping patterns, such as going to bed at the same time every night, waking at the same time every morning and avoiding caffeine drinks in the evening hours, if not altogether.

When you have a lot to do, usually the first thing to gradually get squeezed off your agenda is sleep. But if you miss out on quality sleep, your energy, positivity, productivity, and memory are sure to suffer. Try these steps and see if they help you.

  • Cut back on TV and computer time after 8 p.m. If you’re already a night owl (you go to bed late and sleep in on weekends), the bright light emitted from television and computer screens can make falling asleep at a decent hour even harder. The reason? Light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone secreted at sunset that tells the brain that it’s night time. When melatonin levels are low, your brain is “tricked” into thinking that it’s still day time — and remains raring to go. Whenever possible, wait until the next morning to tune in and/or log on. If you must use light-emitting technology at night, try to turn it off an hour or two before going to bed.
  • Regular times: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time as frequently as possible – this sets your biological clock and assists in better sleep. Avoid taking naps during the day. Develop some habits before bed time, such as reading a book or relaxing (remember, no TV or computer).
  • General bed time ideas: Don’t use your bed for watching TV, your bed is not designed for this. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature; too cold or too warm is not conducive to good quality sleep and not healthy. Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable. Don’t eat just before going to bed, especially heavy meals. What are you thinking when waiting to go to sleep? Avoid thinking about the problems of tomorrow, deadlines, or stressful situations of the day just passed. Positive thinking is a much healthier alternative and goes a long way is assisting a restful sleep.

Too Many Sweet Foods: Do you have what we call a “sweet tooth”, in other words do you crave sweets? This can be an on-going issue or if you are a female it can also manifest itself during the time of your menstrual cycle.  This can result in a desire to eat something sweet, which will temporarily make you feel better and give you some energy. In the long term though, except for weight gain and other issues, eating sweet foods results in lack of energy and even exhaustion setting in. There are a number of ways that this can be helped so that the cravings disappear. It is important to have an assessment by a Naturopath to determine your individual requirements; however one supplement that could help you is chromium picolinate, which helps in balancing the glucose levels in your blood, thereby removing the sugar cravings. Sugar cravings is a common problem and I have helped many people with this issue through balancing out the hormonal system and levelling the glucose levels in the blood, through appropriate herbs and supplements.

Lack of Exercise: This is quite an interesting one as some people say that they are too tired to exercise – and this is absolutely true for them. Once we work on the reasons of the tiredness and get some improvement, exercise is then easier to introduce into your lifestyle, energy levels pick up and exercise becomes a part of the regime that helps with sustained energy levels for you. So before we say to you that “you need to exercise”, we make sure that you do have some energy to do so. Exercise does not have to be a daily routine or be excessive. Just a few minutes say 3 times a week is sufficient. We would discuss with you the type of exercise needed and discuss what and how much of it you can fit in your busy lifestyle so it does not become a burden but an enjoyable experience. We are all aware of the benefits of exercise- it increases stamina, increases energy levels, reduces stress, assists in a healthy cardiovascular system and many more.

Imbalance of Vitamins and Minerals: This is a very important aspect in treating tiredness. It needs expert guidance and supplementation will be different for every individual. There are a number of goals in providing nutritional supplements, such as curbing sweet cravings, assisting with energy levels, reducing stress, dealing with depression and many more. We have had great success in this area and it is not unusual for a client to lose their sweet cravings and feel more energised within the first month of treatment. Some examples of vitamins and minerals that can be used include iron (the form that does not cause constipation) which delivers oxygen to working muscles, magnesium that relaxes the muscles and helps the body convert food into energy, Vitamins B2, B6 and B12 that help break down carbohydrates, protein and fat and assist in the metabolic process to produce energy. Please do not just buy any supplement, as it needs to be balanced and contain the nutrients you specifically need. In addition, quality is of vital importance as not all supplements are the same quality. Consult with your naturopath who is knowledgeable in this area and can provide you with the right supplements for the best results.

Herbal Medicine: As with supplementation with vitamins and minerals, Herbal Medicine has an important role to play, depending on your individual requirements and reasons for the lack of energy. Herbs can assist with energy, mood, motivation, endurance, sleep, reduction of stress levels, help increase or decrease appetite and help burn food into energy more efficiently. Often we assist athletes who want to increase their endurance and recovery rates after exercise. A Naturopath with expertise in this area can achieve great results with the use of the appropriate herbs.

Stress Levels: Many people may be surprised to learn that stress is one of the leading causes of low energy. In addition to interfering with sleeping patterns, prolonged stress leaves the body in a perpetual state of anxiety. Over time, this stress can lead to symptoms such as headaches, decreased immunity and a general lack of energy. People experiencing too much stress on a day-to-day basis should focus on finding ways to relieve stress while boosting energy levels.

Of course we know that we all have some stress and, in fact, could not function without it. It is however the response to stress, as well as the duration and intensity of stress that we need to look at. In addition, the individual’s ability to deal with stress is also influenced by a number of factors, including the body’s availability or lack of specific nutrients. I would like to mention just one example of a nutrient that enhances our ability to deal with stress. This is Magnesium Phosphate, which I often utilise at my clinic to help with stress levels.

Magnesium and phosphate are associated with enzyme systems that require ATP, (adenosine triphosphate) particularly those involving energy production and neuromuscular function. ATP is the basic building block of many organic molecules in the cell, and it is used as an energy source. Magnesium Phosphate is an essential nutrient for nerve function. It is a relaxant in neuromuscular activity by reducing the electrical excitability of the neuron.  It has great benefits also in migraine headaches, sleeplessness, lethargy, anxiety and nervous tension.

Emotional Factors: We are all familiar with physical exhaustion, but mental strain — sadness, boredom, worry, anger, and general stress— can take an even heavier toll on vitality, completely wearing you out. Stress and worry are tiring emotions. Facing a stressful situation can be draining, especially when you can’t see a solution to your problems. Feeling that you have no control over a situation may make you frustrated, irritable and tired. These difficult emotions are not uncommon as life often presents us with many challenges. But if you react wisely, your brain and body will rebound — along with your renewed energy and motivation. I have had great success with various natural medicines such as herbs, minerals and homeopathic remedies, and when this is combined with a discussion of the underlying emotional factors, it can result in reduced stress levels and increased motivation and positive thinking. The assistance these can provide has proven invaluable in hundreds of cases. The feedback I receive is that the individual feels more positive, happier, calmer, more energetic and motivated which in turn produces less stress, the ability to deal with situations a lot better and improved health both physically and mentally.

Keeping fear, anxiety, stress, anger, bitterness or other feelings inside, by bottling everything up, is not the healthy way to deal with anything. Venting your feelings and discussing them with your health professional will facilitate a process for you to look at things from a different point of view and learn how to effectively deal with such emotions as well as different situations. Do this and see how quickly your energy levels and positive thinking return.

Diet: We all know what a healthy diet is nowadays, with the plethora of information available. In general terms, if you want to have good energy, definitely avoid sweet foods, sugar and fatty foods. Eat a balanced diet with a mix of vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates and proteins. By making a few healthy choices each day, it is possible to dramatically boost energy levels, reduce fatigue and increase motivation. Eat raw foods where practicable. It takes about 50% of your energy to digest a meal of fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If your meal consists of cooked and processed foods, your body will need much more energy for digestion. Heavy meals, with fat and sugar, can take up to fourteen hours to digest, forcing your body to work all through the night and early hours of the morning. No wonder you’re not full of energy after a night’s sleep. So, if you eat more raw fruits and vegetables and less fat and sugar you’ll regain some of that lost energy. Overeating is a double attack on the body’s limited resources of energy. Not only does it cause the body to work overtime digesting food, but the extra weight that one might have to carry throughout the day saps even more energy.

Lifestyle: Your lifestyle is another factor that may influence your energy levels. In particular, late nights and partying that are excessive and frequent can not only lead to fatigue but also to anxiety and sometimes depression, as the body and nervous systems get progressively weaker and unable to cope with everyday demands. Try to manage your time well, without putting undue pressures on yourself and be patient with yourself and others.

Hormonal imbalance: This is especially true for women. There are various hormonal imbalances that can lead to fatigue. I am continuously surprised by the number of women who say to me that they “just have to put up with it” regarding period pains, pre menstrual tension etc that are usually indicators of hormonal imbalances. I have helped many women in this aspect and I certainly do not subscribe to the belief that women “just have to put up with it”. There are great natural remedies that provide relief and help balance the hormonal system. Therefore, looking after yourself in this area will also prevent fatigue when it is due to hormonal imbalance.

Dehydration: It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Hydration involves water, not coffee, tea, alcohol or such beverages. Water makes up the majority of your blood and other body fluids, and even mild dehydration can cause blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs and resulting in fatigue. Also, ample fluids keep energy-fuelling nutrients flowing throughout the body. Besides drinking more, you can also consume foods that naturally contain water, such as yogurt, broccoli, carrots, and juicy fruits, like watermelons, oranges, and grapefruits.

Our body is mostly made of water. We need plenty of it to preserve our energy. You may want to drink bottled or filtered water, but even plain tap water is better than no water. Many of the problems we experience, such as headaches, are caused by dehydration. So, drink some water throughout the day to maintain optimum well-being and energy.

Inefficient Breathing: Proper breathing is a key element in maximizing energy. Holding the phone with our shoulder and neck instead of our hand, slouching, and poor posture, cause muscle strain, draining energy. Shallow breathing either due to posture or other reasons contributes to fatigue and other health problems. If this seems strange to you, don’t be surprised, it is a common issue. At my clinic I use breathing techniques to teach people how to breathe correctly (it becomes a habit after practice) not only for energy but also for stress and anxiety relief as well as for attaining better health and wellbeing. Simply put, shallow, “chest breathing” can reduce our oxygen intake considerably. We need to use our diaphragm when we breathe. That is, our stomach should go out when we inhale and in when we exhale. Proper breathing increases energy and has many other circulatory and blood benefits. If you’re working at a desk most of the day, be sure to get up often and take 15 to 20-second breaks. Stretch, get the blood flowing, take a deep breath, relish the moment, smile, and get back to work. More than a caffeine break, you need an energy break!

Should you seek help?

The above are suggestions in general and are offered as self help, however any such advise should never replace proper advice by your qualified Naturopath.

The above information shows you that there are ways to attain more energy and hopefully this is enough to get you to re-evaluate your priorities and set out on the road of high-energy living. After all, a life without energy can hardly be called living. If you would like an individual assessment as to which of the above apply to you, such as what supplements you need, what quality they are and their effectiveness etc, contact Centre of Health for an appointment and start your journey to better energy and better health, physical and mental. You deserve it!