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Tired All the Time? 8 Medical Causes of Fatigue

Tired All the Time? 8 Medical Causes of Fatigue
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Do you feel tired all the time? Nothing is worse than getting a full 8 hours of sleep and waking up feeling like you just went to bed. Chronic fatigue is more than just not getting enough sleep, it’s a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition [1]. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest. Unfortunately there isn’t a test for chronic fatigue, but there are a few things you can look for that could be at the root of the problem.

What Could Be Causing Your Chronic Fatigue?


There are a few different factors [2] that could be causing you to feel tired all the time. Of course you’ll need the help of your doctor to determine for sure, but if any of these conditions sound familiar, you could be one step closer to getting some real rest.

You’re Anemic


One of the first things doctors will check for when you tell them you’re tired is anemia. Anemia occurs when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. This can be determined with a simple blood test, a standard test when someone complains of fatigue. The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. If you also feel cold, dizzy, get headaches, and are constantly irritable as well as tired, you could be anemic.

If you are anemic, there are some things you can do, specifically with your diet [3]. Make sure to consume iron-rich foods like organic grass-fed beef, chicken liver, spinach, kale, chard, nuts, and beans. You should also eat foods that support your spleen because your spleen is responsible for red blood production. Squash is great for that, especially pumpkin, acorn, and butternut squash.

You Have Thyroid Issues


This is the second most common thing tested for when patients complain about chronic fatigue. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) occurs when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones [2]. Women are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism, but this can be determined by a simple test.

If you are found with hypothyroidism, your doctor may prescribe you a synthetic thyroid hormone pill that you would have to take every day for the rest of your life. You can also use your diet to improve your thyroids hormone production [4]. Wild-caught fatty fish like salmon are packed with omega-3s that are essential for hormone balance and thyroid function. Coconut oil is also helpful as it contains medium-chain fatty acids that support a healthy metabolism, increase energy and fight fatigue. Seaweed is also great for your thyroid as it’s high in iodine, which helps prevent deficiencies that hinder thyroid function.

You’re Depressed


We’ve discussed physical issues that could be causing your fatigue, but your mental health is just as important. If you’re feeling tired all the time, you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, or you’re having trouble falling and staying asleep, you could be suffering from depression.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed for depression, but these only inhibit symptoms and don’t solve the matter at hand. There is also therapy that can work in combination with medication, but there are other things you can do as well. Diet again is very important, as the foods we eat can influence our brain’s neurotransmitters. Eating  a well balanced diet and avoid processed foods is a start. You can also support your gut health with probiotics. Studies have show that your gut and your brain are actually connected, so taking probiotics actually changes your behavior and brain chemistry and it can improve cognitive function and reduce depression symptoms [5]

You Have A Leaky Gut Or Food Allergy


A leaky gut occurs when the lining of your digestive tract becomes increasingly permeable. The lining does allow certain things through, and keeps out the things that don’t belong. But when you have a leaky gut, things like bad bacteria, undigested foods, or toxins can leak in from the intestines. Like a leaky gut, a food allergy could also be the cause of your fatigue. Most common food allergies are to wheat and dairy and can also cause rashes and brain fog [2].

When it comes to food allergies, an easy way to see if your diet is negatively affecting you is with an elimination diet. You simply remove certain things from your diet completely and see how your body reacts. If you start feeling better when not eating these foods, and then your condition returns when you introduce those foods again, you could have found your culprit. If you have a leaky gut, elimination diets will often focus one or more foods. These could include: 

  • Refined/added sugar
  • Grains and/or gluten containing grains
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Dairy 
  • Soy  
  • Alcohol 

Before conducting an elimination diet it’s always best to consult with your naturopath, MD, or health care practitioner. If you do not plan to do one, a good course of action would be to focus on removing the top foods that could cause a leaky gut. These include refined/added sugar, grains, conventional meat, conventional dairy and GMO’s. Try adding more probiotic foods like kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi [6].

Your Adrenals Are Fatigued


Another reason you might be experience chronic fatigue is overworked adrenal glands. It’s difficult to test for adrenal fatigue, but it would most likely show up as adrenal insufficiency, or an endocrine or hormonal disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of certain hormones, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [2]. This can be caused by a multitude to factors including stress, lack of sleep, constant over-working or exercising, poor diet, and drug or alcohol abuse. This can increase your stress hormone levels, leaving you feeling deflated and exhausted.

If you want to overcome adrenal fatigue, there are some things that you can do. You can avoid foods like caffeine, processed meats, processed foods, sugars and sweeteners as these can tax your adrenals [7]. Make sure to include healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil and olives, as well as cruciferous vegetables and fermented foods. Look into natural supplements like licorice root, ashwagandha, or holy basil to help get even more vital nutrients for your adrenals and help pick up your energy levels. Lastly, remove any excess stress you can from your work or home life to help your adrenals get back on track [7].

You Have Sleep Apnea


People who suffer from sleep apnea also tend to snore when they sleep. With sleep apnea, your throat starts to close, not allowing for enough oxygen to reach your brain. Your brain notices this and wakes up in a panic, allowing you to get enough oxygen. Even though you wake up during the night, it’s for such a brief moment that you don’t realize it. This is why people don’t understand why they’re so exhausted when they wake up [2].

People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, so losing weight can help as you take off some of the load that your throat muscles were supporting. It can also be caused by excessive drinking, smoking, or the use of sedatives. Alcohol can relax throat muscles making it difficult to breathe clearly. Smoking and alcohol can also create inflammation and fluid retention in the airways that can hamper breathing. It’s best not to smoke in the first place and to not drink alcohol at least 3 hours before bed [8].

Your Heart May Be Failing


The American Heart Association tells us that when you’re suffering from heart failure, your heart can’t support your body’s need for blood. So your body will take blood from other parts of your body so that your vital organs are properly supplied. When your extremities have less blood in them, something like walking up a flight of stairs can be exhausting. Blood can also get backed up in your veins leading away from your lungs and leaks back into them, causing you to lose your breath suddenly and it can wake you up when you’re asleep.

Proper heart health is important for everyone, not just those suffering from chronic fatigue. They keys for a healthy heart at any age starts with proper diet and an active lifestyle. Avoid foods high in saturated fat, trans fats, sodium, and limit anything with added sugar and keep your red meat intake to a minimum [9]. Also aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, even just going for a walk every day after dinner helps.

You Have Diabetes Or Pre-Diabetes


When you have high blood sugar, your blood circulation may not be working efficiently so your cells don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need, leaving you feeling tired [2]. Having low blood sugar also leaves you feeling fatigued because your cells don’t have the proper amount of fuel. High glucose levels can also cause your blood vessels to be inflamed by sugar, leaving you feeling low on energy.

Type II diabetes and prediabetes are treatable and even reversible conditions [10]. First, remove harmful foods from your diet like refined sugar, conventional cow milk and dairy products, grains, alcohol, hydrogenated oils, and GMO foods. Replace those with healthier foods such as foods that are high in magnesium, chromium, and fiber. You should also eat more healthy fats, lean proteins, and foods low on the glycemic index.

Chronic fatigue doesn’t have to control your life, and by looking out for the root cause and with some help from your doctor, you’ll be feeling fresh and energized in no time.

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