One of the most common complaints I hear from my patients is, “I just feel so tired all the time.” With our modern lives, it’s not hard to understand why. Jam-packing activities, work and other things into your daily life, and just not getting enough sleep, are some of the most common causes of being tired all the time. But, you may not know that there are some other big contenders for what may be causing that tiredness. Let me tell you about them.
If not enough sleep isn’t the reason you’re dragging through your day, one of the things you might look at is your diet. Many of my patients were surprised to find out that they have certain food intolerances and sensitivities that actually contributed to their fatigue. Here are three of the big offenders:
Gluten: From wheat products, can cause diarrhea and dehydration which leads to fatigue.
Lactose intolerance: From dairy products, can cause dehydration and cramping.
If you get very tired after eating wheat products or dairy products, you might try not eating them for 72 hours and see if the tiredness abates. Then, reintroduce them and watch the reaction. You should be able to determine if you’re sensitive to gluten or lactose by your reaction.
Dehydration: Dehydration is another big cause of tiredness – especially in the hotter summer months and in the very cold winter months as temperature extremes are dehydrating. Drink half your weight in water ounces a day to stay well-hydrated. Ex: If you weigh 160 lbs., drink 80 ounces of water a day, that’s just 16 ounces more than 1 gallon of water a day.
With 18-hour schedules, many of you may not be eating correctly and even the stress from too much “doing” can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies in key vitamins can take a toll on your stamina and your health. These include:
Vitamin B12: As you get older, your gut loses capacity to absorb and process B12. Most people over 40 are deficient in it. It can show up as chronic fatigue, jangled nerves, ringing/buzzing noise in the ears, and memory problems. The University Of Maryland Medical Center reports that 3 to 5,000 mcg of Vitamin B12 in injection form can help with tiredness in people who don’t get enough B12.
Vitamin D: Did you know most Americans are seriously deficient in Vitamin D? It’s true. In fact, numerous research studies have proven that Vitamin D deficiencies may be behind a variety of health issues including muscle weakness, pain, depression, all of which can lead to fatigue. Low D levels are anything below 50 nanograms per milliliter. Below 30 are deficiency levels. Be sure to get out in midday sunlight without sunscreen for 15 minutes to make Vitamin D. If you’re still low, take supplements. You should be getting 1,000 IU a day.
Low iron: Especially in still-menstruating women, postmenopausal women who have blood loss through uterine conditions (fibroid tumors, polyps, cysts), or men losing blood through bowel or urine may have low iron levels. This can cause significant fatigue. In addition, iron poor diets can cause fatigue. Other than menstruation, find out the cause of your blood loss and resolve it. Have CBC blood tests done to determine iron levels and if you need supplements to replace iron.
Depression: A common cause of fatigue. As noted above, vitamin deficiencies may be at the root of depression; low blood sugar levels as seen in diabetes (both types), low carb diets, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and mood disorder medications, can upset serotonin “happy” chemicals in the brain. Problematic relationships (marriage, job, friendships, and families) can also cause depression. Addressing the cause of the depression will often alleviate the fatigue.
Burned out adrenal glands. Chronically high levels of stress in your life can create adrenal “burn out” or “adrenal fatigue” from secreting adrenaline frequently. This can result in exhausting fatigue. Get your stress levels under control. Increase your B12 and magnesium, as well as B5 and C, intake to quiet down your adrenals. Minimize, or cut out entirely, caffeine, at least for a while. Do some kind of stress burning aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day to allow yourself to decompress. Walking, running, elliptical, bicycling, swimming all help to burn off adrenaline.
Hypothyroidism. Low thyroid levels can really cause fatigue as well as coldness and weight gain, falling hair, loss of outer third of eyebrows, voice changes. You should have thyroid levels checked if your symptoms persist. Low thyroid is fairly common in over 40 age people – especially women.
Other conditions. If your symptoms persist, get a complete physical exam with lab studies to determine any underlying illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, allergies, fibromyalgia. Even respiratory conditions can cause fatigue if you are not processing enough oxygen. This includes obstructive sleep apnea – gasping for air, snoring, or snorting during sleep, due to airway obstruction. This leads to interrupted sleep patterns which can cause next day fatigue. You will need a sleep study test to determine if this Chronic tiredness is a nuisance to deal with, especially when you have so much you have to do and want to accomplish in your life. Take some time to figure out what your tiredness may be stemming from and work on alleviating those causes. Make a schedule of all the things you need to do, but also schedule in some R&R to burn off stress, relax, and re-fuel your health.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/chronic-fatigue-000035.htm
Tired All The Time? http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/01/24/are-tired-all-time/
Can a Lack of Vitamin D Cause You To Be Fatigued? http://www.livestrong.com/article/402454-can-a-lack-of-vitamin-d-cause-you-to-be-fatigued/
photo credit: buzzle.com