Struggle with fatigue? Look for underlying causes

311 always tired

Do you feel like you’re tired all the time and depend on caffeine to function? Do you feel you always need extra sleep and never feel rested? Feeling tired all the time is a symptom of a larger problem, and a cue from your body you need to address an underlying health issue. A variety of factors can cause you to feel tired, however clinically we see some common ones pop up over and over.

Common causes of constant fatigue

Low thyroid activity. If you’re experiencing constant fatigue it’s important to rule out hypothyroidism, a condition of low thyroid activity that causes fatigue and many other symptoms. More than 90 percent of hypothyroid cases in the United States are caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s, in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s can be identified by positive TPO and TGB antibodies and should be addressed by managing the immune system, although thyroid hormone medication may still be necessary. Low thyroid activity can also be a result of other things, such as chronic stress or excess estrogen. Testing for TSH alone is not enough to assess a thyroid condition. For more information, read the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian, and ask my office how we can help you manage low thyroid activity.

Blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar imbalances are largely overlooked yet are a common cause of fatigue. Many people struggle with low blood sugar, high blood sugar (insulin resistance), or a combination of both. People with low blood sugar frequently skip meals, eat too little, or consume excess sweets and processed carbohydrates that cause blood sugar to spike and then plummet. When blood sugar is low people experience fatigue, lightheadedness, shakiness, feeling spaced-out and other symptoms.

Consuming excess sweets and processed carbohydrates and overeating may also lead to high blood sugar, or insulin resistance. People with insulin resistance often have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping well and frequently feel fatigue as a result. They also feel tired after meals, particularly meals high in carbohydrates.

When struggling with fatigue, you should always evaluate your diet and eat foods that keep blood sugar stable, and eat frequently enough to prevent blood sugar from dropping too low.

Anemia. There are many kinds of anemia, but iron-deficiency anemia is the most common. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a part of blood cells that carries oxygen. Low iron deprives the body of oxygen and hence energy, causing fatigue. A common cause of iron-deficiency anemia is poor nutrient absorption due to undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, so gluten intolerance should be ruled out in cases of anemia. Other common causes of anemia are B12 deficiency, inflammation, or an autoimmune disease. It’s important to know which form of anemia is causing your fatigue as supplementing with iron when you don’t need it may cause toxic levels of iron. Although the body needs iron to function, in excess it is damaging.

Adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands sit atop each kidney and secrete adrenal hormones to help us respond to stress. Many people suffer from adrenal fatigue, a condition in which the adrenal glands produce insufficient stress hormones. Common symptoms are constant fatigue, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure. Poor adrenal function is always secondary to something else, such as chronic inflammation or poor diet. To support your adrenal health to combat fatigue, it’s important to find out what is stressing your body.

These are just a few causes of fatigue. Fatigue can be a sign of many different health disorders. Other things to consider are food intolerances, gut inflammation, hormonal imbalances, brain chemistry imbalances, dehydration, and of course lack of sleep.

Ask my office how we can help you manage fatigue.

Anemia: Deal breaker to better health

2 42 anemia is deal breakerIf you have iron-deficiency anemia, it will be difficult to impossible to heal from chronic health issues. Because it robs the cells of oxygen necessary for basic functions, anemia is a deal breaker when it comes to improving your health. Knowing how to identify and address your anemia are crucial first steps to any healing program.

What is iron-deficiency anemia

Although there are many forms of anemia, iron-deficiency is the leading cause of anemia in the United States and the most common nutritional deficiency. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a part of blood cells that carries oxygen. When iron is low, the body makes smaller red blood cells and fewer of them. As a result, the body does not get enough oxygen.

Why oxygen is important

This is a problem because all the body’s cells need a constant supply of oxygen to function. All cells have mitochondria, which are like little power plants. The mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), molecules that store and release energy, functioning like rechargeable batteries. This process is necessary to create new tissue, eliminate old tissue, convert food to energy, dispose of waste materials and toxins, and communicate with other cells. Healthy mitochondrial function and ATP production are vital to preventing and healing disease, and they require oxygen to work.

What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

A variety of factors can cause iron-deficiency. They include:

  • Not enough iron in the diet. Iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Chronic blood loss in the body from ulcers, heavy bleeding during menstruation, uterine fibroids, hemorrhoids, cancer, or regular aspirin use.
  • Pregnancy. The need for iron grows as the pregnant mother must supply iron for both herself and the growing fetus.
  • Inability to absorb iron. Iron-deficiency is common in undiagnosed celiac disease, which damages and inflames the small intestine so that it cannot absorb nutrients. Other food intolerances or poor digestive function can also result in poor absorption of iron.

Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia

The easiest way to determine whether you have iron-deficiency anemia is through a functional blood chemistry panel, which looks at a complete blood count and iron markers.

You can also evaluate your symptoms to determine whether you may be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling weak and tiring easily
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling grumpy or cranky
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin, nail beds, and gums
  • Short of breath
  • Trouble concentrating

Managing iron-deficiency anemia

One should address the root cause of iron-deficiency anemia. For instance, a gluten-free diet and repairing gut damage resolves anemia in many people. If you need an iron supplement, it’s important to choose one that is well absorbed by the body and will not cause an upset stomach or constipation. Ask my office for advice.

Avoid iron toxicity

There are many different forms of anemia besides iron-deficiency anemia, such as anemia caused by a B12 deficiency, inflammation, or an autoimmune disease. Supplementing with iron when you don’t need it may increase the risk of excess levels of iron in your body. Although the body needs iron to function, in excess it is toxic.

Ask my office for advice on anemia.