Do you ever think to yourself, “why am I so tired?” Fatigue is a symptom—and chronic fatigue could have a serious effect on your overall health.
Often people think of symptoms as physical pain – such as a headache and nausea – or outwardly visible things, such as broken bones but also coughing, rashes, etc. However, having low energy—or suffering from chronic fatigue—never seem to fall into the categories of “true symptoms.”
Somewhere along the way, we as a society decided that being tired was just “how it was supposed to be.” And to an extent, some of us even wear it like a badge of honor.
Even worse, it is common for patients to see numerous primary care doctors about fatigue and be told that it is simply chalked up to getting older.
I refuse to believe this (and thankfully I have the training and experience to back me up)—fatigue is neither something we have to live with nor something we should expect as we age. There are things we can do to help combat chronic fatigue.
For many of my patients, fatigue is one of their most common symptoms but they simply write it off. Instead of addressing it, they double down on the caffeine or sugar intake and march on. One patient recently told me that she’s felt tired “almost her entire life” – yet as a mother of small child, she has no choice but to push through.
And, trust me… I get it. As a single mother raising my daughter and running a nonstop business myself, I had days where I didn’t know how I would accomplish HALF of my to-do’s. It wasn’t until I started truly taking a look at what was causing my fatigue and became intentional about recharging my own batteries that things started to change.
When fatigue becomes extreme DAILY fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest and is without a known cause, it may be diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Whether you experience severe fatigue, or if you have times during the day of low energy or waking up feeling unrested, more than anything, I want you to know that there are tests to help us understand the cause of your fatigue, and ways we can get your energy back on track.
Symptoms of Fatigue, Low Energy, and Exhaustion
It’s more than just yawning midday. For those that suffer from low energy levels on a daily basis, they are likely also experiencing:
- Brain Fog
- Memory Issues
- Difficulty Concentrating
- An Almost Unshakeable Desire to Nap
- Mood Swings
- Digestive Issues
- Depression and/ or Anxiety
- Sensitivity to Noises, Smells, and Touch
Not coincidentally, some of the symptoms are also the root causes.
Why Am I So Tired? Root Causes of Fatigue
I suggest getting blood work done to first rule out obvious reasons for fatigue, such as anemia (when you lack enough low red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body) or low thyroid function. Following those results, should they be negative, your fatigue could be a result of:
- Daily Stress… Consider what potential stressors you’re exposed to? Lifestyle, career, relationship, financial? Stress affects cortisol and adrenaline levels (made by the adrenal glands), which are related to how energetic you feel.
- Infections… Attacks on your body in general will cause your immune system to be jeopardized and lower your energy levels. Some viruses such as Epstein Barr or Lyme Disease are known energy depleters, that sometimes force patients to abstain from everyday activities for weeks (or months) on end.
- Imbalances In the Digestive Tract… Science proves that the gut-brain connection can cause inflammation or an imbalance of bacteria in the gut to communicate with the nervous system, causing fatigue. It can also trigger headaches, depression and/ or anxiety for the same reasons.
- Toxins In the Air, Water and Food… When we are exposed to molds, pesticides, insecticides, or flame retardant, we can feel tired especially because toxins slow down our mitochondria.
- Not Sleeping Well… Whether due to stress, airway issues, or pain, if you are not getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night, it is likely that lack of sleep is contributing to your fatigue.
- MTHFR or Other Genetic SNPs… Make it more likely that you could be deficient in precursor nutrients to make SAM (in the methylation cycle), neurotransmitters and to detoxify.
Interestingly, stress has indirect effects on exhaustion, as well. For example, since stress affects our digestion, it can cause maldigestion which blocks the proper absorbtion of nutrients… causing fatigue.
Stress (and cortisol) also affects our hormones, such as thyroid and melatonin, or our neurotransmitter levels, such as serotonin and dopamine. And you got it, ALL of these can cause us to have low energy levels.
Additional Tests That Can Give You Answers
In addition to the bloodwork mentioned above, I find it helpful to check on the follow levels, depending on the case and history:
- IgA/G food panel
- Cortisol levels at least 4 times over a day/evening
- Neurotransmitter levels
- Organic acid panel to check on mitochondrial function
- Toxin panels to check for toxins
- Specialty stool panel to assess gut bacteria
- Genetic panel to identify SNPs
Increasing Energy Levels Naturally
Ironically, sometimes we are SO tired (and busy) that we aren’t even able to do the things that would help us, in many ways, to NOT be tired. Opting for the easier and faster meal options can deprive us of nutrient-rich meals. And are you going to workout when you’re exhausted already? Probably not.
Eating properly (for your body), drinking plenty of water, breaking a sweat (start slowly) and even cleaning your house will all have the potential to make a profound boost for your energy levels. Be mindful not to attempt too much exercise at first, as it can deplete you more. Instead start with nice gentle movements, followed by restorative deep breathing.
Start thinking of yourself as you would an athlete who is training for an event. Athletes put every effort and intention into feeding themselves well, getting enough sleep, and taking nutrients that help them function at their best. You need the same thing—even if you are not preparing for a marathon, you ARE LIVING the marathon of life and it requires you to be prepared in order to avoid becoming depleted.
Once you’ve ruled out obvious causes through blood work, it’s time to start DIGGING IN.
What I often find with my patients is that it’s hardly ever just ONE reason. Instead, it’s a combination of multiple causes, such as an MTHFR SNP, environmental toxins, and poor gut health, that is causing our bodies to send out an SOS.
And that’s really what exhaustion is… a little white flag signaling that something is wrong on the inside and our bodies NEED A BREAK!
Scheduling Time to Reset
In speaking of taking a break, consider this…
Recently I’ve had a few patients come back from vacations stating that their energy levels are increased, they feel more productive and have more motivation to get things done daily.
For me, I’ve noticed this even when gone for a day or two. I come home with a new perspective and sometimes even new awareness to the things around me. I notice new things around the neighborhood I drive on a daily basis or I see something in my house through a fresh lens.
I’m curious if you’ve noticed that, too? And more importantly, how do we keep THOSE (vacation-mode) FEELINGS all year long?
I fully understand that it’s not reasonable to think that we can suddenly be in 24/7 vacation mode. But what if we tested the waters to see just how many days we DO NEED to RESET, and how often? Perhaps you find that you only need two full days to have raised spirits, improved sleeping and more motivation. In theory, you could then plan your entire year around mini breakaways that give you the time you need to reset—and be ahead of the game when it comes to your health and energy.
Get Help From Dr. Doni…
In the end, however, we still need more tools in our toolboxes to help us live a more optimized life. If you feel your energy levels aren’t what they should be, you can also dive into my Stress Warrior book and sign up for my 7-day Stress Reset to help guide you to add more recovery time into your daily schedule.
If you are not sleeping well, consider reading my Natural Insomnia Solutions Book so you can improve your sleep and finally get the essential rest your body needs.
If you still feel like you need 1:1 consultations, check out my Adrenal Recovery Solutions Program where I help guide you to do the best health panels for your specific case and to follow my approach to recovering your energy levels… naturally.
My approach involves looking at your genetic predispositions, and your current levels of nutrients, hormones, neurotransmitters, toxins and gut bacteria so we know exactly what needs to be rebalanced. Then we use herbs*, nutrients, and other natural approaches to get your body and energy back on track (no matter what age you are).
3rd September 2019
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.
Clark A, Mach N. Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:43. Published 2016 Nov 24. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0155-6
Kristiansen MS, Stabursvik J, O’Leary EC, Pedersen M1, Asprusten TT, Leegaard T, Osnes LT, Tjade T, Skovlund E, Godang K, Wyller VBB. Clinical symptoms and markers of disease mechanisms in adolescent chronic fatigue following Epstein-Barr virus infection: An exploratory cross-sectional study. Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Aug;80:551-563. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.040. Epub 2019 Apr 27.