Are you wondering where your ‘get up and go’ has gone? Many people do nowadays!
Extreme fatigue is a key symptom that many of my clients come to see me about. With our modern life of being constantly ‘busy’, working hard and playing hard, along with the distraction of modern technology, even if we think we get enough sleep, we are just not recovering enough on a daily basis to recharge our energy batteries!
Whilst the usual suspect causes of extreme fatigue are some or all of the following:
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Low iron levels causing iron deficiency anemia, hypothyroidism, low blood sugar, chronic stress, poor sleep hygiene (excessive caffeine and alcohol, blue light from laptops, stimulation of TV in the bedroom at night), excessive work, travel and so on.
Some detective work is required to delve a bit deeper and discover the hidden unexplained causes of extreme fatigue. Here are others to look out for:
Other nutritional deficiencies
–B vitamins – B vitamins are required for our energy system and for our adrenals to function. Particularly for adrenalin you need vitamin B3 and B12 (lack of vitamin B12 can cause another form of anaemia called pernicious anaemia).
-Vitamin C – vitamin C is also required for the adrenals – all of these vitamins are used up when stressed so we can see how an initially nutrient poor diet makes the effects of stress worse.
-Low iodine, l thyrosine and selenium for thyroid function, for example wild meats are high in iodine and we are eating less of these meats these days and vegetarians may find that they run short of this vital mineral for hormone health; l thyrosine is also found in animal protein.
-Zinc – zinc helps to make enzymes that are required for many biochemical pathways in the body, for hormones, digestion, immunity and helps prevent testosterone decline which can cause extreme fatigue in athletes.
-Magnesium – magnesium is a ‘natural tranquiliser’ involved in muscle contraction and helps the body to unwind, improving sleep patterns.
-Essential fats are required for mental concentration and mood.
-Protein – the amino acid tryptophan is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin, whilst theanine helps to increase it preventing low mood and depression. Serotonin is also involved in the regulation of sleep as well as cognitive function. As melatonin controls sleep and is also produced from serotonin, any deficiency can inhibit sleep quality.
–Water! Dehydration has a direct effect on our energy levels, even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood and energy level. We tend to view marathon runners and people who experience extreme heat as requiring more water but dehydration affects all people, even if you work all day at a computer, staying hydrated is still important.
As we age, even as young as 35, we may find we produce less digestive fluids such as digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid which are required to break down our food and absorb the nutrients contained within the food. When that happens, we are not taking in all the goodness from our diet, even if it’s a good one.
Is a visitor taking up all of your energy?
Parasites can cause extreme fatigue, think of them as a visitor that is using up your energy supplies and they will make sure they have the first say! The body works work overtime to cope with them.
Stimulants and Drugs
In Patrick Holford’s book, Optimum Nutrition Bible, there is an article on drug abuse, by psychologist and philosopher Oscar Ichazo which says that ‘drugs can be characterized as ‘energy consumers’ consuming energy at a rate much greater than our natural ability to replace it. Nothing can replace a clean body capable of producing natural and clean vital energy. He rates the most damaging to our vitality energy, in descending order of harmfulness as alcohol, heroin and opiates, tobacco, cocaine, barbiturates, anti-depressants, marijuana and caffeine.
If you are feeling tired at frequent unexpected times, there’s a possibility that you are reacting adversely foods that you are consuming on a regular basis. The usual suspects are gluten, dairy and yeast, however there could be others that are causing a drain on your energy as the immune system fights back.
The body has its own natural detoxification system in the form of the liver, a truly amazing organ that works overtime to detoxify toxins, not only from the food and drinks, as well as any medications we consume, but also the toxins we take in from the environment. The detoxification process requires many nutrients to transform harmful chemicals into less harmful forms to be eliminated from the body. As the liver becomes overloaded over time, depending on what we inflict on it, the body may experience extreme fatigue as there are less resources to fulfil this key role. A liver detox programme can be an incredible natural cure for extreme fatigue.
Fighting infections can be a drain on energy, we know what’s it’s like when we have a cold when all we want to do is sleep! Our bodies are telling us that we need to slow down and find out the underlying causes of infections we experience. Look at stress levels and digestive health to see what’s causing the energy drain.
Excessive high impact exercise/overtraining
We tend to view the problem of depleted vital energy in an unfit and overweight body, however what about a body that is well exercised even to the point of being overtrained? When we become addicted to high impact exercise without any down time in between, we can experience fatigue as the body uses up extra nutrients in the form of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids for recovery, as well as collagen to repair the joint cartilage. Appropriate nutrition is an essential pre requisite for recovery from fatigue after exercise, as well as performance and avoidance of injury. Over training in combination with a stressful lifestyle doubles the need for vitamins and minerals!
In my work with clients I look at the overall energy levels of the mind and body and also the underlying stresses and emotional symptoms that are draining their life force energy.
In our modern world with the stresses of work and personal life, our minds can become overloaded. So, whilst not necessarily a serious mental health issue, there’s a more basic necessity listen to our minds and offer some respite from these pressures.
Whilst high impact workouts can drain us, mind-body practices like Qi gong, Tai Chi and yoga leave us calm, invigorated and renew our vitality on all levels. The reason for this is that they produce more energy than they consume. Daily meditation, even for 10 minutes, also restores our vital life force energy. And who wouldn’t want to experience that right!
Nutritional and lifestyle solutions to prevent extreme fatigue
-Take simple steps to improve your diet. If you want to maximise your available energy in order to cope with the stress and strains of life, the optimum nutrition approach is the way to go. Choose a wholefood diet with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, essential fats and adequate complete protein.
-Supplement nutrients to address deficiencies and tailor for adrenal stress, digestion, immunity, training etc.
-Carry out a digestive stool analysis to assess levels of enzymes and HCL, as well as investigate the presence of a parasite. This will determine the need for treatment/supplementation.
-Carry out a food intolerance test to work out your elimination diet plan.
-Visit your GP or natural health practitioner to get some blood tests done so you can improve your immunity.
-Incorporate a live detox twice a year to address low energy levels by improving mitochondrial functions, giving the liver a kickstart thus reducing toxic load.
-Ensure sufficient downtime that is not exercise based – music, movies, socializing, reading are some suggestions.
-If you have a problem with drugs, there’s a wide range of addiction services that can help. A good place to start is with your GP and you’ll find useful information on the NHS website voluntary sector and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you. (See references)
-If you are overtraining, get some expert help to plan a less intense exercise regime and learn about the repairing nutrients you can take.
-Within your daily life adopt mediation or mindfulness training like yoga, tai chi or qi gong.
What’s the one thing you are going to do today to increase your energy levels?
Some useful references:
Patrick Holford, Optimum Nutrition Bible
Nhs.uk website: Drug addiction: getting help
www.mindbodygreen.com/tag/tai-chi: Why Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong Aren’t like Other Workouts