6 Causes of Fatigue
- Diet (food sensitivities, caffeine, sugar, histamine)
- Deficiencies (iron, B12)
- Infections (candida, reactivated epstein-barr, lyme disease)
- Hormonal imbalances (adrenal, thyroid)
- Environmental (stress, sleep)
- Toxins (mycotoxins, heavy metals)
- Diet A healthy diet plays a huge role in maintaining proper energy levels. Fatigue can be triggered by your diet in a few different ways, including food sensitivities, caffeine and sugar crashes, and histamine reactions. It’s very common for many of my patients to feel very sluggish and exhausted after consuming inflammatory foods, like gluten and dairy. Caffeine and sugar also give a temporary surge of energy, quickly burning through your energy stores, leaving you feeling drained. Furthermore, my patients who are sensitive to histamines notice much less energy after consuming histamine-rich foods. If fatigue is preventing you from living the life to the fullest, I highly recommend removing caffeine and sugar from your diet, discovering your own personal food sensitivities, and avoiding histamine-rich foods if you know that you are sensitive.
Iron-deficiency and B12-deficiency anemias are fairly common causes of fatigue. Iron is necessary in order to produce hemoglobin, a protein that delivers oxygen to your cells. If your cells do not receive enough oxygen, your body has to work significantly harder to function properly, which can leave you feeling exhausted.
Vitamin B12 is a cofactor in your energy pathways, meaning that if you don’t produce enough of it, your body will have trouble producing enough energy for daily functions. A simple blood test can measure your iron and B12 levels, but this will only indicate how much of each nutrient is floating freely in your blood. To get an accurate measurement of your B12 levels and how your body processes B12, I highly recommend an Organix test. You can combat these nutritional deficiencies with a diet high in quality animal protein and colorful vegetables.
- Infections Gut infections like Candida, parasites, and SIBO can all be underlying causes of fatigue. Other systemic infections, like reactivated Epstein-Barr or Lyme disease, can suppress the immune system and interfere with energy levels. If you have or suspect that you have one of these infections, you should treat them as soon as possible.
- Hormonal imbalances Hormonal imbalances, specifically adrenal and thyroid imbalances, are another major cause of fatigue. The adrenal glands and thyroid work hand-in-hand to support your energy levels, so it’s important to take care of them both. I recommend restorative yoga and adaptogenic herbs, which support the adrenal glands in coping with stress.
- Environmental Environmental factors such as stress and sleep have a direct effect on your immune function. We live in a very stressful world. We work 80-hour weeks, sacrifice our sleep, drink two cups of coffee to stay awake during the day, reach for sugary foods for more energy, and these habits affect us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. In stressful situations, your body responds by increasing your blood sugar, suppressing your immune system to save energy, and breaking down your storages of protein and carbohydrates. Over time, this stress can lead to insulin resistance, a weakened immune system, and eventually muscle wasting, if not properly addressed.
Toxins of any kind, including mycotoxins from mold and heavy metals, can be an underlying cause of fatigue for a number of people. If you suspect that you may be subject to toxic mold or heavy metal toxicity, I would highly recommend getting tested to be sure.
If you are suffering from constant fatigue, you are not alone. By changing your diet, healing your gut, and improving your personal environment, I believe that you will have the power to reverse your fatigue and start feeling like yourself again. If you are interested in working with a functional medicine practitioner in your area, visit the Institute for Functional Medicine website.