Do you feel exhausted even though you’re getting adequate sleep? Have you noticed that your mood, memory, concentration, and physical endurance are compromised? You are not alone. Fatigue is one of the most common concerns that prompt patients to see their health care provider.
Identifying the underlying cause of these symptoms is the first step toward helping you regain your energy. At Juniper Family Health, our naturopathic doctors take a thorough history of the patient and conduct some simple laboratory testing to reveal the root cause(s) of your fatigue. We can then develop strategies for re-balancing and get you back to feeling your best once again!
Common Causes of Fatigue
Hypothyroidism: It is estimated that approximately 2 in 100 Canadians suffer from overt hypothyroidism. However, subclinical hypothyroidism is estimated to affect up to 15% of the population.
Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormones, T4 and T3. The thyroid gland is the master gland of metabolism and energy, and affects almost every cell in the body. Therefore, if your thyroid isn’t working optimally, neither are you!
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, depression, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails and hair, muscle aches, poor memory and concentration, low body temperature, weight gain, and menstrual irregularities.
Iron Deficiency: Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. Individuals who are susceptible include vegans and vegetarians, pregnant women, women with heavy menstrual periods, and individuals with digestive disorders that impede absorption of nutrients.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, pale skin, light-headedness, shortness or breath, thinning of hair, and nail abnormalities.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for good health. Your body needs vitamin B12 for DNA replication, red blood cell production, and maintaining the health of your nerves.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with a variety of health concerns including anemia and fatigue, depression, and peripheral neuropathies.
Risk factors for this vitamin deficiency include vegan and vegetarian diets, celiac disease and other digestive disorders that impede absorption of nutrients, heavy consumption of alcohol, increasing age, and long-term use of antacid medication and some blood sugar lowering drugs (e.g. metformin).
Stress & Adrenal Fatigue: Chronic stress can lead to what is called hypocortisolism or adrenal fatigue. This occurs when your adrenal glands cannot keep up with daily stressors of life, and cortisol, a key stress hormone, declines.
Symptoms of suboptimal cortisol levels include fatigue, depression, shakiness if a meal is missed, low blood pressure, dizziness especially with standing, impaired memory and concentration.
Depression: Low energy is a common symptom of depression along with lack of motivation, interest, or pleasure in activities that previously brought joy. The fatigue that accompanies depression can be debilitating for many people with anywhere from mild to severe depression.
Other symptoms of depression include reduced concentration and focus, sadness, indecisiveness, guilt, headaches, pain, sleep disruption (insomnia or excessive sleep), and coexisting anxiety.
Important underlying causes of depression involve inflammation and gut disturbances, neurotransmitter imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and stressful life events.
Inflammation & Gut Health: Inflammation has long been known to underlie a wide variety of chronic health disorders, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disease. More recently, researchers have connected inflammation with fatigue presenting disorders, including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
It is now also clear that the integrity of the gut wall plays a key role in determining the amount of inflammation that is present in the body. A major factor that contributes to gut integrity is the balance and bio-diversity of the microbes that live in our intestinal tract. These organisms are collectively called the human microbiome, and are involved in protecting the intestinal lining from damage, and moderating immune responses in the body. Factors that negatively alter our gut bacteria include the overuse of antibiotics, consumption of food intolerances, poor digestion, and diets low in dietary fibre and high in sugar. In addition to an imbalance in gut bacteria, other factors can contribute to poor gut integrity, also referred to as intestinal permeability or 'leaky gut,' including stress and certain medications (e.g. ibuprofen).