So I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the reasons we might be suffering from continuous fatigue.
Our body is designed to cope with stress and has subconscious mechanisms that kick in when we are faced with a stressful situation. Chemicals are released by the adrenal glands, that sit on top of our kidneys, which cause our heart to beat faster, pupils to dilate and glucose to be released into the blood stream.
All this and many other reactions were originally designed for us to think fast and make a quick get away. However prolonged stress can cause excess release of the hormone cortisol that can make us over-wired, causing hot flushes, anxiety and sleep issues (waking around 3 am seems common).
Underneath this hyperactivity and getting everything done we may actually be drop-dead tried and would love (and need) a good nights sleep. So if we don’t start to manage the stress and our chemical imbalances we eventually burn out and are left with adrenal fatigue.
This means people feel exhausted, can develop chromic fatigue syndrome and can’t cope with life’s stresses any more.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, go and have a look at the Dr Wilson site http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/
This site has a great online questionnaire that lets you easily see where you are at with your adrenals. Dr Wilson actually coined the term 'adrenal fatigue' and has a great programme of products to treat this condition that I use in my clinic.
So if you fill in the questionnaire and find you need support, drop me a line and I will explain more about the programme to you.
Low thyroid function
This is a common complaint in New Zealand and is something I always consider when looking at clients, particular female ones, as it is more common in women. The thyroid is a gland that sits across the wind pipe and manufactures hormones that basically manage our metabolism and energy.
In order to manufacture these hormones it needs to have certain nutrients, predominantly iodine and selenium. Both of these minerals are deficient in NZ soils; hence many people having low thyroid function.
Signs to look out for are:
- being colder than other people
- weight gain
- hair loss
- feeling like you could sleep all the time
Low thyroid function can be diagnosed via blood tests that measure the thyroid hormones T4 and T3 and also TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) that triggers their production.
You can also use a temperature chart and measure your body temperature in the mornings. If you consistently fall below normal body temperature as shown on the sheet, you may have low thyroid function. If you would like a chart then drop me an email.
I have also just started doing iodine tests that measure if you have enough iodine and if it is been taken up by the thyroid gland. These are lab tests that measure optimal iodine levels through comparing urine and saliva samples. Again if you would like information about them drop me a line.
Iron is important for transporting oxygen round the body and oxygen is needed to power the cells to make energy. Consequently if we don’t have enough iron, we don’t have enough energy.
Low iron is more common in women due to menstruation, especially those women who experience heavy periods. Many women experience low iron during pregnancy and breast feeding. Vegans and vegetarians are another group with increased risk, as well as children, athletes and the elderly.
Signs of low iron include pale skin, feeling dizzy on rising, getting breathless with mild exertion, muscle weakness, poor immunity and general fatigue. You can also look inside the eyelids, as they look pale with low iron and I often notice the whites of a client’s eyes may have a slightly bluish tinge to them.
Iron can be measure though blood tests and GP’s normally test ferritin, which is stored iron. This normal range is considered to be within 20-350 ug/L. However the optimal level for menstruating women are 80-100 ug/L, so if you are at the bottom range of stored iron you may still be feeling fatigued.
I always advise everyone to ask for a copy of their blood tests to be sent to them, as you can get this free when using Lab Tests. That way we can check for optimal levels.
I can order these blood tests too, but you have to pay as I am a naturopath. As a test though it is not very expensive.
One thing to note is that I see many clients who have iron deficiency and know it, but won’t take iron supplements as they give them digestive issues. Not all iron has to do this.
Different forms have different levels of absorption and can be more gentle on the digestive system. You can read my article about this following the link below.
Blood sugar imbalances
I tend to find that clients who are suffering from blood sugar imbalances seem to experience their energy like a roller coater ride. Great highs followed by great dips. This is because the cells are not working well with sugar and are not getting enough, which means you are always craving more and are struggling to produce energy when you don’t have enough fuel.
Consequently people are driven by sugar cravings to eat the wrong foods - High GI carbohydrates (cakes, sweets, bread, pasta, crackers, chips), which then give a surge of energy followed by a crash.
Signs that you might have a blood sugar imbalance include
- sugar cravings
- feeling foggy, grumpy, shaky or nauseous if you don’t eat on time
- putting weight on round your middle that you don’t seem to be able to get rid of
You can get blood tests from the doctor or naturopath. Usually this is a fasting glucose test that is done first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything. Also if you have a cholesterol test you may also notice you have high LDL (bad cholesterol) or triglycerides.
There are many minerals and herbs that can help with blood sugar balance, as well as dietary changes. It is good to get you cells working with sugar to avoid problems in later life with heart disease and diabetes, both growing epidemics in New Zealand.
I often find that food intolerances can result in people feeling fatigued. The main culprit is gluten, which can make people feel quite exhausted after they have eaten it. I certainly know of a couple of clients who have said if they are driving on road trips they cannot eat bread as it makes them go to sleep.
So next time you have lunch at your desk and then wonder why you can’t function in the afternoon think if you have had something containing gluten.
If you want to investigate further your food intolerances then have a look at getting a hair analysis done. Go here for more information.
Think about your diet
If you eat rubbish you are not going to get the best energy out of your nutrition. So have a think about the following.
Water – you can actually have fatigue and brain fog when you have not had enough to drink. Make sure you keep hydrated with at least a litre of water a day this summer.
Energy drinks and caffeine give you an initial lift, but then crash your energy afterwards. If you are super stressed they aggravate the adrenal glands too and make them work even harder. This is why quite often you can get a hot flush after coffee if you are menopausal or adrenally fatigued.
Foods high in processed sugar also give you a surge of energy, but again you crash.
Over eating and eating quickly can make you sluggish so eat slowly to give your satiety receptors a change to evaluate the amount of food you are eating, so you know when to stop.
Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices are great for giving you a lift in the day. Also if you have them first thing in the morning it coincides with the time your liver is having a clear out, so all those antioxidants are going to help.
Remember to try and eat little and often and try to have a little protein with each meal to keep your blood sugar balanced.