Why Am I So Tired? The Naturopathic Approach to Fatigue
By Joanne Aponte, ND • October 20, 2017
If you are like many of my patients, your fatigue may be so significant that you are struggling to get through your days. You may need to nap, have trouble focusing, and may be unable to keep up with your responsibilities (family, work etc). Your blood work may be “normal” and your medical doctor has little explanation as to why you are so fatigued.
Fatigue is often caused by the body not functionally well in some area. Finding the cause of fatigue does take investigation and self-awareness of the body. The underlying causes of fatigue are different for each person and this is what I help my patients figure out.
When working with patients who are struggling with fatigue, I address the body as a whole and get a complete picture of overall health. This will help us figure out what is causing YOUR fatigue.
Here is a summary of this holistic, multifactorial approach.
Optimize the Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet that is overall alkalinizing helps improve energy and address many chronic health issues. Fill half your plate with vegetables especially green leafy vegetables and vegetables that support your liver (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens). Avoid excess meat, refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Exercise and Move
It is ideal to get a light sweat going for at least 30 minutes per day 4 days a week.
Some movement is better than no movement, so try to move daily even for just 10 minutes 2x/day – walking, stretching, jump rope, dancing! Listen to your body, if you are feeling worse after exercise or are in too much pain, this indicates that your body needs more healing before you can adopt a vigorous exercise routine.
Ensure Good Sleep
It is essential that you establish a sleep routine, get 7-8.5 hours per night, and sleep in total darkness in order to balance your hormonal system, and HEAL. Retire to bed no later than 10 pm.
If you are not sleeping through the night and not waking rested, focusing on improving this will be an essential piece of your wellness plan.
Not only do we need to sleep, we also need to rest. Do something every day that you find restful. Sit and have a cup of tea, go for a leisurely walk, listen to music, do a few yoga poses or a guided meditation, paint etc.
Spend time outside every day (aim for at least 20 minutes). Take your shoes off and ground yourself on the earth. If stress is a major factor in your life, herbal and nutritional remedies can provide significant relief, improve energy and facilitate healing.
Identify nutrient deficiencies
B vitamins (esp B12), Iron and Vitamin D are common deficiencies associated with fatigue.
Establish Hormone Balance
Thyroid: a low or suboptimal functioning thyroid can lead to much fatigue. In addition to fatigue, symptoms of of under-active thyroid include: depression, difficult thinking, physical weakness, cold hands/feet, constipation, eyelid swelling, hair loss, hoarseness, muscle cramps, infertility, weight gain.
Adrenals: The adrenal glands sit above the kidneys. They regulate your stress response and energy patterns. The adrenal glands secrete hormones such as cortisol and DHEA, as well as adrenaline. These hormones regulate your stress response both during acute stress (“fight or flight”) and during long term, chronic stress. When the adrenals are not functioning well this can lead to fatigue, poor stress tolerance, difficult sleep, menstrual irregularities, PMS and contribute to poor thyroid function.
I assess hormone balance with lab testing consisting of a full thyroid panel (TSH, FT4, FT3) and salivary levels of adrenal hormones such as cortisol and DHEA.
Identify Food Intolerances
If you are consuming a food that is stressing your body’s digestive system, it may be causing excess inflammation in your body. This can cause and worsen fatigue. Gluten and dairy are the most common food intolerances. Here at the office we offer a blood test to help identify foods that may be negatively impacting your body.
Impaired detoxification can lead to a build up of waste and toxins in the body, impairing the body’s ability to function well and heal. Fatigue is a common sign that the toxin load on your body is too high. While the body is designed to eliminate most toxins, if your exposure to toxins is too great or if your body cannot effectively clear them, symptoms and chronic illness can develop. Other symptoms of impaired detoxification include skin rashes, hormone imbalances, headaches, brain fog, body pain, fibromyalgia. Liver supportive herbs, castor oil packs, green tea, magnesium and biotherapeutic drainage remedies are used to enhance detoxification and improve overall health.
Balance the Immune System and Address Chronic Infections
Auto-immune conditions, chronic viral infections, Lyme Disease, and overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the gastrointestinal tract may be underlying causes of fatigue. When working with my patients I take a complete history to assess for the possibility of infections playing a role. Symptoms such as frequent colds/flus, sore throats, swollen/tender lymph nodes, digestive distress, and joint pain may indicate that the immune system and chronic infections are a playing a role.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.