Chronic fatigue and low energy are very common - we all feel it, for a day or two, or a few months, and for some it can persist for years. There are a number of causes, from hormone changes, lack of sleep and stress to a lack of exercise, health conditions, poor diet and much more. You can do something about it. Here we explain the causes of 'long tiredness' and the best foods to beat tiredness.
What causes extreme fatigue
Nutrient deficiencies are a major cause of tiredness and fatigue. The most discussed nutrient deficiency relating to tiredness is Iron, however deficiencies in Iodine and B vitamins, Vitamin C and Magnesium can have a similar impact.
Learn more in 'How do I know if I'm deficient in Magnesium'.
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All these nutrients are needed directly for the energy production cycle known as the 'Krebs cycle'. A deficiency in Iron, B vitamins and Copper can also cause problems with blood cell formation and haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of blood cells, which leads to fatigue.
Viral infections are a common cause of chronic fatigue. This can be due to excess stress of the adrenal glands, nutrient deficiencies left by a virus, and possible damage to the body's cells triggered by the inflammation from fighting the virus.
Poorly functioning adrenal glands
Your adrenal glands are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys and produce adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that help you deal with stress, and regulate energy levels.
Poor quality sleep
You may think you are getting enough sleep, but if your quality of sleep is poor, or you do not complete a full sleep cycle, you will feel tired and fatigued during the day. Long term sleep deprivation contributes towards a number of health conditions as well as chronic fatigue, so understanding and correcting sleep cycles is important.
Discover 'How your diet can help your sleep'.
Poor gut health and digestion
You may be eating an excellent diet, but if your gut health is compromised, you will not be absorbing as many nutrients. Low digestive enzymes and poor gut bacteria are the main causes of poor digestion. The probiotics in your gut also aid with the synthesis of serotonin, your 'happy hormone' that is needed for motivation and mental function. Learn more about the 6 signs of an unhealthy gut.
Low thyroid function
Your thyroid gland is located in your neck and produced thyroid hormones out of iodine. Thyroid hormones control metabolism and the rate at which you make energy. An underactive thyroid is a common cause for tiredness and fatigue.
Having a store of heavy metals in your body can interfere with energy production. Heavy metals can accumulate due to many factors including smoking, using aluminium cookware, and mercury tooth fillings. Heavy metals are also included in some common pharmaceutical medications.
Why am I always tired?
Here are five ways to get to the bottom of chronic fatigue and relentless tiredness and what's causing it.
1. Get a blood test
Ask your GP for a blood test to look for deficiencies of Iron
, B Vitamins and other nutrients. Any deficiencies found can be corrected by supplementation or a change in your diet.
2. Analysis diet
Not all nutrient deficiencies can be detected by a blood test, so it is important to adapt your diet to address any obvious deficiencies, or remove foods that can contribute to fatigue.
Start by removing foods that inhibit energy and sleep, and replacing these one-by-one with foods that are beneficial for energy. Keep a log of what you remove from your diet and monitor your energy levels. Each change you make should last at least 5-10 days, so it may be 6-8 weeks before you identify what works well for you, and what doesn't.
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You may need professional to help you with this if you are unsure. Taking a comprehensive Daily Multivitamin formula can also safeguard your intake of essential nutrients and protect against deficiencies.
3. Get your thyroid checked
Ask your GP for a thyroid test. There are several elements that need to be looked at in a thyroid test. These are TSH, T4, T3 and reverse T3. Until you have the results to all of these, low thyroid hormones can’t be ruled out.
Learn more in 'Best foods for thyroid health'.
4. Assess your sleep quality
Keep a track of the number of times you wake during the night and the actual hours you are asleep for. A sleep tracking device or app on a smart phone can help you do this so you understand how many hours of deep and good quality sleep you are getting, as well as picking up on any sleep apnoea, where your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.
Discover 'How your diet can improve your sleep'.
5. Check for heavy metals
Having a small amount of heavy metals, such as Iron and Zinc, is essential for the health of our body. However, too large amounts can be toxic. A professional nutritionist or naturopath can help you access tests to look at your heavy metal status. If heavy metals in your body are too high, they can help you to detoxify.
Best foods to beat tiredness
There are a few foods for energy which can help in beating fatigue when consumed regularly.
Complex carbohydrates and protein
A combination of complex carbohydrates and protein consumed every 2 to 3 hours provides a steady supply of energy to help you get through the day mentally and physically. Discover the '5 best carbs for plant-based meals'.
Relieve anxiety, manage stress with Stay Calm.
Sunflower & pumpkin seeds
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan converts in our gut into 5-HTP, and then into serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is our 'happy hormone' and is needed for focus, concentration, a sharp mind and improving our brain's memory function. Melatonin is our sleep hormone and is required for the onset of sleep. 5-HTP can also be taken as a supplement half an hour before bed to promote better sleep.
Wholegrains are rich in B Vitamins which are needed to support brain fog and tiredness - B Vitamins are needed for both energy production and brain function. Wholegrains also provide Magnesium which is needed for both energy and sleep quality.
If you're not gaining enough wholegrains in your diet, you can also take a Magnesium supplement to compliment your diet.
Seaweed is rich in iodine which is needed for the production of thyroid hormones and managing your rate of metabolism. There any many ways to consume seaweed daily.
B Vitamin Complex supplement
A high quality B Vitamin Complex supplement can support energy production and also falls under the category of brain boosting supplements as they support brain cell function.
You may also enjoy 'Best supplements for brain health'.
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