Sign up now for our Energy Accelerator course and transform your health.  Learn More & Register!

Back to the Blog

Three Common Causes of Fatigue & How to Reverse Them

Nov 6, 2023 | Blog, Gut Health, Hormone Health

If you constantly feel tired, you are not alone. Many health practitioners report tiredness as one of the most common patient complaints, with around 45% of people in the US experiencing constant fatigue. 

Getting to the root cause of fatigue can be tricky – it is usually not enough to simply “get more sleep.” We are here to help you understand three possible conditions that could be contributing to your fatigue, and what you can do about them.

 

Three Hidden Health Conditions That Are Making You Tired 

 

1 – Adrenal Fatigue 

 

As a conventional doctor I had never heard of Adrenal Fatigue.  As a functional doctor I’m here to tell you it exists and it can be treated.  Life today is stressful and because of this the adrenals are frequently affected. Adrenal fatigue describes a condition in which chronic stress levels have overstimulated the adrenal glands, causing them to produce inconsistent levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). 

When the adrenals are working properly, we should have a slow increase of cortisol throughout the day that then declines in the evening. However, if we are continually feeling stressed every day, our adrenals aren’t able to produce hormones effectively. This causes energy levels to spike at the wrong times. If you are dealing with adrenal fatigue, you may experience lethargy in the mornings and full alertness at night. 

 

Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

 

  • Extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away with sleep 
  • Brain fog 
  • Hair loss 
  • Insulin resistance 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Decreased sex drive/libido
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Sweet/salty food cravings 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Weight gain 

 

The adrenals influence many parts of the body, and their function has significant effects on your overall health. For instance, when the body produces cortisol in high amounts, other hormones are affected that put important bodily functions– like digestion, reproduction, and immunity – on hold so that we can respond to the danger or stress. 

If you are under stress in your life (and who isn’t?), you may be at risk of developing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is often seen in mothers, single parents, university students, and shift workers. It can also develop during periods of financial hardship or after the loss of a loved one. It is very common to find adrenal function suboptimal in patients dealing with fatigue and it can be fixed! 

We will all deal with multiple stressors throughout our lives, so it is important to promote healthy adrenal function so that your body is equipped to handle them. These tips will help you support an energized, vital life. As always, consult with a trusted naturopath or physician before implementing any new dietary or supplementation regimes. 

  • Reduce stress on your mind & body. It is especially important to avoid negative thinking. Adding a meditation practice to your day may be useful if you find that you feel tired physically, but your brain is still active with stressful thoughts. And don’t forget to laugh and do something fun whenever possible!
  • Adaptogenic support. Certain adaptogens, such as ashwagandha and schisandra, have been shown to reduce cortisol and improve our body’s stress response. Using these herbs in recipes or in supplement form may help relieve your adrenal strain. 
  • Avoid or eliminate foods that tax the adrenals. This includes coffee, white flour, artificial sweeteners, processed meats, and inflammatory oils. 

 

If you are dealing with symptoms of adrenal fatigue, or chronic stress in general, it can have a significant impact on your health. Thankfully, you can improve the issue naturally by prioritizing a low-stress lifestyle and a healthy diet. 

 

2 – Gut Imbalance 

 

The source of your constant fatigue could also be inside your belly. What happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut and recent research has found a strong link between gut health and energy levels. Your gut is a complex system made up of millions of microbes that help you break down food, absorb nutrients, and generally keep your whole body healthy. When the balance of these microbes is off, it can have a huge impact on your energy and daily life.

You may know that serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with sleep and mood, is produced within your gut. So, microbiome imbalances can directly impact your ability to sleep as well as your day-to-day energy and enthusiasm. Gut imbalance can be caused by a number of things, from poor diet to heavy alcohol consumption, to antibiotic use and poor oral hygiene. Look out for these symptoms of gut imbalance that could just be the source of your sluggishness: 

 

  • Frequently upset stomach (gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, heartburn, etc.) 
  • Unintentional weight gain/loss 
  • Skin irritation, like psoriasis or acne
  • Food intolerances, or difficulty digesting certain foods, are linked to poor quality of gut bacteria. 

 

The health of your gut microbiome begins with your diet. If you want to support your gut health and your energy levels, it is important to eat a variety of colorful, whole foods and lean proteins.

 

Here are a few foods that will help your microbiome flourish: 

 

  • Fermented foods. Unsweetened yogurt or kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso, contain beneficial bacteria that your gut may be lacking. 
  • Sip on bone broth. Bone broth contains a nutrient called glutamine which helps to maintain the function of the intestinal wall. Other nutrients in bone broth such as glycine and arginine, are anti-inflammatory and can help soothe an upset stomach. 
  • Prebiotic foods. Prebiotic such as asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks and legumes are high-fiber foods which promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. 

 

Above all, avoiding ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners is crucial for optimal gut health and energy levels. It is also recommended to include healthy fats and protein at each meal. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar and prevent drops in energy. 

Additionally, studies have shown that exercise can have a positive impact on your gut microbiome. While this may seem daunting if you are struggling with low energy levels, you do not have to do a high-intensity workout to see benefits. Even taking a light walk after dinner has been shown to enhance digestion.

If your gut is causing you significant discomfort and potentially affecting your energy levels, it may be beneficial to work with a practitioner who can customize a regimen based on your individual symptoms, lifestyle, and goals.

 

3 – Hormonal Imbalances 

 

Finally, it is common for chronic fatigue to stem from a hormonal imbalance. 

Hormones are your body’s chemical messenger system. Too much or too little of a certain hormone (even small changes!) can have noticeable effects throughout your whole body. 

Some hormone levels are meant to fluctuate throughout your lifetime – this is just a part of aging. But other changes can occur due to lifestyle or dietary factors. 

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. Having too much of the hormone progesterone can make you more tired, and if your thyroid creates too little thyroid hormone, this can also drain your energy. 

 

Some signs of hormonal imbalance in women include: 

 

  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Acne on the face, chest, or upper back 
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Changes in appetite or weight gain/loss
  • Dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness 
  • Hirsutism, or excessive hair on the face, chin, or other areas of the body
  • Headaches
  • Night sweats 

 

And while it isn’t as widely recognized, men can certainly have hormonal problems too. When a man is experiencing a hormonal imbalance, he will often experience fatigue. He may also experience diminished sexual interest or performance and have difficulty maintaining muscle mass. Other symptoms may include: 

 

  • Gynecomastia, which is the development of breast tissue
  • A decrease in beard growth or body hair 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Hot flashes 

 

A functional medicine doctor can order hormone testing to identify whether you have a hormonal imbalance, and offer personalized advice for you to optimize your hormonal health. In the meantime, here are some of our tips for supporting hormonal balance to help you get back to your lively, energized self: 

 

  • Consume adequate protein at each meal. Your body needs it to produce peptide hormones, which play a role in growth, energy metabolism, appetite, stress, and reproduction.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can increase your hormone receptor sensitivity, meaning that it heightens the delivery of nutrients and hormone signals. Being physically active can also help boost levels of muscle-maintaining hormones that decline with age, such as testosterone, DHEA, and growth hormone. 
  • Reduce your sugar intake. This may be difficult if you are dealing with fatigue and rely on sweetened foods for a quick energy boost. However, fructose often fails to stimulate the production of the fullness hormone leptin, which in turn leads to decreased calorie burn and increased weight gain.
  • Consume healthy fats and vegetables. Essentially, consider following a Mediterranean style diet to support hormonal balance. A diet rich in quality healthy fats helps prevent insulin resistance and rising cortisol levels. This includes foods such as pure MCT oil, avocados, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, fatty fish, and extra virgin olive oil. 

 

Dealing with persistent fatigue can seriously impact your work performance, relationships, and overall satisfaction with life. If you are tired of feeling tired, there are many steps you can take to increase your energy levels naturally. If you’d like to learn more about the root cause of your fatigue – whether adrenal, gut-related, or hormonal – don’t hesitate to reach out.

We can help by guiding you toward the right program for you.

Together, we can create a plan to optimize your energy levels and get your vibrant life back! 

In health,

Dr. Libby

 

 

SOURCES

 

Rosenthal TC, Majeroni BA, Pretorius R, Malik K. Fatigue: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 15;78(10):1173-9. PMID: 19035066.

Boolani A, Gallivan KM, Ondrak KS, Christopher CJ, Castro HF, Campagna SR, Taylor CM, Luo M, Dowd SE, Smith ML, Byerley LO. Trait Energy and Fatigue May Be Connected to Gut Bacteria among Young Physically Active Adults: An Exploratory Study. Nutrients. 2022 Jan 21;14(3):466. doi: 10.3390/nu14030466. PMID: 35276824; PMCID: PMC8839554.

Elder GJ, Wetherell MA, Barclay NL, Ellis JG. The cortisol awakening response–applications and implications for sleep medicine. Sleep Med Rev. 2014 Jun;18(3):215-24. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 Jul 5. PMID: 23835138.

James L. Wilson, Clinical perspective on stress, cortisol and adrenal fatigue, Advances in Integrative Medicine, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2014, Pages 93-96, ISSN 2212-9588, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aimed.2014.05.002.

Pawar, Vinod & Hugar, Shivakumar. (2012). A current status of adaptogens: Natural remedy to stress. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease. 2. S480–S490. 10.1016/S2222-1808(12)60207-2. 

Lakhan, S.E., Kirchgessner, A. Gut inflammation in chronic fatigue syndrome. Nutr Metab (Lond) 7, 79 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-7-79

Simon Carding, Kristin Verbeke, Daniel T. Vipond, Bernard M. Corfe & Lauren J. Owen (2015) Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease, Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 26:1, DOI: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26191

Simon Carding, Kristin Verbeke, Daniel T. Vipond, Bernard M. Corfe & Lauren J. Owen (2015) Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease, Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 26:1, DOI: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26191

Achamrah N, Déchelotte P, Coëffier M. Glutamine and the regulation of intestinal permeability: from bench to bedside. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Jan;20(1):86-91. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000339. PMID: 27749689.

Mailing, Lucy J.; Allen, Jacob M.; Buford, Thomas W.; Fields, Christopher J.; Woods, Jeffrey A.. Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 47(2):p 75-85, April 2019. | DOI: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000183

Hamaguchi T, Tayama J, Suzuki M, Nakaya N, Takizawa H, Koizumi K, Amano Y, Kanazawa M, Fukudo S. The effects of locomotor activity on gastrointestinal symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome among younger people: An observational study. PLoS One. 2020 May 29;15(5):e0234089. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234089. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2020 Dec 17;15(12):e0244465. PMID: 32470098; PMCID: PMC7259724.

Rose AJ. Role of Peptide Hormones in the Adaptation to Altered Dietary Protein Intake. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 23;11(9):1990. doi: 10.3390/nu11091990. PMID: 31443582; PMCID: PMC6770041.

Sabag A, Chang D, Johnson NA. Growth Hormone as a Potential Mediator of Aerobic Exercise-Induced Reductions in Visceral Adipose Tissue. Front Physiol. 2021 Apr 26;12:623570. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.623570. PMID: 33981247; PMCID: PMC8107361.

Wilcox G. Insulin and insulin resistance. Clin Biochem Rev. 2005 May;26(2):19-39. PMID: 16278749; PMCID: PMC1204764.

Related Posts

7 Gluten-Free Grocery List Essentials

7 Gluten-Free Grocery List Essentials

Should you avoid gluten? Well, that depends. My general rule is that gluten isn’t great for anyone but some people don’t have to avoid it strictly. A gluten-free diet benefits people with Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome),...

read more
Hormones Changing? What You Need To Know

Hormones Changing? What You Need To Know

At every stage of life, your hormones play an important role in controlling what happens in your body. Hormone levels have a profound impact on your health, and many physiologic functions require a delicate balance when it comes to hormone levels. But, it’s said that...

read more