Living in a fast-paced world keeps us shuffling from one place to the next. We spend all day at work to finally get home, spend a few hours with the family, jump into bed, and do it all over again. With demands placed on every hour of the day, it’s no wonder most of us experience fatigue.
But is that all that’s causing our fatigue? While the lack of sleep and stress can impact how tired you are, there are actually several other factors that come into play as well.
While the body needs calories to function, it also needs vitamins and minerals that are crucial to converting those calories into energy. The problem with processed food is that while it is giving the body calories to burn, it is devoid of the nutrition the body needs. Without them, the body can feel tired and run down.
One trap many consumers fall into is buying processed food with a “healthy” label. It may say grain-free or paleo, but at the end of the day, it is still a manufactured product that will not give the body what it needs. In turn, these types of food will steal from nutrient reserves the body had built up creating the opposite effect of what eating food should do.
Even though carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in the last few years, they are important in providing the body energy. The problem occurs when rather than 30% of one’s calories coming from carbs, it’s closer to 60 or 70%. This drives up blood sugar, increasing blood viscosity and making it difficult for oxygen and vitamins to get dispersed through the body causing a feeling of tiredness.
As mentioned with processed food, if the body is not getting enough nutrients in the diet, the body will start to decline dramatically. Foods consumed that are not nutrient-dense can be detrimental to the GI tract causing mal-absorption and mal-digestion. Medications can also cause this, including antacids like Nexium and Zantac, as well as antibiotics.
Deficiencies leading to fatigue:
- Iron – leads to anemia meaning that the body is not getting the necessary oxygen
- B Vitamins – needed to produce energy by breaking down carbs and fat
- Magnesium – needed to break down food into energy
- Zinc – used in the production of insulin to break down sugar
- Chromium – used for insulin receptor production leading to the breakdown of sugar
Without these, food cannot be processed and used for energy, causing even greater fatigue. It’s important to have intracellular testing performed to rule out deficiencies if experiencing extreme, chronic fatigue.
Lack of Sleep
One of the most obvious factors causing fatigue is a lack of sleep. Many people are busy juggling a career, family, and other commitments, making adequate sleep a non-priority or not an option.
Apart from being busy, another reason many are not getting enough sleep is because of the amount of screen time they are participating in. This could be watching TV, or being on the computer or phone and being exposed to blue light which makes the body think it’s daytime. Not only does this make it hard to fall asleep, but it can strain the eyes, create muscle tightness, put pressure on the head, affect posture, and even reduce oxygen intake.
While everyone deals with stress from time to time, those who are chronically stressed out will feel a greater level of tiredness. This type of stress is typically seen in individuals who want to control every aspect of their life, as well as the lives of those around them. Instead of trying to control unforeseen circumstances, these individuals must focus on controlling their diet, exercise, getting clean air and water, as well as sunshine.
Lack of Sunshine
While it may seem bizarre that a lack of sunshine can cause fatigue, it makes sense once one understands the importance sunshine plays on the body. When sunshine hits the skin or eyes, it converts cholesterol on the skin to Vitamin D and can stimulate the production of melatonin. Vitamin D helps to regulate the immune system, aids in inflammation, and regulates blood sugar.
Melatonin, on the other hand, helps keep one sleeping throughout the night. It’s important to try and get at least 20-30 minutes in the sun each day. It doesn’t have to be during the highest heat of the day, as long as there is exposure to sunlight.
While most consume caffeine to wake up, it could actually be what is causing fatigue in the first place. Though one cup a day or 100-150 milligrams is fine, consuming more than this can have detrimental effects. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands and pushes them to create adrenaline, sending it to the brain – creating a high and then causing a crash.
Caffeine is extremely addictive and can create a dependency. It is a diuretic, meaning that it can cause the excretion of water-soluble vitamins, leading to deficiencies and fatigue. Lastly, it can erode the mucosal lining of the stomach over time, creating slow blood loss and causing anemia.
So what can be done to fight fatigue and therefore improve one’s health? First, start by improving sleep habits. Make sure to be in bed asleep by 10 pm and keep the house cool, around 70-72 degrees. Invest in a good mattress and pillow, changing out the mattress at least every seven to eight years.
Perform deep breathing exercises to relax right before bed – inhaling deeply and slowing exhaling. Additionally, it’s important to have a proper sleeping posture. Either lay flat on the back with an aligned neck, sternum, and back or on the side with a properly supported neck.
Next, start to adjust diet and lifestyle habits. Cut out the processed foods and excessive carbohydrates and cut back on the caffeine. Get outside daily for a walk, jog, or even yard work. Not only can this help with getting direct sunlight, but it can help reduce stress and screen time.
While some medications can be prescribed to help with fatigue, it usually ends up encouraging an unhealthy cycle. Try improving fatigue naturally by giving the body what it needs and desires and the effect will not only impact your health, but your attitude, productivity, and even relationships.