Why Am I Tired All The Time?
Life is fun when we have the energy to enjoy it, to get more out of the day and feel accomplished. Caring for ourselves takes energy too - so if you feel tired all the time, chances are that the thought of grocery shopping or making a meal is something that slips away as you fall onto the couch after a long day. The vicious cycle here is that there needs to be a change for there to be a change... you need to be able to improve that I-feel-like-I've-been-hit-by-a-truck level of fatigue so that you can explore what in your life is actually causing it. There are five common reasons we see in the clinic behind the daily struggle of fatigue.
1. Poor nutrition or absorption
This is number one for a reason, guys... it's the most common! Despite society telling us that what we eat has nothing to do with how we feel or function, it turns out that we really are what we eat. Our physical body requires lots of nutrients to to function at a basic level, and the sad fact of the matter is that most people in our society actually aren't reaching these minimum standards. Without nutrition, the body doesn't have the tools it needs to create energy, fight disease, and repair and restore. If we aren't even reaching our day-to-day minimums, there is absolutely no way the body has enough nutrients leftover to heal. So, if your diet is rich in flour-based products, and not in vegetables - if you don't have fresh meals, because you only have the energy to muster convenient takeaway foods, then this is definitely a factor behind feeling tired all the time.
The second aspect to this is absorption. Some people have a beautiful diet but still feel constantly tired and run-down. There is the possibility you may not be absorbing all the goodness you are putting into your body. If there is compromised gut integrity (AKA intestinal hyperpermeability) then it's a stab in the dark as to what you will actually absorb from your diet. If you have poor digestive capacity (which you'll know because you'll feel tired all the time, you'll get bloated or have cramping, or irregular bowel motions, or the most common feeling of... food just sitting there) then you will have reduced ability to absorb nutrients. If you take antacids you will also have reduced ability to absorb nutrients.
2. Low iron
The feeling that comes with having low iron is a level of tiredness that can't be shifted. As soon as the iron aspect is addressed, however, you will start to feel a difference. For women, regular loss of blood with menstruation means we lose a lot of iron and often don't do anything to restore those levels. It's also often deficient in the diet, so naturally we aren't getting the levels we need to make up for what we lose. Pregnancy will also chew up your iron stores quick smart! And, sometimes it's other synergistic nutrients that need to be addressed, which assist in the uptake of iron; like zinc. Nevertheless, if you have low iron, you will feel tired all the time. Having your iron studies done is a simple blood test, and can offer a lot of information for your practitioner about why your iron is low, and how to most quickly and efficiently get those levels up.
3. Vitamin B12
The infamous B12 is most abundant in animal products, so naturally vegans and vegetarians will become deficient in this nutrient unless it's supplemented. There are other reasons why B12 might become low, and having poor digestion is one of them. We need a nice acidic gut to actually absorb B12 ~ and ironically, we need B12 (amongst other things) to create stomach acid. Catch 22, huh? Vitamin B12 naturally starts to decline when we age as well, so making sure that this is addressed is vital if you are feeling tired all the time. If you are B12 deficient, it needs to be investigated why this is. There is a genetic issue that can occur which will reduce your absorption of certain types of B12, so ensure you see a practitioner that knows all about methylation.
The thyroid is a gland in the base of the neck, and controls our metabolic rate (AKA the rate at which our body functions and utilises energy). If the thyroid is not working properly, then you will feel tired all the time and not be able to find anything that helps until the thyroid is tested. This is something that your doctor can do for you, or your qualified Naturopath. It's important to take these results to someone that can properly review them for you, as the reference ranges for the thyroid are quite large, so you may be told "everything is fine" by your doctor, when in reality it can be quite obvious the thyroid is struggling - it's just not in a disease state yet. We have heaps of information on the thyroid here.
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, and are responsible for all of our stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. When we experience prolonged stress, we can tire the adrenal glands, which affects the amount of stress hormones they can create. This throws your whole world upside down, because we need to experience stress responses hundreds of times throughout the day just to function! For example, going from lying down to upright, we release these stress hormones to stabilise our blood pressure. Without that response, we would simply faint. The adrenals will also take from the thyroid, so it is common to see these organs sway out of balance together. Getting your adrenal function tested is easy, and invaluable. It's difficult to get done through a doctor, but your qualified Naturopath will have access to an easy salivary test which will show exactly when the adrenals are most challenged, so they can be best supported at the right times. When you are adrenally fatigued, you will not only feel tired all the time, but you will be more vulnerable to infection and malnutrition. The biggest lesson in adrenal fatigue is reducing stress. This condition usually appears in over-achievers and go-getters!
So, instead of struggling through the day-to-day and watching life pass you by... have a think about these common reasons as to why you feel tired all the time, and think about your next step. Are you going to take action, investigate, and get better? Your only other option is to get used to that fatigue, and embrace it as your new normal... which I wouldn't wish for anyone! Life reflects our state of being... so if you're feeling sh*t, chances are life is looking that way too.
If you'd like to have a chat about any of the above information, or you're ready to feel better... get in touch :)
Emily Banks (Principal Consultant)