Fatigue – we have all felt fatigued at some stage in our lives. Fatigue is where we feel exhausted all the time, even when we are well rested and have had a good night’s sleep. Fatigue is extremely common, and more than 1.5 million Australians suffer from fatigue. Fatigue is not a condition – however it is a sign that something is wrong. There are many different causes of fatigue – these can be physical, physiological or a mixture of both.
WHAT IS FATIGUE?
Fatigue is a very common complaint. In fact, “1.5 million Australians seek help for fatigue a year.” (Australian Bureau of Statistic 2018).
When we have fatigue, we may feel exhausted all the time, despite getting adequate rest, a good night’s sleep and exercising. Fatigue can be caused by either physical or physiological issues or be a combination of both.
Feeling tired and exhausted constantly, affects our daily lifestyle and affects our mental and emotional states.
Apart from feeling tired all the time, you may also experience other symptoms such as a lack of motivation, trouble concentrating and memory issues.
Physically – we can also experience generalized muscular aches and pains, dizziness, headaches, poor hand eye coordination, slowed reflexes and response times, moodiness, irritability and a loss of appetite.
WHAT CAUSES FATIGUE?
Fatigue is an extremely common symptom and it can be either mental, emotional or physical.
Generally, fatigue is a sign or feeling consistently tired or weak. It may be caused by physical, physiological or emotional issues.
The most common causes of fatigue can be:
- Sleep disturbance
- A virus, or
Physically – fatigue may be a symptom of:
- anaemia — not having enough iron in your blood and not enough oxygen being carried around the body.
- sleep apnoea — a condition that affects your breathing while you sleep
- underactive thyroid — when you have too little of the thyroid hormone thyroxine.
- coeliac disease — when you are allergic to gluten – this causes issues in the small intestine with absorption, leading to decreased nutrients being able to be absorbed and utilized by the body.
- chronic fatigue syndrome — when you have severe, disabling fatigue that lasts for at least 4 months. You may also have other symptoms such as pain in your joints and muscles. Chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by having a previous infection with the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Also known as the kissing disease. It is very common in teenagers.
- diabetes — when your body can’t metabolise glucose. This common condition also causes thirst, a need to go to the toilet frequently, and weight loss.
- glandular fever — an illness caused by a virus that also gives you a sore throat and swollen glands. This is again caused by the Epstein Barr virus and is often the precursor or cause of chronic fatigue syndrome.
- restless legs syndrome — when you have the urge to keep moving your legs at night
- heart disease.
- problems with your liver or kidneys
- multiple sclerosis. (1) https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/fatigue
If you have been feeling tired for a long period of time it is essential that you book an appointment with your health care practitioner to assist you to find the underlying cause of the tiredness.
Many health professionals will ask you about your general health and lifestyle history. They may also order some blood tests and perhaps x-rays, or other imaging depending on other associated symptom’s that you may be experiencing.
TREATMENT OF FATIGUE:
Treatment of fatigue will differ for everybody, depending on your age, your symptoms, the length of time you have had the fatigue and associated symptom’s that you may be experiencing.
In general – it is imperative that you look at your lifestyle. What can be done to improve your lifestyle?
We generally recommend looking at your sleep routine. Also, what is your lifestyle like? Are you exercising? Are you sedentary? What is your diet like? Are you getting enough nutrition? What time are you going to bed? What are your stress levels like?
Treating fatigue – we need to look at everything and treat in a holistic manner. This includes – exercise, mindfulness, meditation, nutrition, sleep hygiene, stress, anxiety, depression, hormone balancing and rebalancing thyroid function.
Fatigue can be treated and assisted with correct nutrition, supplements, supportive diet and exercise regime, adequate and quality sleep and with yoga, meditation, mindfulness, counselling and Acupuncture.
From a Chinese Medicine point of view here is some advice:
- Protein snack before bed
- Get to sleep before 10pm (between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., our adrenals work the hardest to repair the body), sleep in until 9am where possible
- Do the things that you like
- Laugh several times a day
- Avoid getting over-tired
- Avoid coffee or other caffeine containing beverages
- Avoid TV and Computers. Some people may be photosensitive. Watching television or working at the computer may prevent the melatonin level from rising to induce sleep. If you are one of these people, you should turn off your television or computer at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
Avoid starchy foods such as potato, pasta, bread: they raise and drop blood sugar fast, and usually contain minimal nutrient value.
Avoid trans-fat: e.g. cooking with olive oils. Trans fats are pro-inflammatory
Avoid fruits high in potassium such as Banana, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit, Apricots, Avocado, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Kiwi, Lima beans, Milk, Potatoes, Prunes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Vegetable juice, Winter squash
Avoid food that causes your blood sugar to fluctuate too quickly: coffee, tea, black tea, hot chocolate, alcohol, colas, chocolates, Honey, sugar, syrups, soft drinks, Dried fruits, fruit juices
Avoid Foods you are Addicted to or Allergic or Sensitive to: These foods cause more stress on your body.
These are just some suggestions on how to manage Fatigue and exhaustion.
I myself used my own blend of Energy tea and green tea to replace coffee, I eat 2 boiled eggs for breakfast – easy to eat while trying to get kids fed and dressed and at least I get to eat. I also find it balances out my appetite for the day.
I always carry nuts and seeds with me as a quick snack.
Really easy foods that are nourishing such as casseroles, mince meat with mushed up kidney beans, and vegetables, Shepard’s pie, chicken pie, slowed cooked casseroles, beef cheeks, chicken and the bone broth soups also assist with recovery.
Be gentle with yourself and listen to your body. If you are tired stop what you are doing and rest. Things that aren’t urgent can wait. Ask for help.
It is extremely common for mums to be exhausted as well – its not just looking after the kids, its also the mental and emotional load that we as mums take on board.
I found this article on MOTHERLY to be really useful for myself and identifying why I feel tired all the time – https://www.mother.ly/life/the-mental-workload-of-a-mother
If you are feeling, tired, exhausted and run down, please slow down and listen to your body as it is trying to tell you something. I know as a mum with kids, this is not always easy. For the last 3 weeks I have been single parenting, had 2 sick girls and ended up sick myself. The best way for me to help myself – I went to bed with the kids to help myself to get rest (not that I got a full night’s sleep – I was up an average of 5 times a night), however – the dishes can wait, washing can wait. Look after yourself. This also includes remembering to eat, stop being so hard on yourself and if stuff gets done it gets done. If it doesn’t – well it doesn’t.
One thing I noticed in the last 3 weeks is that as my sleep began to get less and I was sick – my tolerance for things, people and issues became less and less and I was moodier and more irritable. My concentration and thinking ability were practically at 5% and even simple tasks were just too hard……. until, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to call in sick – which I was, however on this day both girls were at day care – which gave me the opportunity to have a rest – to get into bed and sleep with no interruptions. I did. I managed a 5-hour nap, which when I woke up at 4pm and had a shower – had me mentally and physically prepared when the day-care rang to say my kids had a temp of 41 degrees and were having pain on breathing. This is enough to make any mum worried and upset let a lone one that is sick, exhausted and running on empty.
My best advice is, listen to your body, rest when you can and try and go to bed earlier, Switch of your phone, the TV or the computer and go to bed earlier. Do some yoga at home or gentle stretches before bed. Have a bath with Epsom salts in it. Eat a protein snack before bed.
I hope that you have found this article helpful.
HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
If you are feeling fatigue and exhaustion, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine may assist you to get back on track. Acupuncture works with your bodies own healing energy and assist to restore our energy flow through the meridians. It releases serotonin and “happy hormones” and assist our body to relax and is great for reducing stress.
To get you back to your best self, and feeling revitalized, book an appointment here with me today
Written by Dr Julia Bartrop – Acupuncturist and busy mum of 2.