Fatigue is the number one complaint that brings patients into my office. Below I share how I approach low energy and give tips to help you increase your energy. I often find that by working on diet, gut health, hormones and detoxification my patients feel revitalized and experience increased daily energy.
- Nutrient Deficiencies. Both B12 deficiency and iron deficiency anemias are common reasons for people to complain of low energy. B12 is involved in many metabolic processes, including those that produce energy. If you are lacking in this nutrient your body will be unable to produce energy, leaving you feeling fatigued. B12 can be measured through a blood test, however, additional testing is generally necessary to ensure you have an adequate level available in the body.Iron is vital to the oxygen transporting protein, hemoglobin. Without enough iron, your body can not delivery necessary oxygen to tissues resulting in fatigue and reduced exercise tolerance.Eating a diet that includes animal protein and cooked, dark leafy green vegetables can help you increase your dietary levels of these important nutrients. Eating iron containing foods with a source of vitamin C can also boost your absorption of the mineral. For both B12 and iron to be adequately absorbed you need to have an optimally functioning gut with the right amount of stomach acid.
- Poor Gut Health. If your gut is not functioning optimally you will have issues absorbing the vital nutrients your body supplies. In addition, underlying imbalances in bacteria, overgrowth in candida, leaky gut or gut infections can zap you of your energy. I often recommend functional gastrointestinal testing to my patients to rule out any underlying gut issues. It is very important to note that you may not experience digestive symptoms even with an active infection.
- Hormonal Imbalance. Adrenal and thyroid dysfunction are a huge cause of fatigue in many of the patients I see. Your adrenal glands and thyroid are crucial to your energy and overall well being. I advocate supporting both systems in treatment as they are both dependent on one another. I often utilize quality B vitamins, mineral co-factors, adaptogenic herbs and glandulars (animal derived adrenal or thyroid gland), as well as individualized lifestyle support.
- Toxins. If your body is burdened down with environmental toxins you will definitely experience fatigue. If you suspect you have toxins from molds or heavy metals, I recommend being tested and treated appropriately. If you are drinking or eating out of plastic containers then I urge you to stop. Plastics have hormone disrupting properties and add additional burden to the body. Choose filtered drinking water and buy organic when possible.
- Infections. Re-activated Epstein-barr (mono) virus, Lyme’s disease, candida, gut infections, parasites, SIBO are examples of infections that can depress the immune system and result in fatigue. If you suspect you may have any of these conditions it is best to be tested and treated right away. Infections that are left untreated can deplete the body and make recovering your energy very difficult.
- Diet. Sugar, excess carbohydrates and refined grains can all contribute to poor blood sugar regulation. Eliminating sugar and high glycemic foods can help you maintain a healthier blood sugar and help you avoid “food comas” and “energy crashes.” I recommend that people eat protein with every meal to help with blood sugar regulation.Food sensitivities or intolerances can overburden the body and the immune system. For some people, fatigue is the only symptom they experience when eating foods they are sensitive to. I recommend undergoing an elimination diet or having food sensitivity testing done to identify foods that may be robbing you of your energy.Eating nutrient dense, organic foods will help you have the best nutritional status and decrease your toxin exposure.
- Lifestyle. Your daily habits could be the difference between ample daily energy and feeling flatlined. Simple steps like making sure you are getting enough sleep, exercising for at least 30 minutes most days and engaging in stress reducing practices are beneficial to your energy supply.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, my focus is on treating the individual and listening to their full story. It is my philosophy to examine an individual as a whole, rather than only look to correct their symptoms. There are many causes of fatigue, but through a thorough history and comprehensive laboratory testing, including functional testing, I am able to identify the cause of someone’s fatigue and work with them to correct it.