June 1, 2014 Leave a comment
The real reasons you’re so tired
When someone asks, “How are you?” are you likely to respond with, “Good, but I’m so tired!”? Low energy is one of the most common complaints I see in my naturopathic practice. Feeling exhausted can be due to a number of factors that once identified can be changed to improve your energy levels and leave you feeling vibrant at the end of your busy day.
Are you tired all the time and wondering what may be the cause?
As a naturopathic doctor, I assess all the factors that may be contributing to your health and how you are feeling. For some, there is a single cause for their tiredness. For others, it is a combination of factors that need to be improved before they are feeling energetic again. Everyone is different, which is why the individualized treatment approach a naturopathic doctor provides is essential for those seeking a holistic approach to their health concerns.
Here are some of the real reasons you are so tired that naturopathic doctors can help you identify and treat:
Stress and adrenal fatigue
Our busy, overscheduled and demanding lifestyles provide chronic, daily stressors on the body. When you face short-term stressors, your adrenal glands pump out adrenaline (AKA cortisol, the stress hormone) which turns on your nervous system to alert ‘fight or flight’ mode. ‘Fight or flight’ mode is useful if you have to respond to immediate stressors (the classic example is running away from a bear!). However, chronic everyday stressors cause your adrenal glands to become fatigued because they have been releasing cortisol for a prolonged period of time which leads to a state of exhaustion resulting in burnout.
When you are in burnout mode, your adrenal glands do not adequately respond to stressors resulting in symptoms of chronic stress such as low energy, sleep disturbance, digestive symptoms, lowered immune system function, irritability, anxiety, depression, decreased libido, and cravings for sweets, salt and caffeine to give you the boost of cortisol you need to go on with your day. The level of adrenal gland dysfunction you are experiencing can be assessed by your naturopathic doctor using salivary hormone testing to measure cortisol levels.
Suboptimal thyroid function
A state of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue impacts the function of the thyroid gland and can lead to suboptimal thyroid function. In the long run, this can lead to the development of hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: low energy, weight gain or the inability to lose weight, depression, dry skin, constipation, hair loss/thinning, and intolerance to cold. Your naturopathic doctor can assess your thyroid function through a simple blood test to measure your thyroid hormones.
Nutrient deficiencies are another cause of fatigue. The top three nutrients associated with low energy are iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. It is common to have suboptimal levels of these nutrients and your levels can be determined through blood testing. Your naturopathic doctor can help you achieve optimal levels by correcting deficiencies through improving your nutrition or prescribing high quality nutritional supplements when needed. Your naturopathic doctor can also help identify and address the root cause of the nutrient deficiency to prevent a reoccurrence.
Poor nutrition is another common cause of low energy. Increasing your protein consumption is often a key factor in providing the fuel your body needs to function in our fast-paced lifestyles.
Macronutrient balancing, which means including protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates together in all of your meals will play an important role to optimal blood sugar balance, If your blood sugar is out of control, drastically rising and falling, it can lead to periods of low energy and sugar cravings. Your naturopathic doctor can provide valuable nutritional advice to assist you with macronutrient balancing and achieving your daily protein requirements.
Lack of sleep is yet another primary cause of feeling tired. During sleep your body is able to rest and repair itself. If you are not providing your body with the necessary 6-8 hours per night to rejuvenate, this can leave you feeling tired.
Another problem is poor sleep quality. You may be sleeping for 6-8 hours but it may be interrupted, restless, or not deep enough. Ensuring a dark, quiet sleep environment, creating a calming bedtime routine, and going to sleep at the same time each night can contribute to improved quality of sleep. Your naturopathic doctor can identify areas in your sleep hygiene that need improvement and treat other reasons for poor sleep such as chronic pain, anxiety, frequent urination and hormone imbalance.
Exercise is the final factor that plays a role in your energy levels. Exercise helps you respond to stress, regulates mood, and increases circulation to help deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to your tissues which helps with energy production. Both a lack of exercise and an excessive level of exercise can leave you feeling tired. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to determine what level of exercise will provide you with an optimal level of energy and to learn the lifelong health benefits of including exercise into your lifestyle routine.