Fatigue is an extremely common symptom a large portion of the population, especially females, complain about. Fatigue can arise at any stage in life and there are a multitude of varying factors than can contribute to our energy levels. At times, it can become quite difficult to accurately pin point the main cause of our fatigue however, there are common factors that can interfere with our energy levels. These may include:
- Iron Deficiency:
Approximately 70% of women during their menstruating years, have experienced iron deficiency at some stage. It is a common nutritional deficiency that many women will complain of and is quite often, one of the most common causes of fatigue in women. Iron deficiency usually arises in a female, due to heavy menstruation. As iron is a component of our red blood cells, the more blood we lose during menses, the more iron we can lose. Quite often, the causes of heavy menstruation can be related to a hormonal imbalance. To determine if iron deficiency is a cause for your fatigue, it is recommended to have a full blood count and iron studies conducted via a blood test, to determine your iron status.
- Lack of sleep:
As women transition into perimenopause, progesterone levels naturally decline and as a result, sleep disturbances can arise. As well as this, quite often, women who have children, develop bad sleeping habits due to the natural cycle of waking in the middle of the night to comfort the child. These bad habits tend to continue throughout the years and become quite difficult to break. Due to life stressors and negative sleep hygiene practices such as watching TV before bed, going to sleep on a full stomach and not winding down, our sleep quality will decline. On average, we require 7-8 hours of solid sleep per night. We are often quite guilty of developing a sleep debt. Once we have a bad night sleep and sleep less than 6 hours one night, we can never catch up on this sleep.
- Thyroid Function:
Our thyroid gland has an essential role in governing our metabolism, energy levels and body temperature. Either an under active or over active thyroid can cause havoc with our energy levels. An under active thyroid can cause you to feel sluggish, exhausted and lack motivation and an overactive thyroid can overstimulate someone to the point where they are unable to sleep properly and insomnia can quite often develop. Due to the hormonal imbalances that occur as a woman transitions into perimenopause and then menopause, the thyroid gland may function sub optimally, and it is crucial that a full thyroid function profile is conducted to determine the health of the thyroid.
- Adrenal Function
Our adrenal glands have a strong influence on our energy levels, through their production of cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline. Over time and as we age, our adrenal glands tend to not function as well as what they used to. Chronic exposure to stress and medications, along with challenged immune systems, can negatively impact adrenal function and as a result, fatigue can arise.
- Glucose levels
Our glucose levels, dictated by what we consume daily, fluctuate readily throughout the day and as a result, have a strong influence on our energy levels. Depending on what is consumed, our glucose levels can quickly rise, producing a rapid improvement in energy levels but as well as this, foods that rapidly increase our glucose levels can drop these levels just as quickly. This can result in fatigue and that classic afternoon energy slump. Fuelling our body adequately with nutritious foods, can make a huge difference to our energy levels.
As we age, our immune system becomes less efficient and as a result, we are more predisposed to developing infections. Most commonly, fungal, bacterial, and viral infections can negatively influence our energy levels. A persistently compromised immune system, without treatment can also contribute to adrenal fatigue and possibly, chronic fatigue.
The reality is, we can’t avoid stress. It constantly presents itself in many forms, be it physical or emotional stress. On a whole, we can tolerate daily stress however, when the stressor is constant and the individual is unable to cope with it at such a heightened level, it can interfere with our energy levels. Reduced stress adaptation can lead to poor sleep quality, insomnia and a domino effect can result.
- Calorie Restriction
The ability of our body to function is reliant on the fuel we ingest. Our diets must consist of adequate macro and micronutrients to function optimally. In the absence of sufficient fuel, for example consuming a calorie restricted diet for long periods of time (greater than one month at a time), we won’t have enough energy to fuel our cells and normal day to day activities can become a chore, due to the extreme fatigue that can be experienced.
Written by Annmarie Cannone
M.Hum Nut, Grad Dip Naturopathy, B.App Sci (Naturopathic Studies)