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Fatigue: clarifying the mysteries

Fatigue is one of the most common conditions presenting to General Practitioners. However, the nature of modern day medical practice dictates that beyond obvious illness or frank nutritional deficiency, the underlying causes of ongoing fatigue often remain unidentified and untreated.  This is where your qualified naturopath may be better equipped to help solve the mystery.

While fatigue can be transient or caused by obvious factors, in some cases it is long lasting and the cause remains frustratingly elusive.  Unravelling the causes of chronic fatigue can be challenging, time consuming and debilitating for those so affected.

Some more common causes of ongoing fatigue

Common drivers of fatigue include:

Anaemia is one of the most common causes of fatigue.  Adequate intake of iron, B12 and folate are required for the production of haemoglobin and the delivery of oxygen to cells.  Should deficiencies in these nutrients be identified, whether dietary or due to poor absorption, quality supplements may be required

Sleep – even a slight reduction in sleep quality and duration has been shown to have detrimental effects on mood, cognitive performance and energy levels.  The use of sleep promoting herbs and nutrients, as well as behavioural and modifying the sleeping environment may all help to re-establish healthy sleep patterns and increase sleep quality.

Mental health disorders including depression, anxiety or addictive behaviours have been identified as contributing to states of fatigue.

Metabolic dysfunction can contribute to states of prolonged fatigue in a number of ways including blood sugar imbalances associated with insulin resistance and hyperglycaemia can directly cause fatigue and weakness.  Obesity is another common metabolic condition that is closely associated with long term fatigue.

Acidity and pH imbalances are very closely related to various degrees of fatigue due to the impact on metabolic processes and cellular functions.

Less obvious causes may include mitochondrial dysfunction, hormone dysregulation and immune exhaustion – all of which have been identified as major drivers that need to be considered in stubborn and severe fatigue.

The mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouse of every cell, they play vital roles in cellular communication and immunity, in particular cell healing.  The mitochondria help to restore cell function after injury by a biological stressor (which may include microbial attack, nutrient deficiencies, toxins, chemicals etc).  Indeed research suggests that chronic conditions, including myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are often the result of incomplete cell healing.  There are several nutrients that directly support cell healing and maintenance of cell energy.

While exercise can prove valuable in enhancing mitochondrial energy production, a gradual increase in intensity and frequency is recommended with adequate rest/recovery time between sessions essential.

Hormone dysregulation and imbalances, such as sex hormones, thyroid or adrenals, are common in those with ongoing fatigue. These types of imbalances may be the result of long-term chronic stress.  Once the body is weakened after prolonged stress (physical or emotional) the brain responds by slowing down cortisol output, adrenal and thyroid function.

Chronic infection has also been shown to contribute to fatigue, especially in ME/CFS patients. After a period of chronic or recurring infections, the immune system is activated but no longer able to cope.  During this phase the body remains in a state of chronic inflammation which can further exacerbate fatigue and hormone dysregulation.

Fortunately, Naturopaths are well placed to address fatigue, given their holistic approach to treatment and the ability to identify how different drivers contribute to an individual’s condition.

Contact us at True Medicine on 07-5530 14863 for individualised assessment and support.