Let’s start out with the definition of fatigue.  Fatigue is defined as weariness or exhaustion from labor, stress or exertion from exercise.
James Wilson N.D., D.C., Ph.D, stated that “80% of adult Americans suffer from some level of adrenal fatigue at some time during their lifetime.  It remains one of the most under diagnosed illnesses in the U.S.”  Fatigue shows itself in many ways that we tend to shrug off with a cup of coffee or a Red Bull.  The most common signs of fatigue are:

  1. The Snoozer.  This is the type of person who always presses the snooze button hoping to gain another 10-15 minutes of sleep.
  2. Mind clutter.   This is the type of person who has brain fog or clouded thinking throughout the day.
  3. Food coma.   This is the type of person who and falls asleep soon after eating a meal.
  4. The Napper.  When 3-5p.m. hits, its lights out!
  5. Wire-but-tired.   This is the type of person who lives on stimulants to make it through the day.
  6. Low blood sugar.   When your blood sugar levels fall, the first thing this person reaches for is some sugar!  Sugar will act as a quick pick-me-up but ultimately will cause an energy crash.
  7. Irritable.   Getting irritated easily is a classic sign of fatigue and sleep deprivation.  Stress is common, and we should be able to handle it.  When fatigue sets in, watch out!
  8. Slow recovery after exercise. When your body is fatigued, it will not be able to bounce back after a workout.  Being comatose after a workout is not supposed to happen.  Tired, yes; laid out, no.  If your soreness lasts for more than a day or two from a workout, make sure you eat right and get more sleep!
  9. No motivation.   Have you lost your mojo?  Can you not get going at all?  When this happens, your entire system is out of whack.
  10. Crave sweets.  Sugar is stopgap attempt to raise your energy levels.  Much like caffeine, it is an artificial way to make it through the day.
  11. Sick all the time.  If you always seem to catch a cold that lasts forever and a day, then you are probably fatigued.  Immune system depression is very common when you are fatigued.  For every 1 teaspoon of sugar ingested, the immune system gets depressed for 2 hours!

Now that we’ve seen some of the signs of fatigue, let’s discuss what causes fatigue.

  1. Excess stress.   Prolonged emotional, physical or mental stress that doesn’t seem to end.  Think of it this way – you have a cup and it fills up slowly with the daily stresses of life.  Sooner or later your cup is going to fill to the rim.  When one more stressor hits you, BANG! Your cup has now overflowed.  That is the precise moment symptoms start to appear.
  2. Acute stress.  Acute stress is our primal fight-or-flight response to a dangerous situation.  These normally have quick resolutions, but with greater reoccurrence, cortisol levels remain high in the body.
  3. Chronic stress.   These are the long lasting stressors that don’t have easy release.  The more stress you carry, the more likely you will get an illness.
  4. Dehydration.  Dehydration raises cortisol levels.   Even a 2% drop in hydration significantly impairs mental function.
  5. Overtraining.  Overtraining causes undue stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the body.
  6. Roller coaster blood sugar levels.   When blood sugar levels rise and fall like a roller coaster, hormones get out of balance, and we tend to use sugar to rise out of the valleys.
  7. Protein deficiency.  Lack of protein in the diet causes the body to break down skeletal muscle leading to further stress.
  8. Carb fest.  Too many processed carbohydrates cause large spikes in blood sugar levels.
  9. Medications.   Some medications can cause fatigue.
  10. Absorption issues.  Digestive enzymes weaken over time and even though you may be eating well, your body may not be absorbing proper nourishment.
  11. Ergonomics.  Your workstation may be causing undue stress on your body by misaligned chairs, keyboards and monitors.  You should also check the position of your car seat for proper alignment.
  12. Sleep issues.  Almost 43% of Americans rarely or never have had a good night’s sleep!  Sleep deprivation is on the rise as more stress and responsibility are placed on our shoulders.  The CHP says that driving while drowsy is worse than driving under the influence.

Here are some suggestions I have learned from some of our best nutritionists to help solve fatigue.

  1. Hydrate!  The optimal amount of water you should be ingesting daily is half of your bodyweight in ounces.  For example, a 200-pound person should drink 100 ounces of pure water.  On top of that, try to drink 25% of that amount first thing in the morning.  Be aware that other fluids (soda, coffee, tea, juice, milk, mineral water, sports drinks, etc) DO NOT count toward your daily water intake goal.
  2. Blood sugar regulation.   Cortisol control is dependent upon blood sugar regulation.  Skipping breakfast or having coffee and donut just won’t cut it!  By eating a healthy breakfast, you glucose levels will be stabilized throughout the day.  When it comes to choosing breakfast foods think fiber, not carbs.  All carbs are NOT created equal!  Vegetables are the best choice for carbohydrates along with whole fruits.  There are two kinds of fiber we need – insoluble and soluble.  Insoluble fiber helps to keep your digestive system working properly and helps with glucose control.  Soluble fiber feeds the good bacteria in the intestines to help break down the foods we eat.
  3. Eat protein.  Protein is brain food!  Protein also boosts your metabolism and gets your motor running.  There is debate among free-range chicken, wild seafood and grass-fed animals compared to farm raised products as to which is better for you.  Animals that are raised on proper food sources have a higher level of Omega 3 fatty acids compared to Omega 6 levels.  Animals that run around have less fat and higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).  The saturated fat found in animal protein helps reduce inflammation in our bodies and is necessary for healthy metabolism.
  4. Sleep.  This is where most people feel that they can make do without.  Sleep is REQUIRED for our bodies to heal from exercise and combat the constant break down of our cells and tissues.  A minimum of 7-9 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep is necessary for most adults while children need 10-12 hours of sleep.  Contrary to popular belief, you cannot make up on lost sleep!  A dark room is best for sleeping.  Lights stimulate cortisol levels and wake up the mind.  If you need light to sleep use a candle.  Avoid stimulation before bed.  Watching the news, a violent or scary movie also raises cortisol levels and makes it much harder to sleep soundly.  Control bedtime blood sugar levels.  That glass of wine or beer after dinner will skyrocket your blood sugar levels.  The problem with that is that your body responds by producing more insulin.  You will fall asleep as your insulin levels fall, but when your cortisol levels rise to balance out your falling insulin levels, you will wake up at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.  I’ve experimented this on myself, and it sure changed the way I look at an after-dinner drink or sweet treat.  Your growth hormone and thyroid hormone drop to almost nothing after two drinks!   The more we disrupt our sleep cycle through alcohol, stimulants or bad choices, the less time we spend in our repair and recovery stages of sleep.

This information isn’t intended to diagnose or treat fatigue.  These are some of things I have learned that I want to share with you so that you have the information to make better choices.  If you think any of these situations applies to you or your loved ones, call your doctor.

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