What's Really Causing Your Fatigue?
Have you ever wondered why you feel exhausted all the time? Or even if it's just a part of normal, adult life? Have you just assumed that you aren't sleeping well enough or long enough and that's why you are so tired? You are not alone! While it’s possible that your sleep could be at the root of the problem, especially since most Americans do not get enough sleep, there are a number of other factors that can impact your energy levels as well. It's also important to remember that fatigue and exhaustion are always a symptom of something and should not be a part of everyday life.
Whether your fatigue is a minor annoyance or a major life stressor, the cause is either an underlying disease, a combination of lifestyle factors, or some mixture of both. While that may sound like a lot of pieces to untangle, it’s not if you approach it correctly.
The lifestyle factors that contribute to fatigue are pretty straightforward. Fixing them can be a little bit of a challenge if you are resistant to making changes, but I can guaratee if you make a few small changes in all of these areas, they will have a big impact on the way you feel!
No matter how well you eat, or how well you think you eat, your diet is probably missing adequate amounts of the nutrients you need to feel your best. Some foods also have a negative impact on your gut health and increase the amount of inflammation in your body as well as something called leaky gut (which can impact your energy levels). Most people do not understand the profound effect (positive or negative) that the food you eat has on your body and your health. The diseases that we suffer from today such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease have increased since the Industrial Revolution and the development of modern agriculture, and while there are many factors that play into this, the food we eat is certainly an important one that is relatively easy to improve.
Chemicals & Toxins
Some (or all) of your favorite beauty and personal care products are slowly stealing your health by disrupting your hormones and filling your body with toxic chemicals. This sounds like an extreme statement, but it’s the truth. Most cosmetics and personal care products contain chemicals that are known hormone disruptors and carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
The same is true for most cleaning products and other household items even if they are labelled as organic, natural or safe. While it may seem like a stretch to believe that toxins in the products you put on your face can be causing you to feel exhausted, keep in mind that your hormones play a huge role in energy balance within your body. Anything that causes disease or imbalances within your body causes stress, and stress can eventually lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
For more on skincare ingredients to avoid, you can read this post: 5 Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid and check out my favorite safer beauty and skincare brands here.
For more on safer cleaning, you can read thi post: Greener Spring Cleaning
The story you tell yourself matters more than you might realize. There is research showing that our thoughts can actually change our DNA and while it may seem completely ridiculous that thinking positive thoughts can make you feel less tired, it does work. The placebo effect is an excellent example of this - if you think you are taking a pill or treatment for a symptom, the symptom often goes away and the only actual treatment was the belief that you are ingesting something that would make you feel better.
Negative thoughts and emotions inhibit signals between your nervous system and your brain which is one of the things that contributes to brain fog. Negative thoughts and emotions also create stress and cause you to release the stress hormone, cortisol. A stress response to a dangerous situation is healthy and normal, but constantly activating this pathway can have serious health consequences including feeling exhausted all the time.
Remember that positive thinking takes practice. It is rare for someone to decide that they are going to start thinking more positive thoughts and have it just happen. The negative thoughts you have towards yourself have likely become a habit and habits are not always easy to change, but you can see why it’s important to start being aware of your thoughts because they can have a big impact on your health and energy levels.
Building healthy and positive habits is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Every decision you have to make contributes to something called decision fatigue, which can make you crazy and can cause you to make choices that are not in the best interest of your health. Turning positive and healthy decisions into habits takes the choice (and the fatigue potential) out of the equation. An example of this is brushing your teeth before bed. Is that something you have to consciously decide to do every night or do you just go do it before bed? That’s the difference between a decision and a habit. Turning decisions into habits and unhealthy habits into healthy ones takes time and practice, but can go a long way towards improving your life and decreasing your fatigue.
The standard American diet (SAD) and poor gut health contribute to underlying infections in your body.
You might think it sounds crazy that you could have an infection and not be aware of it, but there are two ways that this is possible, one is a “carrier state” and the other is a “stealth state.” In a carrier state, your body is playing host to a potentially harmful organism, but your immune system is keeping in controlled so you do not experience any symptoms. In cases where your immune system starts to become overworked or if another, more serious potential infection comes along, you body will go fight that and you may experience symptoms, such as what happens with the chickenpox virus and shingles outbreaks later in life.
In a stealth state, microorganisms exist in the body but are not recognized as a potential threat by your immune system and it does not activate an immune response. These organisms are present in low enough levels that they cannot be detected by lab tests, but they are active and secrete toxins which eventually weaken your body and allow other organisms to invade.16 Symptoms of these stealth infections slowly increase over years, which means that it can be difficult to feel them until they become unbearable. If not treated they lead to anxiety, chronic pain, fatigue, irritable bowel, and recurrent viral infections.17
When energy levels don’t respond to improvements in your diet or your lifestyle, it might be time to consider a hidden infection. Too much of the wrong foods, not enough of the right foods, stress, and medications all contribute to these stealth infections.They can be difficult to get rid of, so working with a functional or holistic practitioner is important. See the resources page for help finding a functional or holistic practitioner in your area.
Whether your fatigue is a minor annoyance or a major health crisis, you do have the power to change it even though you are feeling pretty powerless if this has been an ongoing issue for you. Addressing the five things I mentioned above are paramount to feeling better no matter where on the fatigue spectrum you are.