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One hundred flavours of fatigue

Posted Feb 15 2013 8:00am

Feeling tired is often what propels people to seek professional help, but there’s no one cause for it. You may be surprised to learn that there are a hundred different ‘flavours’ of fatigue. (I’m exaggerating here, I haven’t actually counted them, but what I want to emphasise is that the experience of fatigue has a multitude of causes, and manifests in different ways.) From a natural treatment perspective, the methods used to discover the cause of fatigue and the treatment to use varies with each individual. Here are some of the most frequently occurring causes of fatigue that I see in the clinic.

Energy rollercoaster fatigue: That’s where you ‘treat’ your fatigue through eating foods that spike your blood sugar level (like sugar, caffeine and fast release carbohydrates). Like a rollercoaster ride, you will feel better as your blood sugar level rises and reaches the pinnacle, then an awful drop in energy when the massive insulin release follows. Managing your energy this way can lead to mood swings. Treatment for rollercoaster fatigue focuses on improving your diet and blood sugar regulation.

Adrenal fatigue: This is a modern disorder, originating from a lifestyle filled with stress and distractions. Eventually your adrenal glands give up trying to help you manage stress: You can barely drag yourself out of bed in the morning, but in the evening your energy lifts. Then it’s really difficult to get to sleep. As adrenal fatigue deepens, anxiety attacks can appear. Treatment is focused on nutrients and herbs to support your adrenal glands, plus education about how to manage modern stressors better.

Thyroid fatigue: Women especially seem to be especially vulnerable to thyroid problems. With thyroid fatigue, you’re tired all the time because your metabolism has slowed to a crawl. Herbs and nutrients are used to bring your thyroid back to health.

Sleep deprivation fatigue: If you’re getting less sleep than you need, sleep deprivation will catch up with you, eroding your stress resilience and setting you up for other health problems. Sometimes all that’s needed is better sleep hygiene. (Read: Turn off the TV and go to bed with enough time to wind down first).

Chronic fatigue is often accompanied by severe loss of stamina and sometimes muscle pain when you exert yourself. This can mean that the energy producing parts of your cells, the mitochondria, have become dysfunctional. Chronic fatigue can often emerge after a severe viral or autoimmune illness. Treatment centres around using herbs and homoeopathic remedies to revive those mitochondria and relieve pain.

This is a rather simple description of some types of fatigue; often the symptoms, and the causes, overlap - your life and your body are complex. Whatever the cause of your fatigue, it’s your body trying to tell you that all is not well, and that you need to address the fundamental causes to start feeling energetic again.


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