Do you feel tired all the time? As a GP, this is one of the most common complaints we hear about from our patients. In this article, I discuss the top 5 reasons why you might be feeling tired and what you can do to address them.
Quite often people dismiss their tiredness as part of life without ever getting to the underlying cause. Don’t let this be you! Or perhaps you saw a doctor but still didn’t get to the bottom of it.
When you have the opportunity to see clinicians at a practice who pride themselves on getting to the root cause to conditions like tiredness, you’ll finally be able to get back to all the things in life you want to do, like spending time with people you love or re-engaging in a hobby that’s fallen by the wayside.
Let’s dive into the common reasons why you might be feeling tired.
Reason #1 – Nutrient deficiency.
Nutrient deficiency is a very common reason why you might be tired and it’s something we want to rule out early on in the consultation process.
The 2 most common at-risk nutrients we can see in patients are iron and vitamin B12. The good news is that if you’re found to be deficient, these nutrients can easily be replaced either orally by taking a tablet, or by injection into the vein or muscle (depending on the nutrient of concern).
This can give the ‘quick win’ of boosting your level of the low nutrient while we identify and correct the underlying causes of why the nutrient was low in the first place. Some examples of these underlying causes could be excessive bleeding from heavy menstrual periods for the ladies or poor absorption from the gut.
Watch the video to the right to see how Dr Stephanie Sheu and I discuss iron deficiency, heavy periods and IUD’s (such as Mirena) that can be used to help.
If you think heavy periods are contributing to your feelings of fatigue, I’d recommend booking in to see our women’s health specialist Dr Rebecca Ostrenski Book Here for a thorough work up of the causes.
Reason #2 – Insulin resistance or excessive body weight.
Insulin resistance can be a cause of fatigue because you’re not able to utilise energy efficiently. Instead, your system relies on a ‘glucose rollercoaster’ of feeling hangry, then needing a quick and convenient snack or meal to push your blood sugar up again and get you through the day.
87% of the adult population have some degree of insulin resistance or metabolic dysregulation.
If you’re insulin resistant, your body tends to preferentially burn sugar in the form of glucose. Our low-carb diet advice and other lifestyle measures try to move people towards being better at burning fat. This provides the benefit of them having more even energy levels throughout the day and allows them to more easily burn their own body fat.
Carrying excess body weight can itself be a reason to feel more sluggish for several reasons, the most obvious being the sheer struggle of carrying this around (think of carrying a 5-10kg bag of oranges on your shoulder 24/7!).
There are however, other less obvious ways that carrying excess body weight impacts on energy levels.
Often when people carry extra weight, we notice a slight increase in their inflammatory markers and this inflammation probably contributes to not feeling super energetic. When excess weight impedes the flow of air into the lungs while sleeping, this can have a detrimental effect on energy as the sleep is interrupted and less restorative, which leads us to our next reason…
Reason #3 – Sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders can come in the form of obstructive sleep apnoea or less commonly restless legs or narcolepsy.
All of these can negatively impact energy levels during the day. In this day and age, it’s very common for us to see high levels of stress interrupting the sleep cycle. One of our GPs might need to organise a sleep study to figure out what’s going on.
There might be some simple measures you can take to optimise your circadian cycles, such as making sure you switch off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime. We can talk through more tips with you during a consultation.
Reason #4 – Excessive stress or too busy lifestyle.
Long-term stress can cause high cortisol levels in the body, which can overtime deplete your energy reserves and can contribute to insulin resistance.
High levels of stress can also negatively impact on your sleep cycle, with the classic feature of waking at 2 or 3 am with their mind wide awake and busy. It’s important to identify where your excess stress is coming from.
Sometimes the cause is obvious (work or family stressors), but sometimes there is another underlying reason why your body is under stress that is a little bit more difficult to pinpoint. For example, you might have an underlying nutrient deficiency that your body is interpreting as a stressor.
Or maybe you’ve been unknowingly exposed to environmental toxins that are causing your system stress. If mainstream medicine hasn’t come up with sufficient answers for you, you might benefit from seeing our Functional Medicine doctor, Dr Amelia Stephens, to dig a little deeper.
Reason #5 – Whole body inflammation.
Are you starting to see a pattern here that a lot of the causes of tiredness can interact and overlap?
Whole body, low level chronic inflammation can be caused by carrying too much body fat, gut dysbiosis or underlying infection such as dental infection. Make sure your dental checks are up to date. An initial panel of bloods can help us work out if there’s inflammation in your body (but it doesn’t usually tell us where the inflammation is coming from or what the exact cause is!).
When there’s inflammation in your system, it also means we need to interpret your iron studies very carefully. Iron is an acute-phase reactant, which means levels of ferritin (which reflect iron status) can rise as part of the inflammatory response. Your iron being either too high or too low can contribute to feelings of tiredness. The good news however is that we can easily correct issues while we search and correct for any contributing underlying causes.
If any of these 5 common causes of tiredness resonated with you, it might be time to look into things a bit further. Book Online to see one of our clinicians, or if you aren’t sure who would be best to see, call us and we can give you some more information over the phone.
We look forward to seeing you in the practice soon and helping you improve those energy levels!