With the talk of independence still in the air, it is a perfect time to reflect on and appreciate the various freedoms we enjoy. Not only do we have many social and political freedoms, but we can also experience freedom from fatigue.
It is almost expected that Americans experience fatigue, stress, and exhaustion on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. It is commonplace to hear that one is in desperate need of a nap, or simply doesn’t have the will or energy to pull themselves off the couch after a day’s work. In some cases, people experience fatigue so severe that they can’t leave their bed. Fortunately, through understanding common causes of fatigue and appropriate methods of treatment, we can liberate ourselves from the oppression of fatigue.
The Forces of Fatigue
There are many factors that contribute to fatigue. Unfortunately, regular misdiagnosis or dismissal of fatigue has caused it to run unchecked through a significant portion of the population. Fatigue presents itself in many forms and should promote an appropriate medical response.
Symptoms of fatigue caused by a variety of conditions include:
- Difficulty waking up/tired in the morning
- More energetic in the evenings
- Inconsistent sleep
- Interrupted sleep
- Difficulty handling stressful situations
- Exhaustion after mild exercise
- Immune system dysfunction
- Difficulty concentrating
Those who experience the above symptoms should investigate deeper to ensure they are not suffering from a greater fatigue contributor.
Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
Stress is a primary contributor to fatigue. Therefore, it is not surprising that the adrenal glands, the system responsible for the body’s stress response, is an important talking point. The adrenals are small glands located above the kidneys, which secrete hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and adrenaline, all of which play a role in responding to stress.
When the body is overly stressed for long periods, the adrenals become fatigued and incapable of producing adequate hormones. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, helps metabolize fat, protein, and carbs to produce energy during stressful times. When the adrenals can’t produce the appropriate level of hormones the body suffers from lethargy and inadequate energy.
Adrenal fatigue can be caused by stress, poor diet, chronic illness, hormone deficiencies, and other conditions. Those who experience some or all the following situations are at greater risk of experiencing adrenal fatigue.
- A stressful life event such as losing one’s job, death in the family, or marital separation
- Chronic stress from one’s job, relationships etc.
- Acute infectious disease
- Long-lasting physical or physiological stress
- Hormonal deficiencies and imbalances
- Substance abuse
Chronic Fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
One who experiences chronic or regular fatigue may believe they are experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS. It is important to recognize that the two phrases are not interchangeable. Over 1 million peoples in the U.S. suffer from CFS. Although the number of people who suffer from chronic fatigue is significantly higher, the intensity of the condition more than makes up for its reduced prevalence. Those with CFS often experience symptoms that are impressively more severe than those that come with standard fatigue.
Symptoms often associated with CFS include:
- Depression and mood irregularities
- Low tolerance for or inability to exercise
- Poor balance, dizziness, fainting
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Visual disturbances
- Difficulty sleeping
- Flu-like symptoms
- Extreme exhaustion after minor mental or physical exertion
- And many others
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be triggered by various conditions including hypothyroidism, depression, sleep disorders, nutrient deficiencies, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and anemia. One is officially suffering from CFS if their symptoms have lasted at least six months. Treating CFS requires a multi-system approach because this condition has many contributing elements. Furthermore, each case is unique meaning that every treatment must be tailored to the individual.
Combatting Fatigue and Getting Reenergized
Resolving the underlying contributors and conditions that promote fatigue can sometimes require medical assistance and treatment. In some cases, lifestyle changes are enough to support one’s health and fend off recurring fatigue.
As mentioned above, stress is a primary contributor of fatigue. Excess stress essentially saps energy from the body. This makes systems like the adrenals, pituitary, and thyroid work harder, thereby hastening the occurrence of fatigue. Reducing one’s stress level can help restore adrenal function, reduce physiological stress, and help improve sleep duration and quality. By limiting exposure to stressful situations and environments, one can reduce unnecessary stress and fatigue. Practical methods to reduce stress include:
- Avoid stressful individuals
- Taking a vacation
- Changing to a less hectic job
- Practicing yoga
According to Kerry J. Stewart, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, “exercise has consistently been linked to improved vigor and overall quality of life.” She goes on to say that exercise improves lung, heart, and muscle function, which equates to better energy usage, allowing more energy to be used for stabilizing bodily function.
Get Your Thyroid Checked
Having one’s thyroid properly tested and diagnosed can uncover the cause of one’s fatigue. The thyroid interacts with nearly every system in the body, including the metabolism, adrenals, and pituitary. A dysfunctional thyroid can cause severe hormone imbalances leading to malfunctions throughout the body.
The thyroid and adrenals work closely together and if one system is malfunctioning it is likely that the other one is too. When both systems are not operating at their best, a degrading spiral of mutual influence occurs between them. This can cause one to enter a seemingly never-ending cycle of fatigue. Without optimizing both systems through a multi-system approach the likelihood of resolving one’s fatigue difficulties is slim.
Winning the Fatigue Fight
Although fatigue may be socially acceptable it is not acceptable regarding one’s health. If one regularly, or intermittently, experiences the various symptoms mentioned in this piece, it is important to take appropriate action and evaluate one’s condition. Many fatigue contributors such as stress, hormonal imbalance, inadequate sleep, thyroid dysfunction, and adrenal issues, frequently go untested and unheeded. This lackadaisical indifference towards these critical components of life must stop if we want to succeed in liberating the masses from the shackles of fatigue.