Fatigue & Stress

Has stress and pervasive tiredness hijacked your life? Is caffeine your best friend? Is sugar, fat and salt your primary food group?

Do you find it all just too much effort ( even sex! )?

Have you tried different fixes and maybe even different doctors to no avail?

Do you even remember fun!?

If so you’re not alone and, most importantly, you are most likely suffering from fatigue.

Fatigue is more than being tired or sleepy. People who have fatigue feel so drained that their exhaustion interrupts their daily life. Many conditions and medications can cause overwhelming tiredness. An unhealthy diet, lack of sleep and too little or too much physical activity can also lead to fatigue.

Everyone feels tired from time to time. Fatigue is feeling severely overtired. Fatigue makes it hard to get up in the morning, go to work, do your usual activities and make it through your day. You might have an overwhelming urge to sleep, and you may not feel refreshed after you rest or sleep.

Stress & Adrenal Fatigue

The constant demand of chronic stress on your stress response system, especially your adrenal glands, to produce hormones can also eventually result in adrenal fatigue. In 1998 Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term adrenal fatigue to describe a condition in which the stress response system is functioning and the adrenal glands are producing hormones but they are not meeting the level of demand – like a car stuck in a low gear trying to drive on the highway. Adrenal fatigue is very common, ranging from the tiredness you feel for a few days after recovering from an illness to debilitating fatigue that interferes with life and doesn’t go away with just rest.

Your adrenals produce over 50 hormones, including cortisol, adrenaline, aldosterone, DHEA, testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. Making them is a nutrient and energy intensive process. Too little of even one of the required nutrients hinders hormone production. Getting adequate amounts of all the right nutrients is more of a challenge with a stressful lifestyle for several reasons. Since stress slows down digestion, nutrient absorption decreases as well. Plus it’s very common for stressed people to eat on the fly, resort to junk food, and drive themselves with caffeine and sugary or salty snacks. Not only are these foods nutrient poor, but digesting and metabolizing them uses up nutrients they don’t replenish. Caffeine stimulates your adrenals to temporarily work harder but in the process further depletes them.

During adrenal fatigue, adrenal hormones like cortisol are below optimal levels. Cortisol plays a key role in many physiological processes; including helping maintain healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, thyroid function, immune function, digestion, mental focus, memory, and sex hormone levels. It is also the body’s most important anti-inflammatory agent. So when cortisol is low, it can adversely affect everything from your libido to allergic reactions to the quality of hydrochloric acid in your stomach. It also makes you feel tired, especially on rising, mid morning and mid afternoon.

What Causes Fatigue?

Many conditions, disorders, medications and lifestyle factors can cause fatigue. Fatigue can be temporary, or it can be a chronic condition (lasting six months or more). You may be able to relieve your symptoms by changing your diet, medications, exercise or sleep habits. If an underlying medical condition causes fatigue, doctors can usually treat the condition or help you manage it.

Causes of fatigue include:

  • Lifestyle habits: Poor diet, excessive alcohol, drug use, too much stress and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to fatigue. Jet lag commonly causes temporary fatigue (symptoms usually improve in a few days).
  • Medical conditions: Fatigue is a symptom of a wide range of diseases, disorders and deficiencies affecting various parts of the body.
  • Sleep disorders: Insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy can cause extreme exhaustion and long-term fatigue.
  • Medications and treatments: Several prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antihistamines and blood pressure medications, can cause fatigue. Fatigue is a common side effect of bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy and treatments for a range of conditions.

What other medical conditions cause fatigue?

Hundreds of conditions and disorders lead to fatigue. Some of the most common causes of fatigue include:

  • Disease and infection: Cancer, kidney disease and multiple sclerosis are just a few diseases that cause fatigue. Fatigue can also be a sign of infections such as mononucleosis, HIV and flu.
  • Mental health conditions: Fatigue from depression or anxiety may make it difficult or impossible to perform daily activities.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Fatigue is a symptom of many autoimmune diseases, including diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Problems with your endocrine system (the glands in your body that make hormones) can lead to exhaustion. Hypothyroidism is a common cause of fatigue.
  • Chronic conditions: Chronic fatigue syndrome (also called CFS or myalgic encephalomyelitis) and fibromyalgia cause severe, long-lasting fatigue.
  • Heart and lung problems: Fatigue is a common symptom of cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and congestive heart failure.
  • Deficiencies: Anemia and other vitamin deficiencies (such as vitamin D or vitamin B12) are often responsible for fatigue. Dehydration can cause fatigue because the body needs plenty of fluids to function.
  • Weight problems and eating disorders: Anorexia, bulimia, obesity or being underweight can lead to fatigue and a range of other symptoms.

How can Doctor 360 manage fatigue?

To find out what is causing your fatigue, we will ask questions about your lifestyle and medications. We may order lab tests to test blood and possibly dried urine samples (The Dutch Test).

To relieve fatigue, we will treat and manage the condition or disorder that’s causing it. Depending on your health, your treatment plan may include a combination of natural supplements, medication, exercise, or therapy.

How can I ease or relieve fatigue?

If a medical condition isn’t causing your fatigue, lifestyle changes may improve your symptoms. To reduce fatigue, you can:

  • Practice good sleep habits: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Don’t drink caffeine, use electronics, or exercise right before bed. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid toxins: Don’t use illegal drugs, and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet and plenty of water will keep your body nourished and hydrated.
  • Manage stress: Yoga, mindfulness, meditation and regular exercise can help you relieve stress and gain more energy.
  • Exercise often: Regular exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Though it might seem counter-intuitive, vigorous exercise can help you feel more energetic once you get used to it. But exercising too much can cause fatigue, so talk to your provider about what’s best for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Talk to your healthcare provider about your ideal weight, and try to stay within that range.

When should I call Doctor 360 about fatigue?

It’s normal to feel tired now and then. Everyone experiences occasional, brief fatigue due to illness, sleep disturbances, travel or changes in diet or medication. But you should talk to us if you’re tired all the time.

  • Your fatigue lasts longer than a few days.
  • You’re having a hard time going to work or performing daily activities.
  • There isn’t a clear reason (such as a recent illness) for your fatigue.
  • It comes on suddenly.
  • You’re older (over age 65).
  • You’ve also been losing or gaining weight.

Fatigue can be a sign of a serious health condition. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have fatigue along with other symptoms, such as:

  • Shortness of breath or pain in your chest, arm or upper back.
  • Fast, pounding, fluttering or irregular heartbeat.
  • Headache or vision problems (especially if you’ve hit your head recently).
  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others.‍

Also learn about DUTCH Testing, which is a valuable tool in diagnosing fatigue.

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