We’ve all felt the effects of fatigue before, whether it’s from a lack of sleep, over-exercising, or just simply feeling tired for no apparent reason. In fact, as many as 20% of adults worldwide report having persistent fatigue, and of this 20%, the majority are women, making fatigue a significant public health concern.
Some individuals report feeling mentally “tired,” which is known as cognitive fatigue, whereas others report more whole-body tiredness, which is just an overall lack of energy. Unfortunately, both can seriously impact a person’s quality of life. In this article, we’ll explore what causes fatigue and our top tips for overcoming low energy levels.
What Causes Fatigue?
There are many causes of fatigue and tiredness that range from a person’s gender all the way to their physical, social, and psychological stress levels. However, the causes of fatigue can be divided into three major categories, including:
- Predisposing factors such as being a woman or having a history of fatigue and depression.
- Precipitating factors such as physical stress, psychological stress, or social stress.
- Perpetuating factors including physical inactivity, emotional disorders, ongoing social or psychological stress, and poor sleep quality.
It’s important to note that many medical conditions can cause fatigue as well. Some examples include anemia, diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer, hypothyroidism, infections, and chronic heart or lung disease. Additionally, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders can also be responsible.
If you’re experiencing constant fatigue, it’s crucial to consult your doctor to eliminate any potential medical causes. However, statistics indicate that only 10% or less of individuals with prolonged exhaustion have an underlying medical condition. This underscores the significance of identifying and addressing other factors that may be contributing to your fatigue, such as predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors.
How To Combat Fatigue
Now that we know some of the major causes of fatigue and tiredness, let’s dive into what you can do about it! Thankfully, there are many lifestyle and dietary interventions that can help.
Get Enough Sleep
Though it may seem obvious, getting enough quality sleep is very important. Practice proper sleep hygiene by implementing rules like no electronics 30 minutes before bed, sleeping in a cool, dark room with minimal disturbances, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and avoiding big meals before bedtime.
Many people like to incorporate a bedtime routine such as putting on pajamas, using aromatherapy, dimming the lights, reading a good book, etc., whatever helps you feel relaxed! Having the same routine every night lets your body know bedtime is approaching and that it’s time to wind down.
Incorporate Physical Activity
Physical activity can greatly reduce fatigue in individuals as compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Being too tired to exercise is a common complaint for low energy levels, but it’s important to remember that exercise does not have to be intense. Engaging in activities such as walking or yoga can be a great option for individuals with lower energy levels. Yoga, with its slow movements and stretching, can be less intimidating for individuals with low energy levels.
There are lots of options for physical activity these days, so if you don’t know where to start, or are stuck in an exercise rut, try something new! And, if you find it difficult to stay motivated to exercise, find a workout buddy. You can keep each other accountable and work out together, making it much more fun!
Now that we’ve looked at a couple of lifestyle factors that can help with increasing energy levels, let’s discuss some dietary factors. If our diet lacks essential vitamins and minerals, our bodies cannot adequately carry out their functions, so we are much more likely to be fatigued. Each nutrient plays a specific role in our body, so it is essential to ensure we get enough of them! Here are a few quick tips:
- Optimal energy levels require a diverse, whole-food, nutrient-rich diet
- Choose fruits & vegetables, whole grains, beans & legumes, organic & ethically sourced meats, wild-caught seafood, and nuts & seeds
- Processed food may have depleted nutrients, so opt for whole foods when possible
- Supplementation may be necessary for some cases, but consult with a doctor first
What Supplements Can Help Combat Fatigue?
While many supplements can help combat fatigue, here are a few of the most commonly used ones:
A multivitamin provides essential vitamins and minerals that may be missing from the diet, which can help restore energy levels. Instead of focusing on one specific nutrient, a multi-nutrient will cover all the bases.
B vitamins play major roles in energy production in our bodies. They are also helpful for combating stress which is closely related to fatigue. Look for a supplement that contains B-12 for the best results.
Iron is a part of hemoglobin which is the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the bloodstream. It’s mainly for menstruating women with low ferritin levels. Before starting an iron supplement, it’s always essential to have your blood ferritin levels checked.
Vitamin C plays an important role in the production of energy at the cellular level through a process called beta-oxidation. It aids in the absorption of iron, so it can be helpful for those who are iron-deficient.
There are many causes for fatigue, but also many potential solutions. If you don’t want to feel tired, then try some of the strategies discussed above. Start out by getting enough proper sleep, including daily exercise into your routine, and eating a nutrient-rich diet. If you’re still experiencing low energy levels, talk to your doctor about starting a supplement regimen.