Fatigue and low energy may be due to a wide variety of causes, the majority of them related to diet and lifestyle. Adopting better habits often improves energy levels, but overwhelming or persistent fatigue should be professionally investigated to rule out underlying disease.
- Symptoms of fatigue may be physical, mental or emotional
- Tiredness, low energy
- Desire to rest or sleep
- Inability to perform physical activity, or exhaustion after doing so
- Muscles may be weak, and prone to aches and pains
- Inability to concentrate, slowness of thought, forgetfulness
- Poor decision-making skills, low levels of motivation
- Irritability, mood swings, short tempered
- Headaches, dizziness and poor balance
- Cravings for sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods
- Vision may become blurry, or eyes may be tired and twitchy
- Appetite may reduce, or conversely, hunger may be excessive
- In severe fatigue, co-ordination may be impaired and micro-sleeps may occur, increasing the risk of road or industrial accidents
- In many cases, fatigue is the consequence of diet and lifestyle factors, or due to emotional issues, however may occur as consequence of almost every physical ailment.
- Insufficient sleep (although excessive sleep can also increase daytime fatigue)
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet, often involving foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition. Eating a diet that is nutritious but imbalanced (e.g. rich in fruit and vegetables but lacking in protein) may also cause fatigue. A poor diet may also lead to deficiency of nutrients involved in energy production, including iron, B-group vitamins and magnesium
- Skipping meals, eating irregularly or consuming large quantities of sugary foods, alcohol or starchy carbohydrates (e.g. bread, cakes, potatoes) may lead to Blood sugar imbalances and energy slumps
- Inadequate relaxation time
- Stress (including work and relationship Stress, financial worries, shift work, caring for invalids or small children)
- Low mood or Anxiety
- Infection of any kinds (e.g. Colds and Flu, hepatitis)
- Anaemia and iron deficiency
- Insomnia and sleep disorders (e.g. sleep apnoea)
- Chronic health problems, especially those associated with ongoing pain (e.g. Rheumatoid Arthritis)
- Thyroid underactivity and other endocrine disorders
- Digestive disorders involving impaired absorption of nutrients (e.g. Diarrhoea states such as coeliac disease)
- Poor Heart Health
- Respiratory conditions, especially those associated with decreased availability of oxygen (e.g. chronic Bronchitis)
- The use of certain medications (e.g. opiates)
Nutritional & Herbal Support
- Ginkgo biloba may increase memory, mental alertness, concentration and helps maintain healthy cognitive performance in healthy people.
- Magnesium is involved in many of the body's mechanisms for coping with stress, and also helps tense and contracted muscles to relax. We need more of it when we're under pressure, so it's easy to become deficient during stressed or anxious times
- Valerian is an effective but gentle sedative with properties that may provide symptomatic relief of anxiety.
- St John's Wort has been clinically proven to relieve low mood, as well as anxiety and stress.
- Korean Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as an energy tonic to support the body's ability to withstand physical stress and to support mental and physical weakness, exhaustion, tiredness and loss of concentration.
- Withania has been traditionally used in Ayurveda as a rejuvenating tonic to increase energy and for memory enhancement.
- Important antioxidant nutrients include betacarotene, vitamins C and E, zinc and selenium, and alpha-lipoic acid. Taking an antioxidant supplement that combines these nutrients may help to reduce free radical damage in the body due to Stress, poor diet and environmental pollutants
- Take a high potency multivitamin that provides a broad spectrum of nutrients to support energy production and help combat nervous tension and Stress that includes magnesium. A formula that also includes Korean ginseng may be particularly beneficial for men, because this herb has traditionally been used to raise energy levels and improve the ability to withstand Stress. Siberian ginseng has similar properties, and is an ideal inclusion in a multivitamin supplement for women
Diet & Lifestyle advice
- Persistent fatigue or sleepiness may be indicative of underlying disease, and require medical investigation
- Most people need 7-8 hours sleep each night in order to feel rested and energetic. Try to stick to a regular routine, even on the weekends, and sleep in a comfortable, well-ventilated room
- Incorporate time for relaxation into your day, and if you are feeling overwhelmed by Stressful circumstances, ask others for support, or take steps to start changing issues that are affecting your mental wellbeing. Learning and practicing meditation or relaxation techniques may be beneficial
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritionally varied diet, with an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and lean high quality protein
- Don't skip meals, especially breakfast, which is vital to maintaining Blood Sugar balance. Eating several small meals per day can also help
- Adequate hydration is vital for physical and mental performance. Drink at least two litres of water every day
- Regular exercise and activity are important for energy levels, and can also help to improve Stress levels, Low mood, low moods and Anxiety. Even a brisk 30-minute walk has health benefits, but other options include swimming, yoga and going to the gym
- Avoid the use of stimulants (e.g. coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages), especially during the afternoon and evening, as they may interfere with sleeping patterns.
- Don't smoke, drink alcohol - all of these can exacerbate the problem, even if they may make you feel better in the short-term
If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.