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Tiredness and Fatigue

With the demands of work, home, children, friends and social life, it's no wonder so many people feel tired out every now and then these days.

With the demands of work, home, children, friends and social life, it's no wonder so many people feel tired out every now and then these days. Indeed, it seems as if fatigue is becoming an all-too-normal part of 21st century life. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, most people feel tired from time to time, but one in every five people feel unusually tired and one in 10 has prolonged fatigue.

The RCPsych also claims women tend to feel more tired than men, and while tiredness can be a problem at any age, it's less common in the very young and old.


Everyday causes

There are lots of reasons why you may feel exhausted, from being under too much stress to not getting enough exercise or sleep.

Other things that may leave you feeling wiped out include looking after young children, moving home, getting married, bereavement or the break-up of a relationship, not to mention certain health conditions and prescription medications.

Even your weight could contribute to your low energy levels: according to the RCPsych, if you're overweight your body has to work harder to do everyday things, while being underweight could mean your muscles may not be strong enough to do the same everyday things without becoming tired.

Most importantly, if you’re worried about feeling tired all the time, see your GP to rule out any underlying medical causes.  If you experience persistent fatigue that doesn’t improve – even when you get lots of sleep or rest – you may have a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Click <a href="https://www.naturesbest.co.uk/pharmacy/chronic-fatigure-ap_a116" target="_blank">here</a> to find out more about CFS.


Common health causes of tiredness

If you’re persistently tired, it could be caused by an underlying health issue, such as one of the following:

  • Low blood sugar
    Hypoglycaemia – or low blood sugar – is when your levels dip too low (unlike diabetes, when they become too high). Hypoglycaemia in non-diabetics is classed either as fasting hypoglycaemia or reactive hypoglycaemia. If your blood sugar level is too low, you may start feeling a bit shaky, woozy and tired. Other symptoms include sudden hunger, headache, shaking, food cravings, sweating, anxiety and fainting.
    Eating foods that have a low glycaemic index (GI) may help, as they release sugar slowly into your bloodstream rather than too quickly, which makes your body produce too much insulin. Examples of low-GI foods include oats, pasta, brown basmati rice, pulses and most fruits and vegetables.

  • Underactive thyroid
    Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of a hormone called thyroxine. Since thyroxine is involved in metabolism, not producing enough can cause symptoms including persistent tiredness. Other symptoms include unexplained weight gain, aching muscles and low mood, plus you may feel the cold more than usual.

    This condition is more common in women than men (15 in every 1,000 women are affected compared with one in every 1,000 men, according to the NHS). Middle-aged women are believed to be most at risk, but many could have hypothyroidism without realising it because the symptoms are often mistaken for general tiredness. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed via a blood test and is easy to treat with a tablet that replaces the thyroxine in your system.

  • Coeliac disease
    Around one in 100 people in the UK is thought to have coeliac disease, which is caused by a reaction to gluten (a protein found in grains including wheat, barley and rye). Whenever you eat foods that contain gluten, your immune system attacks the gluten and causes damage to your intestines. As a result, your body may not be able to absorb nutrients properly, which can lead to exhaustion and malnutrition.

    Treatment for coeliac disease involves cutting out gluten from your diet.

  • Depression
    Depression can often make people feel drained because it may stop you from sleeping properly or make you lose your appetite.

    The Mental Health Foundation claims between eight and 12 per cent of people in the UK experience depression in any one year. Because of biological and social factors it’s more common in women than men, with one in four women and one in 10 men needing treatment.

    Antidepressants are a common treatment for depression, but drug-free treatments are available too, including cognitive behavioural therapy and other talking therapies. Meanwhile, you can help yourself by keeping active and staying as healthy as possible. According to the mental health charity Mind, eating oily fish and reducing your consumption of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other drugs may also help.

  • Anaemia
    Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia. Not having enough iron means your haemoglobin levels will be low, so your body may not be getting enough oxygen from your lungs, causing tiredness. Other symptoms include breathlessness, heart palpitations, a tingling sensation in your fingers, light-headedness and general weakness.

    Younger women are most likely to have iron-deficiency anaemia. But after the menopause, women have the same risk as men (two to five per cent of adult men and postmenopausal women in the developed world have iron-deficiency anaemia, suggest figures from the British Society of Gastroenterology).

    If a blood test shows your haemoglobin is clinically low, your GP may prescribe a course of iron tablets. Meanwhile, foods rich in iron include blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, pumpkin seeds, liver, green leafy vegetables and egg yolks.
     

Why sleep is essential for health

Burning the candle at both ends is a sure way to make you feel tired and unable to concentrate. But not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can play havoc with your health and m

According to the NHS, after several sleepless nights you’ll start to notice the effects not getting the sleep you need can have on your mental health. You will find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions, for example, and your mood will feel low. As well as making it dangerous to drive, you may also have a higher risk of having an accident at home or at work. And if you keep on getting less sleep than you need, your risk of developing one of the following medical conditions will get higher:

  • Heart disease
    Not getting enough sleep on a long-term basis may affect your heart, making it beat faster and increasing your blood pressure. Sleep deprivation may also boost the levels of certain chemicals that are thought to cause inflammation, which may also put more strain on your heart.

  • Diabetes
    The NHS claims there’s evidence to suggest those who sleep fewer than five hours a night may have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, possibly because of a link between deep sleep and the body’s ability to process glucose.

  • Obesity
    Many studies suggest that not getting enough sleep can make you gain weight, with sleep deprived people thought to eat more calories than those who are more rested. This may have something to do with hormones that are linked with appetite, particularly leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full) and ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry).

  • Depression and anxiety
    If you don’t sleep well for just a night or two, you may notice feeling more down than usual. But not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can also lead to more serious mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

  • Infertility
    According to the NHS, there’s research to suggest those who don’t get enough quality sleep have lower libidos and less interest in sex.

Read more about sleep and insomnia for tips on how to sleep – and feel – better.


How to get your energy back

Having a healthy lifestyle can help boost your energy levels if you’re feeling tired some or most of the time. Here are a few things you could try:

  • Eat little but often
    If you’re eating three good meals a day but still feeling tired, try having smaller main meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours to help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Try to make sure you always have breakfast, and opt for healthy foods such as porridge instead of sugary cereals.

  • Try energy boosters
    Good energy levels depend on good nutrition, and there are several nutritional supplements that may help if you feel you’re running on empty.

    For instance, if you’re one of the seven out of 10 women or four out of 10 men (aged 19-50) in the UK thought not to be getting enough magnesium in your diet, your body may not have a sufficient supply of this mineral to make an important molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP is where your cells store energy from food).

    Immune deficiency can also drain your energy, especially if you suffer from frequent colds or other illnesses. A high-strength multivitamin and mineral supplement may help to support the immune system as well as provide B vitamins, which are required for the conversion of food to energy in the body.

  • Avoid stimulants
    According to the Royal Society of Psychiatrists, drinking six cups of coffee or 10 cups (six mugs) of tea a day is enough to disrupt your normal sleep as well as make you feel tired and wound-up. So try to limit how much caffeine you drink by only drinking caffeinated tea, coffee and soft drinks in the earlier part of the day and switching to decaffeinated drinks after that.

    Alcohol can also disrupt sleep if you drink too much during the evening, making you wake up during the middle of the night. Instead, avoid drinking late at night, and stick to the government’s recommended intake (14 units a week spread over three or more days for men and women).

  • Drink more water
    It’s also a good idea to replace some of the caffeinated drinks and alcohol in your diet with water. If you don’t drink enough water, you may start to feel dehydrated, which can make you feel tired.

  • Be more active
    Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re tired, but being physically active is widely thought to help increase energy levels. However, if you’re new to exercise, try not to overdo it in the beginning, as working out too often and for too long can drain your energy if you’re not used to it.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
    If you’re overweight or obese, the strain all that extra weight puts on your heart can make you feel exhausted. But getting back down to a healthy weight can give you back your energy. Eating a healthy diet combined with physical activity is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.

  • Reduce stress
    According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, worry makes you feel tired, especially when you can’t see a way out of your problems. Too much stress at work also drains your energy. But while it’s impossible to avoid stress altogether, making more time to relax can help you cope with it more effectively.


Fish oils may help, especially if you’re one of the many people who don’t eat the recommended two to three portions of oily fish a week. That’s because there’s some evidence they may help you cope more effectively with stress (i). Siberian ginseng is also widely used to counteract the negative effects of stress, particularly in Russia and Eastern Europe.


Five energy foods

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes some starchy foods, at least five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, some protein and dairy foods may help counteract tiredness and keep your energy levels normal. Meanwhile, try one or more of these energy-boosting foods:

  • Cherries
    If you’re eating three good meals a day but still feeling tired, try having smaller main meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours to help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Try to make sure you always have breakfast, and opt for healthy foods such as porridge instead of sugary cereals.

  • Nori seaweed
    Anaemia can also cause tiredness, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet. As well as boosting your haemoglobin, iron is required for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is where your cells store energy after it’s been broken down from food. Red meat is a good source of iron, but nori seaweed is a good alternative. Other iron-rich foods include green leafy veg, sesame seeds, shellfish and eggs.

  • Lentils
    Because lentils are a balanced mix of protein and carbohydrate, they are a good source of sustained energy. The soluble fibre in lentils also slows down the release of sugars, while an amino acid called tyrosine – found in protein foods – produces brain chemicals that help keep you feeling alert. Lentils also have a low GI. Other legumes that may help to keep you going include beans and chickpeas.

  • Low-fat dairy
    Dairy foods are a good source of protein too. As well as containing tyrosine, protein increases the production of a hormone called glucagon, which helps keep your blood sugar levels steady. Milk, cheese and yoghurt also have a low GI and contain B vitamins, which are thought to play a role in converting food into ATP. Choose dairy foods that are low in fat, such as cottage cheese and skimmed milk.

  • Almonds
    Nuts are good energy foods, especially almonds, as they contain nutrients such as manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, riboflavin and biotin – all of which play an important role in the production of ATP. Technically a seed rather than a nut, almonds also contain the antioxidant vitamin E and are a good source of protein. Almonds also have a low GI, along with other nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and pecan nuts.



References:

  1. , , et al. Fish oil and neurovascular reactivity to mental stress in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. ;304(7):R523-30


Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best The Pharmacy is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.