Fatigue is extremely common and a number one symptom of women in their forties. Studies have shown that about 33% of women experience extreme tiredness.
There can be lots of reasons for fatigue and it is important to rule out any underlying health conditions first as it can be a symptom for a number of serious diseases. The information and tips below are assuming that you are otherwise healthy.
Reasons for Fatigue
1. Hormones – that are out of whack.
Of course the top hormone that can cause fatigue is good ‘ole oestrogen – when oestrogen drops during perimenopause it can cause a number of things to happen which will create fatigue:
- Hot flushes and night sweats become more common which will affect your quality of sleep.
- When oestrogen drops so does serotonin (our happy hormone). Serotonin makes us feel chilled and is also a precursor to our sleep hormone melatonin. So low serotonin levels means low melatonin which of course means rubbish sleep.
- Oestrogen also affects energy balance and is associated with the function of our mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses found in every cell – they make energy and then they store it for later use. When we have low oestrogen it can mean that our mitochondria don’t function as well as they used to.
- Oestrogen also affects how insulin works. Insulin is a hormone that enables the glucose in our blood to enter our cells thereby providing us energy. When insulin doesn’t work the glucose stays in our blood and not in the cell and we get tired.
Cortisol, when we are chronically stressed and have high amounts of cortisol then our body will prioritise cortisol production at the expense of oestrogen plus melatonin cannot be produced in the presence of high cortisol. When we are stressed, we don’t sleep, when we don’t sleep we are tired.
Thyroid hormone, if our thyroid is under functioning then we will be extremely tired. Both high cortisol and high insulin affect the thyroid as does oestrogen. Oestrogen influences the production and conversion of various thyroid hormones.
2. Poor Sleep
Sleep is fundamental to our health and our energy. During sleep the brain sorts our memories, cleans and repairs the brain and the gut, and releases hormones that regulate our metabolism, appetite and energy levels. So not getting enough sleep will definitely impact our health and energy. That means getting about 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night AND getting deep sleep. We sleep in 90 minutes cycles. Sometimes we might wake at the end of the cycle – the problem is if we wake in the middle. Shift work is terrible for energy (and health) as we are physiologically designed to sleep during the night. So make sure your room is as dark as it can be and wear sunglasses during the day. Sometimes you might wake feeling unrested because you are waking in the middle of a cycle – make sure you wake up at the same time, don’t hit the snooze button and go back to sleep..
A diet that is too high in refined carbohydrates will cause a rapid rise of glucose in your blood. Insulin is produced to get the glucose in the cell asap. You know the picture: you get a boost of energy and then a crash. You then reach for the next carbohydrate – chippies, a muesli bar – you get a surge of energy and then you feel like shit. If you keep going with this vicious cycle then you put yourself at risk of insulin resistance – so energy is never created and you feel permanently tired.
Not eating enough nutrients will also make you tired. All of the B vitamins (1,2,3,5,6,9 and 12) are involved in energy production especially in getting energy from food. Vitamins B9 and B12 also affect the function of our red blood cells by changing their structure and size. Red blood cells carry oxygen around our body (especially our brain). If the red blood cells can’t do this properly because of a deficiency in those nutrients has affected the structure of the red blood cells then we have a form of anaemia. Iron also creates anaemia, because it is required to hold on to oxygen via a substance called haemoglobin. Women are particularly at risk of this form of anaemia because we bleed. Iron deficiency anaemia is the number one cause of fatigue in women.
Not enough iodine, selenium and iron may cause thyroid dysfunction as they are needed in the production of thyroid hormones.
Not eating enough protein can also make us tired. Protein boosts metabolism thereby we get more energy from our food. It is also a building block of your body – makes up hormones, tissues, and transports nutrients that provide energy.
Not eating enough calories for your weight and height may also be another reason for tiredness. We get our energy from food so if we don’t provide enough fuel for the body to function then it won’t generate the energy we require.
Whilst skin rashes and the obvious digestive problems can be symptoms of food intolerances so can fatigue and brain fog. The most common food sensitivities are dairy, gluten, eggs, soy and corn plus additives, colourings and preservatives.
Be careful about using energy drinks and caffeine – this can lead to a surge and crash of energy and that same vicious cycle of the refined carbohydrates. Coffee and alcohol will also stop you getting a good, deep sleep which will lead to you feeling like poo the next day.
When you feel tired drinking water might be all you need rather than eating refined carbohydrates. Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue. If you drink when you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
It may be worth considering adding mineral drops to your water as minerals/electrolytes are also required for energy production and water alone may not be enough to hydrate you properly (especially if you are low in many of the electrolytes e.g. potassium, calcium and magnesium).
5. Being Sedentary
Humans are designed to move and building muscle is important for the creation and enhancement of mitochondria. The more we move and build energy (especially through strength training) the more mitochondria we make, the more energy we have (the better sleep we have and the more fat we lose). Consider how much sitting you do – the longer we sit the body’s ability to make and burn energy is compromised which promotes fatigue and weight gain. For every hour you are sitting – you should be moving for 10 minutes.
Posture also impacts energy levels. Stand up tall, pull your shoulders back, pull your head back and open across your chest and face forward. Be aware of any slumping. Sit upright in a chair with your bottom touching the back.
No surprise here. Excessive, chronic stress can cause fatigue. Studies have shown that not dealing with stress properly will increase your risk of tiredness. Some of the best forms of stress management include yoga, meditation and exercise.
We have control and choice over our energy. As Brendon Burchard says, ‘The Power Plant doesn’t have energy, it generates it’. We are the same, we have to make it.
How to do I fight fatigue and create energy:
Get tested – see your GP to check for underlying causes. This is a must. Then test for oestrogen, cortisol, insulin and thyroid hormones and test for B9, B12 and Iron to check for nutritional deficiencies at the very least.
Sleep – Have a winding down routine. Go to bed at the same time. Don’t hit the snooze button. Work out timings – if you get up at 6am you want to be asleep by 10.30pm so that this gives you 5 cycles. Nana napping has been shown to help some people.
Get your diet assessed by a naturopath or nutritionist – make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need and check for intolerances.
Start exercising – no more excuses! See a personal trainer to ensure you are training safely and in a way that will energise you not stress you. Dance, dance, dance!
Improve your posture. Stand up straight, head up, stick those boobs out and be proud. No more slouching or hiding.
Drink enough water – your urine needs to be straw coloured. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.
Find a way to manage your stress – try yoga, meditation, exercise or see a coach. Breathing techniques can also help get oxygen around your body.
Consider herbs and supplements to balance hormones, support sleep and stress and boost energy – see a specialist who can help create something for you. There are plenty of fantastic herbs but you need to make sure they are safe for YOU. Just because something is natural doesn’t make it safe especially if you are on any medications.
We have to provide what our body needs to make the energy and maintain it. We can also focus our mind on feeling energised. Remember what we focus on we become. What can you do right now to embody the FEELING of energy?
Everyone’s reasons for feeling fatigued will be different. It is NEVER one thing but a combination of several. Our 12 week programme covers all of this – there are specific modules on nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress plus on our VIP programme your diet will be assessed and you will get specific support to improve your diet for energy.
Remember you have a choice, you have control and you can generate energy…let us help you. Contact us on [email protected] for more information on how we can help.