What Is Causing This Fatigue?

The first thing to note about what causes fatigue and tiredness is that it is relative to your perspective on your energy.  For instance did you used to have more energy when you were 20 years younger? Are you feeling like you have lower energy compared to your peers? These are the types of questions one has to answer to gauge where they’re at and build their awareness of their energy.

There are several reasons why you might have less energy from one day to the next. There are obvious reasons like the natural response to energy output or lack of rest. However, in the case where there is no obvious explanation, its important to look closer at some specific areas of your health  for an underlying cause. In this article we will look at common and not so common causes of fatigue and tiredness. We will look at specific Women looking for cause of fatigue and tirednessreasons the body and mind make us feel fatigue and tiredness. Bringing your awareness to both the causes and the not so common symptoms will give you more insight into your potential health issues.

Fatigue Verses Tiredness Definition

Fatigue and low energy are very common complaints and are also associated with many medical conditions. What’s the difference between just being tired and unmotivated and actual fatigue? Medically speaking fatigue and tiredness are interchangeable but the distinction comes when there is prolonged fatigue and tiredness. For instance the medical definition of Chronic Fatigue is a self reported prolonged feeling lasting 6 or more months. In some cases it can come and go and still be considered Chronic Fatigue.

On the other hand, when the feeling of tiredness or  lack of motivated is more like 6 weeks, it is considered general fatigue and it is usually temporary and relieved with better or more rest. The diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be accompanied with other symptoms such as diffuse muscle and joint pain and malaise which is not relieved by rest.


What Causes Fatigue and Tiredness: Mental Energy

Because fatigue and tiredness are subjective feelings it is difficult to tell if it is coming from your mind and neurotransmitters verses more physical aspects. The distinction to note here is that your mental state can play a huge role in how much energy you feel you have. Stress, anxiety and depression can zap your motivation even if your body has plenty of energy to do everything you might want to do.  There are fairly common reason for lower or altered neurotransmitter function. These genetic alterations are most commonly located in the bodies ability to breakdown catecholamine (like adrenaline and dopamine) and it’s ability to create neurotransmitters. The two common defects here are COMT and MTHFR respectively. You can learn more about MTHFR by clicking on the link. 

Lack of physical energy comes from a different area of the body and is often also associated with lowered metabolic function.

What Causes Fatigue and Tiredness: Physical Energy

Our bodies make energy by accessing the energy in the chemical bonds of the food we eat. When we consume food our bodies digest it into microscopic pieces of carbohydrates (monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides), fats (triglycerides and small chain fatty acids), and proteins (amino acids, and small peptides). These food particles are then further broken down to access their chemical bonds in “The Krebs Cycle.” This cycle is a complex biochemical engine that requires certain enzyme, vitamins, and nutrients to work. In order to do this our bodies need certain hormones, vitamins, nutrients, enzymes, and oxygen.  This break down process is known as oxidative phosphorylation because it requires oxygen. Most of the energy is made in our mitochondria which are sometimes referred to as the cell batteries. Certain hormones can speed up or activate the breakdown of the food particles.

As you might image there are many ways in which energy production can be interrupted to create fatigue. because energy production is basically your metabolic rate, your ability to convert food energy into usable energy is closely linked with your weight as well. In the next section we will look at some of the areas where the body fails to make energy efficiently.


Common Medical Causes of Fatigue and Tiredness

Because fatigue is a subjective feeling and can arise for so many different reasons, by itself, it does not give us a lot of clues as to what is wrong with you. However, when paired with other symptoms and signs in your body, the picture can be much clearer.

  1. For instance, if you have low red blood cells, your fatigue is likely due to anemia. The reason is that Red Blood Cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to the cells. Oxygen is needed to make energy. When the amount of RBC’s are limited, the ability to make energy is limited. Similarly, if you have problems with your heart, your fatigue could be from lack of blood flow (and oxygen) to the cells, as the cells get less oxyogen. Along the same vein, when you have lung disease, your RBCs may be lacking sufficient oxygen saturation and thereby deliver less oxygen needed to breakdown the carbohydrates and fats.
  2. Hormone imbalances like hypothyroid decrease the rate at which “The Krebs Cycle” works. With this there will often be a corresponding weight gain as well as fatigue. Other hormone deficiencies like testosterone deficiency also effect energy levels. It is not exactly clear how it does this but there is clear evidence that overall lean muscle mass decreases with low testosterone. With less muscle, breakdown and transport of carbohydrates and fats is less efficient. As an example, men with low testosterone are more likely to have impaired fasting glucose, prediabetes and diabetes proper.  There can also be a mental fatigue with low testosterone from reduced levels of neurotransmitters. Diabetes can also cause fatigue since the sugar has difficulty entering the cells. As a result the sugars cannot go through “The Krebs Cycle” to make energy.
  3. B12 deficiency will reduce RBC production and reduce energy  as in the example with anemia. It also helps to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine which are stimulating to the brain.
  4. The fatigue associated with depression is more of a mental fatigue, apathy, and lack of motivation. It is different than say the inability to do things from actual low energy reserves. The difference is the desire to do things. With depression there is little to no desire.
  5. Substance abuse can cause low energy for many reasons related to the above noted items. Different substances will cause different reasons for low energy but in general substance abuse causes depression when the substance is not Currently in the person’s body. It is also common to have vitamin and nutrient deficiencies from consuming these substances. Some prescribed medications can also cause a similar pattern.
  6. Cancer can cause low energy because the cancer is consuming and utilizing a lot of the nutrition you eat and your body does not get any of it. There are also immune related issues that cancer can cause.


Functional Medical Issues that Contribute to Fatigue and Tiredness

  1. Sleep is an important part in recovering from daily activities. If you are resting less than 8 hours and you are feeling fatigued chances are you need to catch up on your sleep. While it is always best to get 7-8 hours of sleep, some people feel fine with less. If this is you consider taking a nap at some point during the day. Research suggests that daytime napping is an ok substitute for a continues 8 hours.
  2. Long periods of stress can cause fatigue because it can alter the way our endocrine system works leading hormonal imbalances. In particular, the adrenal glands seem to be most effected. The adrenal glands are responsible for making hormones for the fight or flight Reaction. During periods of high stress these hormones are produced in large quantities setting the body up for deficiencies later. Usually we don’t recognize it until the stress is gone but sometimes the adrenals run out out of steam during the stressful event. In either case adrenal fatigue can be debilitating, causing abnormal sleep cycles, depression, anxiety, weight gain, poor exercise tolerance, and many other symptoms.
  3. Food sensitives can also cause fatigue as they lead to poor digestion and vitamin and nutrient absorption.


Treating Your Fatigue or Tiredness

There are many ways to treat fatigue and tiredness. This article did not covered many of the possible causes of fatigue. The first step is to rule out the most common and easily treated causes like anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and functional issues. Fatigue is one of the most common reasons people look to holistic health alternatives to western medicine. Typical western medicine is limited in what they can offer after the basic things have been ruled out. Knowing your body and how things are supposed to work will go a long way to identify and treat your fatigue and tiredness. If u have questions about your fatigue or tiredness, check out our ask doctor section to submit your question.