Do you ask yourself, “Why am I so tired?” Do you feel like no matter how much sleep you get, you’re still tired all the time? Feeling exhausted is so common these days that it has its own acronym, TATT, which stands for “tired all the time”. Tiredness is one of the most common complaints at any given time, one in five people feels unusually tired, and one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to experts.
Tiredness can often be attributed to sleeping too little, but if you are reaching that eight hour threshold and still feeling exhausted, your low energy level may be an indicator of an underlying problem. Let’s find out why you’re always tired.
BLOOD SUGAR IMBALANCE
Chances are if you’re always tired, your blood sugar has something to do with it. One of the biggest risk factors for feeling tired all the time is being a “carboholic,” meaning someone who overeats refined carbs and sugary foods. This same person also doesn’t acquire enough healthy fats, proteins, vegetables and essential nutrients that support ongoing energy.
Blood sugar levels become unbalanced when your diet is too high in various forms of sugar, which enters the bloodstream rapidly and can cause extreme elevations in blood glucose as well as insulin levels. This puts you on a “sugar high” followed by a “sugar crash”…..which lead to fluctuations in blood sugar and feelings of fatigue, headaches, moodiness, hormonal changes and food cravings. Over time, imbalances in blood sugar can cause serious diseases like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In the case of insulin resistance, the hormone insulin isn’t able to get nutrients, particularly glucose, into the body’s cells. Since your cells aren’t properly absorbing blood sugar, they can’t transfer energy throughout the body sufficiently. High insulin also creates inflammation which can prevent healing, confuse your body, and affect energy levels.
To get blood sugar levels back under control, you’ll need to really reduce, or even to completely eliminate, all sources of refined sugar from your diet. These include fizzy cool drinks, energy drinks, sweetened coffee or tea, fruit juice, packaged snacks like all cookies, cakes, some cereals and jelly sweets. Even natural sweeteners like raw honey, can still affect blood sugar levels. Also consider reducing your total carbohydrate intake – choose low glycaemic index carbohydrates and combine where possible with protein to ensure stable blood glucose levels.
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels and the possibility of being insulin resistant or even perhaps being diabetic then there are blood tests that can be done to confirm a diagnosis.
One of the most common medical reasons for feeling constantly run down is iron deficiency anemia. Anemia occurs when there’s a problem with red blood cells making hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen throughout the body, especially to the brain where it is much needed. Anemia is connected to insufficient iron levels within the blood, in addition to low vitamin B12 and folate levels. Anemia can also be caused by a loss of blood or a diet that’s too low in those essential nutrients and, thus, hinder the body’s ability to make enough hemoglobin. Women with heavy periods and pregnant women as well as vegetarians are especially prone to anemia.
To diagnose anemia, blood tests would be required. Do check iron stores as well as folate and vitamin B12 – not just hemoglobin! This is very important before taking an iron supplement since unnecessarily high levels of iron could interfere with the body’s ability to absorption other important nutrients such as zinc and calcium.
Eat a vitamin-rich diet! Anemia symptoms can be greatly reduced by improving your diet and including plenty of foods that are rich in iron, vitamin B12 and folate. Iron sources include beef and other meats, beans, lentils and fortified breakfast cereals. Eat iron rich foods together with foods high in vitamin C that helps with iron absorption, such as citrus fruits, berries and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower. Also choose green leafy vegetables that contain a significant amount of iron and folate. Foods rich in vitamin B-12 include meat, dairy products, and fortified cereal.
The most common cause of dehydration is excessive loss of body fluids, especially of water and electrolytes, simply not drinking enough water, or substituting water intake with only soda or juice. This is a critical mistake as not only does that spike your blood sugar, but also your cells cannot get enough water to function properly! Fact is, when you start to feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated.
The major electrolytes in the body — sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate — are ion compounds that literally help your body to have energy via the force of electricity that keeps your organs (the brain, heart, nervous system , muscles) and cells functioning. Dehydration affects the actual viscosity (thickness) of your blood and the amount that your heart must beat every minute, as it tries to get oxygen to all your cells. When you’re dehydrated, your heart sends oxygen and nutrients to your brain, muscles and organs at a slower pace; as a consequence, you begin to feel fatigued, lethargic, moody, like you have “brain fog”, weakness in muscles, unable to concentrate and perform tasks.
Drink more water throughout the day, increase your intake of vegetables and fruits, and make sure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes in the form of whole foods. To calculate the amount of water you need to drink daily to avoid dehydration, take your weight in kilograms, and multiply with 20ml. In other words, if you’re a woman who weighs 60kg, you need to drink 1200ml water per day, or roughly five 250ml glasses of water to stay fully hydrated. But this is only the amount of water if you do not exercise or do anything strenuous! If you work out or if you are active, then you ideally need to drink at least an extra 250ml for every 30 minutes of exercise. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol that furthers dehydrate you – too much also interferes with REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep), which is the deepest sleep state that’s needed to feel rested the following day.
ADRENAL FATIGUE OR CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
Adrenal fatigue is believed to affect up to 80 percent of adults worldwide and is caused by a hormonal imbalance, similar to a how thyroid disease develops. Your adrenal glands are extremely important endocrine glands which release more than 50 different hormones, including the energy-regulating hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These key hormones increase and decrease according to the amount of stress being put on your body. As a result, high stress levels and adrenal fatigue symptoms are closely tied — it’s also why feeling frantic, busy and highly-strung equates to you feeling like you’re always tired!
Chronic fatigue syndrome causes similar symptoms to adrenal fatigue. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue syndrome are similar and include fatigue that doesn’t go away even after getting good sleep, difficulty falling and staying asleep through the night, muscle and joint pain, headaches, frequently getting sick, such as having a sore throat, cold or flu-like symptoms, weight gain, digestive problems like constipation or cramps, mental fogginess and trouble concentrating and remembering things clearly.
Change your diet by avoiding caffeine, excess refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. Instead, fill up on hormone- balancing healthy fats, proteins and plenty of fresh vegetables. Adaptogen herbs can also be extremely useful for helping with adrenal and chronic fatigue. Medical studies have shown that adaptogens — naturally occurring foods that help balance hormones and reduce the body’s stress response — can help improve cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity and result in better energy. So, try adaptogens like ashwaganda, in addition to nutrients like omega-3 fish oils, magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D3 and zinc. Limit stress by exercising regularly in a healthy way, getting plenty of sleep, and practicing various relaxation techniques like reading, yoga.
EXERCISE – TOO LITTLE OR TOO MUCH
In today’s busy, office-oriented work environments, it is common for many people to develop a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting all day can make you feel like you’re always tired! Your body was made to move, so when it doesn’t get regular activities, you can experience mood issues, sluggishness, fatigue, and weight gain. Regular exercise can help balance hormones, improve insulin resistance and help you to get better sleep, all of which are important for fighting a lack of energy.
When it comes to healthy habits, too much of a good thing can backfire, and that applies to exercise as well. Overtraining means you are training to hard and having too little recovery time. If you don’t provide your body with adequate rest and nutrition, muscles and cells are continuously breaking down, eventually leading to exhaustion. The most common symptoms may signal that you need to cut back a bit and allow your body to recover between sessions is when exercise leaves you exhausted instead of energized, you get sick easily (or it takes forever to get over a cold), you’re unable to sleep or you can’t seem to get enough sleep.
DISEASE AND INTOLERANCES
Any serious illness, especially painful ones, can make you tired. Common conditions include autoimmune disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and lupus), chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and inflammatory bowel disease. Thyroid disease can also cause a wide variety of symptoms such as fatigue.
Coeliac disease (a type of food intolerance, where your body reacts badly when you eat gluten) cause your small intestines to become inflamed When the small intestines become damaged from inflammation, your body isn’t able to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, anaemia, weight loss and fatigue. A blood test would be able to diagnose Coeliac Disease. At Paarl Dietitians we have a quick and convenient finger prick test available that would also be able to confirm a diagnosis.