Information on the Symptoms and Causes of Fatigue Including Mental Fatigue and Physical Fatigue.

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  1. What is Fatigue?
  2. Diagnosing Fatigue
  3. What Causes Fatigue?
  4. Help for Fatigue
  5. More Information on Fatigue

What is Brain Fog, Otherwise Known as Mental Fatigue?

Fatigue is a symptom rather than a specific illness or disorder. While it is common to have the occasional day where you feel tired and less energetic than usual, people suffering with fatigue feel tired and lethargic all the time and seem to lack energy.

Affecting both your body and mind, long periods of fatigue can seriously impair your daily functioning and make even the simplest of life’s responsibilities difficult to face. Symptoms of physical and mental fatigue are the first signs that the body is being subjected to unhealthy stress levels and could incur serious damage.

While many cases of fatigue can be rectified by making changes to your nutrition, environment, stress levels or sleep patterns, they may also be the symptoms of a more serious problem. Fatigue is a very common complaint, though, so it is often overlooked as a symptom of something more serious, and relatively few people seek medical advice or take the necessary steps to change an unhealthy lifestyle.

If you have been dealing with chronic fatigue, it is important to examine your lifestyle and take action to remedy the situation. If your fatigue continues after making healthier changes to your routine, a medical evaluation is recommended.

Is Fatigue a Serious Problem?

Only you can decide if fatigue is a serious problem in your life. Do you find yourself missing out on job opportunities, social occasions with friends or family events because you’re just too tired? Are you burning the candle at both ends and ignoring your body’s need for rest and sleep? If fatigue becomes an ongoing problem, it is important to address it. The first step is to look at lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your feelings of fatigue.

However, if the fatigue continues after you’ve changed your routine, or you feel that you don’t have the energy to address lifestyle problems, you may benefit from seeking medical advice to rule out any serious underlying conditions and to explore treatment options.

It is especially important to call your general health practitioner if you notice any other symptoms combined with fatigue, like pain or changes in appetite.

Diagnosing Fatigue

Your doctor will ask you to describe the fatigue symptoms you are experiencing. Keep a record of when you feel most fatigued, as the pattern of your fatigue may give clues to the underlying cause. For example, keep a daily journal for a few weeks and note whether you wake up feeling refreshed but rapidly lose energy through the day, or you wake up feeling tired and without energy.

Your doctor will also need to ask about your medical history, your current lifestyle and how you’ve been feeling emotionally. A full medical check may also include blood tests to check for anemia, thyroid function and possible infection, as well as a urinalysis.

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue symptoms can be accompanied by or manifest in a range of physical and emotional complaints. These include:

  • Constant tiredness or sleepiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Enduring desire to sleep more
  • Chronic headaches
  • Aching muscles or joints
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slower reflexes and response rates
  • Indecision and poor judgment
  • Low mood, irritability or depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lowered immune system functioning
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Attention difficulties and poor concentration
  • Lack of motivation

What Causes Fatigue?

Poor diets, environmental pollution, the use of alcohol, recreational drugs and prescription medicines can all take their toll on liver functions and on the healthy functioning of all your bodily systems.

Causes of fatigue vary from person to person and isolating the exact cause of your fatigue may be a difficult process. Here are some of the more common causes of fatigue that may you might consider before seeking professional help:

Lifestyle Causes of Fatigue

Too little sleep is one of the most obvious causes of fatigue, and yet it is often overlooked. People often underestimate the number of hours of sleep they actually need in order to function optimally. The average person needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per day. When living a busy lifestyle, sleep is often the first thing we compromise in order to “do it all.”.

Chronic insomnia can include difficulty falling asleep, waking up several times during the night and having difficulty falling back asleep, and feeling tired upon waking.

A stressful lifestyle or too much anxiety may also lead to feelings of physical and mental fatigue. Stress has serious effects on the physical body, and prolonged or excessive stress can lead to Adrenal Fatigue — causing you to feel very run down and worn out.

Lack of exercise is often a "catch-22" situation because you may feel too tired to exercise and think that it will make you feel even more fatigued. On the contrary, regular exercise of about 30 minutes per day will increase both energy levels and stamina, as well as facilitating better sleep.

Unhealthy diets or vitamin deficiencies are often a culprit of tiredness. Our bodies function optimally on a nutritionally balanced diet. Eating too much sugar and wheat or not eating enough fresh fruit, fiber and vegetables may lead to feelings of chronic fatigue. Ensure your body is getting enough liquids throughout the day, but avoid leaning on high amounts of caffeine, as it can dehydrate you. Fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration. Iron deficiency — either from inadequate iron in the diet or problems with iron absorption — can also contribute to fatigue.

Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause fatigue, including antihistamines, certain cold and flu medications and beta blockers. Certain anti-depressants may also cause insomnia that results in chronic feelings of fatigue. Check all the side effects of any medications you are taking and discuss them with your doctor if fatigue is a concern.

A stressful work environment can contribute to mental fatigue. Long work hours or burnout from a job can result in feelings of fatigue. Working second or third shift can cause chronic fatigue by disrupting the circadian rhythms that control energy production in the body at the cellular level. This internal clock system is what tells the body to sleep during the night and awaken during daylight. When the body’s central clock or circadian rhythm does not line up with your external schedule, your body has a much more difficult time regulating states of alertness and states of sleep, resulting in chronic fatigue.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

Chronic feelings of fatigue may be related to a number of underlying medical conditions, and a proper evaluation and diagnosis is important to determining the root cause. If you’ve altered your lifestyle as much as possible but fatigue symptoms remain a problem, it is recommended that you consult with your physician for help addressing it. Some of the more common medical causes of fatigue include:

  • Anemia
  • Ongoing sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, or sleep apnea
  • Chronic Pain
  • Dehydration
  • Allergies that cause hay-fever or asthma
  • Poor immune system functioning and chronic infection
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Adrenal gland imbalances
  • Certain illnesses like heart, liver or kidney disease
  • Anorexia or other eating disorders
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiency
  • Circulatory disorders and heart disease
  • Arthritis
  • Excessive Candida overgrowth in the digestive tract
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb Movement (PLM)
  • Regular use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Depression
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Help for Fatigue

In some cases, simply adjusting your lifestyle to include appropriate dietary, exercise and sleep routines will be enough to combat fatigue. In cases where medical causes are at play, treating the medical illness is the first plan of action.

Natural and herbal remedies can help treat symptoms of fatigue while you’re adjusting your lifestyle. Herbal remedy Fatigue Fighter ™ supports energy production and physical vitality, and Brain Tonic™ promotes alertness and helps relieve mental fatigue. Adding these to your regimen can support the other changes you’re making to improve your stamina and well-being.

More Information on Fatigue

Tips for Coping with Non-Medically Caused Fatigue

Adopt a regular sleep pattern and make sure your sleep environment is dark, cool and quiet. Cut out caffeine or other stimulants at least five hours before bedtime and limit exercise and mentally stimulating activities before going to sleep, including screen time.

Exercise regularly. While exercising may be the last thing on your mind when you don't seem to have enough energy to face the day, keeping physically active is vital for stress relief, healthy sleep and building stamina.

Eat a healthy, nutritional diet. A balanced diet will energize the body and mind and help you cope better with the demands of life. Steer clear of foods high in sugar, as these create temporary spikes in blood sugar that are generally followed by periods of fatigue. Eat regularly to keep blood sugar levels constant and drink plenty of water.

Reduce stress. Find ways to cope with the stressful demands of life, like prioritizing, getting organized and making time to relax. Seek professional counseling or take a stress management course if you struggle to cope with the stress in your life.

Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Smoking replaces some of your body’s oxygen supply with toxic carbon monoxide, and the build-up of those toxins can cause fatigue. Alcohol also increases toxic build-up and acts as a nervous depressant that causes fatigue. Alcohol at night also disrupts sleep.

1. "Our Circadian Clock Sets the Rhythm for Our Cells' Powerhouses." ScienceDaily. March 06, 2018. Accessed May 05, 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180306093116.htm.
Reviewed by Master Herbalist Mary Ellen Kosanke
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