A huge percentage of our patients with chronic pain have fatigue as one component of their health picture. Like everything else, fatigue is a symptom of a body system or systems that aren't working well.
Medication side effects shouldn't be overlooked. Check with your pharmacist to see if any of your medications are contributing to your fatigue. Depending on the medication, acupuncture or herbs may be a suitable alternative. It is important that you speak to your doctor before coming off of a medication that they prescribed.
Many of our patients are sleep deprived. In this society, we tend to use reduced sleep as a 'badge of honor'. But, there is a neurotransmitter called adenosine that builds during the day to make us sleepy. The only way that the brain detoxifies from this is through a full night's sleep. It takes 8 hours of sleep for most people to get rid of the adenosine. This important for our patients because chronic high adenosine is inflammatory. Metabolic syndrome and diabetes also cause chronically high adenosine. If you give yourself enough time but have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, ask us how acupuncture and herbs can help.
While most of us eat too many calories, highly processed foods are usually low in the vitamins and minerals that we need to have good energy levels. Some patients used calorie restrictive diets to lose weight. And, others may be eating well but have poor absorption due to digestive problems.
Do you remember feeling super tired when fighting the flu? It takes a lot of energy to have a strong immune response and that could be what is causing you to feel over tired. Even if you don't have an acute illness, your immune system could be in overdrive. There are a number of chronic infections that may be flying under the radar but causing real symptoms. Severe allergies, including food allergies, cause enough of an immune response to be related to fatigue. Autoimmune disorders have become an epidemic and may affect as many as one in five American adults. Most people don't realize that inflammation is part of the immune system. If you have chronic pain and inflammation, fatigue is often right there with it.
Mood is a big player in the causes of fatigue. Depression and chronic anxiety can cause fatigue through changes in neurotransmitters, and chronic stress will affect the ability of our adrenal glands/ hormones to work optimally. Physical activity has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant medications for mild to moderate depression. Acupuncture and herbs can help with mood disorders.
A number of hormones affect energy directly. We already addressed adrenaline/cortisol related to adrenal health. Thyroid hormone deficiency (hypothyroidism) causes fatigue, weight gain, water retention, cold body, and hair loss. An estimated 20 million Americans have thyroid issues and more than half are unaware of their condition. Finally, the hormone insulin affects energy. Many of our patients get reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar after eating). These symptoms are fatigue especially around 2pm and waking in the middle of the night. If this happens to you, ask us about a diet or herbs to help maintain healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.
Mitochondria are the energy centers inside our cells. As we age, the mitochondria can age and not work properly. Intermittent fasting can be helpful as well as plants such as Korean Ginseng and Japanese Knotweed because they act on a protein called AMPK. Antioxidant herbs can help protect the mitochondria from further aging.
Not only is fatigue a complex issue, but many of us have multiple contributing factors. We can help you address the specific causes of your fatigue. Contact us to schedule your free consultation today.
Stephen Durell hold a Master's Degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine. He specializes in treating chronic pain using acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy.