Fatigue is all too common these days. Surveys suggest that approximately one in five Americans suffers from fatigue that is severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Are you one of them? Then keep reading to find out what the underlying cause could be, plus six ways to reclaim your energy and vitality.
Could There Be an Underlying Medical Condition?
If you’ve been experiencing long-term fatigue, the first thing you need to do is work with your physician to determine if the culprit is an underlying health condition—something I refer to as an “organic cause.”
Some of the top organic causes of fatigue include:
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)
- Heart disease
- Digestive system conditions
- Liver or kidney dysfunction
- Sleep apnea
- Adrenal exhaustion (HPA Axis Dysfunction)
- Chronic microbial infections
These are just a few on a very long list of medical conditions that have fatigue as a major symptom, so the investigative work you do with your doctor needs to be thorough.
Other Common Causes of Fatigue
If you have no organic causes of fatigue, it’s time to consider other factors—lifestyle factors, to be specific.
It’s no wonder so many people feel wiped out in this day and age. We live in a culture where jam-packed schedules, multitasking, and constant digital connectedness are the norm. In our busy lives, our minds become so focused on getting things done that we often lose sight of taking care of our bodies.
Physically and mentally, we are exhausting ourselves. And one of the ways this exhaustion manifests itself is through fatigue. Now more than ever, it’s critically important to listen to your body—and if you’re chronically fatigued, it’s telling you to make some changes.
6 Ways to Get Your Energy Back
#1: Stay Hydrated
Given the fact that water makes up approximately 60% of our bodies, you can understand why it’s so important to stay hydrated.
Unfortunately, many people fail to stay adequately hydrated—and this can affect both mental and physical health. Studies have found that mild dehydration adversely impacts energy, mood, and cognitive performance in children and adults of all ages. It is also a fairly common cause of midday fatigue.
The good news is that drinking more water may help relieve your fatigue. Over and over again, I’ve seen patients’ energy levels improve simply by increasing water intake.
The general recommendation is to drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water daily. If you tend to feel tired in the morning and late afternoon, drink a glass of water right when you wake up and before you feel the afternoon crash coming on. You will be amazed at how fast water can fuel your body and mind.
#2: Eat a Healthful Diet
In our hectic, over-scheduled lives, we often opt for over-processed convenience foods rather than healthy choices that fuel our bodies and stoke our energy levels.
The diet I suggest for patients and others who want to feel more energized, lose weight, and regain their vitality is called the “Modified Paleo Diet.”
This style of eating is based on the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet—what our ancestors ate before the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago—but it’s less restrictive and easier to stick with over the long haul. This diet emphasizes whole foods, including vegetables, pasture-raised and grass-fed meats, fish, eggs, fruits, and nuts. It’s deliciously healthful nutrition and a powerful way to treat support low energy levels.
Coffee or tea also increases mental and physical energy, and many people drink a cup or two to help them get going in the mornings. While caffeine in moderation is a good energy boost, too much caffeine—especially if you’re caffeine sensitive—can cause nervousness, insomnia, and actually contribute to fatigue.
#3: Get Sufficient Exercise
Exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, helps modulate metabolism, improves mood, and even supercharges mitochondria, which are your cellular engines. All of these benefits can help to counter low energy levels.
What I’ve found to be very important for exercise success, both personally and with my patients, is committing to a specific exercise schedule. Blocking out time—even if it’s two days a week for 30 minutes—will help you stick to your exercise commitment. Plus, if you can exercise outdoors, it can be doubly refreshing.
Working out with a friend is another great exercise tip. Knowing that someone else is counting on you makes it easier to get motivated, and the companionship makes the time you spend exercising more enjoyable.
#4: Recharge with Restful Sleep
Sleep is the time when our bodies do the hard work of detoxifying, restoring, and rejuvenating. And without 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night, you’re not only inviting fatigue the next day but also short-changing your overall health.
Researchers once thought that lack of sleep primarily affected cognitive health—with symptoms of tiredness, inattentiveness, and poor cognition. But more recent studies have revealed that chronic sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early death!
So, getting your ZZZ’s is something to take seriously. A few simple steps can go a long way toward successful sleep habits:
- Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine after 7:30 p.m. These can cause indigestion and an insulin response, which can keep you up at night.
- Go to bed at the same time each night—preferably before 10:00 p.m. And avoid screen time, including phone, laptop, and television, before turning in. I especially advocate staying away from news or sports programs before bed because they can fill you with stress and disrupt your sleep.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark. This environment is best for proper production of melatonin—your primary sleep hormone—as well as for keeping your nasal passages moist for optimal nighttime breathing.
- Repeat a simple wind-down routine each night to ease you into sleep. Meditation, prayer, or restful music are all helpful tools for this.
- Take supplemental melatonin for extra support. If you have trouble relaxing or toning down a busy mind, add GABA, an amino acid that acts as a calming neurotransmitter in the brain. The suggested doses are 2–3 mg of melatonin and 100 mg of GABA, taken about an hour before bedtime.
#5: Mitigate Your Stress
We can’t talk about how to alleviate fatigue without addressing stress. While it’s unrealistic to suggest that you can eliminate stress from your life, you can try techniques to improve your body’s response to stress.
For instance, try five minutes of belly breathing every morning, listen to relaxing music on your way to work, play your favorite musical instrument, or take a walk with your spouse or pet.
My favorite de-stressor is meditation. I’ve found that on the mornings that I ground myself with meditation, the days that follow seem to be less stressful. And when I’m under less stress, my energy level is noticeably higher. Maybe meditation can work the same magic for you.
#6: Take Targeted Nutritional Supplements
Organic causes of fatigue may respond to supplements that address underlying problems. For example, supplemental iron is a godsend for patients with iron-deficiency anemia.
Nutritional supplements can also help to target some of the common causes of fatigue and help to support cellular energy production. They include:
- B vitamins play a key role in metabolism and energy generation. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 in particular and also B6 and folic acid are linked with fatigue. A potent multivitamin is a good start for restoring optimal levels, but if fatigue is a real issue, you may need additional B vitamins.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), magnesium, L-carnitine, and D-ribose support the production of ATP (energy) in your cells’ mitochondria. I learned from my father, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, about the importance of healthy mitochondrial function—not only for cardiovascular patients, but also for treating fatigue.
- Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help stabilize and balance the stress response. Panax ginseng is famous for enhancing energy, while ashwagandha is calming, making it appropriate for fatigue related to insomnia and anxiety.
- Caffeine is also available in supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Modest doses of natural sources of caffeine such as green coffee beans can provide an easily available pick-me-up. I personally limit myself to 100 mg of caffeine daily, which is the amount in one cup of coffee, but others may need more to get similar effects. If you become jittery, that’s a signal that you’re getting too much for your body—which is one reason I don’t like energy drinks that are loaded with “mega-doses” of caffeine and sugar.
Energy, Health & Well-Being
I’ve seen patients make incredible improvements in their energy after adopting these powerful natural therapies, even in difficult cases of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Remember to always work closely with your doctor to determine what is best for your specific health needs.
Get serious about these six steps and watch your energy—and all aspects of your health and well-being—perk up!