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Common Causes Of Fatigue

Are you dealing with ongoing fatigue and can't figure out what's going on with your body? Do you have decreased exercise tolerance, decreased motivation and decreased capacity to get things done?  In this article, we break down some of the common causes of fatigue.  We look at each system of your body and how they can contribute to fatigue.  This will be a broad overview of the causes of fatigue.  Subsequent article will look at more of the details on these common causes of fatigue.  

If you want to know what the common causes of fatigue are, keep reading. 

3 Main Causes of Fatigue

Fatigue is such a common cause for people to seek medical attention.  Let's look at some of the common causes of fatigue and categories of fatigue.  We can put common causes of fatigue into three separate categories.  The first cause is physiologic.  With physiologic fatigue there is too much exertion and not enough rest. If you are working increased hours, doing heavy labor or moving or anything that your body is not used to, this can cause fatigue.  This is usually short-lived.  Once you rest enough or your body recovers enough that fatigue should go away.  Another thing is maybe you are not sleeping or resting enough.  Sometimes acute stress is interfering with your sleep, this can also cause fatigue.  These are all examples of physiological causes of fatigue.

Secondary cause of fatigue occur when there is something going on medically speaking like anemia or other physical things we can point to.  These are well known causes of fatigue. 

The third type of fatigue is chronic fatigue.  This is a type of fatigue that lasts longer than a few months.  When your fatigue is present for up to six months without a cause being identified, you start to get the designation of chronic fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Part of this diagnosis is multiple rounds of evaluation and diagnostic testing to rule out any known secondary causes of fatigue.  If you go through the overall list and you are not able to find a secondary cause of fatigue,  you are put into this chronic fatigue category.  The problem is many times people don't get a thorough evaluation for all these secondary causes.  Yes, they get a basic blood panel, a basic evaluation and questioning.  If those are normal, this is the fall back diagnosis. 

I have personally had many patients with ongoing fatigue (6 or more months), diagnosed with chronic fatigue, where secondary causes are later identified.  After looking at their blood tests in more detail, we find secondary causes of their fatigue.  In these cases, they don't have chronic fatigue, they just have an underlying medical condition causing the fatigue.  Of course, there are cases where it's not as clear and it does take long term investigation and treatment in order to relieve the fatigue.  With all this in mind, I wanted to point out and give you an overview of some of those secondary causes of fatigue.  This will give you some understanding of what to look for in yourself.  These causes basically go through all the systems of your body looking for a cause. 


Common Secondary Causes of Fatigue

One of the main secondary causes of fatigue are endocrine issues and hormonal issues.  If you have hypothyroid (not enough thyroid hormone), not enough cortisol, not enough female hormones, or male hormones, all these can definitely cause fatigue.  Depending on your age that may be more or less likely. 

Diabetes can also cause fatigue.  When your body is not getting the blood glucose it needs you will not be able to make energy.   High insulin levels can also cause fatigue.  There are many endocrine or hormone-related causes of fatigue. 

There is also anemia and vitamin deficiencies that can cause fatigue.  Sometimes you may not even be actually anemic but you have low iron levels or low B12 levels.  These can definitely cause fatigue.  Also immune system problems and chronic infections can also be a problem.  When you are acutely sick with an upper respiratory tract infection you don't really feel like doing much.  This is a signal from your body telling you you need to rest which allows your immune system to fight it off.   Sometimes people have chronic infections going on like urinary tract infection or problems  deeper in their digestive tract.  These things can cause ongoing fatigue but the fatigue may go away short term and then come back.  This is an indicator that there's something going on with your immune system. 

Even cancer which is also related to your immune system, can cause fatigue.  Autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, because of the immune involvement, can also cause fatigue.  It is the increased immune activity that causes your body to want to slow down to fight things off.  In the case of autoimmune its fighting your own body but they are the same chemicals being produced that cause fatigue.

There is, of course, psychological causes of fatigue too.  Low motivation, lack of interest in doing things, lack of interest in the world, are all symptoms of depression.  Mild mood disturbance or even more severe major depression can cause someone to feel more fatigued and have lack of energy to do things.  With mood disorders and fatigue it's important to figure out which is causing which.  Sometimes it's not clear but the low energy can definitely cause depression.  It is also true that depression can sometimes manifest as low energy lack of interest.   

Sometimes mood disorders like anxiety can cause problems with sleep sleep disturbance and that can also lead to lack of energy.  In this case the issue is an underlying chronic sleep disorder.  With sleep problems sometimes people say they had sleep problems their whole life.  If it's a long standing sleep issue where you only sleep six hours per night, this can be "normal."  However, if onset of sleep disturbance correlates with your fatigue, then that's something you want to look at more carefully.

Digestive disturbances whether it's an autoimmune type of digestive issue like irritable bowel disease like Crohn's or Colitis those things can definitely cause fatigue. There are also IBS-like symptoms, post-infectious IBS, SIBO, and other chronic digestive issues that can pull down your energy.  For one reason you are not absorbing food and nutrients.  Also the overall pain and discomfort can cause your mood to be disturbed and also lower your energy.

When it comes to energy production, you need oxygen to be delivered to your tissues.  Any cardiovascular problem can lead to a lack of oxygen deliver to the tissues.  When your tissues are not getting have enough oxygen they cannot produce energy through oxidative phosphorylation.  Oxidative phosphorylation is how our bodies generate energy.  The same problems occur with chronic respiratory issue, like COPD and asthma.  These can cause fatigue due to lack of oxygen being delivered to those tissues. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg look at causes of fatigue.  There are much more in-depth and subtle things that can be going on in your body.  That will be the focus of subsequent article.  

This should give you a better understanding of the common causes of fatigue.  If you have questions about the content in this article, please ask it in the comment section below.

If you want a customized plan on how to improve your energy or find the cause of your fatigue, click in the link below to get started. 

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