Are you persistently tired? Now medicine calls this Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

If you’ve been experiencing exhaustion for 6 months or more and your doctor hasn’t been able to identify the cause, you might have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It’s a complex condition which may consist of a number of individual or coexisting issues. These, in turn, may lead to extremely serious illnesses, if you don’t act soon enough.

1. Dehydration.

If you’re constantly tired, your blood pressure is low, you feel cold and your eyes are sore, you may be dehydrated.

Why do you feel this way?

Your body is moist inside. This moisture allows your organs to work properly. Your lungs must be wet for you to be able to breathe and your whole digestive tract needs water to be able to work at all. Water carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells through the blood and helps to cool the body through perspiration. Moreover, without it, we’d be poisoned to death by our own waste products because it also cleanses our system.

What are the most common underlying issues correlated with dehydration?

Kidney failure.

Kidney failure is a common occurrence and is often reversible, if treated early. As dehydration progresses, the volume of fluid in your body decreases, and blood pressure may fall. This can limit the blood flow to vital organs including the kidneys, and like any organ with a decreased blood flow, it has the potential to fail to do its job.

Electrolyte abnormalities.

Electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, and chloride) are minerals we need to be healthy. In dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities may occur since these chemicals are excreted from your body when you sweat. It may cause muscle weakness, fatigue and heart rhythm disturbances. That’s why sportspeople drink isotonic drinks—because they sweat so much when they work out, getting rid of these basic elements which make us tick.

Obesity.

If you don’t drink enough water, you can debilitate every aspect of your body.  Dr. Howard Flaks, a bariatric (obesity) specialist in Beverly Hills, Calif, says that among most common results of dehydration you experience are: excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, weak digestion, slower organ function, failure to get rid of toxins, and pain in the joints and muscles—all of which is experienced as fatigue.

What can you do?

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Drink more water. To keep your body moist and cool you need around 10 glasses a day, whether you’re at your desk or gym. Not tea or juice but clean, still water. The best and most economical option is to drink filtered, fresh tap water. Get some recycled glass bottles, fill them up every day and always have one with you wherever you go. How do you know when you’re hydrated properly? It’s really simple—your urine will be light colored. And don’t worry about running to the bathroom every 5 minutes—after a couple of weeks your body will get used to better hydration and you’ll go less often but urinate more.

photo: ricardo

2. Sleep apnea.

If you sleep a decent number of hours but wake up tired and totally unrefreshed, you should consult a sleep specialist. When you hear “sleep apnea,” you imagine a middle-aged, overweight and snoring man; however, literally everyone can have it, even children, although loud snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, accompanied by daytime sleepiness. It is a condition, where breathing stops for short periods during sleep, and it can contribute greatly to fatigue.

Caution! This condition could be very dangerous:

A Canadian study showed that if left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea makes a person three times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident than people without the disorder.

Untreated sleep apnea can also affect your ability to concentrate, can cause memory problems, weight gain, and feelings of depression, and may contribute to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

3. Allergies.

Another, very common cause of fatigue are seasonal and hidden food allergies. Many CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) sufferers complain of digestion related problems such as bloating, indigestion and abdominal pain.

Seasonal allergies.

In case of seasonal allergies, you may experience sleep disturbances that cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Nasal congestion related to them causes disordered breathing in sleep, and your prescribed medication will often affect your sleep, depriving you of a good night’s rest and draining your daytime energy.

Food allergies.

Food allergies may occur either independently or together with seasonal ones. Problems usually start in the gut, which is the barrier between your food and your bloodstream. The cells that make up your digestive tract form an extremely thin barrier which is easily damaged by alcohol, food allergies, antibiotics, and most of all by painkillers (the average person takes 373 a year of them). This can take a huge toll on your body and erode away your health over time, causing not only persistent fatigue but also many other health problems.

In order to address them, you first need to identify the allergens, which may be tricky in cases of the delayed reactions. There are proven tests you can take however, such as skin prick test, blood test, oral food challenge or trial elimination diet. The last part is quite simple; to find out what you’re allergic to, for at least 5 days, eliminate the following common allergy triggers:

  • Chocolate

  • Citrus fruits and juices

  • Eggs

  • Grains (gluten)

  • Milk and milk products

Leo Galland, MD, director of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine in New York City and author of “Power Healing” says, “I’ve found that close to three-fourths of my patients will find their fatigue improves when their allergies improve.” This improvement varies widely, but sometimes it can be dramatic. “There have been some patients in whom disabling chronic fatigue totally goes away when their food allergies were treated,” he notes.

4. Anaemia.

Common symptoms are due to the reduced amount of oxygen in your body. They include tiredness, having little energy (lethargy), feeling faint, and becoming easily breathless. This also may be why you have pale skin.

Why we have it:

Anaemia may be caused either by Iron or B12 (folate) deficiency. It means that you have fewer red blood cells than normal, or you have less haemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell. In case of of vitamin B12 deficiency, there are a number of possible causes. Typically it occurs in people whose digestive systems do not adequately absorb the vitamin from the foods they eat.

In either case, a reduced amount of oxygen is carried around in the bloodstream. It’s quite easy to diagnose with a simple blood test and your GP can prescribe medication for you to take. But you have to take a blood test. To beat anaemia, you should eat a healthy diet including meat, liver, green vegetables and eggs .

5. Hormonal imbalances.

Adrenal fatigue

One of the most damaging effects of adrenal fatigue and burnout is the inability to properly excrete heavy metals. This can include heavy metals such as copper, manganese and iron that are essential nutrients in the proper amount but which can become toxic when they build up in the body. Once you develop a certain degree of adrenal insufficiency, heavy metal imbalances build up. The most common toxic metals are aluminum, mercury and cadmium. The most common essential metals that can become toxic are copper and manganese. Once these metal imbalances and accumulations have occurred, it is too late to experience a full recovery without balancing your body chemistry and eliminating them from your system. They inhibit your cells so they produce less energy and your body is unable to utilize the nutrients you give it. Until you clear your system of these metals, they will continue to create ongoing, 24-hour a day stress, no matter what else you do to relieve pressure in your life.

Fatigue and thyroid.

A very common cause underlying tiredness is an underactive thyroid gland, which produces the hormone thyroxine, which is vital for keeping your energy level consistent. The classic symptoms are fatigue, low sex drive, low body temperature, weight gain, poor memory, dry skin and constipation. Your thyroid function can be tested by your doctor in a blood test. Patrick Holford, MD says hypothyroidism is extremely common, and may be caused by things like an autoimmune response, prolonged stress or taking drugs which can damage your thyroid (always read the label).

6. Gut infections.

Candida.

Gut dysbiosis—an imbalance of microorganisms inhabiting the gut—is often implicated in experiencing fatigue. This might be bacterial, parasitic or fungal, the most common being Candida albicans. A candida overgrowth (candidiasis), which causes symptoms in almost any part of the body, is found to be present in most—if not all—CFS cases.

Yeast infections.

These are really difficult to diagnose because their symptoms are all over the board. There are hundreds of them from Chapped and dry flaky skin to Arthritis. Diagnosis based on symptoms alone is a real challenge for the next House, MD.

There is a home test, however, but it needs to be confirmed by a doctor: take a clear glass of water and spit into it just after you wake up. Make sure you build up a bunch of saliva, but just saliva from your mouth—don’t cough up anything. Do this before you rinse, spit or put anything into your mouth. Then wait for 15 minutes. Your saliva will float on the surface of the water, which is normal.

However, if you see cloudy saliva that sinks to the bottom of the glass like sediment, you may be seeing colonies of yeast. You may also see the saliva on the top with tiny strings that start to hang down that may look like jellyfish, hair, or spider legs, or suspended specks of yeast floating in the middle of the glass.

How to fight them.

Skip sugary foods like baked goods, ice cream and candy. You should also cut back on starches, like potatoes, bread, pasta and cereal. These sugary and starchy foods encourage the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast. Instead, eat foods that help your good bacteria take over. Focus on fermented foods, which have good bacteria in them. They include foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, which you can put in eggs, soups or rice.

Vegetables are always a good idea because of their high-fiber content. Some high-fiber grains like quinoa, oats, brown rice, seeds, nuts and buckwheat are also helpful. Fiber also helps to feed and nurture the good bacteria. There’s also very healthy type of fermented tea called kombucha, which heals the gut.

7. Sugar imbalance.

We’ve already discussed how harmful sugar is for you because it nourishes yeast in your body. However, there’s yet another facet to it: the most omnipresent, pervasive tiredness that almost everybody feels every day is caused by sugar highs and lows. When you have a coke or a doughnut, you get a kick of energy that is hard to substitute. Quickly after that, you are likely to experience an even deeper energy slump and hunger, or the so-called craving, which makes you consume more sweetness.

This is a very dangerous circle, because if continued, it may bring about some really serious conditions, like diabetes. What happens is that when you have a helping of sugar, your body has to produce insulin to let it into your system and make energy out of it. The more sugar you eat, the harder your body has to work to balance it. Finally, your system gives up, breaks down and you become insulin insensitive. You have to get off this energy rollercoaster and again, Patrick Holford, MD from Great Britain has some very good advice for how to do it:

  • If you are craving sugar, first have a large glass of water, then a piece of fruit with some nuts or seeds (eating protein with carbohydrate keeps your blood sugar level even).

  • Always eat breakfast. You are aiming for three meals and two snacks a day. By eating little and often you help support your blood sugar balance.

  • Minimize caffeine and alcohol, as these both affect your blood sugar.

There are many more medically recognized causes of fatigue, and some a lot more serious than the ones discussed here. The seven situations above, however, are extremely common and fairly benign conditions, where you can still react and prevent more serious damage; however, in most cases you must make certain, often very simple sacrifices. If you’re tired but there’s no apparent reason for that, analyze your situation while you still have the benefit of time. With good diet, rest and minor medical interference, you’ll be able to prevent serious damage for life. It’s way better to be safe than sorry.

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