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Last Updated on December 17, 2020

7 Hidden Causes of Fatigue And Steps to Prevent Serious Health Damage

7 Hidden Causes of Fatigue And Steps to Prevent Serious Health Damage

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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    Featured photo credit: Mel Elías via unsplash.com

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    How to Spot the Signs of Burnout and Overcome It Fast

    How to Spot the Signs of Burnout and Overcome It Fast

    Burnout is an issue that many associate with work, but it can actually occur in just about any area of life where you’re overdoing it. Knowing how to spot the signs of burnout is important in order to confront it before it destroys your energy and motivation.

    If you’re having trouble focusing on your next task, have an immense urge to crash on the couch for a Netflix binge, or can’t seem to get yourself to wake up on time, even though you have a lot on your plate, you may be experiencing the symptoms of burnout.

    According to Deloitte’s workplace burnout survey, “many companies may not be doing enough to minimize burnout.” This is to say that the responsibility is not only on the employee. According to that report, nearly 70 percent of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization, and they definitely should.[1]

    Too many companies don’t invest enough in creating a positive environment. About one out of five employees said that their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate job burnout. It is the culture, not the fancy well-being programs, that would probably do the best work.

    This is a significant problem for individuals and companies, and it’s also an issue on a macro level. A Stanford University investigation found that more than 120,000 deaths per year, and approximately 5%–8% of annual healthcare costs, are associated with the way U.S. companies manage their workforces.[2]

    It is both the employee and the employer’s responsibility—and the latter can certainly do more than they have in recent years.

    In this article, I’ll guide you on how to know if you suffering from the signs of burnout and, more importantly, what you can do about it.

    Who Is Prone to Burnout?

    For starters, it is a good thing to know that you’re in good company. According to a Gallup poll, 23% (of 7,500 surveyed) expressed burnout more often than not. Nearly 50% of social entrepreneurs who attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018 reported having struggled with burnout and depression at some point.[3]

    According to Statista (2017), 13% of adults reported having problems unwinding in the evenings and weekends. According to a Deloitte survey (consisting of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees), 77% of respondents said that they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.[4]

    Burnout is not only an issue of the spoiled first-world. Rather, it is a serious matter that must be taken care of appropriately. It affects so many people, and its impacts are just too significant to be ignored.

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    Some occupations are more prone to burnout, such as people who deeply care about their jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Passion-driven and caregiving roles such as doctors and nurses are some of the most susceptible to burnout.”

    The consequences can have life or death ramifications, as “suicide rates among caregivers are dramatically higher than that of the general public—40% higher for men and 130% higher for women.” It is also the case for teachers, non-profit workers, and leaders of all kinds.[5]

    Deloitte’s survey also found that 91% say that they have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration. 83% even say that it can negatively impact their relationships, and millennials, despite their seemingly carefree attitudes, are slightly more impacted by burnout (84% of Gen Y vs. 77% in other generations).

    What Is Burnout Syndrome?

    Burnout was officially included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and is an occupational phenomenon.

    According to the World Health Organization, burnout includes three dimensions:[6]

    1. Feelings of energy depletion or emotional and physical exhaustion
    2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
    3. Reduced professional efficacy

    The 5 Stages and Signs of Burnout

    At this point, you must have a clue if you’re at risk of burnout and what the signs of burnout look like. There are different methods for understanding where you are on the burnout syndrome scale, and one of the most common ones is the “five stages method.”

    1. Honeymoon Phase

    In marriage, during this phase, you’re beyond happy and feel almost invincible. It’s the same when it comes to taking on a new job or role or starting a new business.

    At first, you’re incredibly motivated. Although you might be able to notice signs of potential future burnout, in most cases, you might ignore them. You’re highly productive, super motivated, creative, and accept (and take on) responsibility.

    The honeymoon phase is critical because if you plant the seeds of good mental health and coping strategies, you can stay at this phase for extended periods.

    2. Onset of Stress

    Let’s continue with the wedding metaphor. Now that you’re happily married for some time, you might start noticing certain issues with your spouse that you don’t like. You might have seen them before, but now they take up more space in your life.

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    You might be less optimistic and feel signs of stress or minor signs and symptoms of physical or emotional fatigue at work. Your productivity reduces, and you think that your motivation is lower.

    3. Chronic Stress

    At this stage, your stress level is consistently high, and the other symptoms of stage 2 persist.

    At this point at work, you start missing deadlines, your sleep quality is low, and you’re resentful and cynical. Other signs of burnout at this point include higher caffeine consumption and feeling increasingly unsatisfied.

    4. Burnout

    This is the point where you are feeling overwhelmed and can’t go on unless there is a significant change in your work environment. You have a strong desire to move to another place, and clinical intervention is sometimes required.You feel neglected, your physical symptoms are increasing, stress management has become impossible, and you may have issues with digestion. You are likely obsessing over problems in your life or work at this point.

    5. Habitual Burnout

    This is the phase in which stress and burnout are embedded in your life. You might experience chest pains or difficulty breathing, outbursts of anger or apathy, and physical symptoms of chronic fatigue. You also likely feel hopeless about your current situation.

    The Causes of Burnout

    So, now that we know how to identify the stages and signs of burnout, we can move on to tackling its leading causes. According to the Gallup survey, the top reasons people experience burnout are:[7]

    Unfair Treatment at Work

    This is not always something that you can fully control. At the same time, you should remember that even if you’re not calling the shots, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept unfair treatment. The consequences mentioned above are just not worth it in most cases.

    Workload

    According to Statista, in 2017, 39% of workers said a heavy workload was their leading cause of stress. We live in a busy work environment, and we will share some tips on how to manage that.

    Not Knowing Your Role

    While not something you can fully control, you can, and probably should, take action to better define it with your boss so you know exactly what is expected of you.

    Inadequate Communication and Support From Your Manager

    If your superiors aren’t offering constructive feedback or support when you have various life issues popping up, you may begin to feel frustrated and under-appreciated, which can lead you to experience signs of burnout.

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    Time Pressure

    As mentioned, motivated, passionate workers are more in danger of experiencing burnout. One of the reasons is that they’re pressuring themselves to do more, sometimes at the expense of their mental health.

    How to Overcome Burnout

    While burnout is an issue that should always be taken seriously, there is a lot you can do to fight it head-on.

    However, let’s start with what you should not do. Burnout cannot be fixed by going on a vacation. It should be a long-term solution, implemented daily.

    According to Clockify (2019), these are the popular ways to avoid burnout:

    1. Focus on your family life: 60% of adults said that stable family life is key to avoiding burnout. Maintaining meaningful relationships in your life is proven to reduce stress (instead of having many unmeaningful relationships).
    2. Exercising comes in second, with 58% reporting that jogging, running, or doing any exercise significantly relieves stress. Even a relatively short walk might improve your body’s resilience to stress.
    3. Seek professional advice: 55% say they would turn to a professional. There are online websites where you can speak with professionals at reduced costs.

    Aside from the three most popular ways of avoiding burnout, you can also try the following:

    1. Improve Time Management

    Try understanding how you can use your time better and leave more time for relaxation. That’s easy to say (or write) but more challenging to implement. It would help if you started by prioritizing yourself.

    Understanding the connection between your values and your everyday tasks is a tremendous help. You can use proven methods to improve the relationship between your vision/goals and your daily to-do lists so that you know why you’re offering time to each piece of your day.

    2. Use the PLEASE Method

    The PLEASE method is a combination of things you should do to be at your best physically, especially when signs of burnout start to appear. It stands for: Physical Illness (P.L.) prevention, Eat healthy (E), Avoid mood-altering drugs (A), Sleep well (S), and Exercise (E).

    3. Prioritize

    You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way. You’d be surprised how easy it can become once you start saying no. Some might even describe it as exhilarating.

    If you generally have a hard time saying no to others, check out this article to get better at it.

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    4. Let Your Brain Rest

    Culturally, most of us are already wired to think that hard work is essential, and while that’s true in most cases, we sometimes forget that our brain needs to rest for it to recharge. Seven hours of sleep are essential (depending on your age). Meditation may also be helpful to overcome burnout.

    5. Pay Attention to Positive Events

    We tend to focus on the bad things in our lives. However, by focusing on positive things, we can change our mindset. One way to practice this daily is by writing three good things about your life every morning or evening. It’s been scientifically proven that doing so for a few months can help rewire your brain.

    6. Take Some “You” Time

    A Netflix binge is not always good for you, but it might be if you’re noticing signs of burnout. The better the leisure time is, the better you’ll feel in the long term.

    It’s usually better to read a book or start a new hobby that requires more cognitive skills than just lying on the couch. But as long as you feel good watching a movie, that might be a good start.

    7. New Technologies Might Be Helpful

    There are tons of self-help apps such as Fabulous, Headspace (meditation), Noom (diet and exercise), and others. They’re good to use, but you should also be careful not to run away from your problems only to watch social media for hours.  You should also be aware not to be in an “always-on” mindset.

    Bonus: Rebound From Burnout in 8 Hours

    Watch what you can do to rebound from burnout quickly in this episode of The Lifehack Show:

    The Bottom Line

    Whether you’re at the first or the fifth stage with the signs of burnout, there are always ways to overcome burnout and get back to living the best version of your life. The first thing is self-awareness—knowing that there’s a problem. The second step is to decide what to do about it!

    More on How to Overcome Burnout

    Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

    Reference

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