by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
If you’re suffering from constant fatigue, it’s a sign that your body’s normal systems are being disrupted. There’s no reason to try to push through or ignore it. If you’ve tried to get more sleep, reduce stress and change your lifestyle— but you’re still relentlessly tired — your fatigue deserves to be taken seriously. Fatigue tends to snowball, gradually worsening, until you feel like a hamster stuck on an exercise wheel — exhausted and losing steam but not getting anywhere.
The effects of constant fatigue — it’s more than being tired
Unfortunately, women often ignore their increasing fatigue until it leads to other symptoms. By that time, the side effects of fatigue may become nearly constant. They include:
- Feeling exhausted (mentally and physically)
- Being tired even after sleep
- Inability to bounce back from illness
- Joint pain
- Poor short-term memory, confusion, irritability
- Food cravings (particularly for sweets/carbs)
- Getting a “second wind” after 6:00 PM that interferes with your ability to sleep later on.
The key is not to dismiss your mild symptoms of fatigue when you first notice them. Instead, take the first step and figure out the cause of your fatigue.
What are common underlying causes of fatigue?
I always pay close attention when any woman tells me she’s exhausted — even if it’s her only symptom. Fatigue is debilitating and discouraging because it can interfere with every aspect of your life — even the fun things.
For women, fatigue is often related to an underlying issue in the endocrine system. What’s more, one endocrine imbalance may be affected by another — such as over stressed adrenal glands intensifying symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
There may be other possible causes contributing to fatigue as well, including: chronic inflammation, food allergies and chemical sensitivities, Lyme disease or the other factors shown in the chart to the right. And fatigue can also result from the combination of several of these factors. Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help you get to the root of your fatigue.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is distinct from the types of fatigue we discuss here. CFS refers to severe, continued tiredness that is not relieved by rest and does not appear to be directly caused by other medical conditions.
When fatigue takes over: one woman’s experience
Daniela, 33, somehow manages to keep up with her hectic life. She’s always busy in her job as an office manager, coordinating the activities of her two young sons, and training for a 5K race. But lately, she can’t seem to fall asleep at night and wakes up to scribble “to do” lists. And during the day, she’s having trouble focusing.