Carolyn Dean, MD, ND
We all experience days of fatigue, when it seems impossible todrag ourselves out of be.
We all experience days of fatigue, when it seems impossible todrag ourselves out of bed. The spectrum of fatigue can and does run all the way from feeling tired after a long, hard day of work, to chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating condition diagnosed only after six months of unremitting fatigue.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, fatigue is "lassitude or weariness resulting from either bodily or mental exertion." This definition describes it as a condition of muscles, organs or cells characterized by a temporary reduction in power or sensitivity following a period of prolonged activity or stimulation. But what reduces this power or sensitivity in muscles and organs? It's a lack of ATP, which stands for adenosine triphosphate-the energy produced in each of your body's cells.
Causes of Fatigue
Nutritional deficiencies play a large role in fatigue because ATP depends on nutrients, especially magnesium, for its action. In doing research on magnesium, I have found that up to 80 percent of the population is at risk for magnesium deficiency and, therefore, at risk for fatigue. Similar deficiencies are found with other nutrients that the body needs to function.
Physically overworking or over-exercising on a regular basis can cause fatigue. But this type of fatigue is probably also a result of over-utilizing your nutrient reserves. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are all lost in sweat during exercise. Studies show that after marathons, athletes often suffer magnesium deficiencies that can last for months.
Emotional stress also plays a role in fatigue. In fact, one of the major symptoms of depression is fatigue. The apathy and lassitude of depression can cause a lack of activity that, in a catch-22, leads to muscle weakness, even atrophy. Then, when you try to exercise, you may feel too tired to continue. The same scenario happens after colds, flus, hospitalization or surgery.
Inactivity is another environmental trigger to fatigue, and it's caused by the media. Our communication and media technologies are like an extra layer of clothing. Sitting in front of a TV or computer screen for endless hours may seem like light activity, but it's really stressing our adrenal glands and causing unnecessary brain stimulation.
Whatever the cause of your fatigue, the following steps will head you in the direction of a good night's sleep.
1. Get a health assessment
If you suffer from fatigue of any kind, natural medicine can offer support and help you get your life back on track. Mary, for instance, was a client in one of my cleansing programs. She's a young lawyer who was so stressed and run down that she could barely take time to see me. But she found her energy after eliminating sugar, wheat and dairy. She also felt more clearheaded and focused in her work. And she needed less sleep at night.
2. Improve your diet
A naturopathic doctor approaches fatigue by taking a thorough history and physical exam of the patient and looking for deficiencies in diet and lifestyle. The first recommendation is usually to eat an organic, whole-foods diet.
Next, the doctor may recommend a cleansing program that eliminates sugar, wheat, dairy, alcohol and coffee for a six-week period. At the end of that time, a supervised fast for one to three days on brown rice, diluted organic vegetable juices or a drink with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne powder can help clear out toxic layers of environmental chemicals that interfere with energy production.
4. Get Active
Exercise is the next step in regaining energy. Begin slowly with walking, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, swimming and deep breathing. Getting your blood moving and your lymphatic circulation going are very important for oxygen exchange and toxin removal. Each red blood cell picks up an oxygen molecule in the lungs and transports it to the rest of the body through arteries and capillaries. Waste products and carbon dioxide are loaded into the blood cells and transported back to the heart through veins. Movement and exercise force the oxygenated blood to go to the tips of the toes and fingers and allow toxins to be removed.
The lymphatic system, responsible for removing toxins, has the same intricate pathways as the arteries and veins. They aren't visible, being a few millimeters under the skin, and they have no muscular system to help move their contents. Without movement, the lymphatics clog up and appear as edema or swelling around the ankles and can eventually cause fluid retention throughout the body. Deep breathing and movement are the only way lymphatic circulation works.
5. Try supplements
If you're still fatigued after doing the above naturopathic program, many supplements can help you overcome nutrient deficiencies that lead to fatigue. I would begin with an organic "green" food supplement to cover your bases. Magnesium is the most important mineral for fatigue; a simple magnesium oxide tablet, 500 milligrams twice a day, supplies the daily requirement. The B vitamins are important cofactors for enzymes in the body and are essential for energy production. They must come from an organic food source for the best results. Use as directed.
Anyone can benefit from an excellent diet, a cleansing program and regular exercise, but those with fatigue most of all. In fact, you're less likely to become fatigued in the first place if you treat your body well.
Deep breathing and movement are the only way lymphatic circulation works. The lymphatic system, a network of vessels that carries lymph from around the tissues to the blood, has valves to prevent backflow. Lymph is formed when high arterial pressure forces fluid out of the capillaries into the tissue spaces. From there it is taken up into the lymphatic vessels. The lymph carries harmful substances from the tissues to be removed by the lymph nodes before the lymph is returned to the blood at the veins in the neck. In the lymph nodes are large numbers of white blood cells which produce antibodies and ingest any foreign material.