7 Hidden Causes of Fatigue
From the Cleveland Clinic
Fatigue can signal anemia, diabetes, hypothyroidism or hepatitis C. But once your doctor rules out major medical causes of fatigue, it’s time to consider hidden ones.
“We look for the less obvious roots of fatigue — that’s our job,” says Tanya Edwards, MD, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
Hidden causes include:
1. A junk food diet
Diets that are high in trans fats, saturated fats, processed foods and added sugars can sap your energy. Edwards recommends switching to a diet high in good sources of protein — mainly fish, nuts, seeds and beans — with eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Watch out for grains, though. These complex carbs affect insulin. “Insulin is the storage hormone that makes us heavier. The heavier we are, the higher our blood sugar becomes, and the more insulin resistance (prediabetes) we develop,” she says.
2. Lost nutrients
Today’s industrial farming practices rob the soil of key fatigue-fighting minerals, says Dr. Edwards, who recommends taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Supplements contain minerals rarely found in food, such as:
Selenium, important for thyroid function and metabolism
Iodine, present in the iodized salt that many people with heart disease and high blood pressure avoid. “Low iodine states can result in fatigue,” she says.
3. Not enough omega-3
Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids — but most of us don’t eat enough. “I recommend about 1,000 mg of an omega-3 supplement,” says Edwards. “My preference is fish oil because it is the long-chain form that our body needs.”
4. Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D gives us energy. Low levels of this vitamin can cause low energy and depression. “Vitamin D and omega-3 are necessary for every single cell in the body — including brain cells — to work properly,” says Edwards. If blood tests reveal low vitamin D levels, she recommends supplements.
5. Low magnesium
We are born with a finite amount of magnesium — also needed for energy production — in our bones and muscles. The vast majority of Americans get less than half the required amount of this mineral from their diet.
“Magnesium is still leaching out of our bones and muscles in our 40s and 50s,” says Edwards. She recommends magnesium replacement for those with symptoms of a total body deficit: insomnia, fatigue, constipation, muscle cramps and pain, joint pain, anxiety and elevated blood pressure.
6. Poor sleep
When it comes to sleep difficulties, “we’ve got the perfect storm happening in our 40s and 50s,” says Edwards. Reasons for lost sleep include increased work responsibilities, living with teens, aging parents and falling magnesium levels.