Fatigue is common when our immune system is run down, we’ve changed time zones, or we’re facing excessive stress. It’s normal for our bodies to tell us we need to slow down and take a day or two of rest to heal and reset before continuing.
However, if you’re regularly too exhausted to tackle everyday activities, then you could be experiencing what’s known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Common symptoms associated with chronic fatigue include:
- Not feeling refreshed after a night of sleep
- Trouble remembering and focusing
- Brain fog
- Feeling dizzy when standing up
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Joint and muscle pain
- Feeling exhausted after physical or mental exercise
Causes of Chronic Fatigue
Fatigue is a symptom of something else going on in your body. Fatigue itself is not the cause of associated symptoms like muscle pain or headaches. Instead, it is an accompanying symptom to a deeper issue.
That’s why drinking more caffeine to combat exhaustion, taking ibuprofen for muscle pain, or using throat lozenges isn’t going to solve the problem.
Something else is causing these symptoms, and the sooner you identify the root cause, the sooner you can take back your life.
Common causes of extreme fatigue include:
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections
- Food and environmental allergies
- Heavy metals
Many of these causes stem from gut issues, including infections in the gut itself. But we’ll save that deep dive for another day.
Once the culprit is diagnosed and treated, most women regain their energy. Unfortunately, many times these initial tests from your doctor come back negative, and you’re left wondering still, “Why am I so tired, then?”.
The Hormone Fatigue Connection
It’s worth noting that 70 to 80% of people who report chronic fatigue are women in their 40s. Why that is, is still uncertain, but scientists are starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Several studies have been done on hormone levels and symptoms of chronic fatigue, and whether it’s understood entirely or not, the connection needs to be recognized.
The Thyroid Hormones
One study in 2018 recognized that the symptoms of chronic fatigue mirrored symptoms of hypothyroidism. The difference was that patients with thyroid disease had high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) while patients with chronic fatigue did not.
Both groups had low triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), but the patients with chronic fatigue had higher levels of reverse T3 (rT3).
So there is a link between thyroid hormone imbalance and chronic fatigue. However, it’s not conclusive whether the low thyroid function is causing fatigue or if fatigue is causing low thyroid function.
You know, the chicken or the egg syndrome.
One thing to note is that most doctors don’t run all of these numbers when checking your thyroid; they often only check TSH. So be sure to ask for the others when getting your thyroid tested.
Cortisol gets a bad wrap as the “stress hormone.” Because we don’t like stress, there’s a lot of emphasis on lowering cortisol.
The fact is that cortisol is ESSENTIAL to our daily function. When we have the right amount, it controls our blood sugar levels, reduces inflammation, helps with our memory, and regulates our metabolism.
Most importantly, cortisol supplies your body with energy when you wake up in the morning, so it makes sense that if cortisol is low, then so is your energy level.
One study showed that women with chronic fatigue had lower cortisol levels in the mornings than women who did not.
Interestingly, men with chronic fatigue didn’t experience a change in cortisol levels, so the jury is still out on exactly how cortisol and fatigue are interlinked, but there’s definitely a connection, at least in women.
Imbalances in estrogen and progesterone can also lead to conditions related to chronic fatigue.
For example, women who have a history of menstrual problems such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, or cervical conditions were more likely to have chronic fatigue.
Researchers acknowledge that women with frequent anovulatory cycles (aka, absence of ovulation even with a monthly period) or irregular menses were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue because of low progesterone and relatively high estrogen.
Statistically, women with amenorrhea (missing periods), endometriosis, pelvic pain, and hysterectomies were more likely to have chronic fatigue than those that didn’t.
It’s suggested the disruption of hormone balance in these conditions contributes to fatigue, making chronic fatigue a symptom of something deeper.
Regaining Your Energy
While there is still a lot unknown about chronic fatigue, one thing is certain: hormone imbalance definitely plays a part.
Because our hormones work together so intricately, it’s not uncommon to have multiple imbalances at once. The only way to know where to start is to get the proper testing.
Once you identify the cause of the fatigue, you can be on the path to balancing your hormones, regaining your energy, and improving your overall health.
Take Steps To Increase Your Energy Now and In the Future
Testing will help you identify the cause of your chronic fatigue, but eliminating it completely takes time. Even after you start feeling better, there are essential steps you need to take to avoid a relapse. Regardless of where you are in your healing journey, keep the following in mind.
- Listen to your body, and don’t overexert yourself.
- Get 8 hours of sleep a night and take naps mid-day if needed
- Practice relaxation techniques and focus on eliminating stress
- Take time off and rest if you feel run down or feel like you’re getting sick
- Plan for extra rest before and after large events
- Create a reasonable daily routine
- Include gentle and moderate exercise in your day
- Avoid processed food and excess sugar
- Identify your limits and set boundaries
Healing takes time, but balancing your hormones and your daily routines actually can be quite simple. By setting small goals and having a support system in place, you can eliminate fatigue.