Have you ever thought: I just don’t have the strength to handle this today? Or maybe it wasn’t just today. Maybe it was the last week...month… the last year? If you are constantly feeling like you just don’t have the energy to complete your normal daily tasks, you may be suffering from more than a typical round of modern-day tiredness, you may be experiencing a serious bout of fatigue.
Fatigue is one of the most commonly experienced conditions with approximately 20% of the world’s population reporting symptoms1. More than being tired and/or physically weak, fatigue is classified as a subjective experience in which the individual feels overwhelmingly drained, both mentally and physically2.
So What Causes Fatigue?
You may be experiencing fatigue as a symptom of an underlying disorder such as sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, anemia, depression, diabetes or cancer3. Or it could be due to your habits and routines: rotating shift work, lack of exercise, drug/alcohol use, diet, obesity or jet lag. And oftentimes fatigue is a side effect of taking medications: cough medicine, cancer treatments, antidepressants or antihistamines3.
Some fatigue is normal. Say you’ve just had an intense session at the gym, or you didn’t get much sleep the night before: these instances of fatigue will last a few hours, or a day-- maybe two. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) on the other hand, is a disorder independent of underlying issue and is classified by its prolonged and enervating effects2.
Symptoms of Fatigue
- Constant and intense tiredness/exhaustion
- Poor concentration
- Change in appetite
- Forgetfulness or short-term memory problems
- Low or no motivation
- Mood swings and irritability
- Digestive upset-- vomiting or diarrhea
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Impaired immune response
Natural Remedies for Fatigue
Selenium is an often overlooked trace mineral that is an essential component to human health. It is an antioxidant, has been implicated as a factor in the prevention of diabetes mellitus and pre-eclampsia, may aid in male fertility, and is a key to fighting fatigue6.
Selenium and the thyroid
In the body, the highest selenium concentration occurs within the thyroid7. This is important, as this butterfly shaped gland in your neck produces the hormones that control your metabolism. Too much hormone production (hyperthyroidism) and you may experience body warmth and sweating, unhealthy weight loss, and a rapid heartbeat8. Too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and you may experience extreme fatigue, high cholesterol, and increased likelihood of stroke. There are many symptoms associated with this disorder, but the one that trumps them all is that ever-present feeling of tiredness and lethargy.
However, even for people who do not have hypothyroidism, the regulation of thyroid hormone production is paramount to fighting fatigue.
Selenium supplementation has been shown to increase the quality of structure of the thyroid gland, especially in individuals with an already established thyroid disorder7. Outside of gland structure, selenium acts as a protective agent for the thyroid by aiding in the conversion of thyroxin to triiodothyronin, the active form of thyroid hormone5,6.
Selenium is present in the largest quantities in meats, fish, poultry and eggs. However, from these sources the mineral is harder for the body to absorb. It is more bioavailable in plant foods, but in places with poor soil mineral quality-- such as Europe-- the quantity of selenium in plants can be sub-par7.
Final Words of Wisdom: Selenium
It is also worth noting that selenium plays an important role in wound healing6. In that same vein, selenium is important for immune system response and the ability to fight a cold or the flu.
Vitamin B, in all its forms, is integral to energy production. Contrary to what you may have heard, this vitamin does not ‘give’ you more energy-- rather, it makes the transfer of energy possible. Without vitamin B (especially B-12), energy production would cease to occur. B-12 is especially important for vegans and vegetarians as the best sources of this essential vitamin are meat, poultry and fish.
Cordyceps is a medicinal fungi that is coming under more and more attention for its abundant uses and benefits-- and is one of my favorite recommendations to give. In addition to the mushroom’s role in immunity and inflammation, it has been implicated as an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and as a boon to energy production9.
Everyone is familiar with the benefits of caffeine. When required, this ingredient can give you the kickstart you need-- it increases your metabolic rate, thereby granting you a temporary jolt of energy. A little caffeine in your life is a good thing, but try not to rely on it as your primary driver.
Another favorite of mine, maca root is used to treat a variety of symptoms not limited to
infertility, low libido, low energy and depression. Maca is also an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, and protein12. Whether you are experiencing fatigue as a physical or mental symptom, maca is an excellent, natural relief.
ALA and CoQ-10
The combination of supplemental alpha lipoic acid and coenzyme Q10 is a tag team of legendary proportion in regard to combating physical fatigue. While concurrently regulating blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as providing antioxidant benefits, this duo also has been shown to increase muscular energy and recovery14.
Ginseng, a plant that grows in east North America and in Asia, is another power hitter against fatigue. In a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, a high dose of ginseng was found to significantly reduce the rate of physical and mental fatigue in cancer patients15. Another study found similar results in individuals with unexplained chronic fatigue16. This study attributed the positive effects of the ginseng root to its antioxidant properties.
Though the symptoms of fatigue vary from physical, to mental, to emotional, and the causes range from illness, to medication, to hormones, chronic fatigue is a debilitating condition that needs more attention and study. But from root, to vitamin, to mineral, there are methods for fighting your fatigue.
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1. Tenenbaum G, Eklund R. Encyclopedia Of Sport And Exercise Psychology [e-book]. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc; 2014. Available from: eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 24, 2017.
2. A.J Dittner, S.C Wessely, R.G Brown, The assessment of fatigue: A practical guide for clinicians and researchers, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 56, Issue 2, February 2004, Pages 157-170, ISSN 0022-3999, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00371-4.
3. Wedro, Benjamin (2012). Fatigue. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/fatigue/page2.htm
4. Khandelwal D, Tandon N. Overt and Subclinical Hypothyroidism. Drugs [serial online]. January 2012;72(1):17-33. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 25, 2017.
5. Riaz, M., & Mehmood, K. T. (2012, June 30). Selenium in Human Health and Disease. Journal of Postgraduate Medical Institute, 26(2). Retrieved from http://ezp1r.riosalado.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezp1r.riosalado.edu/ps/i.do?p=EAIM&sw=w&u=mccweb_riosalado&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA303312072&sid=summon&asid=64ff11dd4288d612f916f1a045f3dd65
6. Eduard (2014). 5 Signs You’re Experiencing Selenium Deficiency. Available at http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/5-signs-selenium-deficiency/
7.Drutel A, Archambeaud F, Caron P. Selenium and the thyroid gland: more good news for clinicians. Clinical Endocrinology [serial online]. February 2013;78(2):155-164. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 25, 2017.
8. Bruce, Debra. Fatigued or Full Throttle: Is Your Thyroid to Blame? Available at http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/fatigued-or-full-throttle-is-your-thyroid-to-blame#2
9. Liu, Y., Wang, J., Wang, W., Zhang, H., Zhang, X., & Han, C. (2015). The chemical constituents and pharmacological actions of Cordyceps sinensis. Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015. Retrieved from http://ezp1r.riosalado.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezp1r.riosalado.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=mccweb_riosalado&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA458645688&sid=summon&asid=9f89447b09d3aa8a94f3c29823c8bce1
10. Humphrey, Thomas (2017). Cordyceps Sinesis. Oxford Vitality. Available at https://www.oxfordvitality.co.uk/what-is-cordyceps/.
11. Mohammad K Moslemi and Samaneh Tavanbakhsh. Selenium-vitamin E supplementation in infertile men: effects on semen parameters and pregnancy rate.International Journal of General Medicine. 2011; 4: 99-104.
12. Palsdotti, Hrefna. 9 Benefits of Maca Root (and potential side effects). Authority Nutrition. Available at https://authoritynutrition.com/benefits-of-maca-root/
13. Gumustekin K, Seven B, Karabulut N, Aktas O, Gursan N, Aslan S, Keles M, Varoglu E, Dane S. Effects of sleep deprivation, nicotine, and selenium on wound healing in rats. International Journal of Neuroscience. 2004 November;114(11):1433-42.
14. Wagner AE, Ernst IMA, Birringer M, Sancak Ö, Barella L, Rimbach G. A Combination of Lipoic Acid Plus Coenzyme Q10 Induces PGC1α, a Master Switch of Energy Metabolism, Improves Stress Response, and Increases Cellular Glutathione Levels in Cultured C2C12 Skeletal Muscle Cells. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2012;2012:835970. doi:10.1155/2012/835970.
15. Ginseng Fights Fatigue in Cancer Patients. Mayo Clinic. Available at http://www.mayo.edu/research/forefront/ginseng-fights-fatigue-cancer-patients.
16. Benefits of Ginseng: Study Shows Relief for ‘Unexplained” Chronic Fatigue. University Health News. Available at http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/energy/ginseng-benefits-study-shows-relief-for-unexplained-chronic-fatigue/.