"Are you tired all the time?"
Written By Eleni N. Gage
Published January 25, 2012
Renewing your energy is possible, once you learn to combat common causes of fatigue.
Culprit: A Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency
Having low levels of iron or vitamin D or B12 can make you feel tired, anxious, and weak, says Irene Park, a nurse practitioner in New York City. Many experts believe that a significant percentage of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D. “And lower levels of vitamin D can cause muscle weakness and pain,” says Keenan. Also, if you’re a woman of reproductive age, you’re statistically at greater risk for iron-deficiency anemia.
The only way to tell if you’re low in any vitamin or mineral is to see your doctor for a blood test. Meanwhile, to bolster your body’s stores, consider taking a multivitamin with at least 100 percent of your daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. (Experts generally advise that healthy adults also supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily.)
Culprit: The Blues
Research has indicated that people with depression may be four times more likely than the nondepressed to experience unexplained fatigue. Aerobic exercise—specifically, 30 minutes or more three to five days a week—is effective at treating mild to moderate depression, and may minimize the sleepiness associated with it. If that doesn’t help, however, speak to your doctor, who may recommend talk therapy or a mood-boosting medication, like a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI). If your depression and related fatigue seem to strike more frequently in winter, you could have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Treatment for SAD may include using a special light box, says Marla Wald, a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina. But venturing outside for about 20 minutes a day can provide similar benefits, she says.
Culprit: Your Adrenal Glands
They’re responsible for secreting the fight-or-flight hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which surge as a response to stress—whether the prehistoric-days type, like being chased by a tiger, or the modern-day version, like financial worries or your mother-in-law. But when you’re feeling stressed all the time, those glands may become overworked and can tire out—a condition commonly called adrenal fatigue, says Keenan. The inability to secrete enough cortisol during the day can cause energy dips, then spikes at night that can interfere with restful sleep.
To give your adrenal glands a chance to recharge, Keenan recommends meditation, which she thinks of as parking the body in neutral. “Meditation has the effect of slowing down the production of cortisol for a while,” she says. Try sitting quietly and clearing your mind for at least five minutes a day. Vitamins B5 and C have also been shown to support adrenal function, says Jacob Teitelbaum, the Kona, Hawaii–based medical director of the Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers and the author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! ($17, amazon.com). He recommends getting at least 50 milligrams of B5 and 500 milligrams of C daily. Other stress-reduction techniques work well, too. “Exercise is particularly effective,” says Park.