What is fatigue?
Fatigue is a symptom, rather than a specific disease or disorder, and is characterised by persistent tiredness. It can also be a symptom of another condition or disease. People who are fatigued feel tired all the time – physically and mentally. A person suffering from fatigue has slowed reflexes and reduced function in daily life. Research suggests that between 50 and 80 per cent of fatigue cases are mainly due to psychological factors. Fatigue is also the natural result of depleting your body's stores of energy producing nutrients, and is therefore linked to diet.
Fatigue can be caused by a number of factors working in combination, and includes:
- Undiagnosed medical conditions such as infections
- Conditions such as diabetes
- Emotional concerns
- Lack of sleep
- Too much sleep
- Alcohol and drugs use
- Lack of regular exercise
- Poor diet
Our fast paced modern lifestyle is often blamed for causing the persistent tiredness that afflicts so many of us. There are many different ways you can boost your energy levels. These suggestions centre on four core areas of life:
- Drink plenty of water as dehydration can cause fatigue. Water is one of the body's most essential nutrients, so make sure you supply it with enough.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. The B-complex vitamins are especially beneficial in combating stress, and iron ensures oxygen gets to all of your muscles and organs.
- Avoid fried and high-fat foods, and highly processed foods such as chocolate bars, crisps and other sweets.
- Caffeine (found in coffee, teas and most soft drinks) give you an immediate boost, but then your energy levels will drop even lower.
- Don't smoke, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen available in the blood.
- Eat regular meals to ensure that your body is getting its required nutrients
- Exercise at least 3-4 times a week, and try work to a schedule. This will boost your energy levels, help reduce your blood pressure and maintain a healthy body weight. It will also help you get a good nights sleep.
- Whilst exercising avoid 'high energy' drinks, which contain a lot of sugar. These are a short-term measure that will interrupt your body's natural response to fatigue.
- Get enough sleep, adults need about eight hours sleep per night.
- Don't drink too much caffeine, as this can affect your sleep patterns.
- Natural aids to sleep include herbal relaxants such as valerian and lavender, which can aid in restorative rest.
It is important to set aside some time for some relaxation in your schedule. This may involve utilizing techniques such as controlled breathing, meditation, massage or yoga. Alternatively a holistic approach such as Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical practice that encompasses a range of treatments, may be beneficial in combating fatigue. Fatigue should not be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a medical condition with similar though more severe symptoms.
If you are constantly tired you may be suffering from fatigue. A consultation with a dietician, naturopath or personal trainer may be beneficial.
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