causes of fatigue

11 Causes Of Fatigue (& The Tests You Need!)

Do you struggle with fatigue?

Not the kind of fatigue you get from being up all night with sick kids or from working a few too many hours this week. 

The kind of fatigue I’m talking about does not have a cause that’s easy to pinpoint and is something you feel often or even all day long, every day.

This kind of fatigue doesn’t go away with extra rest or a weekend away.

This is the kind that settles in your bones and makes you achy, can make you feel physically and emotionally drained, and makes it difficult to find enjoyment in life.

woman in bed with book

That description may sound like an exaggeration, but if you have that kind of fatigue then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

After experiencing a number of stresses in life (one right after another) I couldn’t shake the tired, exhausted feeling that I was having.  But I couldn’t really determine a specific cause either.   

I knew that I had been dealing with a lot of stress but the feeling of exhaustion was getting worse and not better after these situations were resolved.

At that time I started to dig into research and look for possible causes.

Because my mom owns a health food store, and I have a background in natural health and wellness, I knew that some supplements and remedies could help with fatigue, but I wanted to get to the root of the problem.

Dealing with the cause (or causes!) of fatigue has been an ongoing process but by finding and addressing the root of the problem I am now able to live a more full and enjoyable life and you can too! 

11 Common Causes Of Fatigue

1. Poor Gut Health

Gut health is one of the most important considerations when it comes to health and wellness. 

If you do not have a healthy, well-functioning gut, you will not have good health. Period. 

Leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, inflammation, parasites, and candida overgrowth can all harm the health of your gut and body.

It is not at all uncommon for people with adrenal fatigue, autoimmune conditions, autism, MS, or other health problems to have poor gut health.  Poor gut health can be directly responsible for fatigue as well.

At-home tests can be done easily and privately so you can get an idea of your gut health.

These tests are really interesting and can give invaluable information.  That information can then be used to help you take appropriate steps toward healing and relief of fatigue.

2.  Food Intolerances

Food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy, but it is concerning nonetheless.

Signs of food intolerance can include headache or pressure, flushing, stomach pain, mood fluctuations, and digestive upset after eating.  Other signs of food intolerance may include eczema or psoriasis, sinus pain or pressure, chronic heartburn, and achy joints.

If food triggers are not removed inflammation can occur along with damage to the gut. 

Common culprits include gluten, dairy, soy, corn, nuts, and eggs.  There are other offenders as well, but those listed are the most common. 

Many people often feel a huge difference in their health and well-being (and fatigue levels!) once they remove offending foods.

Tests for food intolerance often include an elimination diet and food journal.  Blood tests may also be helpful for some too.

3.  Toxins In Your Environment

Toxins in the environment may not be the first thought when dealing with fatigue but don’t be quick to dismiss it as a possibility. 

We live in a world that is full of toxins, they can be found in our air, water, food, personal care products, dental fillings, and the list goes on.  Researchers have even found chemicals from our environment in new babies! 

That means that we are being exposed to toxins even before birth. 

These toxins are linked to increases in weight, cortisol, and inflammation.  Some have even been linked to cancer.

Since it is not possible to live completely free of these chemicals, we must do what we can to reduce or eliminate exposure. 

Buying organic food, using safer cleaning and personal products, filtering drinking and bathing water, and removing old silver (or amalgam) fillings can go a long way to reducing our exposure. 

This reduction in chemicals can have a big effect on health and often helps lessen fatigue.

To test for this you can use an at-home option that will test for heavy metals and environmental toxins.

4.  Mental And Emotional Stress

Stress is a huge problem in our lives today.

This stress and feeling of being overwhelmed can be caused by work, family, health issues, and often a combination of these factors. 

Over half of the women surveyed said that they feel “paralyzed by stress”.  If experienced long-term, this feeling of extreme stress and overwhelm can cause negative health effects.

Stress can be responsible for lowering thyroid function, affecting cortisol production, causing us to crave more “comfort foods” thereby adding to weight gain, and can lead to an increase in inflammation which has been linked to depression and anxiety. 

Chronic stress wreaks havoc and can be a major contributor to fatigue!

There are a few stress tests that may be helpful. 

First, you could always check your blood pressure.  It may or may not be affected, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on it. 

Second, blood sugar tests are helpful as well.  During times of stress blood sugar levels can rise slightly because of changes in hormones like cortisol, glucagon, and the release of glucose due to your body being in “fight or flight” mode. 

And finally, there are easy, at-home, stress screenings like the one from Mental Health America that can help you recognize signs of stress.

5.  Adrenal Fatigue

Even though the adrenal glands themselves might be technically fine (unless you have Cushing’s or Addison’s disease, which is a whole other issue), it is possible that if you are seriously exhausted, adrenal fatigue could be the culprit. 

In the case of adrenal fatigue, you may also experience symptoms such as hair loss, sleep disturbances, unexplained aches and pains, heat intolerance, difficulty exercising, and soooo much more!

First, you can do a few simple at-home tests

This, of course, won’t give you a definite answer or clinical diagnosis, but it is a good starting point.

Next, you may want to consider a saliva test that measures cortisol levels.  If cortisol levels do not rise and fall at the right times during the day (or at all) you will not feel well or have the energy you need for living life.

6. Hormone Imbalance

If you have ever been pregnant, used the birth control pill (or other chemical methods of birth control), have premenstrual syndrome, or have gone through menopause, you know the power of hormones! 

Hormones work together in the body like a well-oiled machine, the problem is that sometimes one or more of these hormones can get out of sync with the others and the whole process gets thrown off balance.

When this balance is disrupted it is common to experience changes in mood, energy, and fatigue.

If you feel like your hormones are out of sync there are tests such as a hormone panel that your doctor could run or you can opt for at-home testing too. 

Be sure to seek out help from a functional medicine doctor or practitioner who has experience with women’s hormonal issues if you are struggling.

7.  Blood Sugar Balance

Blood sugar balance is so important for overall health and is a possible reason for fatigue in many people. 

If you have anxiety, feel shaky or faint, are gaining or losing weight unexpectedly, have excessive thirst, need to use the bathroom more often, or eat but still feel hungry, you could be having blood sugar issues.

To test your blood sugar there are a few options. 

First, you can talk with your doctor and have a fasting blood glucose test.  They will probably also want to test your A1C. 

You could also buy a glucometer and test your blood sugar at home before eating, after eating, and when you wake in the morning.

8.  Low Vitamin D

If you are like many (especially in areas that experience winter), low Vitamin D levels could be a real possibility for fatigue. 

Vitamin D is important for so many functions in the body.  It is directly related to immunity, low levels can negatively affect those with autoimmune disease, and some cancers are more likely with low levels.

To test Vitamin D levels you can seek out help from your doctor or you can test at home. 

If you find that you are deficient the best ways to raise levels is to seek out sunlight, eat foods high in Vitamin D, and take a high-quality Cod Liver Oil.  Natural forms in appropriate amounts are always the healthiest option.

9. Anemia

If you have fatigue, cold hands and feet, feel weak, or have light gums or inner eyelids, you could have anemia. 

Many women deal with this issue and it can be easily fixed for a lot of women by including liver in your diet. 

Liver is a superfood but many (including myself!) cannot get over the taste or texture.  No problem, desiccated liver to the rescue!

If you feel like your iron levels should be checked, ask your doctor for a hemoglobin test. 

Something to note:  some signs that could show up before anemia include low ferritin, B12, and folate levels, so it may be a good idea to ask for these to be tested as well.

10. Chronic Infections

If you are feeling fatigued and can find no other cause, you may want to consider undiagnosed infections as a possible cause. 

Some infections such as Epstein-Barr, Lyme (and co-infections), and cytomegalovirus, are examples of infections that your body may be harboring and you could be unaware of their existence. 

These infections can cause a list of symptoms that may not be immediately attributed to the infection.  In fact, in some instances, it can take years to get a proper diagnosis.

If you are experiencing fatigue, joint pain, swollen glands, or an autoimmune disease that is not responding to treatment, consider getting tested for these infections. 

You will need to seek out a doctor to help with this, but if you find a knowledgeable practitioner, their help can be invaluable.

11.  Thyroid Imbalance

Last, but certainly not least on this list is thyroid imbalance. 

Thyroid issues are very common in women and can most definitely cause fatigue.  Along with fatigue, women may experience weight gain, insomnia, muscle aches, depression, anxiety, constipation, and so many more symptoms!

If you feel tired, sluggish, or have any of the other symptoms listed, it is worth a trip to your doctor’s office for a thyroid test. 

Be sure that they test for more than just TSH though, you want to know all of the numbers so make sure that they order a full thyroid panel.  If you do not want to go this route you can do a thyroid test at home too!

Final Thoughts On Fatigue…

I know how difficult it is to struggle with fatigue, so if you are dealing with this, please know that you’re not alone!

Even though there could be many causes and you may have to be a bit of a detective to figure out what exactly is going on, I know you can do it!

If you start with these 11 common causes you may just find the reason that you are dragging through your day. 

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causes of fatigue

8 thoughts on “11 Causes Of Fatigue (& The Tests You Need!)”

  1. Great article! I am always experiencing some kind of fatigue, like this continuous “I am tired” feeling even when I have rest a lot, so this gives me maybe new ideas to check! It is winter where I live so I know I need to plan well with supplements as well!

  2. This a great post. I have never really thought that there are this many causes of fatigue. Gut health especially can be a hidden cause of so many problems that ail us. It is good to see too that there are at home tests that can help one find out about some of these health problems. A very informative post.

    1. Glad you liked it, Jane! I agree, the state of a person’s gut is one of the most important aspects of health. If a person has poor gut health, it’s just not possible to have good overall health.

  3. Amy this is a great article, I’m pretty sure I suffer from all of these! lol! Really though…I have been meaning to look into some of these a bit more. I too had a string of personal circumstances that caused a lot of fatigue and have always written it off as kids, stress, and just being busy. There definitely comes a point at which you just have to dig a little deeper. Thanks for the “reminder”!

    1. Hi Kate,

      It is so easy to think that fatigue is from stress, kids, or being busy, and it definitely can be! But you’re right, sometimes you need to look a little deeper if that tired, fatigued feeling is persistent.

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