When it's more than fatigue

By: Health Local Staff May 09, 2011
  Article
always feeling tired?

Factors that may be affecting why you feel sluggish.

Are you tired and run-down? Do you find that, regardless how much sleep you get, it never seems to be enough? Welcome to the life of being a woman, right? Perpetually tired, running ourselves ragged, we look forward to the weekend in the hope of catching up on our lost sleep. And although we know there is no such thing as catching up on sleep, we still “fantasize” about this possibility, don’t we?

Have you ever figured out why you are tired all the time? Before you assume that it is business as usual and the story of your life, there are many things that can contribute to your fatigue. Barring there is nothing medically wrong with you, you can begin looking at some of the reasons you are tired and hopefully make some changes to your lifestyle.

 

Anemia

Let’s face it, getting your period month after month is a huge pain in the butt, isn’t it? Apart from the cost involved between tampons, pads or whatever else you use, between never knowing precisely when it’s going to hit and wondering if it will hit are things that add to our already growing stress levels. But have you considered that you could actually be anemic? Does it sound far-fetched? Assuming there is nothing out of whack with your hormones (fibroids, endometriosis for example), which increases blood loss significantly, shedding the lining of your uterus each month can lead to anemia, sometimes severe. If you aren’t supplementing with iron pills or eating lots of green leafy vegetables, which are naturally high in iron, you could be anemic. Symptoms include lethargy, light-headedness, which can lead to fainting spells. Unchecked anemia can land you in the hospital to boost your hemoglobin levels.

 

Hypothyroidism

From the Greek word, hupo, which means under, your thyroid could be out of whack and not producing adequate hormones to function normally. Throwing off the natural order of things in your body, having an underactive thyroid can result in weight gain, fatigue, increased susceptibility to cold, a puffy face, heavier than normal menses (which can fuel anemia) and higher than normal cholesterol. Although hypothyroidism is more common among women 50 and over, it can develop at any age.

To determine if your fatigue is the result of either of these culprits, a simple blood test, which includes at minimum a CBC and chem panel, which among other things will test your hemoglobin and a TSH test, which will determine the level of hormone in your thyroid. Both of these tests are performed fasting, meaning prior to eating or drinking in the morning.

 

Menopause

Indeed we tend to associate menopause as being solely about hot flashes. And while hot flashes are a huge part of the natural process all women will experience, menopause is far more significant than that. Think of it as the bridge between your reproductive years and the time when you no longer need to worry about getting pregnant. The onset of menopause and its symptoms vary greatly from woman to woman. Usually starting at around age 50, some women can begin as early as 35 and as late as 60.

In the same manner that your menstrual cycle coupled with the hormones rushing through your body is what indicates gives you vitality (well with the exception of those days you want to just stay in bed and hope the cramps go away), as your body is going through menopause, it is starting to drop in hormone and ovulation production. For some women this can be almost unnoticeable. In fact, it is not entirely unusual for women to learn after the fact that she is literally through menopause, nary a symptom experienced. For others it can be brutal, literally brutal.

Fatigue, aches and pains similar to your worst flu, pain in the reproductive area and sometimes, sadly depression are just a few of the symptoms experienced by some women. And the hot flashes, oh the hot flashes. One minute you are trying to regulate your body temperature and swear your husband turned on the air conditioner and the next you are generating enough heat to warm the entire house! Having them at night is such a joy; let me tell you. Waking up with soaking wet sheets can result in two things: a now irritable husband or partner and possibly you needing to change the sheets. This can certainly add to the “fun” and contribute to sleepless nights. 

To determine whether you are in fact in menopause, add Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to your chem panel and your doctor can determine whether you are in it or not. And if you are? Discuss with him or her treatment options. Some women, no matter what, eschew hormone therapy and are determined they can go head to head with the symptoms. Others cower at the mere thought of coping without supplementing with hormones. It is best to do a risk assessment and then decide. Getting on hormones is neither a good decision nor a bad one; it’s a personal one.

 

Regular Ole Stress


As if all those weren’t reason enough why you are losing sleep, tired and ready to pull your hair out, let’s talk about your lifestyle. As we went from being full time, stay at home wives and mothers (as a culture, indeed some women still prefer this lifestyle), and went to work alongside men, we didn’t give up any of the demands on our time. Still assumed to be the one who greets your kids when they come home from school, make every single soccer game, ballet lesson and recital, and be present at every single board meeting, we are literally running ourselves ragged.

Assuming there’s nothing chemically or hormonally causing your fatigue, it is extremely reasonable to assume that you are just doing too much. If you are the president of the, “I’ll do it” organization, it might be time to resign or here’s a novel approach, ask for help. Indeed if you are a single mother, there may not be a significant other in your life to turn to in tears and say, “Please, honey! I can’t do it all!” Money may be tight, with responsibilities mounting and you might feel there are no obvious answers.

There are. Maybe you have relatives, friends, belong to a church, synagogue or mosque to whom you can turn and reach out for help. Even if someone can’t pick up your kids from school two days a week, maybe they can recommend an organization or online forum that can help you. If nothing else, talking to someone will help.

 

Eat Your Veggies


Your mother wasn’t wrong when she told you to eat right, which includes your daily intake of vegetables. Bear in mind that starches slow you down (after picking you up) and meat can make your intestines work double time to digest your food. Protein is great but more than 4 ounces a day is not necessary. Eat fresh, leafy vegetables, drink plenty of water and ask for help!

 

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.