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Why am I always tired?

Why am I always tired?

You know the feeling, always a bit sluggish, never quite on you’re A game. I’d love to suggest a miracle supplement that could banish fatigue for everyone but as there are different reasons for tiredness and fatigue there will be different solutions.  Hopefully this blog can start to point you in the right direction and the good news is that there is a lot you can do to get you feeling back to your old self.

Advance warning : There is a lot of information here and it might not all be relevant to you. You can look at the sections that you think may apply, or why not book a health review with one of our registered nutritional therapist so that they can guide you through.  For a booking fee of £10 (redeemable against future purchases) you can have a one to one 15 minute session in person or via zoom.  Full Nutritional Therapy consultations are also available.

So if you feel tired all the time, what could be causing it?  Here are some common reasons :

  1. Do you have an iron or B12 deficiency?
  2. Do you have a magnesium deficiency?
  3. Do you sleep well?
  4. Do you have an underactive thyroid?
  5. Are your hormones causing havoc?
  6. Do you reach for sugars and carbohydrates?
  7. Are you under stress – emotional, work related or physical?
  8. Are you recovering from illness, or do you have post viral fatigue/long covid?
  9. Are you lacking in movement or motivation?

As always, the first point of call is your GP so chat to them and they can advise on blood tests to rule in/rule out common causes and provide advice on medical treatment options.  In addition, diet and lifestyle choices are often key so read on:

1.   Do you have an iron or vitamin B12 deficiency?

Low iron and/or vitamin B12 levels are a common reason for fatigue. These nutrients are a key component of red blood cells that transport oxygen around your body.  You may be low in these if :

You are vegan or eat a largely plant based diet.  In this case, without supplementation, it is highly likely that you are deficient, and a good quality multivitamin supplement can make a huge difference to your energy levels.  I highly recommend Viridian Vegan Multi, this advanced multi has nutrients in a superior form for absorption and at a good dosage.

You have heavy periods.  Heavy periods can lead to anaemia as your iron will deplete with the blood loss.  If this is you, I suggest that you top up your iron levels by taking a supplement in a non-constipating/well absorbed from.  My choice is Viridian Balanced Iron Complex, or you could take iron as part of a good quality multi vitamin that has at least 15mg in a food form or bisglycinate form. Viridian Vegan multi is again a good choice.  

You are not absorbing these nutrients.  If you take sufficient levels through diet and do not have heavy blood loss, then your GP can investigate further.  A blood test would reveal if your levels are low (I always recommend that you get a copy of your results as you may come in as normal but actually still at the lower end).  Reasons for this could be that you are lacking in intrinsic factor in your stomach (required to absorb B12), digestion function is compromised or you have blood loss for a different reason.  Your GP will investigate these and suggest a treatment.  An option to boost vitamins and minerals in these cases are spray forms of nutrients that by pass the digestive system such as those by Better You and/or your GP may recommend B12 injections (personally I don’t recommend B12 injections unless they have been recommended by your GP and you have been shown to have low levels on tests)

2.  Do you have a magnesium deficiency?

Magnesium, to me is the miracle mineral. Magnesium is a cofactor in over 200 processes in the body, including being an input into the creation of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which converts to melatonin (the sleep hormone), and adrenal hormones such as cortisol.  One of the main roles of magnesium is as an input to the energy production centre of the cells – this energy helps to fuel our day to day activity as well as muscle and heart function.  Food sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, beans, pulses and nuts. However for them to be rich in minerals, the soil they grow in needs to be mineral rich. Sadly modern family, chemicals and preservatives have left the soils and foods depleted in minerals.
Magnesium is safe to take in a supplement at a level of 200mg to 600mg per day but do check with your GP if you have a health condition or take medications.  The key to magnesium supplementation is the form you take, different ones will help with different things.  Read more on the forms of magnesium.  For energy, I’d suggest Magnesium Citrate.  The downside of citrate is that it is a big molecule size which means it is hard to get a good dosage in one capsule.  My preferred way to boost levels is therefore in a powder mixed in to a smoothie, water or juice.  Alternatively Viridian High Potency magnesium is unique in that it provides a blend of 3 different types of magnesium, including citrate, to allow a dosage of 300mg in one capsule.

3. Do you sleep well?

It’s an obvious one but lack of sleep leads to fatigue. Instead of reaching for caffeine to get through the day, there are things to help establish a healthy sleep routine.  I fully appreciate that this isn’t easy, and you may feel you have tried everything.  Our blog on sleep may give more ideas but some quick suggestions

- Cut the caffeine. It’s not easy but try to have just one coffee in the morning and stop tea after 1pm

- Have an evening wind down. Your body needs to create melatonin for healthy sleep, it can’t do that if exposed to light from screens or extra stimulants.  A warm bath with dimmed lights and magnesium salts is the perfect wind down, otherwise reading a book in bed again with dimmed lights (a good old paperback, not a kindle).

- Supplements can help.  Magnesium again – this time in a glycinate form or alternatively, Pukka Night Time if your sleep is related to stress or 5-HTP which is a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin.  Personally, I find 5-HTP calms my mind and allows me to have a deeper level of sleep (do seek advice for this one though, especially if taking medications as there are some contraindications).


4. Do you have an underactive thyroid?

Your thyroid, through the production of thyroid hormones, regulates your metabolism. This being the rate at which you convert food to energy. Hypothyroid or under active thyroid is a condition whereby the thyroid is not producing enough of the thyroid hormone T4, and so this rate of conversion is reduced leading to feelings of fatigue and often weight gain.

Underactive thyroid can appear at any age but it can triggered when the body goes through a change such as pregnancy or menopause.  There can be an immune system influence or potentially hormonal, as oestrogen can increase a protein know as thyroid binding globulin (in short this may reduce the amount of free T4 and T3 for cells to use).   Whilst there are supplements that can provide the raw materials for your thyroid and the conversion of these hormones (the aim being to make them more effective), my advice is to start with the GP.  They may recommend a medication (Levothyroxine) to replace T4 and we would then suggest the nutrients zinc and selenium alongside it as these are involved in the conversion of T4 to the active hormone T3.

5. Are your hormones causing havoc?

The phases of the menstrual cycle can you leave you feeling energised at the first half of the cycle as oestrogen levels are high, yet more depleted in energy and reserved during the second half of the cycle. To a certain extent this is normal due to the nature of oestrogen and progesterone but if your hormones are out of balance, these feelings may be more severe.  As mentioned, oestrogen can directly affect the utilisation of thyroid hormones so if you are peri-menopausal/menopausal, or taking HRT, you may wish to request a blood test for your thyroid hormones.  A number of factors can affect hormone balance and the way your body metabolises and excretes the hormones can be key.  We can offer much more detailed advice around this and you may also wish to consider the comprehensive DUTCH hormone test.  This gives a valuable insight into how your hormones are metabolised and a personal plan for how to address the results.  We will be covering more on this in our social media pages but please drop us a message if you would like one of our nutritionists to contact you to explain more.

6. Do you reach for sugars and carbohydrates?

Fatigue and sugar intake can be a vicious cycle. You are tired so crave sugars but too much sugar can make you tired. Refined carbohydrates including white bread, pasta, rice, cakes, biscuits and fruit juice are a form of sugar due to how rapidly they convert to glucose.  Excess glucose causes energy highs and lows as your body tries to clear the glucose into your cells but then stores the excess off (in fat cells, hence why these foods can lead to weight gain).  Your energy will be far more balanced by a diet rich in protein and complex carbohydrates.  A few tips but I would advise a full consultation which can give a detailed personalised food plan; 

- A natural protein powder at breakfast to help avoid a mid morning blood sugar low. My favourites are Supernova and Vivo Life

- Cut your normal carbohydrate portion in half but boost your protein. This might mean an open sandwich with a generous potion of avocado or salmon/chicken or an omelette and salad rather than toast/white bread

- Banish the beige.  Beige foods – bread, pasta, potatoes, biscuits and cakes are your main refined carbohydrates.  Switch these to wholemeal versions, keep portion sizes small and bulk out your meals with colourful fruits and vegetables

There are supplements that can help your cells be more sensitive to glucose to give you a quick start or if blood tests have revealed high blood glucose levels. Supplements containing chromium and cinnamon are often suggested.

7. Are you under stress – emotional, work related or physical ?

Chronic stress can lead to chronic fatigue. When the body is under stress from any source, it calls on the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol.  In the short term these cause the body to be in a state of alert and to metabolise carbohydrates, protein and fats for use as energy so that you can deal with the stressor effectively.  Chronic stress can however lead to an imbalance in cortisol rhythms and adrenal function which can leave you feeling very flat. 
Whilst it can’t always be easy to take away the source of stress, it is important to take steps to rest and recover.  Gentle exercise – walking, swimming or yoga, along with taking some time out to do something you enjoy (although avoid adrenaline sports!) or spending time with friends can all help to rebalance the cortisol response.  My favourite tip for overworked adrenals is reflexology, it is such a balancing treatment and the benefits last long after you have left the treatment room.  I also highly recommend herbal adaptogens, I take these when life gets too busy and overwhelming.  Ashwagandha is my favourite of all adrenal herbs.  You can find it in Supernova, and this also has the benefit of vegan proteins to help balance blood sugar (also important for the stress response), I also like Viridian Enhanced Rhodiola which is an adaptogen blend with aswagandha, rhodiola and ginseng which is an adaptogen associated with energy and vitality.

7.  Are you recovering from illness or do you have post viral fatigue/long covid?

If you have been ill with a virus and have noticed that your energy has been zapped since, this is a sign of post viral fatigue. This can be complex and often needs to be worked at a number of levels including immune boosting, diet and lifestyle strategies alongside anti-inflammatory and nutrients to support the inflammatory response and the energy production centres in cells.  I suggest that you read the blog ‘Can Diet and Natural Remedies Help Long Covid ‘ for more detail.   For supplement support, the two that we consistently recommend for recovery from illness are Source of Life Gold and Viridian Qi Ribose powder

8. Are you lacking in movement or motivation?

Movement and motivation provide a zest for life and help those feel good brain chemicals that give get up and go. There is no easy fix for this one as it may be that you need to consider your life and the activities in it to decide whether they still satisfy and motivate you.  It may also be that you need to consider mental health and issues bigger than the scope of this blog. Working can home can by itself be an energy drainer.  If you travel to work you have a different environment, different people, and you often wake up on the journey to work by having a walk and being exposed to different stimulus.  Whatever your situation, talking a break and having a walk in the fresh air can be the biggest energiser there is.  Aim for at least 15 mins at the start of the day and 15 minutes after lunch to beat the afternoon slump

     So that was a lot of information and hopefully you can now see that there isn’t one answer why you may be feeling tired. Now you understand things more you may want to check out my four favourite supplements for energy and fatigue.  Our team are also here to help you navigate it so please do get it touch or book a health review.  Please do bear in mind that all supplements are not created equally – the suggestions we have given here have been done because they have been screened by our Nutritional Therapists as the best on the market.  Questions?  Please do contact us