7 Common Causes of Fatigue

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Most people experience periods of temporary fatigue commonly associated with being overworked or overtired. Such cases usually have an easily identifiable cause and remedy.

Persistent exhaustion, however, is prolonged, profound, and is not relieved by rest alone. Described as a near-constant state of weariness, fatigue develops over time and diminishes energy levels, motivation, and concentration, while also impacting emotional and psychological well-being.

Below are some of the top causes of fatigue and their symptoms.

1. Low Protein Intake:

Protein is an essential building block of the human body. Vital organs, muscles, tissues, and even some hormones are made of protein. Proteins are involved in nearly every bodily function from regulating blood sugar levels to healing wounds and fighting infection. Because they are used to develop, grow, and maintain nearly every part of the body – from skin and hair, to digestive enzymes and antibodies – they are constantly being broken down and must be replaced through diet. While each person is unique in terms of their specific protein needs (based on body weight, gender, age, and activity level), on average, the recommended daily minimum intake of protein for men is 56 grams, and 46 grams for women. Symptoms of low protein intake include: low energy/fatigue, sluggish metabolism, poor concentration, moodiness, difficulty losing weight, muscle, bone and joint pain, blood sugar changes, slow wound healing, low immunity. Vegetarians and vegans, as well as those on weight loss diets, are among the groups that may be at risk of protein deficiency.

2. Iron Deficiency:

The signs and symptoms of low iron or iron-deficiency vary depending on its severity. Mild to moderate iron deficiency can have little or no symptoms. However, if the body continues to be deficient in iron, it can lead to anemia, and symptoms then intensify. The most common symptom of iron deficiency is extreme fatigue. This is because iron is critical in the production hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. Without adequate levels of iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin, and as a result can leave you feeling fatigued. Iron defieciency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide.

3. Vitamin B12 Deficiency:

The human body requires B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out various functions. Like most vitamins, B12 cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from food and/or supplements. However, many people do not consume enough B12 to meet their needs, due to dietary habits or restrictions (e.g. strict vegetarians) or because they have existing medical conditions that interfere with food absorption (e.g. celiac or Crohn’s disease). As a result, B12 deficiency is relatively common.

4. Vitamin D Deficiency: 

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, and it also appears to play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and immune function. Canadians are at risk because of our long winters and it is essentially impossible to get sufficient vitamin D from your diet. Those who avoid the sun, have darker skin complexions, are strict vegans, or who are obese, may be at even higher risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to recent research, roughly three-quarters of American adolescents and adults are vitamin D deficient.

5. Hypothyroidism:

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, stems from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Since the body’s energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones, a drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak and tired. Approximately 25 million people suffer with hypothyroidism and about half are undiagnosed. Older adults, particularly women, are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.

6. Insomnia/Non-restorative Sleep:

How much sleep a person needs varies but most adults require roughly seven to eight hours each night in order to function optimally. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or cause one to wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. Nonrestorative sleep (NRS) is defined as the subjective experience that sleep has not been sufficiently refreshing or restorative. NRS is conventionally recognized as a symptom of insomnia or as a feature of medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. In the case of both insomnia and NRS, you may still feel tired when you wake up, which can impact not only your energy level and mood, but also your health, work performance, and quality of life.

7. Adrenal Fatigue/Burnout:

Adrenal glands play a significant role in stress response, as well as in balancing hormones. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the body and adrenal glands cannot keep up with the amount of stress that many people experience daily as part of modern life. Acute stress and/or chronic stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet and exercise can cause adrenals glands to become overloaded and ineffective. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Unrelenting tiredness
  • Fatigue despite adequate sleep
  • Body ache, muscle weakness, muscle tension
  • Poor focus, racing thoughts
  • Moodiness, irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizzyness or feeling unsteady with position changes
  • Difficulty exercising or poor exercise recovery

References:

 

Common Causes of Hair Loss

hair lossBackground: Hair’s Natural Growth Cycle

Hair grows in three different cycles: anagen, catagen, and telogen. About 90% of the hair on the head is in the anagen, or growth phase, which lasts anywhere from 2 to 8 years. The catagen, or transition phase, typically lasts 2 to 3 weeks, during which the hair follicle shrinks. During the telogen cycle, which lasts around 2 to 4 months, the hair rests.

Most people normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair is growing in at the same time. Hair loss occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

The exact cause of hair loss may not be fully understood, but it is usually related to one or more of the following factors:

  • Genetics (e.g. family history)
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances (e.g. pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills)
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Stress (including after surgery)
  • Improper nutrition (vitamin and/or mineral deficiency)

Although hair loss may seem like a more prominent problem in men, women are nearly as likely to lose or have thinning hair.

Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women

1. High Cortisol:

Hair loss is often caused by an imbalance in hormone levels. One of the hormones closely connected with hair loss is cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is normally released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress. In its normal function, cortisol regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and immune response. It also has an important role in helping the body respond to stress (i.e. the body’s fight-or-flight response).

However, at sustained high levels, cortisol can be damaging over time. Extended stress leads to extended periods of high cortisol levels. While the adrenal glands are busy making extra cortisol, they make less of the hormones that support healthy hair growth.

2. Low Protein Intake:

Hair loss may occasionally be caused by lack of protein in the diet. When this happens, the body will help save protein by shifting growing hairs into the resting phase. Increased hair shedding can occur two to three months later.

3Elevated Male Hormones:

  • Testosterone: High levels of testosterone has been commonly associated with hair loss. Although women have much lower levels of testosterone than men do, there is enough to potentially cause hair loss, particularly during periods of hormonal change.  However, researchers now believe that it is not only amount of circulating testosterone that leads to hair loss, but more significantly the level of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) binding to receptors in scalp follicles.
  • Dihydrotestosterone (DHT): Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is held in a hair follicle’s oil glands. In high levels, DHT shrinks hair follicles, decreasing hair’s natural growth cycle and ability to replace itself.

4. Thyroid Issues:

Hair loss may be a sign that thyroid hormones are out of balance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair to shed. Because hair growth depends on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, abnormal levels of thyroid hormones can result in hair changes if left untreated. When the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the hair on your head can become fine, with thinning hair all over the scalp. When the thyroid gland is underactive (hypothyroidism), there can be hair loss, not just on the scalp, but also anywhere on the body. In most cases, the hair will grow back once the thyroid disorder is treated.

5. Low Progesterone:

From the time menses begins until menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone in women ebb and flow to promote reproduction. At about age 35 to 40, women reach the time of perimenopause. This is when their levels of progesterone and estrogen begin to reduce. Progesterone helps to counterbalance the negative effects of estrogen. When there is not enough progesterone to counterbalance estrogen, one may begin to have symptoms of estrogen dominance, such as hair loss.

6. Iron Deficiency:

Iron deficiency hair loss is caused when the body lacks enough iron to produce hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen for the growth and repair of all body cells including the cells that make up hair follicles.

Temporary hair loss such as iron deficiency hair loss is called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is an abnormality of the hair growth cycle that causes hair that would normally be in the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle to be prematurely pushed into the telogen (rest) phase, causing hair to shed. Because hair is non-essential, hair growth is one of the first processes to be affected when iron or other nutrient deficiencies occur.

7. Zinc Deficiency:

Zinc is a trace mineral that is needed for many important bodily functions in the body such as building healthy cells, regulating hormones, and aiding in the absorption of other nutrients.

Zinc is available through foods such as beef, pork, shellfish, peanuts, and legumes. Zinc deficiency (or hypozincemia) is a nutrient deficiency precipitated by malnutrition or malabsorption of the element. Deficiency may cause weak, brittle nails, diarrhea, slow healing, and hair loss.

Resources:

  • Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/definition/con-20027666
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc/background/hrb-20060638
  • You & Your Hormones: http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Cortisol.aspx
  • Today’s Dietician: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
  • WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/hair-loss-causes-women

Getting to Know Your Thyroid

Written by: Sarah Vadeboncoeur & Anita Kushwaha

What is your thyroid?

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple.

thyroidgland

What does your thyroid do?

The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:

  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Thyroxine (T4)

These hormones produced by the thyroid gland — T3 and T4 — have a great impact on your health, affecting all aspects of your metabolism.

The thyroid’s hormones regulate vital body functions. For instance, they maintain the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates, help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate, and help regulate the production of proteins.

If your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, it may affect:

  • Heart rate
  • Nervous system
  • Body weight and metabolism
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism (i.e. underactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the above mentioned hormones. When this occurs, bodily functions slow down.

Hypothyroidism may either be genetic or develop in the course of life. There can be many different causes for an underactive thyroid. For example, one reason might be a lack of iodine. Getting enough iodine through your diet is therefore important for normal thyroid function. Similarly, a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis –  an auto-immune condition that causes chronic inflammation of the thyroid – can also lead to underactivity.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Slowed heart rate and metabolism
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Constipation, digestive upset
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Heavy or irregular menstruation
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Hair loss or dry/brittle hair
  • Dry skin
  • Joint pain, stiffness or swelling
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Loss of sexual desire

Concerned about your thyroid function? Contact Dr. Sarah to inquire about getting your thyroid levels tested.

 References:

  1. Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/home/ovc-20155291
  2. PubMed Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
  3. EndocrineWeb: https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/hypothyroidism-too-little-thyroid-hormone