Peanuts? Perfumes? Cell Phones?! Before you chalk up your lack of energy to age, consider these 7 often-overlooked reasons for FOFatigue.
Lack of energy is not an inevitable part of aging, and it’s not something you have to accept. Here, Dr. Vincent Pedre, a New York physician who specializes in integrative and holistic health, explains the 9 treatable conditions that can sap your energy.
- B12 deficiency.
- “This is a common cause of fatigue in patients who are vegan or vegetarian, as B12 is a necessary nutrient derived primarily from animal protein. B12 deficiency is common as we age, because we have less intrinsic factor–the stomach protein that helps us absorb B12. After age 50, I recommend taking a B12 supplement that dissolves beneath the tongue. The classic recommendation is to eat liver, and I’m not sure every FOF will be willing to do that!”
- Iron deficiency.
- “This is a classic cause for fatigue. You might have a clue that you’re iron deficient if you also have hair loss or really bad periods. (Yes, I have patients over 50 who are still not menopausal!) In women over fifty, iron deficiency can also be a symptom of colon polyps that are bleeding little by little. This will cause fatigue and may cause constipation or changes in the way your stool appears. You must get a colonsocopy screening. If it’s just dietary, you can take a supplement.”
- Low enzymes.
- “As we age, our digestive cells may become a little more sluggish, causing us to produce less gastric acid, which can lead to protein malnutrition. This can also be the result of multiple courses of antibiotics or long-term food allergies. In addition to fatigue, protein malnutrition can cause depression because of a lack of the amino acids that form neurotransmitters. The treatment is very individualized, but may be as simple as taking digestive enzyme supplements or supplemental hydrochloric acid. Anyone can increase their enzymes by drinking a green juice daily and eating more raw veggies.”
- Celiac disease.
- “Celiac is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten, a protein that tends to exist in wheat, barley and rye–among other carbohydrates. In the presence of gluten, the body attacks the cells that line the small intestine so that it can’t absorb nutrients well. In addition to fatigue, you may experience indigestion and bloating. About 3 percent of the population has Celiac disease, and about 8 percent have a less severe ‘gluten sensitivity.’ These patients also have a much higher risk for osteoporosis because they’re not absorbing calcium well. The good news: As soon as you take gluten out of your diet, the problem is corrected. And recovery can be pretty remarkable–patients experience a drastic increase in energy.”
- Addiction to sugary processed foods.
- “A consistent diet of processed or sugary foods–especially cookies, crackers, white bread and pastries–is a classic cause of daytime fatigue. Often women eat these foods to get some easy energy. But the blood-sugar spike is followed by a crash that leaves you wanting a nap in the middle of the day. In addition, any spike in blood sugar floods your body with hormones that actually cause you to want to eat more. You reach for another cookie, and the cycle continues.”
- Environmental toxins.
- “Many of us are sensitive to environmental toxins, which could be any number of things, including the pthalates in perfume, the PCBs in plastic water bottles or the pesticides in food. All of these get in the body and short-circuit your mitochondria–the energy centers of your cells. Your body literally can’t create as much energy. I recommend buying organic food as much as possible and really paying attention to what’s in your products.” [FOF Editor’s note: We like Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Costmetics database, which rates the relative toxicity of thousands of cosmetic products, from perfume to moisturizer.]
- Adrenal exhaustion.
- “This is one that you’re not going to hear much about in standard western medicine. The adrenal glands produce stress hormones, including adrenaline and norepinephrine. If you were to turn off your adrenals completely, you’d drop to the floor with zero energy. That’s how important they are. If you have constant high stress in your life–as many of us do–you can deplete your adrenals. A typical symptom of adrenal fatigue is feeling tired in the evening, but then becoming wired again around 10pm and having a hard time falling asleep. By the time morning rolls around, you’re exhausted and can’t get up. Many people eat sugar and drink coffee to keep them up through the day, and by the evening they crash and the cycle continues.”
- Electromagnetic energy.
- “We are bombarded with electronic magnetic energy all day–from our cellphones, computer screens and other electronic gadgets. There is a book I like called Zapped that talks all about this and how these electromagnetic waves can cause fatigue and headaches. In some cases, they can be truly dangerous–studies show that if you live near a high-voltage convertor, for example, you’re more likely to get breast cancer, lymphoma or leukemia. Basically, they’re disrupting proper cellular functioning. I personally use a device made by Gia Wellness that is meant to positively interfere with the electromagnetic frequencies that are coming from my laptop and cell phone.”
- Food sensitivities.
- “For some people, foods such as gluten, soy, corn, eggs, peanuts or dairy activate an allergic reaction in the body, which causes white blood cells to produce low-grade amounts of interleukin and protein messengers. An extreme amount of these chemicals would feel like a horrible flu. But imagine just a tiny fraction: You don’t feel sick, but you don’t feel well, either. Most people have no idea they have these sensitivities, and they get used to feeling run down. They don’t connect the way they’re feeling with the food. But if you can pinpoint the offending food and remove it from the diet, they feel better.”
InternistDr. Vincent M. Pedre is a Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City and the Medical Director of Pedre Integrative Health. His practice combines Western medicine (he’s affiliated with Mt. Sinai Medical Center) and Eastern philosophy (he is certified in yoga and acupuncture) and can best be described as integrative and holistic.