Have you been noticing that even after sleeping well you still feel tired all day? Do you think that it’s inevitable? Fortunately, it's not.
There are many easy-to-correct health conditions that can cause excessive fatigue, and today we’ll look at eight causes, how you can make positive changes to feel more energized and awake, and what those changes can do for your bones.
1. Thyroid Disease
The thyroid is a gland about the size of an avocado pit, located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control your metabolism, along with other major body systems, including your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, cholesterol levels, muscle strength, body weight, and nervous system.
You might be familiar with the conditions of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, in which too much or too little thyroid hormone production (Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine), speeding up or slowing down metabolism, respectively.
Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) causes muscle fatigue and weakness. You might notice this when familiar physical activities, like going for a walk or climbing the stairs, become more difficult than usual.
Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) causes fatigue, a lack of concentration and muscle soreness, even if you weren’t exerting yourself.
It’s easy to see how symptoms like these might be falsely equated to just being tired, or not sleeping well enough. But the effects don’t stop there.
Below are some other common symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Increased sweating
- Nervousness and irritability
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent bowel movements
- Shortness of breath and dizziness
- Reduced bone remodeling
That last point is especially salient for Savers. An overactive thyroid gland leads to an acceleration of bone turnover resulting in a loss of mineral density, as much as 20%. The new bone formation rate is reduced by a third, creating a 10% loss of mineralized bone in every remodeling cycle. This causes an obvious weakening of bone, and increased fracture risk.1
Hypothyroidism induces an equally troubling list of ailments:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold all the time
- Puffy face
- Dry skin
- Hoarse or “gravelly” voice
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
- Joint pain and/or stiffness
- Slow bone formation
Again, we see the intrinsic link between the thyroid gland and bone remodeling. In hypothyroidism, the bone formation process is slowed by half, and bone resorption by about 40%. This disruption of normal bone remodeling throws off the natural balance and leads to an increased risk of fracture.1
The good news is that thyroid disorders can be treated and corrected, and a simple blood test can check your thyroid function if you’re struggling with fatigue, muscle weakness, or some of the symptoms listed above. Eating foods that provide the nutrients necessary for thyroid health is a natural way to fight these symptoms. You can read more about those foods and your thyroid here.
Depression is a serious and widespread health problem, affecting about 16 million adults in the United States.2 Here are some of the most common symptoms of depression:
- Loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances or excessive sleep
- Appetite changes
- Increased irritability and anger
- Persistent physical symptoms
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression is easy to misidentify as fatigue, especially if someone is depressed for the first time. In fact, its impact on energy levels, concentration, irritability, and sleep can make it seem like an unexplainable tiredness.
Several studies have connected depression with bone loss by establishing that those who suffer from the condition tend to have significantly lower bone density than those who do not. This bone loss is the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system that connects the brain to the skeleton. It triggers the release of norepinephrine, which can have an impact similar to cortisol.3
Holistic approaches to relieving depression symptoms include regular exercise, a diet that includes mood lifting natural compounds, and lifestyle changes that help rebalance brain chemistry. Unsurprisingly, these changes are all conducive to a bone-healthy life.
When you don’t provide your body with enough water, it has consequences. Even mild dehydration has immediate detriments.4 Few substances are as important to your biology, so it’s no surprise that fatigue can be a result of denying yourself enough of this essential compound.
Other symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Heart palpitations
- Very dark urine
- Decreased urine output
Be aware of these signs, and take the easy action of drinking more water, by building a habit of regularly sipping water throughout the day, so you stay well hydrated. Distilled water is the best choice, or else water purified by reverse osmosis. We recommend adding a few drops of lemon juice to help keep your body pH alkaline (and your taste buds engaged!)
In addition to keeping you energized and alert, a well-hydrated body keeps your bones stronger and healthier. That’s because when the body doesn’t have enough water, it starts releasing stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which damage bone.5
Additionally, the constipation that comes with dehydration leads to acidification, which your body will attempt to fix by stealing minerals from your bones. Kidney function is crucial to proper hydration and pH-balance maintenance. When you don’t drink enough water, your kidneys are not able to efficiently clear acidifying toxins and waste from your body.
4. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A lack of vitamin B12 is a common culprit of fatigue, especially for those who consume little to no animal protein. It’s a vitamin with a complex and delicate absorption process, requiring plenty of stomach acid and the production of the mucoprotein called Intrinsic Factor, produced by the parietal cells of the stomach.
Here are the most common symptoms of a B12 deficiency:
- Tingling and burning sensations in the feet
- Tired muscles
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior
- Memory loss
- Low energy levels
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Poor immune function
A B12 deficiency also results in decreased bone density. Studies have found that B12 negatively impacts bone turnover, increasing fracture risk,6 and that the vitamin is particularly important to preventing hip fracture in older women.7
B12 is readily available in animal proteins like calves’ liver, salmon, and shrimp, but due to their acidifying qualities, make sure you balance their consumption with alkalizing foods. To prevent a deficiency, we recommend daily supplementation of at least 1000 mcg, preferably sublingually. You can read more about our B12 recommendations here.
5. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is a common cause of fatigue since it is an essential element responsible for oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and energy production.
Iron deficiency starves your cells of oxygen, causing the following symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Fast heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
Blood loss is the primary way in which iron levels are reduced. Reduced iron levels have been shown to diminish bone formation, while iron intake has been linked to increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. The Save Institute does not recommend iron supplements, due to the dangers of excess iron. Iron toxicity can cause liver damage, dehydration, vomiting blood, and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
There are plenty of foods that contain iron, including a great many vegetables and nuts that offer even more iron than meat. Here are ten iron rich foods that can help you ward off fatigue and keep your bones strong:
- Baked Potato
- Swiss Chard*
- Red Kidney Beans*
- Dark Chocolate*
* Foundation Foods
6. Sugar & Processed Food Addiction
A diet consisting of high-sugar processed foods creates a rollercoaster of energy highs and lows. They might provide a boost of energy that is useful in the short term, but the inevitable crash that follows leaves you even worse off than you started.
The blood sugar spike caused by those empty carbohydrates releases hormones that make you want to eat even more sugary foods. You become addicted to the feeling of the easy sugar rush, setting yourself up for an exhausting series of highs and lows, instead of the steady, consistent energy you need.
Excessive consumption of sugar has numerous negative impacts including:
- Harms the immune system
- Damages the brain by creating Advanced Glycation End products8
- Taxes the liver and kidneys
- Acidification of the body
- Negatively impacts the digestive, cardiovascular and endocrine systems9
An excess of sugar causes bone loss, in addition to the above symptoms. Faced with a glut of acidifying sugar, the body removes calcium, magnesium and other valuable minerals from your bones in an attempt to restore its pH balance.
7. Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are reactions to certain substances that may not be so extreme or clear as to be recognized as allergies, but which nonetheless can have a negative impact on your health, including fatigue.
Food sensitivities cause white blood cells to produce small amounts of interleukin and protein messengers. A large amount of these chemicals can lead to severe flu-like symptoms, but in a small quantity may just make you feel slightly off. Not sick, but just a little unwell.
Many people who have these sensitivities are not aware they have them. They become accustomed to feeling tired and physically uneasy, without suspecting their diet is the cause.
Here are some foods that commonly cause these reactions:
These innate food responses cause inflammation and activate the immune system. This occurs because the body misidentifies a food (or food component) as a potential harmful intruder. With the continuous ingestion of reactive foods, micro-inflammation in the intestinal tissue can begin, and then spread to other tissues. The hormonal, nervous, and metabolic system can all be impacted.
Inflammation, as Savers know, damages bone. The cytokines your body releases during an immune reaction also increase bone resorption rates, leading to accelerated bone loss.10 Identifying reactive foods can not only help you feel better, but it can also help your bones stay strong and resistant to fracture.
8. Environmental Toxins
Unfortunately, the modern world is awash in environmental toxins that assault our bodies in numerous ways. The phthalates in perfume, the pesticides sprayed onto our foods, the arsenic that seeps into groundwater; all get into your body and interrupt the function of your mitochondria.
The mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells, producing the energy that fuels all of your cellular functions. When your mitochondria are inhibited, you’re unable to operate at full energetic capacity.
These toxins, found in everything from personal care products to tap water to the air we breathe, are also a burden on your liver and kidneys, the body’s filtration system. These organs are essential to the maintenance of a balanced pH, and when they aren’t able to accomplish that goal, your body saps minerals from your bones in an attempt to restore alkalinity.
Avoiding environmental toxins as much as possible is important, by eating organic foods, drinking pure water, and using non-toxic natural cosmetic products. Additionally, spending some focused time flushing your body of toxins is a healthful practice. We created Osteoporosis Fresh Start Cleanse: The 7 Day Bone Building Accelerator to help your body get rid of harmful substances, alkalize your pH, and help you succeed at building your bones, so you’ll have the energy to live your life at the fullest.
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Till next time,
1 Dominika Tuchendler, Marek Bolanowski. “The influence of thyroid dysfunction on bone metabolism.” Thyroid Research 2014 7:12. 20 December 2014. Web: https://thyroidresearchjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13044-014-0012-0
2 Greenberg PE, Fournier AA, Sisitsky T, Pike CT, Kessler RC. The economic burden of adults with major depressive disorder in the United States (2005 and 2010). J Clin Psychiatry. 2015 Feb;76(2):155-62.
3 Bab IA, Yirmiya R. Depression and bone mass. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Mar;1192:170-5. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20392233
4 Armstrong, Lawrence E., et al. “Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women.” Journal Of Nutrition. December 21, 2011. Doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142000. Web. https://www.webmd.com/women/news/20120120/even-mild-dehydration-may-cause-emotional-physical-problems
5 Judelson AD. et al. “Effect of hydration state on resistance exercise-induced endocrine markers of anabolism, catabolism, and metabolism.” Journal of Applied Physiology September 2008 vol. 105 no. 3 816-824.
6 Dhonukshe-Rutten, RA, et al. “Homocysteine and vitamin B12 status relate to bone turnover markers, broadband ultrasound attenuation, and fractures in healthy elderly people.” J Bone Miner Res. 2005 Jun;20(6):921-9. Epub 2005 Feb 7. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15883631
7 Stone, KL, et al. “Low serum vitamin B12 levels are associated with increased hip bone loss in older women: a prospective study.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2004 Mar; 89(3) :1217-21. Web. https://www.unboundmedicine.com/evidence/ub/citation/15001613/Low_serum_vitamin_B_12_levels_are_assoc
8 Sanchez, Albert J.L., et al. “Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis.” The American Society for Clinical Nutrition. 1973 Nov; 26(11):1180-4. Web. https://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract%29
9 Nobuyuki, Sasaki, et al. “Advanced Glycation End Products in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases.” The American Journal of Pathology. 1998 October; 153(4): 1149–1155. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1853056/
Comments on this article are closed.
Thank you for concise thyroid info. I began taking Iosol II (Iodide drops) From TCPS since heart arythmia (Afib) was discovered during hospitalization last April 2017. what a difference. I was unable to tolerate pharmaceuticalsSynthroid or Levothyroxine. Worked up to 15 drops/day gradually. heart improving, no Afib in 2 weeks. sleep, mental health improving, more daily energy. Trace Minerals in water electrify
body! and Fasting a couple days a week helps too take load off liver. Looking forward to seeing improvement in upcoming osteo test. Hope this helps someone. Bella,Alaska
You mentioned food allergies today and I thought it’s worth mentioning mine. It took me years to figure out that it was red meat that was causing me so much trouble. All the symptoms of lack of energy, flu like symptoms, diarrhea, and more simply all went away when I went on a sport diet that excluded the meat. Simply vanished. I was such a sickly child growing up and no one figured it out. I’ve had doctors tell me they’ve never heard of such a thing and look at me like they don’t believe me. Since I have figured it out I have heard of a few others who do say the same thing. I do use a protein supplement and vitamins. I am hardly ever sick, even with a cold, maybe one cold ever 2 or 3 years and mild. I have been vegetarian for almost 40 years now and am healthy, especially after this site. Thanks Vivian.
Your information has been enlightening to this old nurse with osteoporosis, iron def. anemia (every 18 months I spend 4 weeks getting IV iron products), pernicious anemia (taking B12 injections twice monthly), depression, and a touch of OCD. I thank my husband for finding SAVE Institute. This is better than the 4 doctors I’m seeing! I’m teaching them now! Thank you. ( Also, I had already stopped taking oral medication for the osteoporosis when my teeth started falling our due to bone loss. I was told that due to the radiation I had for cancer some years ago that I was not a candidate for any of the new type injections…I thank my stars that happened because it lead my husband and myself to this information. Thank you again.
Thank you , Ita,peace be with you all.
Check out: http://www.parathyroid.com
One of the most under diagnosis problems for being tired and causes of bone loss: hyperparathyroidism.
Good morning Vivian,
Thank you very, very much !
May the peace and joy of our LORD go with you
and your family.
Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year (2018 ).
Have a wonderful day.
Vivian, I have been having extreme exhaustion for the past 6 years (right around the time I had my first vert. fracture and was diagnosed with osteo. Through blood tests I found out I had extremely low cortisol and testosterone. I am now on steriods for the low cortisol and testosterone gel that keeps my testosterone level where it needs to be. The exhaustion I get can last a month or so then go completly away for a week- then come right back. I have tried to figure out what might be causing the exhaustion but can not make any connection as to why it starts/ stops. The steriod doesn’t seem to help at all. I have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism but my TSH level is within the normal limits according to the lab that does my bloodwork. I am going to start working on your suggestions and thank you so much. I have many health problems but being exhausted all the time has really ruined the joy in life.
Thank you for this detailed list.