For anyone dealing with chronic fatigue, Bothell’s Dr. Nicole Anderson has a message: The condition is incredibly common. You are not alone, and you can find help with your inability to feel properly rested. It’s also important to note that the reasons for chronic fatigue can be varied and often complex. Identifying the root cause of the fatigue is a process— and far more involved than just “trying” to get better sleep.
Meaningful, effective treatment is possible for chronic fatigue, and Dr. Anderson can provide it at Anderson Natural Medicine.
More than feeling overly tired from time to time, chronic fatigue is an overall and persistent lack of physical and mental energy, sometimes defined by these symptoms lasting for longer than six months. There is typically no obvious single cause in terms of environmental factors (a loud, bright, or otherwise disruptive sleeping area) or health conditions (a diagnosed underlying disease).
One of the main indicators of chronic fatigue is tiredness that gets worse after physical or mental exertion, but that doesn’t go away—even with what should be adequate or even ample rest. The lack of feeling refreshed can also be accompanied by mental fog, memory issues, mood changes, and/or irritability.
Persistent fatigue or lack of energy may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a cardiac problem, endocrine disorder, or even cancer, so it should not be ignored.
Roughly nine of 10 of Dr. Anderson’s patients come in with at least some issues related to chronic fatigue, which demonstrates how it can be closely linked to so many other conditions, from systemic inflammation to diet. Some of the most common culprits behind chronic fatigue include:
Adrenal imbalance due to persistent stress gradually weakening the adrenal glands that produce energy-boosting cortisol and other hormones and/or diminishing adrenocorticotropin that the pituitary gland uses to prompt the adrenal glands in their function.
Hypothyroidism, which is an underperforming thyroid gland failing to make enough T3 and T4 hormones to maintain higher energy levels.
Nutritional deficiencies that may be due, in part, to poor digestive health or diet.
Chronic inflammation that can leave us feeling run down and fatigued.
Stress—whether physical, mental, emotional, or combination of the three—often plays a role in negatively influencing hormone balances and other routine body processes, but there is rarely (if ever) a single factor to explore when searching for the cause of chronic fatigue. Dr. Anderson emphasizes that there is a vast field of potential causes to consider, which is why she “digs deep” with each patient. By exploring a wide range of lifestyle factors, habits, medical histories, environmental settings, and other personal facts, she can piece together a picture of the cause.
Infections, which can go undetected for long periods of time, frequently cause chronic fatigue. Mononucleosis or “mono,” Epstein Barr virus (EBV), and cytomegalo virus (CMV) are common examples.
Sleep apnea is also a commonly undiagnosed condition, especially for individuals who live alone and are unaware that their breathing may be erratic.
Because there are so many possible causes of chronic fatigue, there are also numerous treatments for the condition. Every patient at Anderson Natural Medicine receives a highly individualized treatment plan that may include hormone therapy to address underlying hypothyroidism or adrenal fatigue, adjustments to diet to address nutritional deficiencies, and more.
A crucial thing to understand about Dr. Anderson’s approach to treating chronic fatigue is that she is committed to helping patients identify the underlying problem. This is different from prescribing sleep aids or “forcing” rest. If an undiagnosed and untreated systemic inflammation or chemical imbalance is the problem, narcotics and similar strategies will not help—and can actually create new problems to deal with. Medication-induced sleep is often not restorative rest that allows us to feel refreshed.
The best way to address chronic fatigue is to find and then resolve the actual problem. Removing whatever the impediment is to true rest allows the body to function as it should and work to heal itself.
Chronic fatigue may be the first and most obvious symptom of an underlying medical condition. Identifying any unknown conditions and addressing them as soon as possible may potentially be life-saving. Underlying causes such as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, underlying viral or bacterial infections, dietary issues and neurotransmitter imbalances, can lead to chronic pain, anxiety and depression or other serious medical conditions.
Resolving chronic fatigue not only improves a patient’s energy levels and general quality of life, but also frees the body to focus on healing for long-term benefits.