Low energy is the complaint I hear most often from otherwise healthy middle-aged men and women. Let’s face it. Life isn’t nearly as enjoyable when we struggle to get through the day because we are tired or fatigue. What are the causes of low energy?
Causes of Low Energy
There are many causes of low energy. The good news is most are fixable. Any disease can be associated with low energy. Below are common causes of low energy in people free of diseases like anemia, auto-immune disease, kidney disease, cancer, and so on.
- Low sex hormones
- Low thyroid
- Low neurotransmitters
- Sleep disturbance
Stress and Depression
Stress and depression are major causes of low energy. Stress contributes to more than 62% percent of office visits to a primary care physician (CDC). It’s interesting that despite technology designed to make our lives easier we are more stressed now than probably anytime in history. And, many times we allow this technology to handcuff us than set us free.
Stress is more harmful than smoking and being obese in terms of its effects on our telomeres. Telomeres determine the rate at which we age. Depression can come from stress but it also has many other causes. The physiologic response to stress is nutrient and hormonally exhaustive. Levels of key vitamins, hormones, and neurotransmitters drop in the face of ongoing stress.
Low sex hormones and thyroid hormone and low neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) are causes of low energy. Thyroid regulates metabolism and makes our mind work more efficiently and every other organ-system as well.
Nutrition contributes to depression too. We’ve been sold the idea that we need more carbohydrates, yet all our vital organ are made of protein and fat. Protein is needed to make hormones and neurotransmitters. Next to water, our body is mostly protein. Fat makes up most of our brain and the cell membranes of all our cells. Essential omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) found in fish and nuts are low in our diets and are critical to hormone/neurotransmitter support. Omega-3s are more and more absent from our diets compared to the diets of our parents and grandparents. Inadequate vitamin D is linked to depression and low energy as are other vitamin deficiencies (vitamin B12).
Low Hormones and Neurotransmitters
Low sex hormones and low neurotransmitters as we just mentioned are causes of low energy. Both sex hormones and neurotransmitters decline with age, but can be restored to optimal levels. High quality protein in the diet helps. Plus, hormone replacement therapy can be considered. There are plenty of drugs (SSRIs and SNRIs) designed to keep the neurotransmitter you are making last longer (they do not boost neurotransmitters production though), but they have side effects which many people do not tolerate.
We need cholesterol to make sex hormones – testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. Yet, a good number of Americans are eliminating cholesterol from their diet and/or are on cholesterol lowering drugs like the statins. Cholesterol increases as we age as our sex hormones decline – the body’s way of trying to compensate for low sex hormones. Statin drugs themself cause low energy.
Several classes of medications contribute to low energy states. These include the statin drugs, blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, narcotic pain medications.
The importance of sleep on health isn’t always appreciated. Sleep disturbance joins the growing causes of low energy. Sleep medicine is a growing specialty. If we don’t sleep well at night we’re not going to have the energy to optimally take on the day. We can having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting adequate deep sleep. There are many causes of poor sleep that should be explored before simply given a prescription for a sleep aid.
Don’t let any of these causes of low energy slow you down. Be sure to talk to your doctor – everything we discussed in this article can be treated.
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