Chronic Fatigue

I recently attended a great seminar by Metagenics, entitled ‘Cellular and Systemic Bioenergetics: Effective Solutions for Clinical Fatigue’.  It sounds like a fancy name, but all in all it was a seminar that focused on why people feel tired a lot of the time, and what we can do about it, by finding and addressing the underlying cause.  Which, as you probably have already figured out, is practically a naturopath’s motto.


I learnt quite a lot, including some fantastic new research that has been occurring in the area of fatigue.  But I also learnt some quite sobering statistics too.  For instance, it is estimated that up to 25% of all patients who are consulting with a healthcare provider suffer from long-lasting fatigue. What was even more concerning was the fact that for almost half of these patients, nothing is found that is ‘wrong’ – in other words, no cause can be found. 2     Many people are told that their lack of energy is ‘normal’ or even that it is ‘all in their head’.  And I would hazard a guess that these people form a large proportion of those that end up sitting in my clinic…


When it comes to fatigue (as I mentioned in a previous post),  finding and addressing the underlying cause is so important, if energy levels are to be improved.  This is one of the reasons why an initial appointment at the clinic covers so much ground, both within the consult itself and the testing portion of the appointment.  Because, in order to really make changes that last, we need to know exactly what we are dealing with.  And when it comes to energy, it can be lacking for many reasons, including prolonged stress, nutrient deficiencies (more common than you think, and certainly more common than the media would have you believe), inflammation, a diet that is too high in processed foods (particularly carbohydrates), or an underactive thyroid gland.  Sometimes the cause can be easily located, and addressed, as is the case with iron or B-vitamin deficiency.


However, there can be more serious underlying causes of fatigue, which may go unnoticed or even un-thought-of by your healthcare provider, sometimes for many years.  What I am talking about is chronic infection.  It has been shown that an infection of some sort precedes the onset of fatigue in almost half of all chronically tired people.3    This infection often coincides with a period of stress that the person suffered around the same time – meaning that effectively the body’s immune defence would have been less than optimal at that point in time, leaving the person more susceptible to the infection.  Some chronic infections actually have the ability to ‘hide’ from the immune system – which means that not only can the immune system not shake them off effectively, they also don’t always show up on a test.   These are known as ‘stealth infections’ or ‘stealth pathogens’.   I’ve certainly had clients that tell me they’ve ‘never felt right since I got sick that time….’ – which I use a vital clue to help piece together the parts of the puzzle to zone in on what is ultimately driving that person’s tiredness.

If you do suffer from fatigue that has persisted for some time, particularly if no cause has been found,

it’s probably time to book an appointment and see what we can find out.

1  Toulkidis, V.  Chronic fatigue syndrome.  Med J Aust 2002;176(9): 17-55
2 Speer, L., & Mushkbar, S.  ‘Doctor, I’m so tired!’  Refining your work-up for chronic fatigue.  J Fam Pract. 2015 Feb;64(2):84-91
3  Johnston, S.C. et al.  Epidemiological characteristics of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis in Australian patients.  Clinical Epidemiology.  2016;8:97-107