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Eat Yourself Whole

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is a feeling of weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy.
Fatigue is different from drowsiness. Drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of indifference or not caring about what happens) can be symptoms of fatigue.

Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. However, it can also be a nonspecific sign of more serious psychological or physical disorders.

When fatigue is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by your doctor.

A pattern of fatigue may help your doctor determine an underlying cause.

What causes fatigue?

There are many possible physical and psychological causes of fatigue. Some of the more common are:

  • Anemia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Allergies, hay fever or asthma
  • An underactive thyroid 
  • Use of alcohol or illegal drugs 
  • Depression or grief 
  • Fatigue can also accompany an illnesses or infection

  How can fatigue be treated?

  • Regular and consistent amounts sleep.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Maintain a balance work and personal schedule.
  • Where possible reduce stress.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and drug use.

Are smart drinks and caffeine good for fatigue?

Caffeine and other stimulates are not effective treatments for fatigue. They provide short term relief of the symptoms. When stopped or withdrawn they may actually make the fatigue worse.

Replace caffeine and soft drinks with decaffeinated drinks and limit your intake. Consider replacing sugary foods with Low GI foods for longer more sustained energy.

How can diet help with fatigue?

Food is the body's fuel. If you wake feeling tied each morning, you may not have eaten enough food the previous day or night. This means that the body has not had enough fuel to regenerate overnight.

Afternoon fatigue is the result of missing, not eating enough or eating foods high in sugar or fast acting carbohydrates for breakfast and lunch.

Reducing the amount of sugar and fast releasing or High GI foods in your diet and opting to eat smaller amounts, approximately every four hours during the day can help relief fatigue.  Replacing them with a balanced diet incorporating Low GI foods, you will provide a more stable source of fuel which helps to maintain energy levels.

For more information on a Low GI or Low Glycemic Index Diet pick up a copy of The New Glucose Revolution or The Low GI Diet by Professor Jenny Brand-Miller and Kay Foster-Powell with Joanne McMillan-Price, Published in New Zealand by Hodder.

Or contact a New Zealand registered dietitian. (