When someone with an autoimmune disorder says they are tired, they mean it. Imagine you have spoonfuls of energy throughout the day. An individual with autoimmune fatigue starts the day with fewer spoonfuls and needs more spoonfuls for each activity compared to a healthy individual. If you have an autoimmune disorder and struggle with fatigue, this article will teach you how to deal with autoimmune fatigue.
What is Fatigue?
Understanding fatigue is the first step to coping with your autoimmune fatigue. The fact of the matter is that fatigue is not the same as feeling tired. Everyone can feel tired at times, whereas fatigue is characterized by overwhelming exhaustion that is not relieved by sleep.
It is a common symptom associated with autoimmune diseases and can make other symptoms, such as pain and joint stiffness feel more severe and limiting.
Not only that but fatigue can affect your mental and emotional well-being as well and lead to brain fog. If you feel like your body and limbs are heavy and hard to move, your energy has drained away, and you are struggling with motivation – you are experiencing fatigue. If you’re one of our patients with autoimmune or chronic fatigue, you’ve probably heard me refer to it as feeling like every cell in your body is carrying a sandbag over it’s shoulder and everything feels heavier and more sluggish than it should.
What Causes Fatigue?
Fatigue is your body’s response to a build-up of stressful events, experiences, health issues, or feelings. In most cases, there is no single cause of fatigue but rather a variety of factors.
Additionally, fatigue is often worse when a health condition, like an autoimmune disease, is not managed well. Here are several of the different causes of fatigue:
The inflammatory response associated with autoimmune conditions affects the whole body and causes a variety of symptoms, including pain, swelling, stiffness, loss of joint function – and fatigue.
A lack of red blood cells, which deliver oxygen around your body, can lead to weaker muscles and lower energy levels, especially for individuals with a chronic disease. Anemia can also be caused by iron deficiency.
Overdoing it with a nonstop “get-er-done” kind of attitude can come back to bite. This occurs when you continue your tasks, ignoring your pain or tiredness until you physically and mentally cannot continue. In fact, stress plays an important role in the onset of autoimmune diseases.
Poor quality sleep
Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good-quality sleep. Insomnia can cause fatigue, get in the way of your daily activities, and may make you sleepy during the day.
Autoimmune diseases can disrupt how your body absorbs nutrients from food. When you lack important nutrients from your diet because your digestion is compromised, fatigue often results.
Types of Autoimmune Diseases
In this article, we are delving into how to deal with autoimmune fatigue, which means the cause of fatigue we will focus on is inflammation associated with an autoimmune disease.
Of course, the other causes of fatigue, like anemia, stress, and insomnia, can all be connected to autoimmune disorders in a bi-directional relationship, as in they are both causes and effects of each other.
That being said, here are some of the most common types of autoimmune diseases:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. About 14 million Americans struggle with Hashimoto’s, and it is the most common cause of hypothyroidism or low thyroid.
Type I diabetes. Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), this disorder affects about five percent of Americans and usually appears in childhood or adolescence.
Lupus. One of the most common autoimmune diseases, Lupus affects women more than men and is often misdiagnosed as other natural health problems like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Rheumatoid arthritis. This causes chronic inflammation in joints, including your wrists, ankles, feet, and fingers, which can lead to pain and disability.
Celiac disease (CD). An autoimmune reaction to gluten, a natural protein found in common grains like wheat and rye. It affects one out of every 133 Americans.
Multiple sclerosis. This is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It can cause problems from vision issues to muscle weakness or paralysis, depending on where the natural lesions are located in your body.
Psoriasis. An autoimmune condition affecting about seven million Americans, with symptoms including itchy red patches of skin covered with natural scales that can appear anywhere on the body.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
Symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary depending on your disease; however, some similarities exist between conditions due to a shared immune system response.
Here are a few common symptoms:
Weight gain or loss
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Best Ways to Restore Energy Levels
Managing your autoimmune fatigue begins with identifying the underlying root cause. That means getting inflammation and pain associated with your autoimmune disease under control as well as reducing any stress and anxiety in your life. Here are some of the best ways to restore energy levels:
Don’t use up all your energy in one go. It’s a great way to exacerbate pain and fatigue. Slow down, pace yourself, and try not to take on too much.
Sometimes you are so exhausted that you can’t even sleep. Not sleeping well exacerbates fatigue in a vicious cycle. Unlike healthy people, people with autoimmune or inflammatory diseases have to work even harder to get good rest, so you have to make quality sleep one of your top priorities. Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet, and move electronics out of the bedroom. Turn off all screens 1 to 2 hours before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from your devices (phone, TV, computer, iPad) trick your body into thinking it’s earlier in the day, which can shut down your melatonin production. A variety of supplements like lemon balm, L-theanine, glycine, and melatonin can also be helpful in various situations to improve sleep quality. Always discuss with your primary care provider before starting a new supplement protocol.
Peptides are chains of amino acids that work on cellular signaling. With inflammation and aging, many signaling processes in the body begin to break down. Peptides can be an excellent tool to restore these processes. Peptides are beneficial tools for restoring proper immune function, decreasing inflammation, and improving cell-to-cell communication. Peptides should be prescribed by your healthcare provider and taken as directed.
Ozone is an oxidative therapy that can help decrease inflammation and repair immune function in the body. It breaks down the replication of infection when an infection is a contributing cause of autoimmune inflammation. Ozone therapy can be performed in both low-dose and high-dose applications depending on the individual’s history, presentation, and goals. Ozone also offers an element of cellular repair. When we improve the functionality of your cells, they’re able to create cellular energy more effectively, decreasing your overall levels of fatigue.
Supplements can help support your body and reduce fatigue by boosting your body’s stores of the vital nutrients it needs to function properly. Supplements that restore proper nutrients are essential, as well as supplements that heal and improve funciton of your mitochondria (the powerhouse in each of your cells). Supplements to consider include; a probiotic for gut health, vitamin D, CoQ10, PQQ, NMN, methylated B complex, and a high quality mineral. Always talk to your primary care provider before starting a new supplement protocol.
IV therapy is a great way to boost your body’s ability to fight fatigue. IV therapy provides electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. These ingredients provide an energy boost and symptom relief. IV treatment works quickly because fluids are infused into the bloodstream for maximum effect. Restoring vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes via IV therapy can also help to heal the cells and restore proper function. This repair process allows better energy production.
You can’t out-supplement a bad diet. A healthy diet is the key to overcoming your autoimmune disease and restoring your energy levels. In fact, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help get your inflammation under control. Reduce or eliminate processed foods, sugary sweets, salty snacks, and fast food. Instead, eat more fruits, vegetables, and clean proteins.
Physical activity is probably the last thing on your mind; however, a little bit of physical activity each day is one of the best things you can do to increase your energy levels. Not only is it a great way to deal with autoimmune fatigue, regular exercise releases endorphins which help reduce pain and boost mood. The key is balance. Too much exercise can exacerbate joint pain and leave your body in a stressed state. Focus on low-impact activities like walking, swimming, biking, and range-of-motion exercises to build muscle and keep your joints flexible. Work with your provider to decide when your body is ready to take on more intense exercise, as weight lifting can be fantastic for cellular optimization and decreasing fatigue. The idea is that you want to improve the functionality of your cells before adding this element of training as it too can become a stressor when implemented on a body that is running on fumes.
Work with Peak Health Institute
At Peak Health Institute, we make it a point to get to the underlying root cause of your autoimmune disease.
All of the above-suggested tools for autoimmune fatigue can feel daunting when you are exhausted and experiencing other inflammatory symptoms day in and day out. The benefit of working with a functional medicine provider who is well-versed in autoimmune disease is that we recognize the challenges of implementing many of these tools. We can help give you the road map of implementation and the ‘how’ behind supporting your cells to function well and restore cellular energy.
Paired with our integrative solutions and functional medicine approach, we help you heal through diet and lifestyle changes, IV and injection therapy, and a guided supplement plan based on your individual blood work. Learn more about our services and get started here!