Are you struggling to find the energy and motivation to keep up to speed with everyday tasks at work or in day to day life?
Maybe you get home from work and feel like collapsing on the couch and ordering takeaway?
If your low energy levels are not being fixed with a good night’s sleep and you are experiencing low energy consistently. Then it’s probably time for you to do a little digging and suss out what is driving your lack of energy.
Discovering the underlying cause to your low energy levels is important, as sometimes if left untouched, it could lead to a more serious condition that could have been prevented.
Three Common Causes to Low Energy in Women
- Subclinical Hypothyroidism
Your thyroid is a gland that plays an important role in your metabolism, this means it controls the way your body uses energy. When your thyroid isn’t working optimally, this function can be compromised causing you to feel fatigued.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is where your laboratory results show your peripheral thyroid hormonal levels to be with in the normal reference range, but your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is elevated. This condition occurs in 3% – 8% of the general population, affecting more women than men.
Elevated TSH can be an early indicator that your thyroid may not be functioning optimally (if there is no virus or infection present). When elevated long term, it can lead to reduced production of Thyroxine (T4) and then Triiodothyronine (T3) which is your active thyroid hormone.
Addressing the root cause of your subclinical hypothyroidism early on can help to prevent it from transitioning into clinical hypothyroidism.
Triggers and contributing factors to subclinical hypothyroidism may include:
- Long term stress
- Mineral deficiencies which are required as building blocks to make healthy thyroid hormones
- Digestive infections
- Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
- Leaky gut syndrome
Common symptoms associated with subclinical hypothyroidism include:
- Feelings of exhaustion and sluggishness most of the day
- Frequently feeling cold
- Cold hands and feet
- Hair loss and/or dry hair
- Loss of hair on the outer eyebrow
- Dry skin on your shins
- Fluid retention in your feet and ankles
To assess the adequate functioning of your thyroid, a full thyroid panel may be recommended to include your TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3 and antibodies.
Irregular Blood Sugar Levels
Waking up with coffee, skipping breakfast, eating pasta or a sandwich for lunch, followed by chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate when 3 pm hits, is a recipe for disaster and shocking blood sugar levels.
The above may be a regular habit for you or it might be a little exaggerated. Whichever the case may be, if you aren’t eating every 2 hours or so with a balanced portion of low GI carbohydrates, proteins and fats you will be more prone to irregular blood sugar levels.
Your blood sugar levels are directly associated with your energy levels. High releases of sugar in the bloodstream (like when you’ve eaten a bar of chocolate or a bowl of pasta) will often follow with you crashing and feeling tired an hour or so later.
If you eat high carbohydrate or sugary foods several times a day without enough protein, your energy levels will be on a roller coaster ride leading to fatigue and sluggishness.
Check out these signs that may be a hint your blood sugar levels could be affecting your energy:
- Cravings for sugar and chocolate
- Your energy improves after eating something sweet
- Light headedness
- Poor concentration, or a feeling of fogginess
- Nervousness, anxiety
To determine if poor blood sugar regulation is an issue, I may recommend we do some blood testing to assess your fasting glucose level and insulin. This will help determine exactly how well your body processors sugar for energy production.
Long Standing Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes to low energy in women, but it can often be overlooked even when regular blood tests are being taken.
The reference range for ferritin (iron storage) in women is between 30 – 200 which is a very broad reference range. If your levels are within range, you may not necessarily be recommended an iron supplement (even if it’s on the lower end!). For optimal energy production I like to see these levels between 75 – 100 in menstruating women.
To maintain healthy iron levels, eating a palm portion size of red meat twice weekly should help to maintain healthy iron storage. If you are doing this and you are still regularly low on iron (possibly to the extent of requiring annual iron infusions) then asking the question ‘Why are you low in iron?’ is important. That’s because it could be a tell-tale sign that something is going a miss.
A few contributing factors (apart from lack of iron consumption through your diet) that may cause long term iron deficiency is:
- Parasitic infection with Blastocystis hominisor Dientamoeba fragilis
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth can inhibit absorption of not only iron but other minerals through the small intestine
- Heavy menstrual periods: Painful periods with flooding and/or large blood clots is not normal and can indicate a hormonal imbalance or an underlying condition that has not been diagnosed, such as endometriosis. This will greatly increase blood and iron loss.
If you find dark blood in your bowel motion it could potentially be life threating. This should be discussed with your Doctor for further investigations.
I hope that this information has given you more insight into the cause of your low energy levels so that you can get to the bottom of it for good!
By Chloe Dennison