That is a very good question and one that is not always easily answered. Common causes of fatigue include acute severe illness of almost any cause; cancers, chronic infections such as HIV, hepatitis, endocarditis, mononucleosis, endocrine disorders, renal failure, hepatic failure, heart failure, and anemia. Patients with fibromyalgia, depression or chronic fatigue syndrome may report weakness or fatigue but have no defined objective abnormalities.
Chinese medicine considers fatigue or exhaustion to be due to the “6 Extremes” and the “7 Injuries”. The “6 Extremes” are due to overexertion of the body leading to depletion of Qi, Blood, Tendons, Bones, Muscles and Essence. The “7 Injuries” refer to the damage inflicted on internal organs by various excesses which injure their energy. Thus:
– overeating injures the Spleen (a digestive organ in Chinese medicine)
– excessive and prolonged anger injures the Liver and makes Qi rise
– lifting excessive weights or sitting on damp ground injures the Kidneys (includes the adrenals)
– exposure to cold and drinking cold liquids injure the Lungs
– excessive worrying and thinking injure the Heart
– wind, rain, cold and heat injure the body
– fear, anxiety and shock injure the Mind
In simpler terms, the following 7 causes contribute to exhaustion:
1. Weak Constitution
A hereditary weakness of constitution is an obvious and frequent cause of chronic tiredness or fatigue. These include the parents’ constitution in general, the parents’ health and age at the time of conception, the conditions of pregnancy, and childhood development.
Excessive mental or physical work; long hours of work without adequate rest and work under stressful conditions.
3. Physical Overexertion
This includes both overexertion in the course of work and excessive exercising or sporting activities.
Improper diet is a very important cause of chronic tiredness. Irregular eating directly weakens the absorption and assimilation of nutrients and therefore leads to chronic tiredness.
5. Severe Illness
Any severe protracted illness can contribute to chronic tiredness.
The demands of pregnancy and delivery can deplete a woman. Her body is vulnerable and great care should be taken to eat well and rest. All of the precautions that apply after childbirth also apply after miscarriage. Due to the loss of blood and emotional sense of loss following a miscarriage can actually weaken a woman more than childbirth.
7. “Recreational” Drugs
Research has shown that prolonged and continued use of drugs such as cannabis, LSD, cocaine or heroin can be significant causes of chronic tiredness and lethargy.
The treatment of fatigue will always be determined by the cause of the disease and will almost always include a cross-therapeutic approach including ̶ but not limited to ̶ proper rest, acupuncture, herbal therapies, supplements, nutritional counseling and appropriate types and levels of exercise or movement therapies.
Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 17+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299.