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Feeling Tired? Common Causes of Low Energy Levels

Familiarize yourself with these common energy zappers

Do you constantly feel tired? Do you wonder why you tire easily? Other questions, which can bug your mind might be: Do I have an undiagnosed disease causing low energy levels? Does my age, poor diet, stress levels (from thinking what could cause your low energy levels) and persistent lack of sleep cause low energy levels? Calm down friend. Let’s address your concerns in this article, shall we?

Fatigue is the sophisticated term used by medical professionals to mean a state of lack of energy and a sense of tiredness. Most of us get tired at some point in our lives, right? What probably concerns us more is the persistence of fatigue despite our best efforts to get rid of it.

The causes of fatigue can be practically divided into two groups:

  • fatigue as a result of non-medical factors
  • fatigue due to medical factors (illness).

We will touch on some of each so you get an idea what may be causing your low energy.


Fatigue (low energy levels and/or tired most of the time) – Non-medical Factors

1. Stress

Do you feel stressed out? Excessive stress can wreck havoc on your energy levels. The toxic word here is excessive. Stress is good for us to a certain degree. When it becomes excessive, it can zap away your energy meter.

2. Emotional State

Do you feel depressed? Do you worry a lot? Depression and worrying a lot are just two of the many emotional states which can suck the life force out of you.

3. Poor diet

If you don’t have enough nutrients and calories in your diet, you can experience low energy levels because your body doesn’t have the tools to keep functioning optimally.

4. Lack of Sleep

You need sleep to replenish your energy levels. During sleep, your body shuts down and goes into hibernation mode. It gives your body a rest from all the basic functions you deal with when you’re awake and time to repair. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep at night.


Fatigue (low energy levels and/or tired most of the time) – Medical Factors (Illness)

938261861. Overstaying Foreigners (Chronic Infections)

The word chronic refers to something which persists for a long period of time. These overstaying foreigners can actually last for months or even years. This type of infection can zap away your energy because of the increase in your major stress hormones (cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine). The rise in these stress hormones occurs because of an increase in substances called cytokines in your system. Cytokines are chemicals produced by your immune system in response to continued chronic infection. Unless the cause of the chronic infection is addressed, your immune system will continue to produce cytokines. Examples of chronic infections include tuberculosis, hepatitis, gingivitis and Lyme disease.

1041168102. Pale Like a Vampire (Anemia)

You meet an old classmate of yours (who is now a doctor) at your high school reunion after several (depends on how old you are) years. She tells you the you look pale. This doesn’t mean that you have whiter skin my friend. It means that you’re running low on red blood cells (RBCs). The RBCs are components of your blood responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to your organs. They give your blood (please don’t faint!) its red colour. If there isn’t enough oxygen delivered to your organs, no energy will be produced. Any shortage of oxygen can result in low energy levels. There are many causes of anemia. Before you receive any treatment for it, the suspicion of anemia should first be confirmed by laboratory tests requested by your doctor. More precisely, the tests will determine how severe your anemia is. It will also help determine the cause of your anemia. The most common causes of anemia include a deficiency of iron and a deficiency of vitamin B12.

1863039833. Faulty Waterworks (Kidney Disease)

Low energy levels could be the result of something wrong with your waterworks or kidneys, the organs which produce your pee. Your waterworks produce a substance called erythropoietin (EPO). It tickles (stimulates) your bone marrow (the fatty and yellow stuff inside both ends of your long bones) to produce red blood cells (RBCs). If there’s something wrong with with your waterworks, they may not produce enough EPO. As a consequence, there are insufficient numbers of RBCs to deliver oxygen to your organs. The result? Low energy levels. To learn more about your waterworks see our ‘Meet your Kidneys’ articles Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

4. Your Bloated Ticker (Congestive Heart Failure)

Sorry, I’m not referring to your love life there, Romeo (or Juliet). A heart condition called congestive heart failure means that your ticker (heart) isn’t strong enough to pump blood to your organs especially your brain, kidneys and muscles. Decreased blood flow to these organs can result in low energy levels. In order to make up for this, your ticker at first works twice as hard. Your heart actually consumes more oxygen. Hey, your heart needs nutrients and oxygen too. Eventually, your ticker tires and you end up with congestive heart failure.

1045203565. The Lethargic Butterfly (Hypothyroidism)

This condition happens when your butterfly-shaped organ (thyroid gland) doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Your thyroid hormones are partially responsible for regulating your metabolism. Metabolism refers to the the breakdown or synthesis of materials in the body. If any of these general processes slows down, you can end up with low energy levels. Though, fatigue is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid. To learn more about this precious gland check out our Thyroid Series: Meet Your Thyroids Part 1, Meet Your Thyroid Part 2 and Meet Your Thyroid Part 3.

6. The President’s Disease (Addison’s Disease)

Former US President John F. Kennedy was known to have Addison’s Disease. The youngest US president elected was a symbol of strength, vibrancy and youth. Little did the world know at that time, that he suffered greatly from this disease. Your adrenals are a pair of endocrine glands riding on top of each kidney. They’re responsible for the production of the adrenal hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. Addison’s Disease is an adrenal condition which leads to an insufficient production of adrenal hormones. The most common cause of this disease is an autoimmune response where your immune system attacks your adorable adrenals and renders them incapable of producing enough adrenal hormones. Being tired most of the time is just one of the many symptoms you can experience with this disease.

1822586617. The Disease with a Zodiac Sign – Cancer

You might find it funny to have a disease with its own zodiac sign – a crab. I assure you, there’s nothing funny about cancer, the Big C. Cancer can cause a variety of symptoms (depending on the type of cancer), one of which is fatigue. Cancer cells grow very quickly so they use energy and other resources which would otherwise go to normal cellular processes in the body. In addition your immune system produces a large amount of cytokines to fight the cancer cells. Both of these factors lead to the fatigue commonly experienced by cancer suffers.

This list isn’t by any means a complete list, we have just highlighted some of the common causes of low energy levels. Firstly, try to determine if you’re lack of energy is likely to be due a non-medical factor. These ones may be easily fixed by you. On the other hand, if you identify a medical factor as the cause for your fatigue you will need to seek the help of your doctor.


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