Fatigue is one of the commonest and most disabling diabetes symptoms. Exhaustion can disrupt and interfere with all aspects of daily living.
What causes diabetes fatigue, and why is it so common?
First, diabetes can directly cause fatigue with high or low blood sugar levels.
• High blood glucose makes your blood “sludgy,” slowing circulation so cells can’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need.
• Low sugars levels also cause fatigue, because when blood sugar is low, there is not enough fuel for the cells to work well.
• In addition, high blood glucose can cause fatigue through inflammation. Blood vessels get inflamed by the sugar. When this happens, according to new research, immune cells called monocytes come into the brain, causing fatigue.
Other medical conditions can also cause fatigue, like…
• Anemia, or low red blood cell counts.
• Low thyroid (“hypothyroidism”) — people with diabetes are more likely than others to have thyroid problems. If your thyroid level is low, you are likely to feel tired, sleepy, and depressed.
• Low testosterone levels, especially in men. Men with diabetes are much more likely to have low testosterone.
• Infections: People with diabetes often have infections they don’t know about. Infections take energy to fight, which can cause fatigue and raise blood sugar levels. A common source is urinary tract or “bladder” infections. They often hurt, but sometimes have no symptoms, except for the fatigue.
• Undiagnosed heart disease: If you get tired after tasks that you used to sail through, it could be time to for a heart check-up.
• Medication side effects: Many drugs for diabetes, blood pressure, depression, pain, and other issues can cause fatigue. Read labels, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Then there are causes that aren’t entirely medical:
• Lack of sleep or poor sleep — Some people are too wound up or too busy to sleep. Or they’re up to use the bathroom all night, or they have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can wake them up many times an hour. If that is happening to you, you are likely to be fatigued during the day.
• Shift work — rotating shifts or working nights — can cause fatigue directly by messing with your body clock or indirectly by disrupting sleep.
• Depression is very common with diabetes. Most depressed people feel fatigued, even if they don’t feel sad. Even at low levels, depression can sap your motivation.
• Doing too much: If you’re ripping and running all day, not taking breaks or even stopping to breathe, you are courting fatigue. Patti wrote, “I think that forcing myself to do everything is just causing the fatigue to worsen.” She’s probably right.
• Stress: In small doses, psychological or physical stress can give you energy, but if it goes on too long, it will wear you out.
• Diet: Too much carbohydrate — especially refined carbs — can make anyone tired, especially with diabetes. Kat wrote, “now that I am eating a higher protein/fat, lower-carbohydrate diet, I have shaken off that really sleepy/extreme fatigue that I used to have every day.”
• According to WebMD, too much caffeine can cause fatigue through a rebound effect. They also say that dehydration, or not drinking enough liquid, is a major cause of fatigue.
• Being out of shape or having weak muscles: Not moving our bodies contributes to fatigue. Of course, it’s hard to exercise when you’re fatigued. We’ll discuss that next week.
• Aging: It is normal to have less energy as we age, but this slowing down should not be dramatic. If loss of energy is rapid or severe, there is something else going on.
Supplement to help against Fatigue
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