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What Is Chronic Fatigue And How It May Impact Your Health

Woman with headacheMany people feel tired at the end of a long, busy day. Or after spending Saturday morning chasing the kids or grandkids around the park. Or even after a big business presentation, where you had to be on top of your game. It’s reasonable to feel tired after big events like this.

But how many of you feel tired ALL of the time, or at least more often than you would like, even after simple exertion like walking up the stairs? Maybe you experience difficulty thinking and concentrating, brain fog, short-term memory issues, aching joints and muscles, frequent headaches, allergies, sensitivity to chemicals and certain odors, numbness, stinging, or burning feelings, or problems sleeping. Chronic fatigue can impact your health in all of these ways.

Chronic fatigue is a warning. It is one of the earliest signs that something in our lives-physical, mental, or emotional-is out of balance and the body is no longer able to adapt to those out-of-balance stress levels appropriately.

Basically, chronic fatigue becomes an energy problem on the cellular level. As you know, every muscle, joint, tissue, and organ system in your body is made up of a collection of cells that work together and coordinate to carry out a desired function, all directed by the nervous system. But for these cells to work, they have to have an energy source.

Mitochondria produce the energy units used by the body. Technically this is called ATP. Think of these energy units as Benjamins, or money.

When energy is produced, it’s like making a bank deposit. Money (or energy) is going into the bank account to be used as needed.

What helps you produce energy and make deposits? All things healthy do, things like healthy lifestyle choices, beneficial stress management, adequate sleep, fresh, clean air & water.

The flip side of this, is that this very same money (or energy) is used for all sorts of jobs in your body, from muscle contractions, to your thought processes, to hormone production, digestion, to modulating your stress responses. When you use this money (or energy), it’s just like making a withdrawal from the bank.

When you fail to produce enough energy or make enough deposits, then that’s when fatigue starts to show up.

Visualize this analogy by considering an energetic ATM and cover this point again, because it’s very important.

You do things in your life, like eat healthy food, take some down time, and exercise, that add to your energy bank account by supporting the production of energy/money.

Then, there are also stressors in life, both good and not as good, that pull out withdrawals from your energy bank account-digestion, stress, too little sleep, over exercise.

When you have more deposits than you do withdrawals, your energy levels are sufficient. That means your mitochondria are humming along and producing plenty of energy to meet your demands.

But when you have more withdrawals that you do deposits, then you start to feel the effects of that, such as low energy. The mitochondria can’t keep up with your demand and you simply don’t have the energy reserves to carry out your daily activities.

Does this simple analogy make sense? When energy deposits are greater than energy withdrawals, your cells have the energy and reserves they need to function at their highest levels possible. When you don’t have enough deposits and too many withdrawals over and over again, then that’s when you experience chronic fatigue.

I want to remind you why something like chronic fatigue is important to a chiropractor. It’s because the health of your nervous system and your ability to adapt to life’s stressors plays a big role in your quality of life.

Watch for the next installment of this blog series to learn how chiropractic can help, and how chronic fatigue might show up in your exam results.

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