Fight Fatigue

What's normal, and when to seek medical attention

wh blog - fighting fatigueWomen are often pulled in multiple directions throughout their week — children, work, parents, home…our To Do lists seem never-ending. It’s no surprise that women often complain of fatigue. So what’s normal fatigue and when is it something that needs medical attention?

Here are some red flags that should prompt you to discuss your fatigue with your doctor:

  • Fatigue is accompanied by feeling down and depressed
  • You are not rested even after a good night’s sleep
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded
  • Your skin is exceptionally dry or you’re losing hair

Depression, anemia and thyroid problems can all contribute to excess feelings of fatigue. The good news is that they can be treatable. A visit to your healthcare provider can help uncover any medical source of your fatigue so you can start treatment. Any dizziness or lightheadedness can be associated with anemia. Dry skin and hair loss are tied to low thyroid hormones.

Lifestyle choices can also be contributing factors to fatigue. Eating well and exercising regularly can help. Eat small, frequent meals focusing on protein and complex carbohydrates (which can be found in vegetables and whole grains). If you eat too many simple carbohydrates (such as those found in sugar and white flour), you are more likely to experience spikes in your blood sugar. The spikes can give you a burst of energy, but then you crash and feel even more tired.

Also keep your caffeine intake to a minimum — no more than the equivalent of one or two cups of coffee per day. Just like the simple carbs, caffeine can give you peaks and valleys of energy and fatigue. Avoid caffeine completely after lunchtime. Even if you used to drink coffee after dinner, your body can become more sensitive to the caffeine over time and you’ll have trouble sleeping.

Getting exercise every day can also help fight fatigue. Rather than taking a nap next time you’re feeling tired, try a brisk walk instead. Most importantly, be good to yourself. Life doesn’t always look like what you may have imagined. Your house may not be spotless, your clothes might not be ironed, but that’s OK. Prioritize what’s really important. If you’re enjoying life, let some of the small stressors go and cut yourself some slack. Feeling less stressed can help you feel less fatigued.

Take the next step:


margaret riley mdDr. Margaret Alana Riley is family medicine physician at the University of Michigan’s Women’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. She completed her residency and fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical School. She serves as co-medical director for the U-M Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools.  Dr. Riley sees patients at the Corner Health Center.




university of michigan women's hospitalThe University of Michigan’s Women’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital is a leader women’s health care.  Consistently ranked among the America’s top gynecology programs by U.S. News & World Report, U-M is committed to unsurpassed patient care for women.