Published April 22, 2012
Are you feeling exhausted during the day? Do you drag yourself into the house and barely make it to bed at night? Maybe you don’t make it to bed, falling asleep on the couch or a comfortable chair. Even if you get enough sleep at night you still don’t have any energy.
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints I hear from patients, friends and family members. Many of us are tired of (excuse the pun) being fatigued, but we just deal with because we don’t know what to do or what is making us tired.
There are so many common reasons why we could be fatigued -- we have a poor diet, we're over-stressed, depressed, or not getting enough sleep at night.
Oftentimes we may be dealing with one or more of these situations and don’t stop to think our fatigue could be due to a medical reason. Or we might think making an appointment to go to the doctor is just one more thing we have to put on our long to do list.
However there is a very simple medical reason that often makes us extremely tired that women overlook -- anemia. It is found with a very simple blood test called a complete blood test (CBC).
This is why it is important to get your blood drawn every year during your annual exam. If you have anemia the number of your red blood cells is less than the normal levels.
Why does the amount of red blood cells affect your energy level? One of the main functions of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to each cell in the body.
Oxygen is used by our cells to create energy. So if you do not have enough red blood cells to carry the oxygen you will not be able to get energy from your cells.
There can be several different types of anemia that require different nutritional support. Iron deficiency is the most common, but it is not the only type of anemia.
I will talk about iron deficiency because it is the one that I see the most often. Iron is one of the building blocks of our red blood cells. If you don’t have enough iron in your diet then you will not have enough to create your red blood cells.
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The way to solve this issue is to add more iron containing foods to your diet.
Examples of foods that contain iron are red meats, egg yolks, dark leafy greens, raisins, oysters, turkey, chick peas, liver and artichokes. Red meat actually is the easiest form for our bodies to absorb.
You can also take iron supplementation. I have had more than one patient refuse to take their prescription iron supplement because it caused constipation. I had a simple solution change the form of iron to iron citrate and take it with vitamin C and they were able to take the iron supplementation and increase their iron levels.
If you have a history of anemia as a child or teenager make sure you continue to check your blood levels because it could be still affecting you now. If you are losing blood because of your monthly period you might be anemic. As we lose blood each month our red blood cell numbers drop and we have to replenish them.
No one wants to be tired or feel too exhausted to enjoy their lives. Going to the doctor to get your blood drawn can change your life for the better, just by finding out that you need to support your body's ability to manufacturer red blood cells. Understanding that you have anemia is the first step in correcting it.
The next step is to understand why you have it in the first place.
Anemia is a symptom that something else is out of balance in the body. So once you confirm it with a blood test, the next step is to talk with you doctor about why it is there in the first place.
The answer could be as simple as that you have a heavy menstrual flow each month, or it could be a sign of something more serious. Once you solve the problem you will have more energy, and be healthier in the process.