“The people in whom CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) often takes a hold are those driven, workaholic, goal driven, perfectionist, ‘never say die’ characters.” ~ Dr. Sarah Myhill (Author of Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalitis)
Fatigue – It’s Not All In Your Head (or Your Genes)
When it comes to fatigue, like many chronic health concerns, you may be wondering whether it’s genetic. Perhaps you’ve noticed family links and wonder if you were just born to be more tired than those superhumans you know with boundless energy.
Fatigue does have some genetic associations, but like most (and not all) health concerns, lifestyle factors end up weighing more heavily in terms of symptomatology.
Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported health concerns at Primary Care Practitioners’ offices, and post-pandemic, for various reasons, this symptom has only been on the rise.
Although there is a genetic component to fatigue, the drivers of it are, in fact, complex.
While genes may play a part, the environment is typically a more significant factor in whether fatigue will become a prominent concern or even increase to a debilitating level, such as in Chronic Fatigue syndrome.
This article includes some of the common reasons for clinical fatigue and some of the genetic markers associated with them, along with some of the lifestyle factors that may play into exhaustion that is not necessarily correlated with genetics.
Clinical Fatigue and Associated Genes
Below are a few of the more common mechanisms associated with tiredness. Each has many genetic correlations, a few of which are below.
1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a complex disorder characterized by an extreme underlying medical condition that cannot explain.
Evidence suggests that genetic factors may play a role in the development of CFS, two of those genes being below.
COMT is a gene that encodes for an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters. Certain COMT variations are associated with poor stress tolerance and Chronic Fatigue syndrome.
The TPH gene is associated with the biosynthesis of serotonin, and suboptimal variations are associated with sleep issues and chronic fatigue syndrome.
2. Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Another common reason for tiredness, on a biochemical level, is Mitochondrial Dysfunction, or suboptimal activity of the Mitochondria.
The “powerhouse of the cell”, as you may have heard it referred to in high school, mitochondria are responsible for producing energy.
Genetic mutations that affect mitochondrial function can lead to various symptoms, including fatigue.
Suboptimal variations of the SOD2 gene are associated with reduced catalytic activity in the mitochondria and increased oxidative stress, which can be associated with symptoms like tiredness and fatigue.
Suboptimal variations of GPx are associated with lower enzymatic activity in the mitochondrial and increased oxidative stress, which can also be associated with symptoms like fatigue and tiredness.
3. Sleep Disorders
Genetic factors can also contribute to certain sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea, which can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
The two genes below can commonly affect neuronal factors associated with circadian rhythm issues.
Suboptimal variations of 5HTTLPR are associated with dysregulated serotonin, irritability, and a disrupted circadian rhythm.
The BDNF gene encodes for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), with suboptimal variations being associated with decreased neural plasticity, trait ‘neuroticism’, and disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythm.
Environmental Factors Associated with Fatigue
While genes can contribute to tiredness and fatigue, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep patterns also play a significant role.
If you are experiencing chronic fatigue or tiredness, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Below are some of the most common lifestyle factors contributing to tiredness and fatigue.
A diet high in sugar and one that leads to spikes and dips in blood glucose can affect fatigue. Any diet higher in inflammatory foods or beverages, such as fried foods, alcohol, additives, and sugar, will likely contribute to fatigue.
An anti-inflammatory or ‘low glycemic’ diet is likely to reduce symptoms of fatigue.
Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about a diet best suited to your physiology.
2. Stressful Lifestyle or Conditions
A fast-paced lifestyle, with limited downtime over months or years, can significantly drive fatigue.
Consider slowing down and integrating more restorative time into your week, as well as relaxing activities or rituals to ‘wind down’.
Smoking is an extra oxidative stress on the body and increases our toxic burden, so no surprise that it can contribute to tiredness, as well as countless other health concerns.
An increased viral load can lead to inflammation and subsequent tiredness.
Check for underlying viruses with your Doctor if you suspect that may be a factor.
5. Hormonal Fluctuations
Menstruating women will often experience fluctuations in energy throughout the month, which can contribute to feelings of tiredness around the end, or beginning of one’s menstrual cycle, in particular.
Other hormonal factors, like low testosterone, particularly in men, or hormonal imbalances in both sexes, can contribute to tiredness.
6. Toxic Burden
Other than smoking, there are countless different ways that we can be exposed to excess toxicity.
It’s not about avoiding every potential toxin but understanding that our body has limits to what we can carry when it comes to toxins.
To some extent, this is individual. However, reducing our overall toxic burden is generally beneficial.
Toxins can be from pesticides, medications, alcohol, toxic cleaning products, etc., which can all build up. Reducing excess exposures where we can help improve our overall health and energy.
Next Steps to Reduce Symptoms of Fatigue
When it comes to symptoms of fatigue and tiredness, there are countless lifestyle and potential genetic factors.
When we figure out the root cause of our tiredness, whether due to a lifestyle factor like poor sleep hygiene, or an underlying mechanism with a genetic link like suboptimal mitochondrial function, we are in a better position to address it.
You have what it takes inside you to make a definite choice that will change the future trajectory of your health.
Working with a Functional Medical or Naturopathic Doctor with an understanding of the complex drivers of fatigue and its genetic correlations can help identify the problem specifically, to put together a plan to create lasting change.
Our team at Tiger Medical has the experience, clinical skills, and coaching acumen to help you get your health and energy back.
To talk to one of our professionals, click here to schedule your call!
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