How to Tell When Your Fatigue is Not Normal

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It can be easy to dismiss your fatigue and make excuses for why you can’t function throughout the day. At first, you may just decide that you’re overworked and try to go to bed earlier, stop eating carbs or drink more coffee—and those may have helped give you more energy! But then, 2 p.m. hits, you’re exhausted, you have three more hours of your workday to complete and you have no freaking clue why you’re so tired. You get enough sleep, you eat clean, you’ve switched to a more natural source of caffeine but nothing makes you feel better.

Fatigue can be a normal part of human life. If you’re pushing yourself to the limits every day, over exercising, over stressing and not getting enough sleep, it’s completely natural to feel tired. This kind of fatigue can cause you to nod off during a particularly boring business meeting, or force you into bed early but the exhaustion is typically resolved by a week-long vacation on the beach catching up on rest and relaxation.

So how do you know if your fatigue is due to your behaviors or to something else, like your thyroid? Hypothyroid fatigue is best described as the inability to get through your workday without feeling like you’re walking around wearing wet clothing. Like getting out of bed feels like you’re emerging from the bottom of the ocean, just to doggie-paddle your way throughout your day. While your body is physically tired, your mind is also filled with fog and you’re constantly having to expel brain power to sift through that fog to find information. The combination gets overwhelming and only adds to your exhaustion.

It can be tricky to determine if your fatigue is thyroid-related, but here are some key questions that may help.

  1. Do you drink caffeine? Does it help you? If no, did it help you in the past?
  2. How much sleep do you get? Do you wake feeling refreshed? If no, how long does it take for you to ‘get going’ in the morning?
  3. When did you start noticing your fatigue as a concern? (Note: Most hypothyroid patients haven’t noticed a specific onset of fatigue—it progressively gets worse over time until you just get fed up!)
  4. If you went to the grocery store without a list, would you remember what you needed for your refrigerator?
  5. Do you often start sentences that you cannot finish, or forget what you were just talking about? Do you have trouble processing information or feel like your brain is running too slow to keep up with you?

If you were answering those questions and starting to recognize that your fatigue may actually be caused by an underactive thyroid then it may be time you seek out additional lab testing. It will be important to get a more in-depth panel to really diagnose which aspect of your thyroid function is causing you to feel this way. Some lab testing that may be helpful is a TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies. We’ve discussed all of these tests and what kind of information they tell you in our Jumpstart Your Thyroid webinar. Sign up here to get more info—because your fatigue shouldn’t run your life and we can help!

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