So many people are walking around feeling lethargic and tired. They may wake up with low energy to start the day, or by the time the work day is done they’re on the couch needing a nap.
Does this sound like you? Your spouse? A close friend?
Unfortunately, 1 in 4 doctor’s office visits include the complaint of fatigue, or general tiredness. And although it’s becoming a more common concern lately, there are also reasons behind the symptom that can be easily uncovered with routine blood work. (This is a good thing!)
Here are a list of the most common blood tests that I request for my patients with low energy (there are more, but the ones I have listed below are routinely done with your medical doctor (or naturopath) and should be the first step in any treatment plan):
CBC (complete blood count)
This is the most basic blood test done in any lab. It gives us an idea of the shape & size of your red blood cells (as well as the number of them) in order to see if you have anemia or other deficiency that is causing your body to feel fatigued.
If you have low ferritin (the storage form of iron), it does NOT mean you have anemia. A lot of women I see in my practice blame low ferritin for their fatigue when their CBC looks fine. The range for this marker can vary widely, and depending on how heavy your menstrual cycle is, it can also fluctuate from time to time. Ideally, a value of 20ng/mL or greater is optimal. If your levels are extremely low, a short term supplement of easily-absorbed iron may help.
TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)
This test is the most common one to be misinterpreted or left out entirely! This is a general measure of thyroid health and tells us a bit about how well your metabolism is doing. Remember, the thyroid gland is often referred to as the ‘master gland’ that keeps your body temperate, bowels and metabolism in a healthy rhythm. The ‘normal’ ranges for this test can be misleading when you feel tired (especially if you also feel cold, sluggish or have difficulty losing weight). In general, naturopathic doctors like to see this number below 2.5 mIU/L, though most MDs are okay with anything less than 5mIU/L. Be sure to check your levels on this one!
Less commonly done with routine blood work, but a very inexpensive and useful test when it comes to low energy. B12 levels can range greatly and still be considered ‘normal’, but if you don’t eat meat regularly, are taking certain medications or have any digestive issues, your levels can be lower than you think! If you’re feeling fatigued and your levels are less than 400 pg/mL, it may be worth supplementing with a high-quality active form of B12 called methylcobalamin.
There you have it! If you’re suffering from fatigue, the first step is to rule out some of the most common causes to get your energy back! Talk to your naturopath or other qualified healthcare provider to get expert advice on interpreting your results.
If you feel this article has been helpful be sure to let me know in the comments below & share it so that we can inspire more people to take control of their health!!