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Tired of Being Tired

By Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

It is estimated that over 50% of the American population experiences chronic fatigue. The most common causes are stress, overwork, insomnia, depression, and various malfunctions in the major systems of the body (endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, etc.) Western medicine is decidedly lacking in safe and effective treatment options for fatigue. Quite commonly, the first step is to use a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as Prozac, Paxil, or Wellbutrin, as fatigue is commonly associated with depression. Although trends are changing among the newer generation of doctors, it is still quite rare that the patient is offered lifestyle counseling that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and sleep. There are many wonderful alternative treatment options that include acupuncture, herbs, nutrition/hydration, and exercise. Acupuncture tops the list because it tends to be so effective in supplementing the body’s energy.


Acupuncture tends to be very effective for treating fatigue because it supplements the body’s energy.  The majority of patients who complain of fatigue suffer from a deficiency of vital energy (Qi). Qi is the basic energy that creates optimal physiological and neurological function Aside from fatigue, other signs of Qi deficiency are diarrhea, pallor, easy bruising, excessive sleep (more than 9 hrs. a night), scanty menses or amenorrhea, frequent urination, low libido, and shortness of breath. The strategy of Chinese medicine is to identify a pattern of disharmony that reflects the entirety of one’s symptoms, pulse qualities, and tongue appearance.

Qi deficiency primarily affects 4 different organs: the spleen, kidney, heart, and lungs. Here are symptoms related specifically to each organ according to Chinese medicine.  If you find that you have a dominant pattern with one organ it may be time to take some herbs to tonify your Qi.
Spleen: diarrhea, loose stools, bloating, bruising, fatigue, prolapse, laconic speech, internal cold
Kidney: low back pain, low libido, fatigue, internal cold, frequent urination
Heart: restless sleep, worry, fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath
Lung: chronic cough, weak immunity, allergies, fatigue, shortness of breath, asthma


We believe that a healthy diet is the best medicine you can take.  Since we eat on a daily basis, it is the easiest and most reliable way of getting all of the essential nutrients that we need. Nutrients are generally more easily absorbed from whole food sources, compared to isolated supplements.  Taking a good look at your diet is a great place to begin your detective work on how to have more energy.  Are you getting enough protein, veggies, fruits, clean drinking water?  For some of us our diets are the first place in our routine to be sacrificed when we are tired/overwhelmed.  We always recommend small steps, one more glass of water per day or something green with most of your meals. Making diet changes can be done slowly and in a way that does not add to your stress but does add to your energy.

We recommend getting 20-30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week. At first, this may feel forced and difficult because you won’t want to exercise when you feel tired. After a few days, however, your body will begin to love the endorphin release and serotonin boost that exercise provides. Exercise alone can be a wonderful cure for fatigue. Your program should be a combination of cardiovascular and restorative exercise. Cardiovascular exercise involves running, biking, swimming, hiking, etc. Restorative exercise involves yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.

Many people with chronic fatigue can attribute this pattern to a central theme that is stealing their energy. Perhaps you are in a relationship that is not working or a job that feels stagnant. Maybe you have set your life up so that you never have time for yourself because you are too busy caring for others. Or maybe you have financial problems that make life feel burdensome. Low energy is often a sign that we are not in control of our life, whether it is in relationships, work, with our health or with our money. Set an intention to heal any area of your life that is spiraling out of control and that feels toxic to you.  Our translation for fatigue often is OVERWHELMED.  Sometimes feeling overwhelmed is based on certain current circumstances and for some this becomes a way of life. Know that you have a choice how you approach the challenges in your life, this you do have control over.

There are many wonderful treatment options for chronic fatigue. This article is not intended to cover this issue in its entirety, as there can certainly be other factors involved in fatigue. The key is to be proactive in treating this condition and to ask for help if you don’t know where to start.


adrenals, fatigue, tired