Tired All The Time? This Is The Likely Culprit

Functional Medicine Doctor By Tiffany Lester, M.D.
Functional Medicine Doctor
Tiffany Lester, M.D. is the National Clinical Director of Community at Parsley Health San Francisco, a groundbreaking new medical practice that focuses on nutrition, prevention, and wellness. She received her bachelor's in psychology and biology from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Tired All The Time? This Is The Likely Culprit

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Yawning at your desk or on your drive home? You probably just need a glass of water.

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints I see at Parsley Health, but figuring out the cause can be tough sometimes. An unhealthy diet, chronic stress, and poor sleep are the most common causes of fatigue.

What if you are eating a plant-based, whole foods diet, managing your stress well, exercising regularly, and still have trouble crawling out of bed in the morning or have that midafternoon slump? You could be suffering from chronic dehydration.

This is often an overlooked cause of fatigue by medical professionals—and one that is easily fixed. Research has shown that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue. A small study published in the Journal of Nutrition tested 25 women who were optimally hydrated or mildly dehydrated on mood, concentration, and mental skills. Mild dehydration is defined as 1.5 percent loss of normal water body volume.

How much water do I need to stay hydrated?

Our bodies are about 75 percent water and required for many essential functions. You should be drinking half your body weight in water. For example, if you weigh 128 pounds, you should be drinking 64 ounces of water or eight glasses a day. People often think they are getting enough by drinking coffee, tea, or fruit juice, but these type of fluids can actually worsen dehydration given their acidity and high sugar content.

Depending on your weight, activity level, and how much you sweat, you may need more or less than eight glasses a day. Not replacing electrolytes after an intense sweaty workout can also set you up for chronic fatigue or low energy.

We should be putting the same focus on cleaning the insides of our bodies as we do for the outsides of our bodies. When we become dehydrated, our internal cleansing system becomes easily congested. Almost all of our bodily functions require a delicate fluid balance that can affect our energy levels.

If the fluid status is low in our body then our blood volume also drops. This makes the heart work harder to maintain oxygen flow to your skin and muscles. As dehydration continues, the body shunts blood to the muscles which impairs the body's ability to regulate heat. When your internal thermometer increases, you can feel fatigued.

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Water's boring. What else can I do to boost hydration?

  • Plump up your cells from the inside out. Add hydrolyzed collagen powder to your morning smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal.
  • Eat more vegetables with high-water content. These include cucumber, zucchini, celery, and radishes.
  • Drink coconut water or bone broth. These fluids will help balance electrolytes and provide a balanced source of fluid plus amino acids.

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