Fatigue is one of those symptoms that doesn't obviously relate back to the gut, like bloating or IBS symptoms would. Yet it's one of the more common symptoms my clients and community struggle with on a day to day basis.
There are MANY things that can contribute to fatigue. Here are a few:
epstein barr virus
low B12 and low iron
low protein intake
a lack of exercise
imbalanced circadian rhythm
Today, however, we're breaking down 5 different ways that your gut might be contributing to your low energy levels.
5 gut imbalances that could be contributing to your fatigue:
1. Low Stomach Acid
Low stomach acid levels (aka as hypochlorhydria) can contribute to feeling fatigue and low energy for a couple of reasons.
One reason is that stomach acid is required for the release of something called 'intrinsic factor' from the parietal cells that make up our stomach lining. Intrinsic factor acts as a chauffeur for vitamin B12, which is absorbed in the last part of the small intestine (the ileum). B12 is required for energy production in the body (one of the first signs of a B12 deficiency is fatigue!). Without stomach acid, intrinsic factor isn't able to "carry" B12 to the location where it's absorbed in the small intestine, which could lead to B12 deficiency, and therefore low energy levels.
Another reason is that stomach acid is required for the conversion of an enzyme that is required for protein breakdown (pepsinogen to pepsin). When proteins are broken down into their simplest parts — we are left with amino acids. Certain amino acids are an important part of energy production in the body. If you aren't breaking down proteins adequately, and aren't able to absorb enough amino acids, we can start to see energy levels suffer.
2. Intestinal permeability (aka "leaky gut")
When intestinal permeability increases, there is a less stable barrier between the contents of your intestine and your bloodstream. This means particles of undigested food or toxic metabolites from pathogenic ("bad") bacteria can enter the bloodstream — which the immune system recognizes as foreign, as something threatening.
As the immune system does not recognize these substances, it kicks into gear and can lead to inflammation in the gut as well as systemically. Chronic inflammation can keep the body in the stress response (our fight-or-flight mode), which can lead to fatigue over time.
Parasites by definition are organisms that live on or within a host, and get's their nourishment (or food!), at the expense of the host (us!). Basically, these bugs can set up shop inside of us, depriving us of important nutrients.
Some major clues that could point to parasites are things like low iron, food cravings, disturbed or poor sleep, etc.
If we are low in nutrients due to parasites, the malabsorption of various nutrients required to produce energy might be unavailable, leaving us tired. Low iron levels specifically can contribute to fatigue. Iron is required by all of our cells to produce something called hemoglobin, so they can carry oxygen. Without enough of this, we can start to experience fatigue.
Likewise, disturbed sleep due to parasites can absolutely contribute to low energy and fatigue over time.
Stomach acid is your body's primary line of defense against parasites, so it's important to keep digestion healthy to prevent future infestations!
Dysbiosis is where there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome — specifically if there are too little "beneficial" microorganisms, or too many "pathogenic" or "bad" microorganisms compared to our beneficial bugs. Ideally we want a healthy balance of "good":"bad" bugs, where we have more of the beneficial bacteria, that provide us as the hosts with a variety of health benefits.
Imbalances in this can cause a number of different issues that can contribute to fatigue. Dysbiosis can contribute to leaky gut (see above), degrade the mucosal layer, contribute to inflammation, and send our GI immune system into overdrive.
This chemical stress on the body can lead to fatigue, as it chronically fights this infection, and experiences chronic low-grade inflammation (inflammation impacts our cells energy availability, which can lead to low energy!). Bringing the gut microbiome back-to-balance through nutrition, and potentially seeking help from a professional to get a better idea of what specifically is imbalanced, can help resolve this.
5. Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities involve IgG or IgM antibodies (it is immune-mediated), and can take up to three days to cause a reaction after eating the food eaten. Reactions often include symptoms that are not obviously related to digestion, like headaches, joint pain, skin issues, and fatigue.
Food sensitivities can contribute to inflammation systemically. As mentioned above, Inflammation is a stressor on the body, and can initiate the stress response. Low-grade, chronic inflammation due to food sensitivities can lead to fatigue because your body will be continuously initiating the stress response, and secreting cortisol, which can eventually lead to fatigue and low energy.
If you're struggling with low energy, or even more chronic fatigue, and haven't been able to get to the bottom of it — it could warrant looking into your gut to see if it's at the root!
You've now learned 5 potential gut imbalances that could be impacting your energy levels:
low stomach acid levels
leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
Looking into these five things could finally provide you with answers, as to why you're so dang tired all that time.
If fatigue is a major concern of yours, and you'd like to see if your digestion might be at the root of your low energy, check out my Gut Reset Program and Gut Rehab Intensive where we take a look at reach of these 5 factors and more!