Feeling lethargic? You could have one of a range of illnesses! But if your lethargy doesn’t stem from disease, traditional Chinese medicine can be an effective remedy against this generalised malady
Roger Federer fans may recall that around 2008, the tennis star suffered a dip in form. It turns out that he was suffering from mononucleosis, a viral disease with flu-like symptoms, including fatigue. After seeking medical attention and getting sufficient rest, Federer was back to his winning ways. Robin Soderling wasn’t as fortunate. The double French Open champ also sought treatment for mono, but the fatigue persisted, forcing him to stop playing professionally.
Like these tennis pros, the fatigue you feel could have an organic origin. By addressing it, your energy level can be raised. Of course, you must have a balanced sleep-diet-exercise relationship [see sidebar] in the first place.
In order to have energy, you must do these three things:
- Sleep: 7–9 hours for an adult
- Diet: a balance of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrate, and lean protein
- Exercise: 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity; strength training at least twice a week
Don’t dismiss your tiredness as something to tolerate as a member of this 24/7, always “on” world. “Stress and insufficient rest have always been the leading causes behind fatigue problems, especially with the younger working generation,” laments Jeffrey Ong, a physician from Eu Yan Sang, a long-trusted name in Asia when it comes to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) products and services. “Many of them often neglect the mild symptoms, ignoring the distress signs their bodies are showing. Over time, this may lead to more complicated medical conditions in the future.”
TCM SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
According to Physician Ong, there are a few tell-tale signs before fatigue strikes:
- loss of appetite
- pale complexion
- irregular stool shape
- memory loss
- increased susceptibility to diseases
Sometimes, new routines such as shift work or having new-born baby at home can cause your body to go out of whack. Besides trying to get used to the new routine, you should also consider adjusting your lifestyle, such as getting more sleep and exercise, making fewer appointments, consuming more balanced meals, and indulging in less caffeine and alcohol.
After you’ve given these lifestyle changes two or three weeks to take effect and your energy level remains low, it’s time to investigate other possible causes of your constant exhaustion. Mononucleosis, also known as glandular fever, has already been touched on. Seven other common energy-sapping conditions are listed in the sidebar.
TIPS TO TRASH TIREDNESS
1. Instead of three square meals a day, eat smaller portions more frequently (every three to four hours) to maintain — not spike — blood glucose levels.
2. It’s probably the last thing you feel like doing when you’re lethargic, but exercising could boost your energy levels. Research has shown that light exercise energised sedentary workers, most likely because getting the blood pumping means tissues are getting the nutrients and oxygen they need. Exercise is also good for losing excess weight, which is a drain on your energy.
3. Drink more water (until you don’t feel thirst and your urine is light coloured) as being dehydrated can lead to fatigue.
4. Reduce the consumption and use of stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes) as they can affect the quality of sleep.
5. Try to get good-quality sleep and reduce stress.
- thyroid problems
- sleep apnoea
- rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic fatigue syndrome.
WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE?
What if you don’t have any of the diseases listed above, and there is nothing obviously organic that is causing the lethargy you feel? Perhaps you are looking for non-drug dependent modalities to complement the conventional treatment that you’re already on. You may wish to consider the ancient wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Because fatigue is such a diffused term, Western diagnostic tools can come up short; however, TCM has shown much more resilience when it comes to diagnosing and treating this generalised malady. With its focus on balance, treating the source rather than the symptoms, and a range of tools such as acupuncture and herbal remedies, TCM can be an effective tool in your fight against fatigue.
`In the next part of this article, find out the principles behind TCM treatment options such as acupuncture in the fight against fatigue.