You might think fatigue is the price you pay for a packed schedule, but stress is unlikely to cause that type of exhaustion, especially in young women. In fact, there are a few underlying medical issues that are worth discussing with your doctor, Janette Nesheiwat, MD, a family and emergency medicine physician in New York City, told POPSUGAR.
If you're concerned that you're too sluggish — or if it's beginning to affect your everyday life — start by talking about your diet. "If you're a vegetarian, you may not be getting enough vitamin B12, which can result in fatigue, along with numbness in the hands and feet," Dr. Nesheiwat said. "If you aren't eating enough iron-rich or iron-fortified foods, you can give yourself iron deficiency anemia, which can result in fatigue." Iron helps produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout the body. Without enough, you may feel weak or short of breath. Meanwhile, eating too many unhealthy carbs — instead of fibre-rich fruits and vegetables — can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash. But one of the most common causes of fatigue is dehydration. "It takes so little to become dehydrated. Sweating, too much caffeine or alcohol, or simply not drinking enough water can reduce your blood volume and make you feel tired," she said.
Next discuss your monthly cycle, as well as any vitamins or medications you're taking. "Women can experience fatigue as a result of heavy menstrual periods, which creates a loss of more blood," Dr. Nesheiwat said, while for others fatigue may be a side effect of a prescription or over-the-counter medicine, such as an antihistamine.
If your exhaustion is paired with unexplained weight gain, constipation, dry hair and skin, irregular periods, or mood swings, ask your doctor to test your thyroid. A condition called Hashimoto's disease — in which the immune system attacks the thyroid — could be preventing your thyroid from producing enough of the hormones your body needs to function. Fortunately, Hashimoto's can be detected with a simple blood test, and it's easily corrected with medication. Even if you're just feeling blue, it's important to mention that to your doctor, too. "Depression can make you feel fatigued due to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain," Dr. Nesheiwat said. "It's important to tell your doctor about this symptom because there's a lot of help for it, and you don't have to deal with it alone."