How to help clients overcome chronic fatigue
Occasional tiredness is a normal part of life, however, it can be hard to overcome chronic fatigue and exhaustion. Here are some common signs of exhaustion and how you can help your clients overcome them.
While it’s normal to feel drowsy, over one-third of American adults report feeling fatigued every week. Unfortunately, this can lead to chronic fatigue–a condition that can significantly drain your nutrition client’s physical and mental health.
As a dietitian, you can help your clients take steps to reduce fatigue and gain more energy. But before exploring some of these suggestions, let’s understand what leads to fatigue, and how you can help your clients overcome exhaustion.
Common causes of chronic fatigue
Fatigue is usually used as a term to describe tiredness or a lack of energy. However, feeling fatigued isn’t the same as feeling tired. Here are some common symptoms of physical, mental, or emotional fatigue.
- Aching or sore muscles
- Apathy and a lack of motivation
- Daytime drowsiness
- Difficulty concentrating or learning new tasks
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea
- Irritability or moodiness
- Slowed response time
Fatigue can also result from:
- Physical exertion
- Lack of physical activity
- Lack of sleep
- Being overweight or obese
- Periods of emotional stress
- Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants or sedatives
- Using alcohol on a regular basis
- Using illicit drugs, such as cocaine
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Not eating a nutritious diet
If you’ve been fatigued for over six months, are unable to get restful sleep, or have memory difficulties, you may have chronic fatigue syndrome. This is a complicated disorder that worsens with physical or mental activity and doesn't improve with rest. See a healthcare provider if you have persistent or chronic fatigue.
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How to overcome chronic fatigue
If your clients feel exhausted, here are some ways that you, as a nutrition professional, can help them overcome chronic fatigue.
Adopt good sleep habits
A lack of sleep is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Sleep also influences immunity and memory. As such, it’s important for your clients to prioritize 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night.
However, if your client has sleeping problems, you can encourage them to embrace better sleep habits. Some examples include having a relaxing bedtime routine, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, turning off electronics 30 minutes before bed, and avoiding caffeine in the afternoons or evenings. For clients who consume caffeine throughout the day, encourage them to switch to decaf after lunch or find an alternative beverage.
Tip: here are some other ways to help your clients sleep better.
Focus on nutrition
Certain foods (like sugary drinks, processed foods, white rice, and added sugars) have been shown to temporarily spike blood sugar. However, this temporary burst of energy is short-lived and will result in fatigue as blood sugar crashes.
To combat this, you can encourage your clients to have a daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains, as this will help regulate glucose levels.
Learn more about how to help your nutrition clients cut down on the sugar in their food.
Drink more water
Your client’s hydration status can have a direct impact on their energy levels. Studies show that dehydration can cause fatigue and lead to poor concentration, increased reaction time, and short-term memory problems. Recommendations on daily fluid intake vary from 1.6 - 2.1 liters for women and 2 - 3 liters for men.
Manage stress levels
Between work responsibilities, day-to-day stressors, and other lifestyle factors, it’s easy for your clients to feel tired and overwhelmed. You can help them manage stress by suggesting meditation, journaling, attending a yoga class, or getting some fresh air.
Elevated stress levels can also cause fluctuations in hormone levels and increase inflammation. Discover how in this article.
Increase physical activity
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity for optimal health.
Not only is it good for your heart, but studies show that exercise can help with improved cognition, weight loss, bone health, and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and boost self-esteem.
However, if your clients struggle with chronic fatigue, physical activity may seem like a daunting task. If this is the case, you can start small and suggest stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, and leisurely walking. You can also have them start with short intervals while listening to their body.
Even though alcohol may take the edge off, research shows that excess alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day) has been associated with long-term negative health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, certain cancers, learning and memory problems, depression, anxiety, and digestive problems.
If your client chooses to drink, encourage them to limit their consumption. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.
However, if your client is pregnant, younger than 21 years old, plans on driving, taking certain medications, or suffering from a mental health condition, it’s recommended that they do not drink.
Feeling tired is common, but chronic fatigue can take a toll on your client’s mental and physical health. It can also result in low energy levels and hinder their concentration, focus, and ability to stay awake throughout the day. You can help your clients combat fatigue and become more energized through improved sleep habits, better nutrition choices, and increased hydration.
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