Ahhh…exhaustion. Somehow, this exhaustion just doesn't feel like normal “tiredness.” You're struggling through the day, constantly fighting a wall of tiredness with caffeine, sugar, and stress/adrenaline. There's an urge to rest or sleep even when you shouldn’t feel it, such as after a good night’s sleep or a relaxing day. It may actually be fatigue that you're experiencing.
The causes of fatigue can be from a variety of sources. Stress and overwork, chronic conditions, poor diet, severe illness, or childbirth to name a few. Often fatigue is a secondary symptom to some other problem. When I see a patient who complains of exhaustion, I often recognize that they have a depletion of “qi” (pronounced "chi") or energy. But, there can be multiple patterns and/or combination of patterns of fatigue for each person.
One of the most common patterns is qi deficiency of the Chinese spleen. Our body derives its fuel from air we breathe and the food we eat. In Chinese medicine, the spleen is responsible for raising the clear essence from our food and sending the turbid to the intestines. This process helps to produce energy, healthy digestion, and a clear mind. If this process is not working well, you may find that you have no energy along with many symptoms of poor digestion. Qi deficiency from the spleen is often a result of a poor diet. It can further develop into dampness, which is essentially damp or phelgm in incorrect places (think excess weight, sinus congestion, etc.)
Qi Deficiency can also originate in the Chinese kidney. It is our ocean, our source. It stores the essential fluid (yin) and houses the original qi (yang) for our bodies. If you are suffering from yang depletion in the kidney, you feel like your “pilot light” is low or out; it feels like your body is in continual winter and you have a difficult time getting out of bed, warming up, and moving fluids appropriately in the body. If you are suffering from qi and yin depletion in the kidney, your essential fluid is low. You feel exhausted and jittery at the same time. Nothing is getting properly nourished. You have restless, difficult sleep with dry skin and night sweats. Menopause, childbirth, trauma, long years of stressful work and life can all contribute to qi, yin, and yang deficiency of the kidneys.
Another common pattern is liver qi stagnation. With the stagnation or blockage, you often find weakness and deficiency. Your Chinese liver is responsible for the smooth flow of everything in your body. When it is not doing its job, your digestion and ability to manage stress and difficult emotion is affected. This fatigue pattern is often intermittent. You could feel tired in the morning, fine in the afternoon, and exhausted at dinner time. It tends to be unpredictable and can often cause irritability and depression.
Struggling with fatigue is very real. I have experienced various levels of exhaustion throughout my life for many reasons. Most recently, I have battled adrenal fatigue (deficiency of the Chinese kidney) from years of a stressful job and graduate school (at an older age!). When I turned to Chinese medicine to help, it made an important difference. If you are trying to keep your head above water, please contact me to learn more or setup an appointment to start treatment.