1. Iron deficiency may not be why you're tired

    Iron isn't always the answer for fatigue

    I recently treated a woman in her 40s who had been experiencing fatigue for two years -- and the entire time, her other doctors kept telling her that her lab tests were "normal."

    But fatigue is never normal, so I ran a few more tests -- including a test for iron stores known as ferritin.

    As it turned out, her levels were quite low due to very heavy periods. Within two weeks of increasing her iron levels, her fatigue began to fade.

    For some women, iron can be a safe, inexpensive and completely natural way to slash fatigue levels -- but file this one under "don't try this at home."

    Too much iron can be as dangerous as too little, so you shouldn't take iron pills unless you've been diagnosed with a deficiency -- even if the latest research sounds great on paper.

    In this one, women who took 80mg of iron a day cut their fatigue levels by 50 percent, compared to 28 percent among those given a placebo.

    But it's a lot more complicated than "pop a pill, and feel better."

    The 198 women in this study had tests for circulating iron, and while they were not deficient, they were all in the lower end of the "normal" range.

    It's a wide range, and some women do better in the middle and upper end of it, but the real problem is that these tests alone simply don't tell you enough. Most doctors never run a ferritin test -- and without that, it's simply impossible to have a clear picture of the patient's true iron levels.

    So, it could have been low iron. But it could have been something else, too.

    Remember, there are many common causes of fatigue, including viral infections, fungal growth, parasites, and drug side effects. But the one that comes up most often is a hormonal imbalance -- usually the so-called "adrenal burnout" that is among the most under-diagnosed hormonal problems in the country.

    Because there are so many possible causes for fatigue, it's important that you don't try to self-diagnose and self-treat. And whatever you do, don't add iron supplements to your regimen on your own -- but do make sure your doctor tests both your circulating iron and ferritin levels.

    I recommend a holistic doctor who can perform advanced testing, including comprehensive iron testing, to find the true cause of your fatigue.

  2. Move more, sleep better

    Sometimes, the simplest things are hardest to get -- like a good night's sleep.

    If you're up late burning the midnight oil working a job that requires you to be available around the clock, there's not much I can do for you other than suggest a new line of work.

    But if you go to bed at a reasonable hour each night only to find yourself staring at the ceiling, watching the clock and wondering what's on TV as the minutes turn to hours, there are some simple steps you can take right now to help get to sleep quicker -- and stay asleep longer.

    And it starts with getting more active during the daytime.

    Oregon State University researchers looked at data on more than 2,600 adult men and women in just about every age group -- from 18 to 85 -- who wore accelerometers to measure their daily activities for a week.

    Those who got at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more intense workouts a week had a 65 percent boost in sleep quality -- and, as a result, they were less likely to report feeling tired during the day.

    Not feeling tired during the day on its own would be a huge improvement for many of us -- especially during those late afternoon doldrums that often lead to one more cup of coffee (or two).

    But the benefits didn't end there -- the people who got more activity were better able to handle being tired: They were 45 percent less likely to report concentration problems once drowsiness set in.

    And once they were in bed, they were 68 percent less likely to experience those annoying leg cramps that can keep you up at night.

    Of course, the study doesn't directly prove that more activity and exercise leads to better sleep -- but it's a connection that's been made before.

    And you don't need to join a gym, lift weights or train for a marathon to get the benefits (which go well beyond better sleep). Everything from gardening to a brisk walk in the park counts as moderate activity -- so find something you enjoy, and stick with it.

    But while more activity might lead to better sleep, don't get your exercise right before bed. In addition to an adrenaline boost that might keep you up at night, exercise can also raise the body temperature -- and while you might prefer a warm bed, the best way to sleep is with a cool body.

    I'm not done with sleep yet -- keep reading for some great natural sleep aids.

  3. Apnea in new heart risk link

    But now, researchers say that in addition to leaving you gasping for air in the night, sleep apnea could also be responsible for serious blood vessel abnormalities -- problems that can actually steal blood right from your heart.

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