When a patient is fatigued, their quality of life suffers. Morning routines may turn into energy-draining chores, work can become unbearable, and personal relationships might decline. How many of your patients report fatigue? What can be done to help them? Functional Medicine is uniquely positioned to help patients with fatigue, as this model of care examines an individual’s individual life course for underlying causes and helps patients change their lifestyle to promote improved function and quality of life.
Fatigue statistics in the US, while not particularly surprising, illuminate some interesting trends. During 2010-2011, 15.3% of American women and 10.1% of men reported feeling very tired or exhausted in the past three months.1 Specifically, women aged 18-44 were nearly twice as likely as men of the same age group to report feeling very tired or exhausted.1 These numbers have only increased over the years. A 2015 YouGov.com poll found that 38% of Americans were poorly rested at least four days a week.2 And according to a 2017 National Safety Council survey-based report, 97% of respondents reported at least one risk factor for fatigue.3 The survey found that 43% of Americans do not get enough sleep to mitigate critical risks that can jeopardize safety at work and on the roads, including the ability to think clearly, make informed decisions, and be productive.3
Reports also suggest that one-fifth of primary care visits involve fatigue as a symptom.4 Personalized interventions targeting underlying causes may help many patients.
Fatigue may rank as one of the most frustrating symptoms for both patients and providers. One of the key recommendations for patients with fatigue has been exercise,4 yet for some patients, that may worsen symptoms. One underlying cause of fatigue is mitochondrial dysfunction, and we now know fatigue is a frequent symptom in mitochondrial disease.5 In a survey of patient-perceived fatigue, compared to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, 32% of mitochondrial disease patients reported severe, limiting fatigue, and 62% reported excessive symptomatic fatigue.5
Healthy mitochondrial function is akin to the amount of pressure the foot puts on the gas pedal.6
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