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How Poor Eating Habits Cause Fatigue (And How Functional Medicine Can Help)

Poor eating habits can significantly impact one's well-being, with chronic fatigue being a prevalent consequence. In this article, Dr. Koontz will help you explore how low caloric intake, vitamin deficiencies, reliance on processed foods, and dehydration contribute to chronic fatigue. It also will provide holistic approaches to modify your lifestyle and dietary choices for regaining energy levels and increasing quality of life. 

Common Causes of Chronic Fatigue 

Caloric Deficit 

Low caloric intake can lead to chronic fatigue due to the insufficient supply of energy required for the most basic bodily functions. When the body does not receive an adequate amount of calories from crash dieting, it struggles to meet daily energy demands. Maintaining too low of a caloric intake over too long a period affects the physiological process, eventually leading to lethargy. 

Calories serve as the fuel necessary for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy available within the body’s cells. In a state of caloric deficit, the body prioritizes essential functions in an effort to conserve energy, sacrificing any non-essential movement. This conservation of energy is why one of the first symptoms of low caloric intake is fatigue. Along with fatigue, the body may reduce its metabolic rate, use muscle reserves for energy, maintain a state of “brain fog,” and eventually be propelled into hormonal imbalance. 

Not Enough Nutrient Dense-Foods

A lack of crucial nutrients like iron, vitamins B and D, or magnesium, to name a few, leads to nutritional gaps, impacting the body’s overall vitality. It can be a challenge to get enough nutrients since many of us tend toward easy, comfortable meals. We may even have our preferred fruits and vegetables. But a nutrient deficiency is still a nutrient deficiency. 

The absence of any of these vitamins hinders the body’s ability to carry out the metabolic process efficiently. For example, iron is essential for oxygen transport throughout the body. Its deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition that is primarily characterized by weakness and chronic fatigue. You usually have to test your blood and gut to see if you need to shore up aspects of your diet.

Too Processed Foods

Let’s take a look a the opposite side of the coin.

Although all food provides fuel through calories, not all foods are created equal. Consuming a diet high in processed foods can contribute to chronic fatigue through a variety of means that will affect the body’s physical and mental well-being. Highly processed foods often contain large amounts of refined sugars unhealthy fats, and are low in essential nutrients. This nutritional imbalance can impact energy levels and overall health. Processed foods with high levels of added sugar and refined carbohydrates often spike blood sugar levels, leading to the subsequent crash. 

The sudden surge that follows a drop in glucose can lead individuals to feel fatigued and irritable. The inflammatory nature of processed foods also plays a role in chronic fatigue. For example, if a food contains too high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, the body may be fatigued due to chronic inflammation. 


Another common yet overlooked cause of chronic fatigue is dehydration. The human body relies on an intricate balance of fluids to sustain vital functions. When the balance is disrupted through dehydration, symptoms such as fatigue begin. Water is essential for physiological processes, including the transport of nutrients and oxygen to cells throughout the body. Dehydration compromises efficient circulation due to the blood volume decreasing. Along with the physical feeling of fatigue, dehydration can cause cognitive functions to become impaired with “brain fatigue” symptoms like a lack of concentration.

Functional Approaches to Reclaim Energy

In the pursuit to reclaim energy and vitality, it is important to first assess an individual to find the root cause of their fatigue. Once a patient and physician are able to pinpoint the source, a specific approach can be tailored to the individual. A functional team of experts may recommend remedies such as balanced nutrition or lifestyle modifications.

The essence of whole-food nutrition lies in nourishing the body with unprocessed and nutrient-dense foods. Whole food nutrition revolves around the idea of consuming foods in their most natural, unrefined state. Unlike processed foods that are riddled with added sugars and man-made preservatives, whole foods offer sustained energy by supporting metabolic processes like balanced glucose levels. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and even healthy fats are the basis of this approach. When consuming whole foods, the body absorbs an array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for bodily functions and to fight fatigue. 

Proper nutritional assessment and a tailored remedy are imperative to combat chronic fatigue. It may seem faster to drastically cut calories in order to shed those pesky five pounds, but it comes at a price. Insufficient caloric intake can lead to nutritional deficiencies, compromising the body’s ability to function. Research shows that chronic fatigue often stems from an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. A functional medicine doctor can assess the body’s specific caloric needs in order to regain balance and meet energy demands. Proper caloric intake can even be assessed for an individual’s caloric needs from specific macronutrient groups. 

Recovering from fatigue could be as simple as drinking more water. With the body being made up of over sixty percent water, it can only be assumed that the better hydrated a person is, the more optimal their body functions. Making sure to properly hydrate throughout the day can help cells carry nutrients throughout the body more efficiently, alleviate strain on the cardiovascular system, and support cognitive performance – all of which can combat physical and mental fatigue.  

Resilience Health and Wellness knows the importance that proper nutrition plays in the body’s ability to function to its full potential. Whether your question is how to start or when we can start, your first step is to watch our health masterclass.

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