Most of the moms I know have two favorite accessories: a huge thermos of java and under-eye concealer. Let’s be real. If you look up the word mother in the dictionary, you’ll see the one-word definition: exhausted. Seemingly nothing we do can alleviate our relentless fatigue since our mama gig is a full-time job with no lunch-breaks or vacations. I am one of them, mothering four children.
A few years ago, I went to my general practitioner (and a fellow mom) with my primary complaint: tiredness I couldn’t shake. I exercised, I ate healthy, and I took turns with my husband when it came to taking care of the kids in the middle of the night. What was going on? She chuckled a bit and told me that being a mom was likely the simple reason why I was so foggy-brained and sleepy during every waking moment.
However, she agreed to run labs. I was hoping the results would give me an ah-ha moment—where we would find a cause with an easy solution. What I discovered was that my chronic caffeine fix was just a bandage. In fact, drinking too much coffee throughout the day only increased my heart rate and made it harder to fall asleep at night. This is the sad truth.
My lab results revealed that my vitamin D3 level was too low. I really needed a high-dose quality supplement, not another venti vanilla latte. Some quick research taught me that the lack of vitamin D3 in my system could have serious health consequences.
If you’re like me, always tired and running on caffeinated fumes, there are some labs you should ask your doctor to order for you. Getting to the bottom of why you’re hitting your snooze button multiple times every morning is important and quite possibly something that’s easily fixable. The biggest perk? If you find the root cause of your drowsiness, you can work with your doctor to find a remedy and then have the energy to keep up with your kids, job, and other commitments.
As I mentioned, find out what your D3 level, AKA the sunshine vitamin, is. Vitamin D is responsible for bone health via calcium absorption, cell health, immune function, and a big one—reducing inflammation. D3 has long been rumored to possibly help decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. Most Americans do not get the amount of vitamin D they need from sun exposure and food.
Low D3 can also make you tired, as in my case. Unfortunately, D3 doesn’t build up in one’s system overnight. However, there is good news. The right dose needs to be taken religiously over a period of time in order to take full effect.
Vitamins B6 and B12
Two years ago after my breast cancer diagnosis, I opted to go mostly vegan. I was feeling pretty self-righteous about the whole thing until I begin to feel dizzy and exhausted every day. Routine labs showed that my B6 and B12 levels were too low.
B6 and B12 are crucial to overall health. This powerful duo is responsible for cell development, brain health, and immune function. Both are water-soluble vitamins and any unneeded B6 and B12 will be eliminated via urination.
Women hear a lot about the importance of thyroid health. Your thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland in your neck, controls your metabolism, including how fast you burn calories and how quickly your heart beats. If you have a thyroid disease, your body makes too much or too little of the thyroid hormone which can lead to being restless, exhausted, overweight, or underweight.
A thyroid panel blood test consists of testing the level of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The results of these tests help the doctor determine what the next step for the patient should be.
If you go from hangry to sluggish and deal with some serious carb-cravings, there’s the chance that you’re having blood sugar issues. This is a good reason to ask your doctor to check your A1C. The blood draw measures your blood sugar average over a 60- to 90-day period.
An A1C test can help your doctor determine if you’re experiencing too many low blood sugars (hypoglycemia), if you’re pre-diabetic, or if you have diabetes. The result can help you and your doctor work together to stabilize your blood sugar through lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise) or medication.
I learned about ferritin and its importance after one of my children had spent years not sleeping. We spent thousands of dollars on a sleep study, various natural remedies like a weighted blanket and lavender lotion, and several specialist visits. One day, a conversation with a friend revealed that perhaps the reason my kiddo wasn’t sleeping was simple—low ferritin. Lo and behold, her level came back extremely low and she was diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome.
Ferritin is a blood protein that contains iron. If the number is too low, your doctor will likely give you a ferritin supplement that will need to be taken daily for a period of time. Those with RLS have to be monitored to make sure their number is climbing and then stabilizes to ensure a great night’s rest.
If the results of your ferritin, D3, vitamin B, A1C, and thyroid panel all come back normal, there can certainly be other causes of your fatigue. An autoimmune disease, poor quality sleep or not enough sleep, caffeine addiction, or even dehydration could be why you can barely keep your eyes open during your work meeting. Even constipation can make you feel like shit (pun intended). Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression can also cause someone to feel like they’re always tired. Lack of exercise — or too much exercise — can also cause low energy.
Finding the root cause of your exhaustion isn’t always easy—but don’t accept that you’re tired simply because you’re a mom. Yes, taking care of children is draining; however, it’s important to find the underlying issue. Plus, popping random supplements or sipping MLM-sold shakes in an attempt to rid yourself of your fatigue isn’t a good idea. The proof is in the pudding—and the pudding, in this case, is your lab results.
* This article is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult your physician.