Nutrition & Acupuncture for Fatigue

POSTED BY Erika Schultz, Denver Acupuncturist, Nutritionist | Jun, 09, 2017 |

It is estimated that over 50% of the American population experiences chronic fatigue. The most common causes are stress, overwork, insomnia, depression, and various malfunctions in the major systems of the body (endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, etc.) Western medicine is decidedly lacking in safe and effective treatment options for fatigue.

Often, the first step is to use a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as Prozac, Paxil, or Wellbutrin, as fatigue is commonly associated with depression. Although trends are changing among the newer generation of doctors, it is still quite rare that the patient is offered lifestyle counseling that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and sleep. There are many wonderful alternative treatment options that include acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and exercise. Nutrition and acupuncture tops the list because it tends to be so effective is supplementing the body’s energy.

The majority of patients who complain of fatigue suffer from a deficiency of vital energy (Qi). Qi is the basic energy that creates optimal physiological and neurological function. Aside from fatigue, other signs of Qi deficiency are diarrhea, pallor, easy bruising, excessive sleep (more than 9 hrs. a night), scanty menses or amenorrhea, frequent urination, low libido, and shortness of breath. The strategy of Chinese medicine is to identify a pattern of disharmony that reflects the entirety of one’s symptoms, pulse qualities, and tongue appearance. Moxibustion, a topical warming therapy, is typically used as a nourishing adjunct to the needles. This entails burning mugwort on top of the needles or directly on the skin to induce a stronger supplementing effect. I recommend weekly acupuncture and moxa treatments for 4-6 weeks, then assessing for progress.

Qi deficiency primarily affects 4 different organs: the spleen, kidney, heart, and lungs.
Here are symptoms for each pattern:

-Spleen: diarrhea, loose stools, bloating, bruising, fatigue, prolapse, laconic speech, internal cold 

-Kidney: low back pain, low libido, fatigue, internal cold, frequent urination 

-Heart: restless sleep, worry, fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath 

-Lung: chronic cough, weak immunity, allergies, fatigue, shortness of breath, asthma

I will identify which patterns are reflective of your condition and then selects specific acupuncture points to balance the system accordingly.

There are 3 key areas that are contributing to fatigue from a nutritional perspective:

1. Food sensitivities
2. Chronic immune challenge
3. Environmental toxicities

1. Food sensitivities
A food sensitivity is something that when consumed causes some degree of an immune response in your body. It may or may not produce a symptom for you and if it does, it may not always be a digestive one. Food sensitivities are common triggers for fatigue. Often times supplementing with digestive enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid and/or identifying and then eliminating the trouble food(s) can improve energy dramatically.

2. Chronic immune challenge
Just like in the situation of food sensitivities, a chronic challenge is setting your immune system into overdrive causing you to feel tired and physically over-worked. These challenges can be bacterial, fungal, viral and/or parasitic in nature.

3. Environmental toxicities
In our industrialized lifestyle we are exposed to many of these- chemical and heavy metals in particular. These can dramatically impact the nervous system of the body. An overstressed nervous system leaves the immune system as well as many vital organs vulnerable.

We garner specific information from your body using a technique called Nutrition Response Testing to determine what the cause of fatigue is for you.

I recommend getting 20-30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week. At first, this may feel forced and difficult because you won’t want to exercise when you feel tired. After a few days, however, your body will begin to love the endorphin release and serotonin boost that exercise provides. Exercise alone can be a wonderful cure for fatigue. Your program should be a combination of cardiovascular and restorative exercise. Cardiovascular exercise involves running, biking, swimming, hiking, etc. Restorative exercise involves yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.

Sometimes it may be necessary to spend time improving energy through acupuncture and/or nutrition before resuming an exercise program.

Many people with chronic fatigue can attribute this pattern to a central theme that is stealing their energy. Perhaps you are in a marriage that is not working or a job that feels stagnant. Maybe you have set your life up so that you never have time for yourself because you are too busy caring for others. Or maybe you have financial problems that make life feel burdensome. Low energy is often a sign that we are not in control of our life, whether it is in relationships, work, with our health or with our money. Set an intention to heal any area of your life that is spiraling out of control and that feels toxic to you.

It can be a touch question to ask, but I encourage you to contemplate whether or not you are being a victim to the fatigue. What is your belief system around it? Do you have an internal dialogue that supports and sustains the fatigue? What would your life look like if the fatigue wasn’t an issue? I don’t bring this up to undermine the validity of this very common health concern. In my clinical experience, however, I have noticed a rather common theme of victimization and relinquishing personal power in cases of chronic fatigue.

There are many wonderful treatment options for chronic fatigue. This article is not intended to cover this issue in its entirety, as there can certainly be other factors involved in fatigue. The key is to be proactive in treating this condition.

If you are ready to get answers to what are the true causes of your fatigue contact us at to set up an Initial Consultation.

TAGS : acupuncture chronic fatigue fatigue nutrition Nutrition Response Testing℠