Chronic fatigue: Is it you or your mitochondria?

One of the most common complaints I get in my clinic is chronic fatigue and low energy levels. While this is common, it is not normal. Many people wake up unrefreshed and tired, and unable to finish their daily tasks because of unexplained tiredness. This can have a great impact on work, social relationships and family.


The failure to address chronic fatigue is due to the fact that it is a multifactorial issue. Energy production is complex and depends on many factors.

A detailed case history and, if needed, one or more functional tests can shed light on the factors that suppress the body’s ability to produce energy and can greatly improve quality of life in the great majority of cases.

Fatigue is a normal sensation that occurs after significant body activity, usually towards the end of the day. Fatigue is a signal that the body needs to rest, repair and regenerate for the next day. However, more and more people feel that rest and sleep are not enough in order to have optimal energy levels in order to accomplish all of their tasks and responsibilities.

We wake up tired and stressed, feeling apathetic and sleepy, struggling to focus, and having less than optimal memory and cognitive clarity. We often feel irritable because of fatigue and the body’s increased effort to meet its daily responsibilities.

Where does our energy come from?

90% of the energy that our body needs is produced in organelles inside cells that are called mitochondria. Every cell has thousands of mitochondria.

Mitochondria’s role is to convert nutrients from food to energy. A complex system of chemical reactions that take place in mitochondria, produces stable energy. When the system gets inefficient, we progressively feel less energetic and unrefreshed from sleep.

Low energy production which is due to mitochondrial dysfunction, is a significant factor in the manifestation of chronic diseases, like autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.

The major factors that lead to mitochondrial dysfunction are the following: 

  • Low nutrient status, like insufficient levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Low levels of activity. 
  • Regular consumption of empty calories: highly processed foods with low nutritional value.
  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Production of free radicals that damage the cells (oxidative stress), at a greater speed than the body repairs (antioxidant mechanisms).

How can nutritional therapy help?

Coenzyme Q10 is often prescribed for chronic fatigue. However, it is only one of the 30 micronutrients that mitochondria need for optimal function. 

Functional testing can identify the level of mitochondrial dysfunction, by measuring metabolites that get accumulated when chemical reactions don’t occur. These chemical reactions depend on specific nutrients. This is the most accurate way to measure nutrient needs.

By doing this, you can cover the body’s needs in nutrients, and address metabolic dysfunctions and energy levels. As a result, life quality can improve a lot.

Based on clinical experience, the restoration of energy-yielding mechanisms leads to:

  • Elimination of the feeling of chronic fatigue and restoration of the normal feeling of fatigue, which is eliminated with adequate rest.
  • Improved energy levels.
  • Improved prognosis in the majority of chronic diseases, especially autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
  • Improved sleep quality.
  • Improved mood.
  • Improved cognitive clarity and concentration.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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