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Eating habits can lead to some fatigue

DEAR DOCTOR K: I’m in good health and I’ve been sleeping well. But I’m tired all the time. Could my food choices be causing this lethargy?

DEAR READER: Most of us experience some midafternoon drowsiness – the “3 o’clock slump” or the “4 o’clock fade.” But if you feel groggy throughout the day, that could be reason for concern.

Fatigue often signals that something is wrong. Stress and depression, for example, often cause fatigue. Many diseases cause fatigue; among the more common are anemia and underactive thyroid.

The impact of food on your energy level is usually minor. Still, nutritional factors can contribute to fatigue.

Not eating often enough. Eating small meals and snacks throughout the day maintains your energy level better than eating one or two large meals. Eating frequently creates a steadier level of sugar in the blood, with less pronounced peaks and valleys.

Overeating. A big meal floods your blood with sugar, giving you a temporary energy lift. But this is quickly followed by an inevitable crash and feeling of lethargy.

Lack of fluids. Getting enough water and other fluids is important, too. Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. Drink when you’re thirsty to replenish what you lose.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Being deficient in some vitamins and minerals can cause fatigue. In the United States, the most common deficiencies are of iron, magnesium, dietary calcium, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. For most people, any deficiencies are easy to remedy with supplements.

We have more information on fighting fatigue in our Special Health Report, “Boosting Your Energy.” (Learn more about this report at, or call (877) 649-9457 toll-free to order it.)

Fatigue-inducing foods. Milk, poultry, corn, brown rice, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, bananas, dates and chocolate all contain a nutrient (called L-tryptophan) that helps you feel relaxed and possibly fatigued.

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