Fatigue is a condition when someone lacks energy and motivation. Drowsiness can also be a common symptom that goes along with fatigue. Although at times fatigue can be normal, it is always essential to investigate the condition. Now, there has been a growing body of research that suggests that our gut microbiome plays a crucial role in deteriorating energy levels and resulting in fatigue and also a chronic illness named chronic fatigue syndrome.
This article will help us know more about the gut microbiome and how it plays a major role in the occurrence of fatigue or reducing energy levels in our body.
A Brief Note on the Gut Microbiome
Trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and several other microbes or microorganisms exist mainly inside our intestines and also on the skin. Most of these microorganisms in the gut or intestine are found in the cecum (a pocket of the large intestine). These microbes are known as the gut microbiome. Out of so many microbes found inside the human body, bacteria are the most studied ones.
Roughly, there are forty trillion bacterial cells in our body and just thirty trillion human cells. This suggests that there are more bacterial cells inside our body than human cells.(1, 2)
Another amazing thing to know about these bacteria is that the human gut microbiome includes up to 1, 000 species of bacteria, and each of them plays a different role inside our body. Fortunately, most of these bacteria are extremely important for human health. However, others might cause certain diseases.(3)
Microbiome and Fatigue : The Role of Gut Health and Energy Levels
Imbalances in gut health and changes within the gut microbiome are directly linked with chronic fatigue in several ways. Compromised gut health can drain the body’s energy and promote lethargy. Studies have shown a link between chronic fatigue with impaired intestinal function and greater numbers of destructive bacteria.(4)
Some of the ways, in which gut health can affect overall energy levels are listed below.
- Serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked with sleep and mood, is produced in the gut or intestine. So, disruptions in the gut microbiome can directly impact energy levels and result in fatigue.
- Research has suggested that gut bacteria can also interact with our nervous system, thus influencing our muscle stamina, concentration, and focus.(5)
- An abundance of detrimental microbes increases inflammation in the body, which in turn leaves one exhausted all the time.
- Gut disturbances, such as bloating, indigestion, and cramps can also affect our energy levels and cause sleep disturbances, which can again cause more fatigue.
Studies that Explain the Role of Gut Health in Energy Levels
Association Between the Gut Bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Butyrate Production, and People With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a chronic illness that affects more than 24 million people globally.(6) Patients suffering from this disease experience severe fatigue and inflammation. Two recent studies have shown an association between the gut microbiome and this fatigue condition.
Study 1: (h4)
In a study, researchers compared samples of microbiome from 74 people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), who had been diagnosed in the previous four years to microbiome samples from 75 individuals who had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at least ten years prior. Apart from these, researchers also included samples from 79 healthy individuals who were considered as the study’s control group.(7)
Upon analysis, it was found that patients with shorter-term disease (CFS) had specific changes in their microbiome, and a lower number of microorganisms were known to produce butyrate.(8) Butyrate plays a major role in the health of the gut microbiome.(9) Research has also shown that it is a source of sleep-promoting signals in our bodies.(10)
Immune irregularities were observed in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, and this points to mechanisms by which the gut microbiome can impact the immune system. Butyrate, tryptophan, and certain other microbial metabolites have been linked to mucosal immune regulation.(11)
Study 2 (h4)
In this study, researchers examined the microbiomes of 106 individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome and 91 people who did not have the disease.(12) In addition to this, researchers also examined the levels of microbial species in stool samples from all individuals.
A correlation between the severity of the fatigue symptoms in participants and the levels of specific species of gut bacteria, primarily Faecalibacterium prausnitzii was found in the research findings.(13)
Previous studies have shown that Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is one of the main producers of butyrate in the body, and it has anti-inflammatory properties.(14)
Because of its role in butyrate production and controlling inflammation, F. prausnitzii is an essential bacteria in the microbiome, found abundantly, and has excellent health-promoting properties. This has also been previously linked with fatigue experienced by some people with irritable bowel disease. So, it is also obvious that Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is correlated with symptoms of fatigue in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
NOTE: Further research is required in this regard.
Signs That Tell Gut Imbalances Can be Draining Your Energy
Animal Products Impact Gut Health and Depletes Energy
Red meat and processed meats like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs encourage the proliferation of harmful bacteria and reduce friendly bacteria. In addition to this, saturated fat found in these animal products disrupts the composition and function of the gut microbiome. This, in turn, depletes the body’s energy.
However, plant food products have the opposite effect. They blunt the growth of destructive or harmful bacteria and enhance strains that are good for gut health. Research has shown vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and wholegrains, boost the number of gut-protective flora. (15)
Taking Too Much or Too Little of Caffeine
Some studies have suggested that a moderate amount of caffeine is good for gut health by improving microbial diversity.(16) However, a steady drop in the level of caffeine will leave you drained. Again, large doses of coffee impair digestion, reduce water and nutrient availability throughout the gut, and disrupt the body’s internal ecosystem. Moreover, excessive caffeine stimulates bacteria that provoke disturbances in the gut and lead to diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. This can leave you feeling fatigued.
Working Hard, Sleeping Late, and Overexertion
Working hard, overexertion, sleeping late, or leading a frantic lifestyle hampers gut health and causes a depletion in energy levels. Studies have shown sleep deprivation increases the number of bad or harmful bacteria and reduces friendly bacteria.(17)
Fast Foods can Increase Fatigue
Processed and fast foods contain high amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium, while low amounts of fiber, encourage the growth of opportunistic strains of bacteria that disrupt the gut microbiome, which in turn, can increase the symptoms of fatigue.
Remaining Extraordinarily Clean
It might sound weird, but a little dirt is indeed good for the gut health. Studies have shown exposure to environmental microorganisms increases bacterial diversity and helps in improving gut health.(18) Antibacterial detergents and cleaners demolish friendly microbes, and research has also suggested that household disinfectants can cause changes in the gut microbiome, thus disturbing gut health, which in turn can deflate the body’s energy.(19)
Improve Your Gut Microbiome to Combat Fatigue
Check out some of the most essential ways to improve your gut microbiome to combat fatigue.
Eat a Variety of Foods
Consuming different kinds of food leads to a diverse microbiome, which is good for gut health. Legumes, beans, fruits, and other foods containing lots of fiber are especially good for the gut and can promote the growth of Bifidobacteria (health bacteria)(20, 21, 22, 23)
Consume Whole Grains
Because of the rich content of fibers and essential carbohydrates like beta-glucan, whole grains are beneficial gut microbiome. So, add more whole grains to your daily diet.
Consume Fermented Foods
Fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt are loaded with all healthy bacteria, primarily Lactobacilli, and can reduce the amount of disease-causing microbes in the gut.(24) This can help to combat fatigue.
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria and should be consumed in a fair amount to improve energy levels. Bananas, artichokes, oats, asparagus, and apples are some prebiotic-rich foods.(25)
Try Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarian diets can help in reducing levels of disease-causing bacteria like E.coli, and also inflammation, and cholesterol.(26, 27) This is good for the gut microbiome and benefits in improving energy levels.
Limit Your Intake of Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame can increase blood sugar levels by stimulating the growth of bad bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae in the gut microbiome.(28) Thus, the intake of artificial sweeteners should be limited.
Take Antibiotics Only When Necessary
Intake of excessive antibiotics now and then can decrease the energy levels of the body. Antibiotics kill many bad as well as good bacteria in the gut microbiome. This can contribute to weight gain and cause fatigue.(29)
The gut microbiome and fatigue are connected in certain ways and this has turned out to be an interesting area of research for many scientists. Although more research is required to fully understand the role of gut health in energy levels, it is clear that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome through proper diet and other lifestyle factors can bring a positive change in the energy levels of our body and also improve overall well-being.