Three commonly ignored causes of low energy

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 29 June 2021

One of the first signs of declining health is low energy. But so often we blame our low energy on our busy lives, or ageing because our blood work comes back "normal".

I believe that is our first mistake.

There are many different causes of low energy and very few of them show up on blood work unless you have reached situation critical.

Here are three common reasons for low energy that are often missed if they are not on your radar for being deficient or even suboptimal.

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is used in over 200 enzymatic reactions in the body. Now that's a busy mineral! Also consider that we need multiple enzymatic reactions to occur in order to convert macronutrients, like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. When not enough magnesium is around energy production starts to slow down. Not only that, your stores of magnesium get depleted quicker when you are under stress. Higher stress, less magnesium, less energy production.

How do you know if you should try magnesium for fatigue? Other symptoms of magnesium deficiency include menstrual cramps, restless leg syndrome, constipation, muscle twitches, muscle cramps, or difficulty getting to sleep. If you have any of these symptoms along with fatigue it is worth trying. You can also check your levels of red blood cell magnesium to see if you are deficient.

2. CoQ10

CoQ10 is a critical nutrient in the mitochondrial electron transport chain. Mitochondria are the energy producing units in all of our cells. Think of them like your cell's battery. No battery, no power. No CoQ10, dead battery. This is especially true in our muscles cells, as muscle has the highest concentration of mitochondria.

Levels of CoQ10 in your body decrease as you age. CoQ10 levels have also been found to be lower in people with certain conditions, such as heart disease, and in those who take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.

How do you know if you should try coenzyme Q10 for fatigue? Conditions like hypertension, fibromyalgia syndrome, high cholesterol where you are taking a statin, or being elderly are situations where you are more likely to need CoQ10. There is no available blood test to see if you are deficient.

3. Oxygen

Oxygen is carried to our cells in the bloodstream via a taxi that we call hemoglobin. The main nutrient needed for sufficient levels of hemoglobin is iron. What is the major symptom of iron deficiency anemia? You guessed it - fatigue.

But you don't need to have low iron to have low oxygen. Other under appreciated causes of poor oxygen saturation include lack of regular exercise, smoking, sleep apnea, and even just shallow breathing.

How do you know if lack of oxygen is causing your fatigue? Start with just ten minutes of belly breathing a day for a few weeks and see if you start to feel better. Other lifestyle changes like regular exercise and smoking cessation have so many other benefits that they are worth doing anyway. As for sleep apnea, maybe a sleep study is indicated. Last but not least you can have your hemoglobin and ferritin checked in the blood.

Now I would love to hear from you! Which of these causes surprised you the most? Leave a comment below & I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

7 Replies to “Three commonly ignored causes of low energy”

Dave Burke

I am 76 and have low energy a few times a week. Can you advise on the best and easiest way to increase iron and magnesium levels . Would it be diet or are there some pills I could take daily ( like vitamins) ? Thanks for your time.. I still golf and curl.

Erin McMahon

CoQ10 surprised me the most! I’m definitely going to check into this one & see if adding it helps make the difference in my case. Also, thanks for the reminder re: magnesium, as I’m more stressed than ever. So it makes sense that I’m naturally depleting this faster. I’ve also “fallen off the yoga wagon,” so I’ll be returning to my practice. Many thanks for your Teacher Tuesday!

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

You’re welcome Erin!

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Hi Dave,
You could try increasing your dietary sources of these nutrients first and then check your blood levels after about 3 months.
For Mg – dark leafy greens, oatmeal, buckwheat, nuts & seed, lima beans, and molasses.
For iron – red meat or liver is best because it is a heme iron source. I would look for grass-fed options to ensure quality.
Non-heme iron sources like spinach are much harder to absorb as you get older.

Divya Malik

CoQ10 was a surprise for me couple of years when I was suffering from chronic fibromyalgia. Now I am better but I wish I knew better early on!

Christian Bertelsen

Thanks for the info.
I get plenty of magnesium both in taking magnesium citrate and transdermally in epsom salt baths.
However I have neglected Q10 and exercises, hence fatigue.
This will be corrected. Hopefully I will have good news when we meet again.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

You’re welcome Chris! I look forward to your update.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Do you like these posts? Sign up for Dr. Durkin's Apple a Day ....

Apple A Day is where you can find small, digestible, practical action steps to help you feel your best, one apple at a time.

Apple a Day

Quinte Naturopathic Centre

173 Church Street

Belleville, ON K8N 3C1


Hours of Operation:

Monday 10am - 7pm

Tuesday 9am - 6pm

Wednesday 9am - 6pm

Thursday 9am - 6pm

Friday 9am - 2pm


NOTE: Our building is not wheelchair accessible