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Fatigue & Digestive Disorders

- Summary
- About fatigue
- Other related symptoms
- Potential causes
- Treatment and prevention
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Vikram Tarugu, M.D., AGA, ACG


Fatigue is a lack of energy or feeling of debilitating tiredness. It is a symptom commonly experienced by many patients, including those with digestive system disorders. The digestive system is responsible for processing nutrients in the body. Any malfunction of the digestive system can either interrupt how the body receives nutrients or cause problems such as bleeding, which may also produce fatigue.

Digestive System

All types of digestive disorders may cause fatigue. Liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis, viral hepatitis, cirrhosis and fatty liver may produce fatigue as the liver fails to process nutrients and toxins adequately. Diseases that may cause gastrointestinal bleeding, such as peptic ulcers, may produce fatigue because the body slowly loses blood. Other disorders may involve the malabsorption of nutrients during digestion, which may result in fatigue. Fatigue can be a symptom of the disease itself or a side effect caused by treatment. Lack of sleep, stress and depression related to digestive conditions can also lead to fatigue.

Peptic Ulcer

Fatigue can seriously impede normal functioning and interfere with a patient’s ability to maintain healthy relationships or derive pleasure from favorite activities. It is characterized by more than just a feeling of tiredness. It is defined as a complete lack of energy or feeling of debilitating tiredness. Feelings of fatigue vary for every individual and may be more severe in some patients than others.  Fatigue may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as headaches and irritability.

Fatigue can be acute or chronic in duration. Individuals who experience severe, persistent and often debilitating fatigue for six months or longer may suffer from a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or another underlying medical condition.  If fatigue exceeds two weeks and has no obvious cause, individuals should seek medical care.

There are no specific medical tests for measuring fatigue. However, the physician will typically perform a physical examination, including various tests to identify any underlying medical causes of fatigue.

When fatigue is the result of a digestive system condition, treatments are often designed to address the condition itself. For patients whose medication may be contributing to their fatigue, alternative drugs may be prescribed. Additional options for treating or preventing fatigue can include exercise, possible diet changes and adhering to an activity and rest schedule.

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Review Date: 01-22-2007

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