What is fatigue?

Fatigue – a lack of energy – is one of the most common and disabling symptoms in IBD. Almost 80% of people with active IBD and 50% of those with inactive IBD have fatigue that impairs their quality of life. Fatigue can affect your activities at work and school, and your ability to engage in social activities.

Fatigue has three components:
  • Generalized weakness resulting in difficulty starting activities

  • Reduced ability to maintain activity

  • Difficulty with concentration, emotional stability, and memory

Back to top

Causes of fatigue in IBD

Very little is known about why fatigue occurs in IBD and this makes it very difficult to treat.

Inflammation, nutritional deficiency (iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D), anemia, and altered metabolism can contribute to fatigue and make it worse. 

Symptoms of IBD (e.g., pain), mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety), lack of exercise, and sleep problems can also contribute to fatigue.

Back to top

Management of fatigue

Here are some tips for managing fatigue:

  • Your fatigue could be due to inflammation. Your inflammatory markers should be checked, such as the blood tests CRP and ESR, and the stool test fecal calprotectin. 

  • Medications that treat inflammation can sometimes improve fatigue. For example, thiamine is being studied for its potential to manage fatigue in IBD.

  • You should also have an assessment done to make sure no other conditions are contributing to the fatigue. Treatment of those other conditions could help.

  • Deficiencies in vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D can cause fatigue, and these can be addressed with supplements.

  • If you have depression, anxiety, or a sleep disorder, these can be addressed with medications and psychological interventions, such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy. Sometimes increasing your physical activity can also help. Visit our Mental Health and Wellness section for more information and strategies. 

  • If you experience pain, visit our Pain in IBD section to help determine the cause of your pain and management strategies. 

Back to top

In This Section

Back to IBD Journey