IBD and Fatigue

Woman lying on couch, sinus pain or headache

Did you know that fatigue is one of the most frequently reported concerns of IBD patients? Fatigue is defined as an overwhelming sense of tiredness, lack of energy, or feeling of exhaustion that is not relieved after rest or sleep. It affects nearly 80% of IBD patients with active disease and 50% of patients in clinical remission.1,2,3

What causes fatigue in IBD patients?

  • Inflammation: The body’s response to inflammation may cause fatigue. Chemical signals produced during inflammation directly act on the brain to cause tiredness and lack of energy. 
  • Anemia: IBD patients with anemia do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues – which can make you feel tired and weak. 
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Low iron as well as Vitamin B12 and folate deficiency can also be linked to weakness and fatigue.4 Learn more about Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation.
  • Medication side-effects: Fatigue can be a direct medication-related adverse effect (AZA, 6-MP, Methotrexate). Steroids are also associated with an increase in energy and/or insomnia. Antidepressants and narcotics, commonly prescribed, can be associated with lethargy (abnormal drowsiness)
  • Arthritis: Pain and inflammation of the joints leads to fatigue
  • Poor sleep: Sleep may be interrupted by symptoms (stomach pain at night) and anxiety.

1. Jelsness-Jorgensen LP, et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2011;17(7):1564-1572

2. Grimstad T, et al. J Crohns Colitis. 2015;9(9):725-730

3. Borren NZ, et al. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;16(4):247-259

4. Gasche C, et al. Gut. 2004;53(8):1190-1197.