I’m a high-energy person – at least I always used to be. But these days I often find myself complaining of the same tiredness many of my friends are moaning about. Of course, a lot of us have young kids who are very talented at draining us, at least mentally, but there can be many other reasons behind our fatigue.
I’ve talked before in this column about how lack of can bring on emotional swings and pain as well as impair coordination and performance, but the plain fact is without enough sleep you’re going to be tired. The number of hours we each need can vary, but 7-9 hours is still a good benchmark. If your sleep is regularly interrupted sleep apnea, a condition which briefly stops your breathing during the night, may be the cause and a visit to a sleep specialist can provide a diagnosis and recommendations for treatment. Hormonal imbalance may be at play here as well as women of peri-menopausal, menopausal and even post-menopausal age can attest. In this case a gynecologist with a focus on integrative medicine may hold the answers and treatment options.
Mild fatigue can often be corrected with moderate exercise. If, like many, you feel like you’re slow burning at the bottom of your wick, 20 to 30 minutes of activity could be enough to boost your metabolism and turn that low-level fatigue around. Biking or walking three times a week sometimes does the trick. I often recommend nicely paced walks on lunch hours to my clients who are looking to lose weight by adding some form of exercise into their regimen. This fits their busy lifestyle and provides an energy boost to boot.
Food allergies or intolerances can have a significant impact of energy levels. Gluten is a particularly well-known culprit here and there are many more undiagnosed cases of gluten allergy/intolerance than there are diagnosed. One effective way to discover if gluten or some other food is causing your slump is an elimination diet. Pull the suspected food out of your diet completely for seven days. On eighth day reintroduce it and see how you feel. Chances are you’ll find the enemy quickly and then be able to adapt your diet to avoid symptoms.
You’ll probably be surprised to hear that too much caffeine can cause fatigue. Excess caffeine in drinks like and colas temporarily increase heart rate and blood pressure. It also stimulates production of adrenalin which puts the body in “fight or flight” mode. Once the initial rush wears off, fatigue can quickly set in because the body is simply worn out. Excessive caffeine intake is usually a sign that we’re trying to ward off the slump, but that keeps the body in a consistent state of overproduced adrenalin which can lead to , a much more serious health problem. Limit your caffeine intake and try to stop it altogether after 2:00 PM. Peppermint tea is a great herbal pick-me-up as are vegetable juices. Try these as alternatives.
Dehydration can have a huge impact your energy levels. Because our bodies are mostly water we need to replenish regularly to keep our systems functioning optimally. The catch is your body doesn’t signal thirst until it is dehydrated. Best to make sure you’re getting quality sources of fluids throughout the day. That doesn’t have to mean the standard eight 8 oz. glasses. Herbal teas, soups, high water-content fruits and vegetables are other good sources. Beverages with caffeine actually dehydrate so look for other options. I always suggest starting the day with a class or two of clear water to help your body rehydrate after a long night of digestion and nutrient absorption. This morning glass also boosts your metabolism which is beneficial to weight loss.
Women, especially those who are still menstruating, should have their iron levels checked if low energy is unchanging. Anemia is a leading cause of fatigue in women which can be corrected with supplements and iron-rich food choices like shellfish, liver and beans.
Other causes of fatigue can include underactive thyroid that doesn’t convert fuel into energy efficiently; depression; heart disease; or a hidden infection such as a UTI that may not manifest itself with painful symptoms. The bottom line is, if your energy level has been scraping the pavement for an extended length of time, it’s time to see a doctor or health counselor to begin unraveling what may be causing it. Because, for the most part, whatever that is can be fixed. We all deserve to live energetically.
Mary Porter is a nutrition educator and counselor living in the Fort Hunt area. Her company, A Better Plate, works with individuals and corporations teaching the art and practice of nourishment. You can email her at email@example.com