For some, the answer to the question “why am I so tired?” might be obvious…too many late nights… but when they get the chance to have a good night’s sleep they are recharged and ready to go.
However, for others (up to 1 in 5 people) fatigue is a constant part of your everyday existence. Even when you get an early night you might not be able to get to sleep, you may wake repeatedly during the night; or even if you sleep well you may still feel exhausted the next day. Why???
There are many reasons why your body may not be generating the energy you need.
Consider the following possibilities:
- insufficient levels of all the vital energy-making nutrients in your diet
- an excessively acidic diet putting stress on the body’s natural buffering mechanisms to maintain pH
- poor digestive function (even if your diet is good, you may not be breaking down and absorbing the nutrients)
- a state of inflammation in your body which could be caused by chronic disease or food intolerances and a “leaky gut”
- systemic infection especially chronic viral infections or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (including Candida)
- excessive, poorly controlled stress leading to adrenal exhaustion, insomnia and/or imbalances in our nervous system
- toxicity resulting from pesticides, medications, heavy metals, poor gut function and inadequate liver function
- problems with your metabolism including compromised thyroid function, excess weight, poor blood sugar regulation and hormonal dysfunction.
Look at the list and consider how many of these might apply to you. Most of us might be able to cope with one of these factors for a short amount of time but combine excess stress with a diet that doesn’t have sufficient nutrients for your needs, less than optimal digestion and detoxification and perhaps an underlying illness and no wonder you’re tired.
The majority of our energy is generated in the part of our cells called the mitochondria. How many mitochondria we have will influence our energy levels. These little “batteries” proliferate according to the demands placed on them. For example, moderate exercise stimulates them to increase in numbers. So too, does avoiding excess calories. Particularly, eating too many calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods can cause our mitochondria to become sluggish and slows the rate of proliferation.
What can you do about it?
There are a multitude of nutrients required for efficient mitochondrial function but some of the key ones include carnitine, B vitamins, iron and magnesium. Eating a diet rich in these nutrients is therefore critically important to energy production.
Good sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, legumes, wholegrains, green vegetables and seafood. Carnitine is made by our bodies from the amino acids lysine and methionine so a diet with sufficient lean animal protein is important and will also provide you with readily absorbed iron as well.
Working out what is going on for you is a complex process and you would be wise to seek the advice of your trusted naturopath to help unravel the issues, get to the underlying cause of your fatigue and develop a tailored plan to get you back to your desired energy levels. Looking at your symptoms and analysing your blood tests is vital. A lot can be gleaned from standard blood tests but occasionally further functional testing may be warranted.
Much can be achieved with changes to diet and lifestyle but often supplementation with additional amounts of key nutrients is necessary. Herbal tonics in tablet or liquid form are also an extremely effective part of my arsenal in helping the body to get back to its desired state of balance.
And it goes without saying that you need to be getting enough sleep. Here’s 9 tips for better sleep.