Feeling continually exhausted should not be accepted as part and parcel of modern-day living, and yet it’s a common problem for many Australians, says a leading naturopath.
Naturopath Victoria O’Sullivan says additional reliance on caffeine and sugar is a dangerous blanket solution and further aggravates the downward spiral of exhaustion.
“If you eat healthily and feel tired, you may find you suffer from associated symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and bad breath."
"A major cause of these symptoms is a poorly functioning digestive system. Poor digestion and absorption of nutrients can leave you lacking energy as your body becomes deficient in energy-producing B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and iron.”
Victoria O’Sullivan’s 10 steps to reclaiming lost energy:
1. Get tested: How long is it since you have had a check-up with your doctor? A standard blood test may reveal deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals such as iron and B12. Symptoms of these include exhaustion, cold hands and feet, dizziness and shortness of breath.
“These deficiencies can have a negative spiralling effect: when we are tired we crave more sugar and don’t feel like exercising, making us even more tired – and the pattern continues,” Victoria says.
2. Do you have allergies? Have an allergy and intolerances check with your naturopath – often allergies will make you feel tired without you even knowing it. Allergic reactions are brought on by a variety of factors – environmental, food and drink – but mostly they are brought on by an overactive immune system.
Victoria suggests, “Identify the triggers of the allergies, and limit contact.”
3. Restore your digestive system: Our digestive system is like an ecosystem - if there is a build-up of bad micro-organisms we’re unlikely to be absorbing the full nutrients and energy from our meals. Some simple ways to restore balance are to chew food properly to ensure break down and maximum absorption.
“Eat foods rich in good bacteria like natural yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut and kim chee; take probiotics, digestive enzyme supplements or apple cider vinegar in water in the mornings” says Victoria.
4. Rehydrate: When we are dehydrated our blood becomes sticky and thick, which affects the transportation of oxygen around our bodies, in turn impacting the vital oxygen transport to our brains and affecting our mental alertness.
“Sticky blood also puts greater stress on our heart, making it work harder. We will likely crave more sugar and stimulants to give us the energy we lack.” Victoria says.
We need roughly 0.33ml of water per 1kg of bodyweight. That’s around 2.15 litres per day for a 65kg person.
5. Avoid flat batteries: Adrenal exhaustion may occur as a result of chronic stress
“we often associate stress with things like loss, moving house and financial pressure. In reality, stress comes from all areas of our lives. Dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning and lacking stamina are classic symptoms of stress, but more subtle symptoms can include difficulty in completing tasks and craving sugar or salt” says Victoria.
The limbic system in our brain is responsible for telling us if we are we under threat or if we need a stress response, the good news is that it can be trained. Often our perception of events can greatly affect our stress response. By developing positive attitudes we can go a long way to reduce stress and gain more energy.
6. Get adequate sleep: Have the lights out by 10pm get eight hours of undisturbed sleep.
“Disturbed sleep results in tiredness, and while we may be able to push through, the more tired we get the more we will crave caffeine, starchy and sugary foods. Unfortunately from here it is almost inevitable that the weight will creep on,” Victoria says.
7. Decrease sugar and starchy foods: Do you find yourself falling asleep at your desk in the afternoon or unable to concentrate? You may have unstable blood sugar levels.
“Take a look at what you’ve eaten during the morning and chances are you haven't had enough to eat or have relied on too much sugar. Although sugar can easy satisfy cravings and re-energise, it diminishes quickly, leaving you stuck on a blood-sugar rollercoaster” says Victoria.
8. Get moving: If you don’t exercise, start. Getting the blood pumping around the body will get the oxygen moving. This can be difficult when we have digestive issues, but exercise helps digestion – even if it’s a gentle walk. Our muscles are packed with mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses of our cells.
Victoria says “building lean muscle will help with energy production – and will also keep us younger!”
9. Practice calmness: Often we are in a state of stress without being aware of it.
“Adrenalin – one of our stress hormones – can put us in a state of constant hyper-stimulation and can trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, making it difficult to maintain a relaxed composure,” Victoria says. Calming practices like meditation, yoga and breathing exercises calm the stress response, in turn helping the flow of energy.
10. Supplement your diet: “Many of us eat on the go and miss key vitamins and minerals. Supplements, in particular B-vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium, help to replace the missing nutrients and sources of energy that many of us lack in our diets,” recommends Victoria.
If you are struggling with low energy on a daily basis your body may be giving you a clue that it's time to assess your health and lifestyle.