By Dr Erin Wiley, ND
Tired? You are not alone, the vast majority of clients I see in practice either generally want more energy, or are exhausted and struggling to understand why. Most people reach for a coffee or sugary snack as a solution to their energy crisis on a daily basis. Despite that fact, one thing is certain, you are NOT suffering from a caffeine or sugar deficiency. So, if you are finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, can’t get through the workday without that second cup in that afternoon, or don’t have the energy to exercise or socialize, it’s time to get your health back on track and understand the root cause of your less than optimal energy production.
6. Iron and Vitamin B12
We need iron and vitamin B12 to make healthy red blood cells that circulate oxygen to every single cell in our body. Without oxygen our cells literally can’t breathe and will eventually die. Hemoglobin, iron and B12 levels are very easy to test and can be deficient in some cases, especially for those who follow a vegan/vegetarian diet or who have heavy periods or blood loss. While nutrient deficiency is something most people think of when they hear the word “fatigue”, and it is very important to rule out and address, it may be surprising to hear that it is not the number one reason why most people in my practice are experiencing low energy levels. However, if this is the case a nutrition plan from your Naturopath can make all the difference.
5. Pollution and Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Mitochondria are the tiny organelles that live inside our cells and make ATP (the chemical currency of energy in the body). Literally the amount of energy we can make and spend every day is dependant on both the health and number of mitochondria in our tissue. These energy powerhouses depend on a number of micronutrients to run efficiently. Chemicals in our daily environment can deplete the body of these nutrient energy co-factors, cause a great deal of oxidative stress and disrupt our metabolic pathways. Once we hit the tipping point between too much chemical exposure and not enough protective nutrients our mitochondria start to struggle and this can cause a drastic decline in energy, mood, focus and concentration. Chemical exposure can come from everywhere; car exhaust, cigarette smoke, pesticides, dry cleaning, resin and glue in our carpets, flame retardants in our electronics and furniture and even drugs especially some anti-biotics, HIV meds, and chemotherapy. Your Naturopathic Doctor can teach you how to limit your exposure, maximize your protective and energy producing nutrients, and even test your toxic load. That way, you can prevent energy depletion from becoming chronic degenerative disease.
4. Endocrine Disruption Thyroid and Adrenal Health
Your endocrine system is made up of glands that are responsible for making hormones that travel in your blood stream and tell your cells what to do. Your thyroid gland controls your metabolism and your adrenal glands respond to stress. Your endocrine system will start to malfunction when it is exhausted from stress, disrupted or damaged by chemicals in our environment, or lacks the basic nutrient building blocks that drive hormone production. Once these glands are exhausted they cannot function properly. Symptoms usually include fatigue, an inability to loose weight, dry hair and nails, poor wound healing and recovery, no stamina, low mood, poor focus and concentration. You will not feel or perform better until your body has the time, energy and tools to repair your endocrine tissue. This is where Naturopathic Doctors can really help to address endocrine burnout. ND’s have the tools to assess and identify endocrine stress (even in its early stages) and an understanding of the support your thyroid and adrenal glands need to fully recover.
3. Sugar And Coffee Actually Cause Fatigue
Sadly our cultural habits around food promote fatigue. While sugar and caffeine might give you an initial energy boost, do not buy into the short term energy high, you are setting yourself up for a rebound energy crash. There is nothing you can do about it. This is an innate biological response. When you eat sugar or coffee you will spike our insulin and this is what creates the roller coaster of energy ups and downs. Insulin is what I like to call “the hybernation hormone”, it slows your metabolism, signals your body to store fat, causes your blood sugar to drop, making you feel tired and crave more sugar. If you then eat more sugar to feel better you will surly make more insulin and the cycle will continue. The more carbohydrates and coffee you consume the more consistently tired you will feel. Breaking the insulin cycle might seem daunting but your ND can help you make some simple and surprising dietary changes that will get your hormones working with you and not against you.
2. Stress, Insomnia and Sleep deprivation
Many of us drastically underestimated how much stress we are under. It has become a cultural norm to work 10-12 hour days, to always be “on call”, to be constantly stimulated and distracted by technology. Stress occurs when the body responds to a challenge. We need to consider not only the stresses that we perceive as negative but also how “busy” we are, the number of demands are on our time, just how many challenges we need to overcome on a daily basis? When we are stressed we engage the fight or flight response. Our brain diverts resources away from digestion, energy production, recovery and repair of our tissue, and our immune system. Resources are channeled towards dealing with the perceived stressor. This response is protective in the short term but very harmful in the long term. I challenge you to consider, if your “to-do” list never ends and you don’t have time to unplug, when does your body have the time to build new healthy cells, repair tissue damage, rebalance our endocrine and nervous system? If you believe that relaxation is not productive, think again? Your cells just might be at their busiest when you are at rest.
1. Sitting At Your Desk, In Your Car And On Your Couch.
A favorite saying around the clinic is that “movement is medicine” but culturally we can easily get caught up in sitting. Sitting at our desk, sitting in our car, sitting at the table, and sitting on the couch. Unfortunately all of this “sitting” means we are not asking our body to make energy. There is a reason why those of us who love spin class, run marathons, and go to cross fit have more energy to burn, we are literally signaling our body to make more mitochondria and signaling those mitochondria to make more ATP (energy). Muscle tissue contains more mitochondria than any other tissue in the body. The more muscle tissue we have, the more energy we can make. However, it is not just formal exercise that signals the body to make more energy but really the total amount of movement we get in a day. Walking or cycling to work, taking the stairs, getting up from your desk at least every hour, all of these choices add up to more energy production. When it comes to productivity and better performance a sedentary lifestyle is having the single biggest impact on our energy potential. So when it comes to wanting more energy literally…. move it or loose it!
If you are concerned about your energy levels, feeling exhausted, or just want to perform at your best? Your Naturopathic Doctor can help you understand the cause of your fatigue and create an action oriented treatment that just might change your entire life.
Want more information? Join Dr. Wiley at noon on Tuesday, November 25th for her seminar on ‘6 Reasons WHY You Are Sooooooo Tired’. Sign up here
Dr. Erin Wiley is a naturopathic doctor with a strong focus on preventative and integrative medicine. She is the Co-founder and Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute, an integrative medical clinic located in downtown Toronto. Erin has a strong clinical emphasis on stress related illness, anxiety, depression and hormone balance. As a naturopathic doctor, Erin is passionate about working with people to help them better understand their health and achieve their health goals.