When was the last time you felt full of energy? Perhaps not the kind of energy that children seem to have from dawn to dusk, but the kind that sees you through the day without needing to press the snooze button on your alarm clock in the morning, or the kind that stops that feeling you need to take a little nap after lunch. If you're tired of being tired, and fed up of the kind of fatigue that haunts you no matter how many hours you sleep, then here are three steps to help improve your energy:
1. Ask your doctor to do some routine blood tests
You might be tempted to purchase an iron supplement to boost your energy levels -- after all, there are adverts in many a health magazine that associate tiredness with iron levels. But hang on, what if you don't have low iron? Those same adverts rarely mention that taking iron supplements when iron levels are already adequate can lead to some serious medical issues, and since some of the symptoms of excess iron are often similar to insufficient iron levels, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. So, first things first, it's worth asking your doctor to run some routine blood tests. Blood tests can be used to rule out anaemia (iron deficiency) or haemachromatosis (excess iron), plus megaloblastic anaemia (B12 and/or folate deficiency), pernicious anaemia (B12 absorption issues), autoimmune disease, low vitamin D levels, and thyroid imbalances, all of which could cause symptoms of fatigue.
If you've been tested and your doctor says your results are normal, then it's time to start looking at what else could be making you feel tired.
2. Eat a nutrient-dense diet
Do you remember learning in GCSE biology that energy is produced in the body by the mitochondria in each and every one of your cells? If you spent those years giggling at the back of the classroom, then allow this site to refresh your memory.
There are between 200 and 2,000 mitochondria in each cell of your body, and they are the powerhouse of the cells -- they produce energy in the form of ATP via the Kreb's cycle and the Electron Transport Chain. I'm not going to go into detail on those processes today, but I will say that your mitochondria require huge amounts of nutrients as co-factors for those processes to function and produce all that energy. If you're currently surviving on a diet of beige then you could be missing out on some or all of those required nutrients, and now it's time to introduce your digestive system to a rainbow of colors: Choose green vegetables like broccoli and spinach for magnesium and alpha lipoic acid; organic lean meats and oily fish for B vitamins, CoQ10, and omega 3; avocados for N-Acetyl-Carnitine; and berries in red, blue, and pink for antioxidants. And remember to avoid refined carbohydrates and processed foods -- they won't provide any nutrients for you or your mitochondria and will result in less energy.
3. Address your stress levels
Stress -- regardless of cause -- can result in fatigue. The higher your stress levels get, the more cortisol (stress hormone) your adrenal glands will produce. This results in that "wired but tired" feeling and will have a negative effect on your sleep patterns, and your thyroid hormone production (which will then disrupt your metabolism). Chronic stress for extended periods of time can cause the adrenal glands to struggle to keep up the cortisol production and become fatigued, which will lead to exhaustion and an altered immune response.
Finding a way to alleviate stress and achieve the ultimate "work-life balance" is key in maintaining the health of your adrenal glands, and your energy levels. Whether you choose yoga, guided meditation, walks in the park with the dog, or getting artistic with paints... find at least 10 minutes a day to relax, and you will be rewarded with energy.
If you're still struggling with fatigue after trying these ideas, then why not book in with a qualified nutritionist who can look at other possible causes for your fatigue, and support you on the road to recovery.
Kate Knowler is a self confessed recovering perfectionist. She retrained as a nutritionist after using food to restore her health ten years ago, when a career in corporate IT ended with burnout and fatigue. Kate works to empower her clients to make choices that can improve their wellbeing. Visit her website www.the-london-nutritionist.co.uk to learn more about your health!