Why am I so tired and how do I fix it?!
Most of us recognize that our stress levels are far beyond amounts that are widely considered to be healthy. And yet—although we understand the importance of healthy behaviours like managing stress levels, eating right, getting enough sleep and exercise—many of us have a hard time practicing these healthy behaviours.
More often than not we are overwhelmed, too busy or simply lack the motivation, energy and time to be more physically active. This leaves us searching for a quick energy fix, which is why energy drinks are so popular. Caffeine is the major ingredient in most energy drinks—a 24-oz energy drink may contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine (similar to that infour or five cups of coffee). These drinks can leave you feeling jittery and are often followed by an energy crash. Being tired is never normal. There is always a cause for fatigue and the secret is to find it.
Step 1: Consider the Cause
There are many causes of fatigue beyond simply having a poor night’s sleep.
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Chronic infection
- Chronic inflammation
- Sleep apnea
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic stress – adrenal fatigue
Step 2: Complete Your Energy Assessment
Essential Blood Tests: I have developed a complete panel of blood tests in partnership with DynaCare for a complete metabolic and fatigue assessment. Some of the things we check include:
- Cortisol: This stimulating hormone allows us to get up out of bed and adapt to stressors. Studies have shown that people with low cortisol have more depression and fatigue.
- Ferritin: Optimal levels of this storage form of iron should be 70 to 84 for most women, low iron is a common cause of fatigue.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is essential for mood, circadian rhythm, red blood cell production and memory.
- CBC: Complete blood count, rules out anemia; a common cause of fatigue.
- Thyroid markers (TSH, free T3 and T4): Thyroid hormones control the metabolism of every cell in the body and optimal levels are essential for energy, mood, focus, metabolism and digestive function.
- RBC magnesium and zinc: Low magnesium is linked to chronic fatigue and low zinc is related to weight gain and hormone imbalance
- Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is essential for blood sugar and insulin balance, bone health, immunity and weight management.
- Fasting blood sugar and fasting blood insulin: When an imbalance of these is present,it can cause fatigue related to “carb-coma.”Blood sugar fluctuations lead to fogginess, cravings and lethargy after meals. Fasting blood sugar is optimal when less than 5.2 and fasting insulin should be less than 36 .
Step 3: Pick Your Energy Fix
Regardless of the cause of your fatigue, these supplements and activities can help.
Give Your Brain a Dose of Dopamine
A study looking at the effects of tyrosine on cognitive task performance found that tyrosine supplementation could combat the effects that stress and fatigue have on concentration levels. Take 500 to 1500 mg a day of L-tyrosine upon rising (avoid if you have an overactive thyroid). Start your day with a breakfast containing at least 30g of protein to ignite your metabolism (especially your thyroid hormone). Avoid starchy carbohydrates at breakfast, too. This simple trick sets your dopamine, which is essential for focus, motivation, drive, and appetite control. A sample meal choice would be an omelet with two or three eggs and goat cheese served with a side of mixed greens.
This adaptogenic herb can increase vitality, especially if stress is the cause of your fatigue. In one Swedish study, rhodiola significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and improved attention after four weeks of repeated administration. Rhodiola is my favourite choice for balancing cortisol and increasing serotonin and dopamine activity in the brain, which helps mood and focus.
Creatine is one of the only supplements proven to increase energy, muscle growth/recovery and brain power. (Everyone can take it for mental function, energy, and muscle mass; not just bodybuilders). The suggested dose is 5g per day. Creatine has been recognized as a product that delivers on its promise of improved strength. Our body uses up about two grams of creatine per day, so replenishing your daily supply makes great sense.
Work in a Workout
It’s counterintuitive, but a quick workout can actually boost your energy levels rather than deplete them. In a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, researchers had sedentary, healthy adults do just 20 minutes of low-to-moderate-impact strength-based exercise three days a week. Participants reported a 20 per cent increase in energy levels and also felt 65 per cent less fatigue.
Mellow Out With Melatonin and Go to Bed Earlier
Melatonin helps regulate circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. In one clinical trial, 43 subjects with difficulty sleeping received a combination of melatonin, magnesium and zinc (the same combo I recommend to most of my new patients). The group showed significant improvement in ease of getting to sleep, quality of sleep, hangover on awakening from sleep, alertness the following morning, total sleep time and restorative quality of sleep. Also, when you sleep matters. Our body recuperates the most from stress when we are sleeping between the hours of 10pm and 2am. So, if you need more energy, start prepping for bed around 9 to 9:30pm to be asleep by 10pm.
About the Author
Dr. Natasha Turner is a New York Times bestselling author and one of North America’s leading naturopathic doctors, a sought-after speaker, natural health expert, and the founder of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto. In2014 she was recognized by her professional organization as a leader in her field and in 2016 was awarded the top […]Read Bio Read Posts