Running on empty? When it comes to fatigue, what you don’t eat is equally important as what you do eat. We all have goals and dreams and often the motivation to reach them is present. But fatigue sneaks away the ‘oomph’ to actually do the things needed in order to attain these goals. Whether it is to incorporate a simple ritual into your day or changing up your lifestyle, fatigue tends to suck the power out of your ‘oomph‘ and into the ‘argh.’ It is a sense of exhaustion that often trumps the most motivated of us.
Being persistently tired begins to take its toll and whether you think you are suffering from fatigue or you are just aware that you are not operating at optimum energy levels, these four nutrients could eradicate any cause for your body to feel beaten before you lift your head from the pillow.
Before we begin with nutrition let’s address the most obvious: sleep. While many get by just fine with four or five hours of sleep, it is unlikely to be a sustainable rhythm. And while it is important to interpret what your body is telling you and to learn to listen to what it is communicating, a good starting point is to aim to be in bed by 10pm and up by 6am.
If you are not sure whether or not you are getting the sleep your body requires then ask yourself this simple question: “How do I feel and function throughout the day?”
Moving up on the scale of ‘seriousness’ we find Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If you have been feeling consistently fatigued for more than six months and you are struggling to function normally than you may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is a mysterious illness that tends to manifest symptoms such as constant muscular pains, flu like symptoms, impaired concentration and problems with memory. While the diagnoses of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is relatively rare, there are many who battle with keeping up with day-to-day demands of a modern lifestyle.
Bear in mind that, as with most health imbalances, we can reach homeostasis and bounce back our energy levels through supplementing with these four nutrients:
Iron: the likely cause
Dr. Susan M. Lark, M.D., author of Chronic Fatigue and Tiredness says that a lack of iron could be the root of many people’s problems with fatigue. Even a slight iron deficiency can cause lowered energy levels and experiences of fatigue. Experts who recommend iron to combat fatigue generally suggest between 12 and 15 milligrams per day.
The most potent iron packed foods include lean meats, cooked oysters and clams. For the vegetarians spinach and legumes such as green beans, lema beans and pinto beans pack a solid iron punch. These are among the richest veggie sources of iron however it is important to understand that the type of iron present in them is not as easily absorbed as the type of iron found in the animal sources. This can however be remedied with a shot of vitamin C. Drink fresh (and pure) orange juice or take a supplement of 75 milligrams a day along with the iron-rich vegetables and legumes. The extra vitamin C kick assists your body in the absorption of iron from food.
and Magnesium: Two to tango.
This potent combination packs a hefty punch against fatigue. These two additional minerals can help alleviate persistent fatigue and the accompanying debilitating symptoms. Studies show that 90% of subjects experienced improvements in energy levels when supplementing with Potassium and Magnesium, taken in combination with each other.
Try between 100 and 200 milligrams of each mineral for up to 6 months to see if your own energy levels begin to rise. Taking these as supplements are generally safe for anyone in good health although people with existing heart or kidney problems or with diabetes should speak with their trusted healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements, natural or not.
Vitamin C: Turbo charge!
It is possible that a deficiency or even just a low vitamin C intake could contribute to feeling fatigued. It is advised that 4, 000 milligrams of vitamin C a day could assist people with persistent fatigue.
Note: a higher dose of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea in some. If you experience this then cut back on the vitamin C dosage until the diarrhoea ceases.
Iron: 12 – 15 milligrams per day
Magnesium: 100- 200 milligrams per day
Potassium: 100 -200 milligrams per day
Vitamin C: 4, 000 milligrams per day
(Recommendation from Prevention’s Healing with Vitamins)
Before embarking on a supplement spree, consult your trusted doctor/healthcare practitioner. If you experience heart or kidney problems, tell your doctor you are considering taking a magnesium supplement. The same applies for Potassium if you experience diabetes or kidney problems and remember that if you develop diarrhoea after taking the high Vitamin C dosage then lessen the dosage until the symptoms stop.
And now we arrive at the diet.
Rather than a list of ‘don’ts’ let us call this a list of ‘rather not’s’:
Alcohol, being a central nervous system depressant, is pretty much at the bottom of the list of things you need if you are feeling chronically tired.
Caffeine is often the go-to response upon waking in the morning or if we are feeling a little low on fuel. If the first thing you think of upon waking in the morning is along the lines of “Need…. Coffee…” then be aware that something (other than a lack of caffeine or habit that hasn’t been fulfilled) is causing an imbalance in your systems. When looking to treat chronic tiredness, steer away from caffeine- it may prove to be a quick fix but it is a jolt that is not sustainable. When the caffeine peters off, you can be left feeling a little worse than before you had any caffeine. A fantastic alternative is caffeine free herbal tea containing ginger root. Ginger taste great and provides a mild stimulation (minus the rebound effect).
Sugar cravings often lead to the cookie jar, candies or other sweet desserts. The trouble with these type of foods is that they contain simple sugars which cause a very sharp and immediate rise in blood sugar levels. The buzz does not last very long and then a sharp decrease in blood sugar levels ensues, leaving you feeling flat and your body in a tailspin.
Fatty foods cause disturbances in your energy as well. If you eat plenty of rich, heavy foods then a large portion of your energy is being directed towards the digestive process. Steer clear of eating red meat, processed foods or fatty foods in abundance. Transform yourself with a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats contain essential fatty acids which are not produced by the body. These are present in oily fish, nuts, seed, olives and avocados. Do try to eat these raw wherever possible as many of the health benefits are lost during the heating/cooking process.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t have that extra zest to run the extra mile (literally or figuratively!). Our bodies respond to every little nuance and just giving ourselves a little supplemental boost can go a long way. Apart from the 4 nutrients mentioned above, consider your vitamin B intake as well. Vitamin B can assist in lifting mental fog which always helps to keep us a little more present – and remember, your body inherently knows best!
- Prevention’s Healing with Vitamins. Rodale Inc., 1996
- Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. Harmony Books, 1998