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Need an Energy Boost?

General, Immune, fatigue | May 27, 2020 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, general

Need an Energy Boost?

There are a number of reasons why energy levels feel low and your “get-up-and-go” is just not happening. Post-viral fatigue, low nutrient levels, poor diet and depression are some common reasons people may be lacking energy. An important first step is a check-up with a health care provider to establish what could be causing fatigue or lassitude and to rule our major health concerns such as cancer, mitochondrial disease, anaemias, thyroid, diabetes or major depression.

Common causes of fatigue

Recent fatigue

This is considered fatigue occuring less than1 month and could be a result of:

Stress and/or depression. Stress can be a cause of fatigue. The adrenal glands are involved in the way the body deals with stress. Prolonged stress, high blood pressure and high cortisol levels can reduce their function with one ot the symptoms being fatigue. Stress can also be responsible for lack of quality sleep – resulting in fatigue.
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Anaemias. As well as general fatigue, anaemia will often present with shortness of breath, weakness and pallor. Anaemias are a manifestation of an underlying disorder and requires investigation to determine the primary problem. They can occur due to nutrient deficiency or malabsorption (folate, B12 or iron for example); certain medication or infections can cause haemolysis (blood cell breakdown); chronic inflammatory disorders or cancers can suppress bone marrow activity (where blood cells are produced).
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Adverse effect from medication. This might include allergic reactions, over-dose or be unexplained.

Prolonged fatigue

Fatigue which occurs from 1 to 6 months may be due to:

Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus). A condition of impaired insulin secretion and peripheral insulin resistance which can result in hyperglycaemia. Insulin is the hormone released by the pancreas when food is consumed to transport glucose into cells for energy. Problems can arise if cells are not communicating well with insulin or not enough insulin is being produced by the pancreas. 
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Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Fatigue is one of the major symptoms of an underactive thyroid. This is usually a result of under production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid regulates metabolism - the rate calories from food are burnt and release energy. Nutrient which support thyroid function include iodine (needed to produce thyroid hormones), selenium and zinc (convert hormones to their active form) and vitamin D (implicated in thyroid autoimmune diseases).
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Sleep disturbances. This might include disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy or neurological disorders (Parkinson's disease for example), reducing the quality and quantity of sleep, resulting in fatigue.

Cancer. Fatigue may be due to treatment used in cancer therapy, or may be caused by the effect of the cancer on the body.

Chronic fatigue

Fatigue which lasts longer than 6 months is considered chronic. These can be due to disorders such as:

Post-viral fatigue. This is a fatigue of extreme tiredness which sometimes occurs after a recent viral infection and may last for weeks or months.Chronic fatigue (lasting more than 6 months)

Feeling exhausted even after plenty of sleep and symptoms such as sore throat, headache, swollen glands, aches and trouble concentrating often accompany this disorder. Post - viral fatigue is similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, but with a known reason, such as influenza, Ross river fever, Epstein Barr virus, and is thought due to a response by the body to the latent viruses and an increase in levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (causing inflammation).

Depression is often described as an apathy to do anything. Poor appetite, skipping meals and increased desire for sugar can both precede and occur in depression. Nutrient deficiency is linked to depression. B complex vitamins – particularly B12, folate; iron, iodine and chromium are all nutrients associated with depression, which are also important in energy production in the body.

Other common causes of fatigue

  • Too much sleep or lack of sleep. Most adult need around 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Magnesium, and the herbs passionflower, valerian, zizyphus, chamomile and kava can help with quality sleep.
     
  • Lack of exercise or physical activity. Regular exercise increases fitness, reduces stress, improves health and can help with sleep.
     
  • Alcohol and some drugs are depressants which slow the nervous system and can disturb normal sleep. On the other hand, cigarettes and caffeine can stimulate the nervous system and cause insomnia.

In some situations, people just have an unavoidable busy lifestyle and can be frustrated by lack of energy to fulfill their obligations. Here is where some nutrients and herbs can help.

Nutrients supporting energy production

Herbs which are helpful for energy

  • Panax ginseng
  • Siberian ginseng
  • Withania
  • Rhodiola
  • Gotu kola
  • Astragalus

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Are you thirsty?

Dehydration can occur in hot climates, working outdoors in the heat or not drinking enough fluid. Some health conditions such as Irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel disease may cause fluid loss through frequent diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration can include headaches, muscle weakness and constant fatigue.

Don’t forget to eat

Food is fuel. The quality and type of food eaten impacts on energy. Nutrient poor, low carbohydrate or low kilojoule diets can result in fatigue. Eating regularly and making wise food choices is probably the most important thing to look at when wanting an energy boost. 

Complex carbohydrates are an efficient source of energy. They are broken down to small sugars; glucose, fructose and galactose, and used for fuelling cells in the body for the various work they do. Unused sugar is called glycogen and stored in muscles and the liver to be used for intense burst of exercise or activity. Carbohydrates are used to fuel the brain and low energy and lack of concentration can be a sign of a need for carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates take time to digest, be absorbed and used, thus providing longer lasting and sustainable energy. These include wholegrains – oats, wheat, rice, barley, millet, quinoa, lentils and corn for example. Legumes such as beans and peas provide carbohydrate, fibre and protein. Whole vegetables provide carbohydrate and fibre - fuel for probiotics in the gut. Add in some nuts - cashews, almonds and walnuts. Whole grains can be made into bread, cereals, muffins and pastas.

Simple sugars - those found in fruit and milk will give a quick acting energy boost. Try making shakes with a variety of fruit, nuts, chia seeds and almond, dairy, coconut or oat milk for a quick, healthy pick-me-up.

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References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/clinical-pharmacology/adverse-drug-reactions/adverse-drug-reactions

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/approach-to-the-patient-with-anemia/evaluation-of-anemia

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/special-subjects/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/chronic-fatigue-syndrome

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-fatigue/art-20047709

Chronic viral infections in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6167797/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue

https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/grain-cereal-foods-mostly-wholegrain-and-or-high-cereal-fibre

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/16/ask-the-expert-legumes-and-resistant-starch/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/16/ask-the-expert-legumes-and-resistant-starch/

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