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Are You Tired, Fatigued? Bad Habits May Be Key

Americans are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Being tired or having low energy is one of the most common complaints I hear. There are many components that could be affecting your energy, your umph and your get up and go. In this column I will explore some of the major reasons why YOU may be tired. Remember, before you make any changes to your diet, consult with your primary care physician.

Sleep It Off 

Let’s start out with the obvious. When you sleep; you restore, rejuvenate, slow down the aging process. When you don’t sleep, you fatigue, deplete and age. Generally, we need the eight hours that we've always heard about.

It’s true - in a small percentage of people, less sleep is sufficient. That is not you. Even if you have been getting a solid six hours of sleep per night for the last few years and think you are doing just fine, unfortunately, it is not sustainable. The body can only compensate for so long.

The reason why it is not more obvious is because sleep deprivation doesn’t cause sleepitis, or sleepoma. It causes diseases seemingly unrelated to sleep like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and mood disorders.

My recommendation: Get eight hours of sleep per night. The hours you sleep before midnight are more effective than the hours after midnight, so get to bed early. And don’t say you’ll “catch-up” on the weekends, the body doesn’t work like that.

Nutrition

Do you subscribe to the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)? If so, you’re going to have low energy. Just think: You’re driving a high performance car and running it on low quality gas.

Highly processed foods (pastas, breads, crackers, cereal), bad fats, sugar, soft drinks, and many other products that come out of a factory are BRINGING YOU DOWN. These foods lower immune function and cause inflammation. Both of these factors zap your energy and leave you with the after-meal-lull, and the 3:00 p.m. crash.

My recommendations: Try eating real food. This includes grass fed, wild meats, nuts & seeds, organic veggies, organic fruits, legumes and limited whole grains. That should put and extra pep in your step.

Lifestyle

For millions of years our ancestors ran and hunted and searched for food. Now, we sit behind a computer for hours on end, ride home and surf the Internet, watch some TV, and then do it all over. The body wants to move, so move it and awaken your ancestral DNA.

My recommendations: Move or exercise 30-45 minutes per day, no less than four hours per week. Try a combination of cardio and resistance training. Very easy!

Adrenal Fatigue

When you are burning the candle at both ends, not sleeping enough, working overtime and not giving your body a chance to rejuvenate, your adrenal glands will suffer.

Adrenal means “on top of kidney” which is exactly where the adrenal glands are located. Think of your adrenal glands not only as your morning pick-me-up and source of adrenaline, but as your reserve tank.

Test your adrenal glands with a 24 hr salivary cortisol test. If your adrenals are depleted they can be strengthened with natural herbs and nutrients as well as lifestyle factors. 

My recommendations:

  1. Remember to get your sleep. 
  2. Get your body into a rhythm; go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time 
  3. Make sure you are exercising (don’t overdo it). 
  4. Consider hydrotherapy. This could be as simple as doing 30 seconds of freezing cold water at the end of your shower every day or as complicated as getting a constitutional hydrotherapy treatment from a professional.

Hypothyroid

The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is responsible for helping you maintain your energy. If you have low thyroid function you will definitely feel tired. Other signs of hypothyroid: Dry skin, constipation, hair-loss. The good news is that a simple blood test and proper medication or supplementation can knock this one out of the park.

My recommendation: Ask your doctor for a blood test and medicate / supplement as necessary. If this is your problem, you will notice a huge difference once your thyroid is managed properly.

Anemia

Anemia describes a variety of conditions that ultimately lead to a decrease in oxygen in your body, whether its because you have less red blood cells or oxygen can’t bind to existing red blood cells. The two most common are iron deficiency anemia and pernicious anemia and both of them will cause fatigue.

Iron deficiency can be found in both men and women but is more common in women due to menstrual cycles. In men, iron deficiency anemia is seen more gastrointestinal bleeding or traumatic accidents.

Iron is also the most deficient nutrient in children, oftentimes a result of excessive cow milk consumption. Iron is crucial in energy production not only for its role in the electron transport chain but its ability to carry oxygen to all of the cells of your body. A simple blood test will tell you if you have an iron deficiency and if you are you can supplement with iron and increase your consumption of iron-rich foods.

My recommendations: Red meat is probably the number one source of iron in your diet, so get it grass fed and don’t eat it every day. The other meats (chicken & fish) are next, followed by eggs. If you are a vegetarian don’t worry, dark green leafy veggies like collard greens, kale, spinach and broccoli.

Remember: Vitamin C liberates iron from it’s food, so sprinkle some lemon or lime on your salad to increase absorption of Iron. Dried fruit and beans are also a good source of iron. Finally, use a cast iron skillet to cook with.

The second type of anemia we will discuss is pernicious anemia. This is when the body lacks the red blood cells strengthening effects of vitamin B-12. B-12 deficiency is commonly seen in older populations, vegetarians and alcoholics.

Alcohol basically blocks the ability to store B-12, vegetarians don’t eat meat (which is the only significant sources of B-12) and older populations lack the stomach acid and nutrients needed to absorb B-12. Again, this can be determined with a simple blood test and if your B-12 is low you can either stop drinking, start eating organic meat, or supplement with B-12. Supplementation should be done with a qualified health practitioner so please don’t do this on your own. The 17 year old at GNC is not going to be able to explains the intricacies of B-12 supplementation.

There are a variety of reasons why you may be tired. Some of them are very basic and you can fix them with some simple dietary and lifestyle changes. For the rest, please visit your doctor.

Herndon resident 20+ years July 01, 2012 at 12:43 PM
A lot of this makes good scientific and physiological sense, but I know people who are obsessed with their own good nutritional health to the point that they alienate others with their nutritional and exercise needs. Are they healthier? Yes. Are they happier with good relationships? Not so much. A great focus on ones own health can lead to wretched self-centered behavior. Just a balance for you to see.
Chris Ogilvie, Naturopath July 01, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Thanks for the comment. Striking a balance between our nutrition and our friends and family is extremely important. So I cede you point about food obsession and hope you would agree that poor nutrition creates disease and a low quality of life. If we can slowly improve the quality of the food we put in our bodies we will get closer to the mutual goal of balance.
YellowLadybird July 01, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Ah, I've been justifying my midnight bedtime with "I'll catch up on weekends" for months now... But of course, as you point out, I'm exhausted all the time. Maybe I'll try to switch to an early bird routine. Thanks for writing! Karen
Chris Ogilvie, Naturopath July 02, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Thanks for the comment Karen. There's no catching up, fix it now and everything gets better.
Virginia Colin July 03, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Any recommendations for people with chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chris Ogilvie, Naturopath July 03, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Hello Virginia, thanks for writing. CFS is a very individualistic condition. There are so many things that may be causing this. Consider speaking to your primary care physician or a qualified Naturopath. Feel free to email me for more info. info@drogilvie.com.
Jacqueline Brown July 10, 2012 at 05:44 PM
What about sleep problems related to adrenal fatigue/stress. I have read this list of herbs: http://www.womentowomen.com/adrenalhealth/naturalherbal-sleeping-aids.aspx Which ones work?
Chris Ogilvie, Naturopath July 10, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Hi Jacqueline, I couldn't tell you what would work for you without doing an intake. Some of the herbs recommended are very strong and can have side effects so I would recommend consulting a health care professional before trying any of them. I do use those herbs in my practice but not on everyone.

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