If this sounds like you, you may be suffering with a health issue that is not recognised by conventional medicine.
Stress and Adrenal fatigue
Is getting out of bed a struggle most mornings? Is caffeine your thing? Do you love to salt your food? Do you get dizzy when you stand up quickly and have permanent dark circles under your eyes? And do you push thru the day, only to perk up after 6pm with too much energy to sleep? Maybe you aren’t just tired. Maybe it’s Adrenal Fatigue.
As many of you know, when you get stressed you can go on to feel tired, drained and lethargic. Stress also comes not only from serious events such as deaths, relationship breakups and accidents, but also occurs due to less obvious reasons such as poor diet, illness, environmental toxins, intense physical exertion and so on.
When you are stressed, the adrenals naturally release cortisol, a stress hormone that also plays a huge part to your immunity, energy regulation and heart rate (it is the hormone that gets you up and going in the morning). When you experience ongoing stress, your adrenals glands may start to run low on cortisol as they burn through the hormone. At this point fatigue may kick in, with slumps occurring particularly upon waking and in the mid afternoon (those with adrenal fatigue often describe this as feeling like they have taken a sleeping pill in them middle of the day).
Weak adrenals can also create make you tired by producing hypothyroid type symptoms (even though there is nothing wrong with the thyroid gland itself). They do so by creating thyroid hormones resistance, disrupting the HPA axis and interfering with the conversion of T4 to the metabolically active T3.
Adrenal fatigue is the number one cause for ongoing fatigue and it is a cause that most doctors do not recognise. It can be easily tested for as circulating hormones can be tested for with a basic blood test. If you are interested in reading more about Adrenal Fatigue, please click here.
- Testing your hormones via a blood or saliva test (the latter is preferable). Ask your Dr or Nutritionist to cover DHEAS, Aldosterone, T3, T4, RT3, Progesterone, Testosterone, E1, E2, E3 and to check your fasting cortisol and blood glucose levels.
- Cut the toxins (see below).
- Sprinkle your food with sea salt.
- Eat high protein meals and snacks.
- Eliminate caffeine & alcohol from your diet.
- Always have a savoury breakfast vs a sweet one.
- When shopping, go organic.
- Include good fats for hormone synthesis: raw butter, coconut/olive/sesame oil
- Sip coconut water when doing high impact exercise.
- Get adequate sleep and go to bed before 10pm.
- If you can, sleep between 7-9am. Even if that means getting up early and going back to bed.
- Reduce your stress: exercise, meditate, laugh or do anything else you enjoy.
When your gut becomes inflamed and has lost the ability to absorb nutrients properly, you are going to feel tired. This issue affects most of us on some level, even those that take supplements and have a pristine diet.
When you can’t absorb nutrients, your body goes into what Jon Gabriel refers to as a “nutritional famine”. Not only will you feel tired, but your vital organs won’t get what they need to function efficiently. You may also start to ‘hold on to” fat, as the body panics it’s not going to get anything for energy in the future.
There are many things that cause malabsorption but even more things you can do to restore the gut’s ability to absorb.
- Taking a test. Your local GP can order a blood test that will show the circulating levels of vitamins and minerals. If you are in deficiency, and especially if you have a balanced diet (and enough sun), it is a pretty good sign that that you have a malabsorption issue. Another test that many integrative Doctors and natural health practitioners can order is a Leaky Gut test. The results from this test reveal how well the lining of your gut is performing based on how permeable the lining is (the more permeable the lining of the gut is, the more likely you are to have absorption issues).
- Remove food intolerances and the toxic load from the body (as described below).
- Consider a Liver detox and gut restoration program over a period of 2 months (minimum). This should be carried out under the supervision of a natural health practitioner.
- Take high quality glutamine, berberine and probiotic supplements under the supervision of qualified practitioner. These nutrients help repair the lining of the gut thus boost absorption levels.
- Chew your food adequately. Aim for a minimum of 20 chews per mouthful.
- Naturally increase your stomach acid. This will help you to break foods down thus increase the body’s ability to get more nutrition from them. Take a teaspoon of (cloudy) apple cider vinegar in a shot of warm water before meals (particularly in the morning) and consider supplementing with natural HCL and digestive enzymes. Natural bitters (such as Swedish bitters) are also great for stimulating stomach acid.
Toxic overload is a leading cause of fatigue. We are exposed to toxins every day whether we like it or not. Toxins vary widely. There are environmental toxins such as pesticides on foods, artificial chemicals in foods and personal items, hormones and antibiotics in animal products, poor air quality, BPA/ BPS from plastics, mercury from amalgam fillings, drugs, alcohol, caffeine – the list goes on.
When you are repeatedly exposed to toxins they can accumulate in your tissues, creating a toxic burden on the body. As the liver becomes overworked and the gut becomes inflamed, toxic overload goes on to cause a serious energy drain.
By reducing the level of toxic overload, working on gastrointestinal health and cleansing the liver, your body will feel rejuvenated and your energy levels will quickly go up.
- Taking a test so you can see your toxic overload on paper. Blood tests can show inflammation, liver, kidney and immune function. Food intolerance tests can show you what foods are destroying the lining of the gut. Urine tests can show you the level of heavy metals you have circulating in the blood. These are just a few. Once you know what you are dealing with, you can start to take the toxic load off accordingly.
- Reducing every day toxins, such as alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, the use of plastics (especially in microwaves – even if they are ‘microwave safe’), using fluoride-free toothpastes, natural deodorants and the toxin I am most passionate about getting rid of– getting amalgam fillings removed from your teeth under the care of a holistic dentist.
- Consider a Liver detox and Gut restoration program over a period of 2 months (minimum). This should be carried out under the supervision of a natural health practitioner.
- Always buy organic, especially with meats. In Sydney, organic vegetables at the farmers markets are quite literally half the price of anywhere else you can find if you buy uncertified organic. The key is in asking the right questions. Click here to read more on this.
- Take a liver support supplement. A great, over the counter option is Flordis Legalon (St Mary’s Thistle extract).
Other tips that will help you feel more awake pretty quickly
- Dehydration reduces blood volume thus will leave you feeling tired, so drink clean water by the bucket load. Even when you are not thirsty, take a swig. Keep water everywhere – by the bed, on your desk, in your gym bag, in the car – so you’re never without!
- If you are someone that gets dzzy standing up quickly, feels tired all the time and has generally low blood pressure, 1/2-1 tsp of rock salt in warm water on an empty stomach in the morning will help you feel perkier.
- Get moving! This will wake you up by increasing blood flow around the body and to the brain. Just move around and stretch a bit. Don’t worry about full-on exercise. Heavy cardio in particular can often leave you feeling worse off as it puts unnecessary stress on the vulnerable adrenal glands.
- Think about cutting coffee. Coffee spikes cortisol more dramatically than other caffeinated beverages, which can leave you feeling pretty low and hour or two after drinking it. It also dehydrates you and irritates the gut lining. The ideal is to quit caffeine altogether but if they sounds like to much, opt for lighter caffeinated beverages instead. Green tea is your best option (you would be surprised at how awake you feel after a couple of mugs). It contains L-Theonine, an amino acid that has a nourishing affect on the nervous system (and thus your stress).
- When we get stressed, we often forget to breathe. It sounds so simple but it’s probably the most important thing to be conscious of. A long, slow breath will help with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. Fresh oxygen also helps the lymphatics clear away toxins, which is imperative if you’re wanting to feel awake!
- Reflect on your day. Are you doing what you love? Many feel tired and drained when they are not consciously recognising how miserable they are in their every day work. Sometimes a change in scene is all you need get your energy back.