Chronic fatigue is increasingly prevalent as our as our lifestyles become more and more frenetic and our diets move further and further away from the whole, natural foods our bodies understand. As anyone who struggles with this knows only too well, the daily battle with fatigue is extremely debilitating and depressing, making it difficult for people who suffer to get through their days productively and positively.
If you feel that you are struggling under a heavy blanket of exhaustion, know that you are not alone and that there is a positive way forward. Having suffered and overcome chronic fatigue myself, here is my strategy for naturally re-discovering your rightful energy levels.
Drink more water
Without enough fresh water to flush through the system, it becomes sluggish which means things stay in the body for longer than they should and this definitely over-stresses all your organs and tissues which have to work extra hard to to compensate. If you can down at least two 8oz glasses of water first thing every morning that will set you up nicely for the day. Follow that up with hot water with lemon and ginger instead of tea or coffee and then aim for one big glass of water at least every two hours during the day.
Don’t kid yourself that you are getting plenty of fluids in your hot drinks. Caffeinated drinks, including tea, coffee and fizzy drinks are diuretics which means they actually deplete fluid levels. In addition they are all highly acidic for the system, and rev up the adrenals. All of which you really don’t need when you are trying to tune in to your natural energy levels.
Cut right back on sugar and hi-carb snacks.
We all know that feeling of being exhausted and reaching for a quick sugary pick-me-up. Only problem is, it doesn’t pick you up at all. You get a momentary lift as all that sugar hits your bloodstream, but because we are not designed to have so much sugar in our blood, the pancreas kicks in to release insulin which mops up all the sugar and then you feel worse than you did before, so you reach for another snack and the cycle goes on. This constant spiking of insulin levels is extremely bad for us, depletes energy levels and ultimately sets us up for weight gain and all sorts of other problems.If you must have a snack, make sure it contains fibre, protein and fat. Instead of sickly, processed chocolate try a fruit and nut energy ball. The fibre, protein and the natural fats in the nuts ensure the sugars are released more gradually into the bloodstream, this prevents those insulin spikes and roller-coaster energy levels.
It sounds silly, but most of us are simply not breathing properly and therefore not getting enough oxygen into our bodies. This creates brain-fog and tiredness. We are particularly likely to take shallow breaths when we are stressed and that causes our adrenal glands to release cortisol, which also affects insulin levels, and makes us very tired. My favourite trick whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or tired is the 4-7-8 breath. Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of 4, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then release your breath slowly through your mouth for a count of 8. Breathing in deeply and then exhaling slowly triggers our para-sympathetic nervous system (often called the Rest and Digest system) which tells our body we are safe so stress hormones and energy levels return to normal.
Never under-estimate the mind-body connection. Breath-focused meditation is a wonderfully accessible method to de-stress and relax, delivering all sorts of proven endocrine and neural benefits in the process. If you want to kick it up a notch, experiment with Pranyama, a yogic tradition of controlling the breath to strengthen life force and energy.
Eat foods that support the de-tox pathways.
Eating a variety of high-fibre veggies and fruit with every meal is essential to feeling full of energy. The natural nutrients in veggies are parcelled up in different combinations in exactly the way our body likes to receive them. This makes it easy for our bodies to get the nutrients they need to function properly. In addition the fibre keeps energy release into the bloodstream at a constant. Finally, veggies, especially leafy green ones, support the liver and other de-tox mechanisms making them more efficient at eliminating the toxins that drag us down and make us feel tired.
Avoid heavily processed and packaged food, especially fried foods.
Most of the additives, preservatives and fats in processed food are known toxins and hormone disruptors. In addition they also contain a lot of addictive substances (like sugar, salt and fat) which put a heavy load on our adrenal glands and make us lose touch with our natural appetite. Even writing that makes me feel tired, so imagine how your body feels having to process all that stuff! Occasional helpings of processed food are obviously not a problem, but to eat packaged and/or fast food at every meal is very taxing on the body, pre-disposes us to weight gain and chronic fatigue.
Our bodies are subtle and complex and small things can upset the balance and create a cascade of symptoms. But, equally, something simple and accessible can get us back on track.
By following these simple steps you will be doing a number of things that will help your body get back to where it wants to be; you will be supporting and encouraging a healthy digestive system, alkalising your cells to reduce inflammation, stalling the production of cortisol and supporting the mechanisms that help to mop it up. Sleep will improve, cravings will start to abate and you will feel a surge in new energy.
Fatigue is often a sign of imbalance in the body and, as such, should be taken seriously. If you are battling with fatigue, it is not all in your mind, you are not being stupid, or making a fuss about nothing. A lot can be achieved through diet but if there is as under lying problem such as an under-active thyroid, or over-active adrenals, it is worth having this checked out by a doctor or functional medicine specialist. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence and get whatever help you can.