6 Reasons Behind Fatigue and How You Can Regain Your Energy

With all the demands on people today, it's no wonder that many rely on caffeine, sugar and stimulants just to stay awake. The stress of long commutes, young children at home, and work is compounded by insufficient sleep and on-the-go eating. Yet even if these factors are present, the cause of fatigue is not always clear and the medical system does not reliably address fatigue. If you've been frustrated by low energy without knowing why, or need to safely raise your energy to handle your responsibilities, read on.

Stress

Stress, thought to be responsible for up to 90% of visits to the doctor, is omnipresent. Up to a certain point, our bodies are equipped to answer stress with a rush of adrenal hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, but these are meant to be reserved for occasional crises, not constant overwork. Acute or chronic stress depletes the adrenal glands, inducing a state known as adrenal fatigue or, more seriously, adrenal exhaustion. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include a tendency to startle and become irritated easily, low blood pressure, trouble sleeping, sensitivity to light, cravings for sweets and lower back pain.

If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue, ask your doctor to check if your pupils contract totally in bright light and whether your blood pressure stays normal if you stand up after lying down. Also ask to have your saliva tested for stress hormone levels to determine if you have adrenal fatigue.

Diet

If you're working hard and constantly on the run, the likelihood is that you're not giving your body the nutrition it needs to power you well. Diets high in carbohydrates, such as processed sweet and starchy foods like bagels, cereal, snack bars, and muffins,s are anti-energy for two reasons: first, sugary foods send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride, charging you up briefly before you dropping you down. This state induces your adrenal glands to release cortisol, contributing to adrenal fatigue. Second, eating a diet high in carbohydrates, or eating lightly (as when dieting), provides too little of the essential amino acid tyrosine for your body to produce the energizing hormones dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

If you are a frequent dieter, often skip meals or rely on sweets to keep going, consider supplementing with tyrosine in a dose of 100-1,000 mg first thing in the morning. You may take a second dose in the afternoon. Alternatively, take tyrosine's precursor DLPA in a dose of 500 to1,000 mg first thing in the morning, repeating in the afternoon if you wish. DLPA's side benefits include acting as a mild painkiller and antidepressant. Taking fish oil, flax seed or another omega-3 fatty acid supplement will also improve levels of energizing hormones by up to 40%.

Low Thyroid

Thyroid hormones are needed to activate stimulating neurotransmitters like tyrosine, making them necessary for physical power. Low thyroid, experienced by about 10% of the population, is expressed in a number of symptoms including lethargy, increased need for sleep, headaches, tendency toward weight gain and difficulty losing weight, a hoarse voice, trouble concentrating, and depression. Low thyroid may be induced by a tonsillectomy, the start of menstruation or the onset of menopause. Men over 60 also experience a high rate of low thyroid. Finally, prolonged or frequent dieting can also result in down-tuned thyroid function.

To protect your thyroid, eat a diet with enough iodine from high-quality sources like Celtic sea salt and avoid soy foods, which suppress thyroid function from as little as 3 tablespoons a day. Also avoid foods containing gluten, including wheat, rye, oats and barley. Lastly, fluoride and chlorine are both known to suppress thyroid; if they are present in your drinking water, find a home filtration system that removes both.

Sex Hormones

Estrogen and testosterone's interaction with neurotransmitters in the brain links your levels of estrogen and testosterone to your get-up-and-go. In menopause and andropause your sex hormone levels may drop by as much as 90%, particularly if you eat a poor diet high in refined carbs and lead a stressful life. If you experience fatigue and have severe PMS, are in menopause or andropause, or are approaching menopause, ask your doctor for a saliva test to measure your levels of these hormones.

Poor Sleep

With a third of our lives meant to be spent in deep, continuous sleep, it's little wonder that millions of overstressed people struggle to get proper shut-eye. Most people would benefit from more sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, wake up too early or sleep poorly, take a 5-HTP supplement in a dose of 50-200 mg an hour before bed. 5-HTP, an amino acid, is converted into the feel-good amino acid tryptophan, then the soothing neurotransmitter serotonin, and finally the hormone melatonin for sleep.

Other practices that may help include getting exposure to sunlight early in the day to help regulate melatonin levels, waking up and going to sleep the same time every night, and checking to see if you snore. Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine all disrupt normal sleep.

Exercise

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins to raise both energy and mood and is proven to reduce both fatigue and depression. Exercise may also help raise testosterone levels. A sedentary, indoor lifestyle with little exercise or exposure to sunlight (helpful for vitamin D production) contributes to low mood, bodily weakness, poor sleep and decreased nutrient absorption. In a depleted state such as adrenal fatigue, however, exercise may tax your body further, worsening the fatigue. If this is the case, pursue other treatments, rest and recover until exercise does you more good than harm. Most people suffer from vitamin D deficiency, so spending more time outdoors or supplementing with the nutrient can help. Acupuncture can also help in raising endorphin levels.

Though many people would benefit from additional exercise, rest is even more important. Eating well in a calm environment, making time for friends, retaining a sense of humor and spending time outdoors all contribute to improved overall well-being. Also explore alternative modalities including acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy, massage and aromatherapy to de-stress and rebuild energy.