Energy and mood

Tired all the time

Would you like more energy? Most of us would, particularly as we get older. If you feel persistently tired your GP’s surgery is a good place to start to rule out any underlying conditions. But if you leave with a clean bill of health and no further suggestions,yet you still feel really tired it can be really frustrating. Now is a good time to look at your nutrition.

The nutrition connection

The air we breathe, the food we eat, our stress levels and the emotions we feel all have a significant impact on our energy levels. Our nutrition is a factor that we can easily influence. Many people don’t realise that how they feel both physically and emotionally and their resistance to stress, can be strongly influenced by what they eat.

For example, a client of mine came to me for advice on healthy eating. She mentioned in passing that she suffered badly from anxiety and also that she drank 6- 8 cups of coffee per day. She had not made any connection between the two. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that sets off hormonal reactions in the body and the quantities this lady was drinking were affecting her nervous system. This is an extreme example but there are many less dramatic ones.

The way in which a food or drink affects us varies according to individual biochemistry. Some people are so sensitive that they cannot metabolise a single cup of coffee without getting the jitters. This can mean they are allergic to it or that they need nutritional support for the liver. Caffeine, like alcohol is a toxin that needs to be metabolised and made harmless by the liver before being excreted from the body. Extreme caffeine or alcohol sensitivity often indicates the need for detoxification.

The myth of the balanced diet

We are constantly being advised to “eat a balanced diet” containing plenty of fruit and vegetables. Many people think they eat a “balanced diet”. But, in my experience as a nutritionist, very few people (official estimates suggest it is only 3% of us) actually eat a truly healthy diet containing optimal levels of nutrients. The main problem is that the concept of a “balanced diet” is too vague and unspecific. Dietary needs will vary subtly according to the individual and must be tailored to the person to fit their unique health picture.

Sugar blues

One extremely important factor in the food, mood and energy equation is blood sugar balance. When you eat carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, sweet foods or chocolate, your digestive system breaks them down into glucose, a form of sugar which can be absorbed by your body and used for energy. Ensuring that there is just the right amount of glucose in the blood at any one time is a delicate balancing act and is the function of hormones including insulin. Constant over-stimulation from the wrong foods can over time lead to inefficient blood sugar control.

Diabetes which can be diagnosed by a conventional medical test is an extreme state of blood sugar imbalance involving insulin deficiency. However many people have an imbalance which does not show up in such a test but can be assessed by the presence of clinical symptoms which may include:

  • Finding it difficult to get going in the morning
  • Mid afternoon energy slumps
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness, weakness or irritability on not eating for a few hours
  • Lethargy, apathy or drowsiness
  • Excess sweating
  • The need for caffeine, chocolate or sugary snacks as a pick-me-up.
  • Feeling “spaced out” or “not with it”
  • Hard to shift weight around the waist

One of my clients thought she had an eating disorder because she could not stop herself bingeing on sweet foods and had been doing so for years. She was surprised to find that a few simple changes to her diet together with some mineral supplements caused her to completely lose the sweet tooth that she had become resigned to.

Stress and blood sugar

Stress is likely to exacerbate a blood sugar problem and vice versa. When your blood sugar crashes your adrenal (stress) glands have to pump out hormones to raise it again. Similarly, if you are stressed your blood sugar levels will rise in order to provide energy to deal with the situation. Our prehistoric ancestors would have burnt off the excess energy by fighting a wild animal or running back to the nearest cave! Unfortunately, in our modern day sedentary lives without an outlet for physical action, we are often left with an over-production of hormones and over-stimulated glands and organs, leading in time to exhaustion. In this state of hyperactivity our demand for nutrients increases significantly and our nutrient “bank account” can go into “debt.” In effect we are using up more nutrients than are being supplied, resulting in compromised functioning.

Glandular factors

Adrenal gland and thyroid gland function is key to maintaining good energy levels and these glands can be supported with herbs and nutrients. Functional laboratory tests can be useful to assess more subtle imbalances in adrenal and thyroid function which may not show up in conventional tests.

B vitamins

Vitamins from the B complex family are particularly important for mental function. The brain uses large amounts to function and since these vitamins are water soluble, they need constant replenishing. Certain clinical symptoms will suggest B vitamin deficiencies. There is also a urine test called a Metabolic Analysis Test that profiles markers in the urine which indicate lack of certain B vitamins. See my article in the blog on the home page about vitamin B.

Toxic overload

In the modern world it’s impossible to avoid coming into daily contact with toxins of some sort or another. Scientific research has linked exposure to environmental toxins with a range of chronic health problems. We are subjected to a daily cocktail of toxins, for example in household cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics, traffic pollution and chemicals in our food to name but a few. But doing some internal housecleaning can make the body more efficient at expelling the toxins before they have time to do any damage. The main line of defence against toxins is healthy organs of elimination, which are the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, bowel and lymphatic system.

Healthy digestion

It is not only toxins from external sources that are a problem. The colon or lower bowel is a potentially huge source of toxicity from within the body. In healthy intestines, the food mass is able to make close contact with the intestinal wall allowing proper absorption and assimilation of nutrients into the system. If the intestinal wall becomes unhealthy, absorption of nutrients is impaired. Likewise, if you don’t have regular bowel movements (and most of us don’t if you consider that a healthy bowel will evacuate its contents twice per day) impacted waste matter will cause all sorts of unhealthy bacteria and yeasts to flourish in the gut.

Not surprisingly, all this toxicity will affect your energy levels. You’ll feel sluggish and tired or you may feel vaguely unwell as if you’ve got a hangover but without having drunk any alcohol.

The whole picture

So as you can see, there can be many underlying factors behind a problem such as fatigue. A nutritional therapist is specially trained to identify the root cause and implement a naturopathic based treatment programme. To book an appointment for a one to one nutrition consultation contact penny@nutritionistlondon.co.uk