Tired all the time
Would you like more energy and to feel more positive about life? Chances are you would. The peri menopause, the phase that starts in your late 30s or early 40s can be a time when your energy levels and mood go down or even crash.
If you feel persistently tired or low, your GP’s surgery is a good place to start to rule out any underlying conditions. However, don’t be fobbed off with anti depressants if it doesn’t feel right. Unfortunately, although it is changing, many doctors offer menopausal women anti depressants as an inappropriate first line treatment. Even if you leave with a clean bill of health and no further suggestions, it can be really frustrating and demoralising. Now is a good time to look at your nutrition. Book a one to one nutrition consultation with me.
Why do I feel like this?
As you will probably have noticed, your energy and mood are closely linked. If you feel tired, you’re likely to feel demotivated and low spirited. Similarly if you are feeling generally down, you don’t have much energy.
So why is it so common for mood and energy levels to drop in peri menopause?
The increased stress at this time of life won’t help. There is lot to deal with – maybe you are looking after ageing parents as well as your immediate family on top of managing your career. Your stress levels will have a big impact on your mood and energy.
Developing resilience to stress is key and nutrition can help a great deal in this respect.
Diet & Mood
Some ground breaking research found a clear link between diet and depression. Known as the SMILES trial, the study involved people with moderate to severe depression. After 12 weeks, those people who were put on a healthy diet improved significantly compared to the control group. In fact one third of the depressed people scored low enough on the depression screening to be classed as in remission.
These results are being confirmed by evidence that has been gathering from other studies. Healthier diets are associated with a reduced risk for depression. Diets that that include more processed food and sugary products are linked with an increased risk of depression
So if your mood is less than buoyant, is it time for a diet reboot?!
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.
Foods & Mood
What you eat and drink has a powerful impact on your mood and energy levels. The way in which a food or drink affects us varies from one person to another.
Sometimes the effect can be dramatic and clear cut. A racing heart after one cup of coffee is an obvious reaction. Often it is more hidden. For example gluten sensitivity can affect mood. You can be sensitive to gluten without realising it (known as non coeliac gluten sensitivity).
The Blood Sugar Connection
One extremely important factor in the food, mood and energy equation is your 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.
Diabetes which can be diagnosed by a conventional medical test is an extreme state of blood sugar imbalance involving insulin deficiency. However it is more common to have an imbalance which does not show up in such a test but is nevertheless causing symptoms including mood swings, cravings for sweet foods and energy drops.
In my nutrition practice, I come across a lot of women who struggle with over indulging in sugar rich foods. Some women think they have an eating disorder. In fact often there is an underlying blood sugar imbalance which greatly exacerbates the cravings. Tweaks to your diet such as including more protein, looking at the timing of eating as well as what you are eating can make a huge difference. It is not uncommon to find your desire for sweet foods reducing dramatically.
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.
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 this blog article for more in depth about vitamin B and mental health.
Love Your Liver
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. A healthy liver is key here as well as a healthily functioning bowel.
Gut & Mood
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.
There is now research linking the type of bacteria you have in your gut with your mood too. The beneficial mood enhancing gut flora are called psychobiotics.
The whole picture
So as you can see, there can be many underlying factors behind a problem such as fatigue. A nutritional therapist is trained to identify the root causes and implement a naturopathic based treatment programme. To book an appointment for a one to one nutrition consultation contact firstname.lastname@example.org 07761 768 754
Nutrients. 2018 Nov; 10(11): 1708.
Mood Disorders and Gluten: It’s Not All in Your Mind! A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis
Eleanor Busby et al.