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The need for coffee to start the day, tea addiction, afternoon slumps, regular sugar injections in the form of baked goods, fizzy drinks or snack bars followed by more caffeine are signs of unstable energy. Such behaviours are common in various society groups like workplaces (including yachts) and families which falsely makes them ‘normal’. However, lack of energy that is not relieved without a booster can be a sign of hidden dysfunctions. Due to the complexity of energy production and maintenance, chronic fatigue requires a truly personalised approach. Some of the causes include the following:
- Inability to extract energy from food
Energetic properties of foods are an individual matter and depend on food quality, preparation method, digestive capacity and cellular function. In order to convert food into energy, various nutrients are required, and in order to extract and utilise these nutrients, food has to be digested well. Interestingly, digestive issues are common in chronically fatigued people. The more digestive work a food requires, the less energy remains for other functions. Moreover, processed foods are devoid of nutrients which they still require to be metabolised, so they are being ‘robbed’, leaving a person depleted and wrecked.
- Blood sugar imbalance and adrenal over engagement
Stimulants and processed carbohydrates cause a blood sugar roller coaster which is a stressor that stimulates the release the stress hormone cortisol each time blood glucose drops. For example, a breakfast consisting of a bun and coffee or cereal with milk will give an instant energy boost followed by a rapid drop, and this is when cortisol is secreted to raise blood glucose so that energy is maintained. When nutrient-poor dietary choices or skipped meals become a habit, the adrenals may not secrete enough cortisol any longer, and the person can hit the wall. Therefore, relying on caffeine and processed carbs to keep going is like whipping a dead horse.
Moreover, chronic emotional stress, infections (e.g. lyme, parasites, candida, EBV), pain and even food intolerances are all stressors which over engage the adrenals in the same way, leading to fatigue.
- Underactive thyroid
The thyroid controls the speed and intensity of all bodily processes. Depending on the signals coming from the external and internal environment, the brain and adrenals signal the thyroid if it should speed things up or slow them down. Although full thyroid assessment is key when establishing the cause of fatigue, it’s usually not just the thyroid that requires support but body’s whole biochemistry, ecosystem and lifestyle influences that affected the thyroid in the first place.
- ‘Leaky gut’ and toxins
Compromised digestion, processed foods, drugs, environmental toxins, toxins released by pathogens (e.g. gut bacteria) and chronic stress contribute to an increased intestinal permeability commonly called ‘the leaky gut’. This allows for undigested proteins and these toxins to enter the blood stream, which signals the immune system to attack. The toxin together with an antibody create ‘immune complexes’ which can attach to various places in the body, one of them being mitochondria, power stations of cells. Therefore, gut toxicity can directly affect cellular energy production.
- Anaemia – it’s not just about iron
Iron, vit B12 and folate are responsible for red blood cell oxygenation and maturation. Although deficiency can result in fatigue, people often don’t realise that they are deficient because serum levels of B12 and folate are not reflective of their cellular level, for which different tests are required. Anaemia is never the root cause. It is a symptom related to absorption issues resulting from impaired digestion, diet, gut dysbiosis, or poor methylation.
What to do?
The priority is identifying the individual cause of fatigue. In each case however, it’s as a sign to listen to your body as it’s trying to tell you something. Chronically fatigued people should focus on warm foods that are easy to digest: soups, stews, curries and stir fries. Cultured dairy, fermented vegetables and sourdough bread will also be easier to digest than their unfermented counterparts. Vegetable juice doesn’t require much digestion and provides easily absorbable nutrients, which makes it an energising food-based supplement. Hot water with fresh ginger, stock, broth, miso soup and digestive enzymes taken prior to meals can help to extract more energy from food. Best to start the day with a protein and fat-based breakfast like eggs and bacon, which will prevent from blood sugar roller coaster. Sipping on mineral water with a pinch of sea or rock salt and a squeeze of lemon juice is a fabulous drink that supports the adrenals. Last but not least is taking a look at lifestyle: sleep, relationships, work, contact with nature and movement.
For a personalised functional health analysis and plan, contact Maya Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org