With our high stress and fast paced lifestyles, it is no surprise that fatigue is one of the most common concerns I treat in my clinic. Even though slowing down and relaxing aren’t always an option, there are things we can do to maximize our energy. When fatigue isn’t due to a more complex condition such as autoimmune disease, thyroid disorders, or depression, going back to the basics can reverse fatigue.
- Sleep: Addressing sleep seems obvious, but it is easily overlooked. People have difficulty sleeping for different reasons. Some have difficulty falling asleep and others have difficulty staying asleep. In both cases, sleep hygiene is incredibly important. I recommend blackout curtains (Ikea ones work the best), removing all electronics from the room, and getting in bed at the same time each night. In cases where the body’s natural circadian rhythm is disrupted, there are certain nutrients and herbs that can be used to increase melatonin and decrease cortisol (released by stress) in order to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Stress management: We may not be able to avoid stressors in our life, but we can manage stress to prevent our energy from being drained. There are many stress reduction techniques such as meditation, exercise, deep breathing, and journaling. One of my favorite tools is calm.com. It is a free-guided meditation app that helps you manage and adapt to stress. Adaptogenic, anxiolytic, and nervine herbs can also be used to reduce stress and help us adapt to stressful situations better. These herbs can be individualized for each patient in order to develop the most effective combination. One of my favorite herbs is Maca, which can be purchased at Sprouts or Whole Foods and added to hot water or smoothies. It helps us respond to stress better, improves energy, and is a great hormone-balancing herb, especially for women.
- Nutrition: Lets not forget the importance of good nutrition! Healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, avocados), and high quality meats fuel the body and boost our energy levels. Unhealthy foods such as processed and fast food cause us to feel sluggish. Additionally, most people have food sensitivities (different from a food allergy), which may be causing fatigue. One way to detect these sensitivities is with a simple diet diary, which is filled out by each of my patients after their first visit. A common culprit is gluten. Try removing gluten (bread, wheat, pastas, barley) and processed foods for one week and see how you feel. Another option is a food sensitivity panel, a blood test that identifies food sensitivities that may be causing a host of symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, digestive upset etc.