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“I need a coffee!” Who hasn’t said this before? I know I have! Who loves to drink a coffee, tea, energy drink, or soft drink? Who drinks it because they think it gives you more energy? What about the times you get sleepy-eyed at work and feel that a coffee kick will do the trick? Well, think twice! Did you know that caffeine, even in the afternoon, can interfere with much-needed sleeping patterns? Chronic caffeine consumption can ruin your energy levels and cause unpleasant side effects like fatigue. Crazy, right?
It stimulates your central nervous system affecting your body in numerous ways. Knowing the symptoms of caffeine and its long-term effects on your body may make you think twice about having that fourth cup of coffee.
“Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug.”
Studies have shown that although it is safe when consumed in low-to-moderate amounts, extremely high doses of 1,000mg or more per day have been reported to cause nervousness, jitteriness, and similar symptoms in many people. However, did you know that it can have the opposite effect causing rebound fatigue after caffeine leaves your system? Yep! I know, who would’ve thought!
Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. When it reaches your brain, the most noticeable effect is alertness. You’ll feel more awake and less tired. Some people consider coffee to be a health drink, but like most foods, overindulging can cause problems. Don’t be fooled, thinking “another cuppa won’t hurt.”
Often, when people get a headache, they automatically think that they need a caffeine fix. This is usually linked to caffeine withdrawal. What happens is that the blood vessels in your brain become used to the effect of caffeine so when you suddenly stop consuming caffeine, it causes withdrawals and unwanted side effects. It can get to the point that your system becomes immune to its effects, no longer giving you that energy boost you want!
“A Mayo Clinic partnered study found that men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality.”
Not really something you want to hear, but it’s the truth!
So, like a wise proverb says, “everything in moderation!” Less coffee equals less fatigue.
I’m sure that I am not the first person to tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s true. Breakfast sets the stage for your energy levels and blood sugar balance for the rest of the day.
I don’t know about you, but I love the smell of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven! Mmm… Unfortunately, eating too many carbohydrate foods for brekky is bad for your energy levels and can promote fatigue. Why?
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, you should get 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories from carbohydrates.
Does this mean yes to potato chips, pizza, and doughnuts? I’m sorry but no. Ideally, you should get your carbohydrates from whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, non-starchy veggies, meats, fruits, and eggs.
Carbs, especially refined carbohydrates, and starches give your body a rush of energy, but it’s short-term. Things like granola, cereal, toast, and pastries do you no energy favors. When your body releases insulin to control your blood sugar levels, those carbohydrates -which have now converted into sugar- make their way to your muscles, liver and other organs leaving you feeling sluggish and tired.
Many people think that they should have a load of carbs for brekky, thinking, ‘this will keep me going till lunch.’ Well, not really. You should be eating protein for brekky. Eating protein for breakfast helps you to stabilize your blood sugar. Your cortisol is highest in the morning, and your glycogen reserves are somewhat depleted. Eating carbs will quickly make it full, but it’s a quick fix and is short lived. Eating protein helps to stabilize blood sugar for longer, keeping you feeling less hungry during the day, helping you eat less.
So in a nutshell, protein is fantastic for stabilizing your blood sugar and helps keep you energized all morning. My favorite breakfast is poached eggs on roasted yams with sauerkraut and avocado.
Why is going to sleep before 10:30pm so darn important? What connection is there with your energy levels?
Well, did you know that the deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs between 10pm – 2am? After 2am, your sleep becomes more superficial. Yep! If your body is chronically deprived of this regenerative sleep between those times, you may still feel tired when you wake up in the morning.
Having excellent deep sleep has many benefits such as: maintaining a healthy weight, fighting high-stress levels, and keeping your energy levels HIGH! Who doesn’t want these benefits, right?
Now, why? Why 10-10:30pm, and what does it have to do with our energy levels?
It all has to do with an internal clock lodged deep inside your brain that regulates your sleep – the pineal gland. Yep, amazing stuff. What happens is, the pineal gland receives information about sunlight or light through your eyes. When the sun sets, that gland tells your body it’s dark outside, and this is when melatonin steps in, affecting your sleep. How amazing, right? So, how can you work with this amazing internal clock? Well, after the sun goes down, keep lights low or use candles. Bright lights will make your pineal gland think it is still daytime and mess up your melatonin levels.
Your body removes the effects of free radicals that have been produced by stress throughout the day when you sleep. This natural, nocturnal clean-up crew, maintains your physical balance without barely any effort. All you need to do to benefit from this process is to sleep when your pineal gland sends the melatonin signal.
So, turn off all electronics! Yes, you guessed it, this means no TV, no Netflix, no Instagram, no Facebook, etc.
Most people know that stress is a huge contributor to fatigue. It makes sense. Stress is something we experience daily and so many of us are also struggling with stubborn fatigue and unpredictable hormones.
Adrenal fatigue has gotten a lot of attention these days. On a weekly basis, I encounter women who either believe they have Adrenal Fatigue (as it is often self-diagnosed from the internet) or have been told they have it by a health practitioner.
Many of them are at a total loss of what to do. They are taking adaptogens, bio-identical hormones and Vitamin C. They are meditating. They are doing yoga. They are doing the best they can to nourish their adrenals and get back to feeling more in control of their life.
Unfortunately, many of their efforts fall short. They continue to feel fatigued, burnt out, overwhelmed, crazy, stressed and out of shape.
If you feel that you are struggling with Adrenal Fatigue, you are likely experiencing some of the following symptoms:
If I ask you how stress leads to fatigue, you might tell me a story about your adrenal glands. You might tell me that the adrenal glands produce cortisol. And when you are continually stressed, these hard-working glands are forced to produce excessive amounts of cortisol. Overtime, as stress continues, these glands wear out and eventually burn out. Enter Adrenal Fatigue.
In Adrenal Fatigue, all hormones are depleted, including estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone since the adrenals play a huge role in the production of these steroid hormones.
What I just described is basically the three stage theory of Adrenal Fatigue. Stage 1 or Acute describes the initial stress. Cortisol is high. As stress continues, and the adrenal glands start to wear out, you enter Stage 2; the Compensatory phase where cortisol levels decline and so do energy levels. Eventually the adrenal glands are overwhelmed, cortisol levels plummet and enter into Stage 3; exhaustion. In the exhaustion phase, the adrenals are burned out and sex hormones are depleted. Enter hormone imbalance, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, sugar cravings and PMS.
But what if I told you that the symptoms you are experiencing have little to do with your adrenal glands or even cortisol levels for that matter?
I have been questioning the cortisol model of fatigue for some time now. In the past four years I have run hundreds of saliva and urine hormones panels on both men and women. I have yet to see a strong connection between cortisol levels, PMS and fatigue.
If the 3 stage model of Adrenal Fatigue is true then my clients in the Acute phase should feel energetic and my clients in the Exhaustion phase should feel fatigued and burnt out. But I have often seen the opposite and everything else in between.
Ari Whitten, researcher and nutrition expert, compiled all the research he could find on fatigue, burnout and exhaustion (about 130 studies) and found that about 25% of the studies linked these symptoms with high cortisol levels. He found that another 25% linked these symptoms with low cortisol levels while, 50% of more of the studies found no abnormality between cortisol levels and stress, burnout, exhaustion and fatigue.
Based on this data, and according to Ari, cortisol is not a great measure of exhaustion and fatigue. I tend to agree. This is something I have seen over and over and it has left me with more questions than answers.
As It turns out that there are over a dozen physiological pathways in the body that can link stress to health problems, and most of them have nothing to with “fatigued” adrenal glands.
It’s very likely that stress is causing your fatigue (and all sorts of other hormonal symptoms) without anything being wrong with your adrenal glands or your cortisol levels.
The truth is the theory of Adrenal Fatigue is flawed and according to research does not actually exist. While the medical community tends to brush those aside who struggle with Adrenal Fatigue type symptoms, these people ARE struggling and should not be treated as hypochondriacs.
What many educated health practitioners are now calling this condition is HPA-axis Dysfunction which stands for Hypothalamus-Pituitary Adrenal Axis Dysfunction. This system is responsible for mitigating the stress response.
Let’s say you are out for a walk in the woods. You encounter a bear. Now that’s stressful! You initially get that instant adrenalin rush. Adrenalin is instant but it is not long lasting. The adrenalin travels to your hypothalamus (located in your brain) which signals that stress is present. The hypothalamus sends corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland (located at the base of the skull), which then sends adrenocorticotropic releasing hormones (ACTH) to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands receive the message and produce cortisol accordingly.
Many now believe that it is dysregulation in the HPA axis that leads to many of the symptoms that are associated with Adrenal Fatigue. Over time the system starts to become resistant to the negative feedback loop telling it to calm down (similar to insulin resistance), which leads to abnormal function of the axis. When the HPA Axis dysfunctions, many symptoms can arise.
HPA axis dysfunction has been associated with everything from Multiple Schlerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome to anxiety, depression and burnout.
For the most part when people say they have Adrenal Fatigue, they more likely have HPA-axis Dysfunction. It’s clear that if we focus our protocols on the adrenal glands, we are missing the mark. Are you following me? It’s not an adrenal issue to begin with.
When most people talk about stress, they are referring to the mental and emotional stress that we experience daily. This might refer to relationship stress, professional stress, financial stress or even the stress of driving in traffic.
Stress is much more than this.
Stress refers to anything that causes the body to lose homeostasis (that happy balance when everything is working as it should).
These types of stress aren’t always obvious to the average person. They might include;
As you can see stress can be many things. The above can result in activation of the HPA axis and eventually lead to it’s dysfunction, especially if these stressors become chronic (rather than quick and easily resolved)
Let’s discuss some of the other factors that link the stress system to a change in your energy and hormone levels.
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the center of your throat. This gland is the regulator of your metabolism. Its job is to produce T4, an inactive thyroid hormone, which then gets converted to T3, the active thyroid hormone. T3 regulates the rate of your metabolism.
There are receptors for thyroid hormone in every single cell in the body. If your metabolism is sluggish then you will not produce energy at a rate that keeps you energized. Therefore people who struggle with hypothyroid (an underactive thyroid) usually have low energy and struggle to lose weight. They are also more susceptible to imbalanced sex hormones because low thyroid slows down the rate at which hormones and made and broken down in the body.
When your thyroid hormone production is low everything from your brain cells to your heart cells struggle to produce energy.
Stress is known to reduce both T4 and T3. Additionally, stress may lower Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is the main signalling hormone that the pituitary sends the thyroid to tell it to produce thyroid hormone.
This is a common way that hypothyroid gets misdiagnosed. Some thyroid issues are primary, meaning that the thyroid is not functioning as it should and the result is decreasing thyroid hormone.
Other thyroid issues are secondary, meaning the thyroid is functioning as it should but is listening to the instructions it receives from stress, causing it to reduce hormone production.
Secondary hypothyroidism is often missed and while hormone replacement therapy may offer a short term boost, it does little to address the reason why the thyroid is under producing hormones in the first place (ie. Stress!)
Most people believe that getting sick is a result of “catching” a bug or virus. This may be true in some cases but the truth is we are always full of harmful bacteria. They are already in us!
They lurk in the deepest corners of our digestive system and cells. When we are healthy, well-fed, and the immune system is strong, these bugs are not an issue. They are kept in check and do not make us sick.
But when we are stressed, certain arms of the immune system are depressed. This means we are less likely to be able to keep those nasty bugs in check, they are able to outnumber the beneficial bacteria and make us sick.
Therefore you easily get sick when you are more stressed out and run down. An example is shingles. Shingles is an illness caused by the same virus that leads to chicken pox. The virus, called varicella zoster, lies dormant in nerve cells near the spinal cord after one has been exposed to chicken pox. It should remain there, dormant, not causing any issues, unless the host gets weakened and it is able to emerge. The result is shingles.
Neurotransmitters are the compounds which the brain uses to communicate. Many people have heard of serotonin and dopamine before. Other neurotransmitters also include histamine, GABA, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Healthy levels of neurotransmitters lead to a healthy and stable mood. They also contribute to your energy levels. Symptoms caused by both low dopamine and serotonin include fatigue.
Several studies have shown that chronic stress can induce deficiencies in numerous neurotransmitters.
Chronic stress can lead to GABA resistance, meaning that your brain resists GABA. GABA is your main inhibitory neurotransmitter which inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters and helps you relax. If you lack GABA sensitivity you are more likely to feel wired, have racing thoughts and struggle to calm down at night.
Serotonin and dopamine are also impacted by chronic stress, which not only affects your mood but means your energy levels are less than optimal.
Stress is thought to be the number one cause of Leaky Gut. To learn more about Leaky Gut, click here.
We are all familiar with the gut-brain connection. Remember how your stomach felt the last time you had to give a public speech? That feeling of “butterflies” is evidence that what’s going on in your head has the ability to affect what’s going on in your gut.
When we are having a stress response, your energy moves away from rest and digest processes and is funneled into the muscular and skeletal system. Your body is preparing you to run or fight for your life. That means that if your stressed, digestion is slowed or even halted.
If there is food in your gut then it doesn’t get digested. It just sits there and is fermented by bacteria which produce toxins that can contributed to leaky gut.
Additionally, exposure to food sensitivities, toxins and pathogens can also increase intestinal permeability and lead to leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, you struggle to breakdown, absorb and assimilate nutrients and minerals.
Lack of mineral and nutrients can affect every system in your body. Clearly if you do not have nutrients to function properly, you might struggle with energy levels.
Gut inflammation can also affect neurotransmitter production (much of your neurotransmitters are produced in your gut), lead to more food sensitivities and also cause IBS, autoimmune conditions and small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Many people who are chronically stressed also have trouble sleeping at night. Many of these people describe feeling fatigued upon waking, despite sleeping eight hours or more. They also tend to feel wired at night and are often unable to sleep. They might describe a “second wind” that comes about in the evening even after feeling exhausted and drained throughout the day.
It is also no secret that having a stressful day can lead to loss of sleep. Many people are unable to stop thinking about the stress that plagues them as they fall asleep.
This can lead to issues falling asleep or the inability to stay asleep during the night. Stress also reduces our ability to get into the deep sleep needed for repair and regeneration. If our endocrine system is unable to repair itself, our hormones might go a little wacky.
Lack of sleep is incredibly hard on the body and can lead to many health problems. The impact that stress has on sleep patterns is probably one of the most common ways that stress can impact your energy and hormones levels. Click here to improve your sleep.
If low energy is your main issue, start by looking at your sleep patterns. If you can find a way to sleep better than there is a good chance you can cultivate more energy for yourself.
Stress increases the rate at which you burn minerals. Minerals are the spark plugs of the body and are needed as co-factors in every single chemical reaction in the body.
Stress means you use minerals like magnesium and potassium at a higher rate. Lacking in these critical nutrients mean that your cell doesn’t have what it needs to function optimally or give you the energy you need to feel your best. Minerals are needed to produce all hormones, including sex hormones, in proper amounts. Mineral deficiency not only leads to fatigue but it leads to hormone imbalance and symptoms of PMS.
Deficient minerals also make it more likely that your body will hold onto toxic metals. Why? Because metals, although toxic, can perform similar tasks that minerals can. If you don’t have a certain mineral your body may use a metal instead. Your body then holds onto this metal instead of detoxing it through the liver.
A deficiency in potassium, for example, means you are more likely to hold onto Thallium. Thallium is an extremely toxic meal, 10 times more toxic then mercury. Thallium was added to gasoline after lead was removed from it years ago. It is in our air, soil and water. Having good mineral status is key to avoiding heavy metal toxicity which can greatly interfere with cellular function and lead to numerous health issues.
Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. They are organisms whose main job is to produce Adenosine Triphosphate, the main source of energy for your cells.
Your cells are the building block of every organ, gland and system in your body. It’s simple. If your mitochondria is unable to produce cellular energy, you won’t be feeling very energetic either. You mitochondria in the cells in your adrenal glands are also needed to churn out sex hormone. Unhealthy mitochondria means hormonal imbalance and stubborn fatigue.
It is the opinion of some health practitioners that the main component of fatigue is mitochondrial dysfunction. The more and more I read and understand, the more I am starting to switch from a cortisol model of fatigue to a mitochondria model of fatigue.
Robert Naviaux et al. did a study involving 84 subjects. 45 of these subjects were diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, while the other 39 individuals were normal controls. In the subjects with CFS, 80% had an abnormal blood markers, which was suggestive of a low metabolic state. They concluded that CFS is a state in which the metabolism has slowed in response to environmental stress.
This is really interesting. These researchers also discovered that the mitochondria has more functions than just producing energy. They are also responsible for cellular defense, or protecting the cell from threats.
What types of things can threaten the cells? Viruses, parasites, bacteria, heavy metals, environmental toxins and psychological traumas. All these things can turn on the cellular defense system. The problem is the mitochondria can only do one of these jobs at a time. Either they make energy or they defend the cell.
If any of these factors or present, your mitochondria will be busy protecting you and will not be allocating resources for energy production. This is the number one reason why sickness makes you tired. All your mitochondria have shifted away from energy production to protecting you from whatever virus, bacteria or parasite is attacking your system.
I find this so interesting. In the past year I have really started to understand the role of heavy metal and environmental toxin accumulation in health.
After eliminating a ton of gut infections (including parasites and candida), getting rid of SIBO and doing significant gut healing, I saw little improvement in my energy. Upon running a hair mineral analysis and two heavy metal panels, I found that I was toxic in metals.
It wasn’t until I started addressing these metals that I finally saw a shift in my energy. I now do the same with all my clients and not only can we resolve their fatigue but we can re-balance hormones which means no PMS, no mood swings, easier weight loss and more restful sleep.
I recently did a webinar with Wendy Myers, heavy metal detox expert, who said that heavy metal toxicity underlies every single case of chronic fatigue. If you are eating a healthy diet, living a healthy lifestyle and you still feel exhausted and struggle with hormone imbalance, you are likely toxic with metals. I am in complete agreement with Wendy.
Since shifting my thinking, I have began addressing heavy metals in all my clients and the results have been profound.
We discuss the importance of having a healthy and normal circadian rhythm. It is cues from the rising and setting sun that signals our body to do certain tasks at certain times. For example, darkness tells your body it’s bed time and stimulates the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone.
The rising sun has a similar effect. It tells your body, “Hey, it’s morning time. Get out there.” Many of us live inside, have curtains on our windows and do not get direct light exposure when we first get out of bed. My advise is to turn on every single artificial light in your house and open every single window.
Even better, wake up, grab a tea and go for a walk or sip your tea in your back yard. Even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes, this can greatly increase your energy, jump start your circadian rhythm and reduce that dreaded morning fatigue.
Gluten, by far, is the most important factor when it comes to boosting the energy levels of my client. Gluten is a funny thing. You may have heard a lot of competing views on the gluten-free trend. It depends on who you are talking to.
In my clinical experience it is the one thing I can take out of a clients diet that always, without fail, leads to increased energy and better hormone balance. Gluten seems to have a negative effect on your thyroid. Gluten closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gluten gets into the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gluten also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. Thyroid tissue and gluten are structurally similar. It is a case of mistaken identity and your immune system can attack your thyroid.
If you have followed this article so far, you know that healthy thyroid function is critical to healthy energy levels. Time and time again I have seen gluten-free diets leads to more energy. Give it a try!
Easier said then done but there is no question that improving your digestion will also boost energy and promote healthy hormone production. Many people don’t know this, but every single hormone is metabolized in the gut. So you if you struggle with PMS, you have gut problems. Period.
The best way to start healing your gut is to eat fresh, organic whole foods. You can also supplement your diet with homemade bone broth and fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir.
Other great tools to help you heal your gut are l-glutamine, aloe vera juice, collagen and my very favorite product, GI Revive from Designs for Health. If you want access to these high quality supplements, you can sign up free for my online dispensary.
As we discussed, mineral status is crucial to healthy energy levels and hormone production. Unfortunately, many mineral supplements are low quality and do not contain a healthy combination of minerals. If you want to talk a multi-mineral make sure you take a good one. The only one I currently recommend to my clients is Ocean’s Alive Marine PhytoPlankton. To get access to this and other high quality supplements, you can sign up free for my online dispensary.
If you struggle with nasty symptoms in the week before your period like fatigue, cramps, swollen breasts, migraines, water retention and moodiness, doubling up on your multi-mineral can help alleviate these symptoms. If you are taking Ocean’s Alive, you can take 2-4 full droppers every day in the week before your period.
If you are chronically fatigued or you are dealing with stubborn hormone imbalance that won’t shift no matter what you do, you are likely toxic to some degree with metals and environmental toxins. Did you know infrared sauna sessions are one of the most effective ways to detox metals and toxins? It’s true.
If you have access to sauna, I recommend using it as often as possible. I like to sit in a sauna 3-4 times per week. It not only helps you detox but it also improves your skin, boosts your immune system (another way to enhance energy) and reduces inflammation and chronic pain.
The cause of fatigue, PMS and hormone imbalance is complicated and multi factorial. Your symptoms are likely being cause by a combination of the above and not just one. Whether you think you have Adrenal Fatigue, have hormone imbalance or you are just sick of being tired, getting well involves changing diet and lifestyle and addressing detoxification and toxicity. Start with my 5 solutions to get quick results.
If you want to learn more about hormone balance and how you can start balancing your hormones and eliminating PMS right now, grab my 3-Part Mini-Course.
Today is the 1st day of December and I couldn’t be happier. Unlike a lot of people out there, I love winter. Skiing is one of my favorite sports and my winter is spent maneuvering my work schedule around my play schedule.
It has been an incredibly rainy fall. I can count every moment on one hand when I felt the sun on my face in the last couple of month. And all three of those times I was literally blinded by it’s intensity.
As much as I love winter, I struggle, like many people, with the lack of day light. I am an early riser so waking up at 6am isn’t easy when it’s pitch black out and it feels like the middle of the night.
These days my energy levels have been pretty low. I always struggle to feel as energetic in winter as I do in the summer. Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about you and your energy levels!
I feel that we could also use a little bit more energy. Low energy is one of the most common complaints I get from clients, and well, just about anyone else. With busy lives, questionable diets and poor sleep habits, most of us struggle to feel energized all day long.
That’s why I put together this list of 6 ways to improve energy levels.
I doubt I am the first person to tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s true. Breakfast sets the stage for your energy levels and blood sugar balance for the rest of the day.
Many people eat a breakfast that is too high in sugar or carbohydrates and too low in protein. Things like granola, cereal, toast and pastries do you no energy favors. Opt for a breakie higher in protein like eggs, non-starchy vegetables and meat.
Protein is fantastic for stabilizing your blood sugar and helps keep you energized all morning long. My favorite breakfast? Poached eggs on roasted yams with sauerkraut and avocado.
B vitamins are incredibly important for your energy levels. They power important chemical reactions involved in cellular metabolism. They are water soluble and not easily stored in the body. They are also easily depleted by stress.
You can think of B vitamins as catalytic sparks plugs for the body. They function as co-enzymes to catalyze many reactions including ones that convert carbohydrates into glucose.
Make sure you eat a diet rich in B vitamins. Highest food sources are animals products, nutritional yeast and organ meats.
If you are under a lot of stress, it may also be useful to supplement with B vitamins. My favorite product is Stress B Complex from Thorne Research.
If low energy is your issue, the first thing to consider is your sleep habits. If you don’t get enough sleep, or go to bed too late, you will be tired the next day.
Shift your bed time to sometime before 11pm. Also make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
If you struggle to get to sleep at night, examine your sleep hygiene. Make sure to avoid looking at screens an hour before bed time. Sleep in a dark, cool room and turn off your wifi.
If you need to more tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, click here.
Who knew? Water is healthy! While many of us don’t drink enough water, some of us drink way too much water. The media and beverage companies have led you to believe that you need to be drinking water and sports drinks all day long.
When was the last time you saw a deer walking around with a Nalgene bottle? Hopefully never.
How much water a person needs to drink depends on each person, their activity levels and their diet. If you exercise more, you need more water. If you eat lots of veggies, you need less water than your friend on the meat and cheese diet.
The best way to stay hydrated is to monitor your urine color. If it’s clear, you are over hydrated, probably depleting your electrolytes and taxing your kidneys. If it’s brown, you need to increase your fluid intake. You urine should be a pale yellow. Make pale yellow your goal.
Additionally, make sure to consume electrolytes with every glass of water. I am not talking about the electrolyte packets that are full of sugar and chemicals. Try sea salt. It’s cheap and you only need a pinch.
I know, gluten-free is trendy. There are more and more people these days on a gluten-free diet. Hold the bread please!
I don’t necessarily believe that everyone in the world needs to be gluten free. But what I can say is that removing gluten from the diet seems to be the single quickest way to giving a person more energy.
Give it a try. Cut gluten out for 30 days and see if your energy levels improve.
I went on a bit of an Amazon shopping spree last night. I feel my recent low energy levels have a lot to do with the lack of light in my life.
Normally, I get up and go for a walk or run first thing in the morning. The point is to expose myself to light and get my circadian rhythm firing for the day. Now that winter is nearing, my morning walk/run is in darkness. And when the sun finally does come up, it’s generally cloudy and dark out.
So I bought myself a light box. Apparently using one of these light boxes (which mimics the wavelengths of a sunny day) for 20-30 minutes a day can improve energy levels, mood and sleep.
It was inexpensive and I am willing to give it a try. I will keep you posted.
If energy is a struggle the first thing to examine is your diet and lifestyle Get the basics in place before spending money on supplements. Make sure you eat a healthy, whole foods diet, get enough sleep and exercise and reduce stress. If you are doing all these things and you still feel exhausted, it may be hormonal or digestive. Consider lab testing.
You used to be so fit. You run, bike or climb anything. But these days exercise is a struggle. Instead of making you feel energized, exercise now makes you feel exhausted. You find yourself avoiding the activities you used to love because you just don’t have the energy or the motivation.
I can relate to this. When my hormones crashed a few years ago I went from being super fit and athletic to tired, lazy and exhausted. I desperately wanted to keep doing sports with my friends but I had no juice left. I would often go skiing for a couple of hours and then come home and pass out. It was one of the hardest times in my life.
The good news is, you aren’t lazy. Your body is likely deliberately trying to get you to slow down so that you can heal from whatever is going on inside of you. Having balanced hormones is crucial to healthy energy production and you having enough strength to exercise at the level you want to.
Unbalanced hormones suck. No matter how hard to you try to push through the fatigue, you never seem to feel like you did just a few years ago. Here are three hormone imbalances that can ruin your endurance and crush your stamina.
Testosterone is crucial to energy production and athletic performance. If your testosterone is low you may experience some of the following symptoms;
Testosterone is the reason why men gain muscle more easily than women and have more physical strength. When I raise testosterone production in women, they usually feel fantastic. They feel energized, confident and can easily maintain a healthy weight.
How Can You Boost Testosterone?
Elevated estrogen is a nasty hormone imbalance, especially when you don’t have enough progesterone to balance it out. Elevated estrogen is often the culprit behind painful periods, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pre-menstrual migraines.
Elevated estrogen can ruin your endurance because it can cause unexplained weight gain, especially in the hips and thighs. As you gain fat and lose muscle, your endurance often goes with it. If you have recently gained weight for no rhyme or reason, you should consider your estrogen levels. If your estrogen is too high it may actually be impossible for you to lose weight even when you are eating healthy and exercising regularly.
The first thing is to consider environmental sources of estrogen. This includes personal care products, household cleaning products, BPA plastic, birth control pills, soy and even flax seed.
If you know you have high estrogen and you have made a solid effort to reduce external estrogen exposure you can try this next:
To learn more about estrogen dominance, click here.
Most know cortisol as a stress hormone but what many don’t know is that one of cortisol’s main roles is to immobilize blood sugar. When you blood sugar is stable, you have good energy production and you feel strong.
Low cortisol often means a person feels fatigued, has difficulty sleeping and struggles with sugar cravings. They have a poor ability to keep their blood sugar stable, even when they eat multiple meals a day. The result is energy is low or fluctuates throughout the day.
When your cortisol is low, exercise is depleting. Since exercise actively pushes out cortisol, it leaves you little cortisol for energy later in the day. People with low cortisol often struggle with motivation to exercise as well.
If you just don’t have the juice for exercise that you used to, there is a probably a hormonal problem driving your fatigue. While the above suggestions can be extremely helpful, what is more helpful is determining what is driving your hormonal chaos. The main culprits are usually poor diet, poor sleep, an overscheduled life and toxicity.
If you are struggling with poor energy and the inability to participate in the activities that drive your passions, then please don’t hesitate to contact me and schedule a free 30 minute call with me. We can discuss your challenges and determine if there is a way I can help you. You can book the appointment here.
Are you struggling with low endurance levels? Please share your exercise below in the comments section and I will do my best to help you!
What if I told you that adrenal fatigue doesn’t actually exist? This might make you extremely angry because you are exhausted and fatigued and having been dealing with this for a long time.
I know that your symptoms are real. I know you have been struggling and I am not trying to dispute that. But I do want to challenge our entire understanding of adrenal fatigue and what is actually going on in your body.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
The concept of “adrenal fatigue” theorizes that the adrenal glands are like a muscle. Over time as they are constantly being told to pump out cortisol, they begin to fatigue and eventually give out. The term was coined in 1998 by Dr. James Wilson.
Lately, a lot of people tell me that, “My adrenals are completely shot!”
People who have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue suffer from fatigue, exhaustion, low blood pressure, intense sugar cravings, a run-down immune system, difficulty waking up in the morning and an inability to cope with stress in general.
The medical community does not acknowledge “adrenal fatigue” as a real condition and they refuse to do so. Why?
Some believe it is due to inadequate testing. Most health care professionals will use a blood test to look at cortisol levels. A single cortisol measurement tells you little about how the cortisol rhythm is presenting throughout the day. And the very natural of giving someone a needle is enough to spike cortisol and make the test completely inaccurate. That seems like a fair argument. Maybe we just need to look more at saliva and urine testing for cortisol levels and assessing adrenal fatigue.
But maybe the problem is with the whole theory of adrenal fatigue. The adrenals are not made to give out. Some organs are meant to give out with time (ie. the ovaries) but the adrenal glands are meant to last.
There are, of course, certain conditions that do in fact cause the adrenal glands to under function. Addison’s Disease is one of these conditions. This is an auto immune disease that attacks the adrenal glands, leading to their malfunction. There is also “adrenal insifficency” in which the pituitary stimuli to the adrenal glands doesn’t work very well. This is a real diagnosis but it is rare.
In the 17 years since Wilson proposed this theory of ‘adrenal fatigue’ there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support it. The research does not show that the adrenal glands actually cease to function or wear down over time.
So What is Actually Causing Your Symptoms?
The problem is not in the adrenal glands but in the entire stress feedback loop. This is know as the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (HPA Axis). This is the communication system that allows you to response to stress. Let me explain.
When you end up in a stressful situation (maybe you were hiking and saw a bear or maybe your boyfriend just broke up with you), the perceived stress stimulates you adrenal glands which pump out adrenalin.
Adrenalin travels to the brain and notifies the hypothalamus that stress is present. You hypothalamus sends corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland and then the pituitary gland sends adrenal corticotrophin releasing hormone (ACTH) to the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland responds by giving off cortisol.
Now your cortisol is elevated and all your resources shift from rest and digest functions and move into the muscular and skeletal system so that you can fight or flight for your life.
The problem is chronic stress which leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Chronically elevated cortisol is not normal or sustainable. Keep in mind that stress is normal but it should be short, intermittent and quickly resolved, bringing you back to a calm, relaxed state.
Unfortunately, we have so many challenges. Most of us have significant mental and emotional stress but we also have a lot of internal stress caused by poor diet, lack of sleep, toxin exposure, gut dysfunction and intestinal infections to name a few.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone. This means that it breaks down the body over time. It also suppresses immune function, interferes with thyroid hormones, causes insulin resistance and messes with your blood sugar.
Chronic stress really can mess with the HPA-axis. For example, inflammation can directly cause a breakdown in communication. Inflammatory cytokines which are by-products of inflammation can actually bind with ACTH and prevent it from reaching the adrenal gland. So the adrenal glands are doing their job, they just aren’t getting the proper message.
When cortisol production is lower than it should be, it can cause a lot of symptoms. Cortisol is very energizing. It is also pain-killing, anti-inflammatory and immobilizes blood sugar. Without good cortisol production, you feel fatigued, have aches and pains and experience frequent hypoglycemia.
A great at home test to check your HPA axis function is to lie down on your back and then quickly stand up. If you feel dizzy, that’s a good sign that your HPA axis is malfunctioning. It is the job of the HPA axis to normalize blood pressure from a lying to standing position.
Other Reasons Your Adrenal Glands Don’t Work Well?
Lack of Adrenal Nutrition
Your adrenal glands need certain nutrients and vitamins to function at their best. If you adrenal glands don’t have these necessary thing,s they aren’t going to be as good at their job.
These Nutrients are Crucial:
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is needed for the production of cortisol, adrenalin, testosterone, aldosterone and dopamine (an important neurotransmitter).
B Vitamins – Particularly B5, B6 and B12 are needed to produce adrenal hormones and for cellular energy functions.
Magnesium – You adrenals cannot function without magnesium.
Zinc – Not only is zinc critical for your immune function but is also involved with insulin resistance. Blood sugar and cortisol go together hand in hand. When blood sugar is low, cortisol rises to bring it up. When blood sugar is high, cortisol can be lower. Zinc can help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep cortisol at bay.
The Top 3 Stressors That Cause HPA Axis Dysfunction?
Blood Sugar Dysregulation
One of cortisols main jobs is to raise blood sugar. Having low blood sugar is incredibly stressful to the body. Every time your blood sugar drops, your body thinks your survival is threatened. This initiates the stress response and pushes up cortisol to stabilize your blood sugar.
If you eat low quality, high sugar food then blood sugar drops will happen more frequently. This will keep you in a chronic stress state and mess with your HPA axis over time.
Protein is crucial for blood sugar regulation. Eat a diet high in protein and healthy fat and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Managing blood sugar is one of the most important things you can do to fix your HPA Axis Dysfunction.
Poor Sleep Habits
The HPA Axis prefers a natural circadian rhythm. In fact, this axis does a lot of it’s regeneration between the hours of 10pm and midnight. If you go to bed late then you miss out on this crucial time for repair and healing.
Not getting enough sleep, going to bed late or waking up late is one of the quickest ways to mess up this feedback loop. Make sure you get to bed by 10:30pm and wake with the sun. Re-establishing a normal sleep pattern is one of the best ways to nourish your stress system and get rid of your fatigue. For more ways to get a better night’s sleep, click here.
This is an important one. The information about exercise is pretty flawed. We are led to believe that more is better, even when we are tired and sick. “Just push through it!” Right?
Overdoing exercise, especially endurance activities, can really tax your stress system. Exercise is a stressor. In many cases it can be a good stressor but too much of it will put you into a chronic cortisol situation. When I run hormone panels on endurance athletes I often see poor hormone output and dysregulated cortisol production.
If you already know you have adrenal fatigue, then exercise needs to be light. Too much will only prolong your recovery and keep you feeling run down.
Keep exercise fun and playful. Stick to weight training and interval training. You do not need to run a marathon to be healthy. Exercise should make you feel energized. If it makes you feel exhausted then it’s too much. Take it down a notch or two.
Other internal stressors that can keep you in fight-or-flight response include; food intolerances, gluten sensitivity, leaky gut, liver congestion, intestinal infections, SIBO, heavy metal toxicity and poor diet.
Other Causes of Exhaustion and Fatigue
HPA axis dysfunction isn’t the only thing that can lead to exhaustion and fatigue. Here are some other common causes:
Anemia – If your body isn’t getting enough oxygen because you are iron deficient then you aren’t going to have energy. Anemia often causes extreme fatigue.
B12 Deficiency – This is one of the most common deficiencies associated with fatigue. Best sources of B12 are animal products or nutritional yeast flakes.
Lack of Sleep – If you aren’t sleeping, you won’t feel energized. Period. Make changes so that you can consistently get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
B Vitamin deficiency – This can cause fatigue, anemia and poor adrenal function
Vitamin D deficiency – Make sure you are getting enough sun exposure. Moderate unfiltered sun exposure is the quickest way to get your Vitamin D levels up. Deficiency can lead to fatigue.
Estrogen Dominance – This interferes with thyroid hormone production which can lead to energy problems
Testosterone Deficiency – We need this hormone to maintain healthy energy levels. If you aren’t making enough, you will likely be fatigued.
Caffeine Consumption – Caffeine has a direct effect on your cortisol levels. It causes your adrenal glands to release cortisol and thus reducing your levels for the rest of the day.
Poor Protein Intake – If you aren’t getting enough protein, you will likely struggle with fatigue. Make sure you are getting enough. I recommend 0.4-0.7 grams per pound of body weight.
Adrenal Fatigue may not exist but the symptoms you are experiencing are real. A better way to refer to this condition (although not quite as sexy) is HPA Axis Dysfunction.
If you want to feel better, you need to search for the root cause of your stress. This means taking a good look at your diet and lifestyle but also assessing your risk for internal stressors. If you eat an organic whole foods diet, practice healthy lifestyle choices and still feel like crap, seek out the professional help.
Want to see me talk about this post in a video? Check it out.
Cortisol is getting a lot of attention these days. It’s clogging up my Facebook news feed. Mostly, people are hating on cortisol. It has a bad reputation for making us fat, wired and totally crazy. But cortisol is not all bad. In fact, cortisol is necessary for our survival and without it we would die.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone. It is produced in the adrenal cortex of the adrenal glands. Cortisol has a variety of roles in the body but we know it best as a survival or stress hormone.
When you are stressed, the hypothalamus in your brain tells your adrenal glands to release cortisol. Some stress is a good thing. Stress keeps us motivated and helps us learn about our surrounding environment.
Most people don’t realise that cortisol has many positive side effects. It is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain killer. It also keeps us motivated and energized throughout the day. Cortisol keeps your blood sugar stable so you don’t need to eat frequently and it aids in the breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Cortisol is produced in our body in a circadian rhythm. Every morning cortisol spikes, which is what wakes you out of bed. It is meant to strongest in the morning (and this is also when your energy should be at its best) and then it should decline throughout the day and be the lowest at night. It works in opposition to melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.
Cortisol becomes an issue that wreaks havoc on our health when it becomes dysregulated. It can quickly go from being your bestie to your evil frenemy.
Cortisol becomes a major issue when it becomes chronically high. Elevated cortisol is no problem when it happens in short bursts and then quickly returns back to normal after the stress has been resolved.
Chronically high cortisol is not a normal situation and is unique to the human condition. Most of our life is actually meant to be spent at rest with no stress. If you consider wild animals, they spend most of their lives just hanging out, grazing, eating, walking around. It is only during those key moments when they are being hunted or hunting that stress hormones are high.
Unfortunately, we live in a very challenging world. Most of us have significant mental and emotional stress but we also live in a toxic world which results in significant internal stress as well.
When cortisol is chronically high, it delays gastric emptying (making you constipated), suppresses your immune system, downregulated thyroid hormones (killing your energy levels) and makes you really excellent at storing fat no matter what you eat.
People with high cortisol often feel tired and wired, have trouble sleeping, are unable to lose weight, have zero sex drive and catch infections easily.
After cortisol has been chronically high, the stress system starts to become dysregulated because levated cortisol is catabolic. This means that it will break the body down over time. At some point the brain is telling the adrenal glands to produce cortisol but the system has become so dysfunction that the adrenals don’t receive the proper message. Cortisol production starts to decline.
Low cortisol is problematic because cortisol is a blood sugar stabilizing hormone. With out adequate cortisol, you have trouble keeping your blood sugar stable. Low blood sugar without cortisol to stabilize it, results in the release of adrenalin to raise blood sugar.
With adrenalin comes a release of insulin. Insulin acts by lowering blood sugar and you end up on that rollercoaster of blood sugar fluctuations.
Since cortisol is energizing, people with low cortisol often feel exhausted. They may also experience increased pain and muscle aches since cortisol is anti-inflammatory and painkilling. People with low cortisol are prone to “bonking,” feeling exhausted even after a full night’s sleep, feeling overwhelmed and having low blood pressure.
Like the solutions for high cortisol, getting extra sleep at night and taking adaptogenic herbs can also be helpful. If you can’t seem to get back on track, no matter what you do, contact a practitioner training in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition or Functional Medicine.
Cortisol is an important hormone. While many of think of it as a bad thing, it is extremely important to our survival. When it works for you, you feel fantastic, energized and ready to take on the world. But when it’s not working for you, seemingly simple tasks become extremely difficult.
Having normal cortisol production is important. If you haven’t already, run a saliva or urine hormone panel to assess your cortisol levels and make changes as necessary.
How are you feeling these days? Are you struggling with high or low cortisol? Let me know in the comments below