You’re tired: what next?
Feeling tired is a common complaint at the doctor's office. Most people are overstressed, sleep too little, and don’t eat well. Beyond addressing these factors, start by seeing your doctor for some basic blood tests. Then follow the next steps.
The most important tests to have done are iron/ hemoglobin levels and thyroid studies.
Anemia and low iron stores (ferritin) are common in women who have heavy menstrual cycles, vegetarians/ pescatarians, and vegans.
Low thyroid function can occur at any age. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition whereby your body makes antibodies against the thyroid and low thyroid hormone levels result.
Thyroid hormone regulates energy and metabolism.
Common symptoms of low thyroid hormone include fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, and brittle hair and nails. You can also experience mood issues, irregular cycles, and constipation.
If you do not eat red meat or are vegan/vegetarian, it is best to get Vitamin B12 levels tested. Since it takes a few years to deplete your body’s stores, it is highly recommended to take a supplement of B complex even when your levels are at the low end of normal.
Avoid ultra-processed food, and sugar/ sugary drinks including fruit juices and soda. It is common to have a ‘sugar crash’ a few hours after eating processed or high-carb meals.
Move towards a whole-food diet.
Make your lunch at home. Most fast food and restaurant foods are laced with sugar and additives that ultimately affect your metabolism and energy.
Focus on high-quality protein.
Eat protein at every meal, including breakfast.
Cereals are processed foods that are high in sugar, and affect energy negatively.
Try a protein smoothie or eggs for breakfast.
Aim for 3 solid meals a day and avoid snacking.
An advanced strategy to improve energy is to try intermittent fasting 2-3 times a week. Over time, this can improve insulin sensitivity and help decrease cravings and sugar crashes. It involves a window of zero caloric intake for 12-16 hours between your last meal of the day and breakfast. (Water, black tea, and black coffee are allowed).
Muscle is the currency of longevity.
Beyond ensuring your physical independence when you’re old, exercise is important to balance energy.
Moving encourages blood flow to your brain and improves focus and concentration.
You don’t have to go to the gym every day.
You can take a brisk walk outside for 15-20 min once a day and do 7-10 min of HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
Making sleep a priority is a key step towards restoring energy.
Ensure you avoid caffeine after 10 am, and stop alcohol at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Turn off your devices and screens at least one hour before bedtime.
Screen for depression:
Low energy can be a symptom of depression. Talk to your doctor about whether you might have depression.
A high-quality multivitamin and B complex can help energy.
Food today is nutrient-depleted. Processing, storage, and cooking decrease the nutrient density of food.
Topping up the nutrients available for your body to work optimally can help improve energy.
Vitamin D must be supplemented since there isn’t enough sun in Canada to ensure the production of adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Over 50-year-olds can benefit from taking Ubiquinol, a crucial nutrient in the production of energy.
The world is so fast-paced today.
Take some time out of the rat race and escape into nature. Enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors and fresh air. Discover mindfulness.
Taking a break from your busy lifestyle helps lower cortisol and manage stress. Lowering stress and improving calm will go a long way towards improving your energy.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient system of health and healing. It is complex and difficult to explain, yet it is very effective in restoring energy and balance. It helps improve the stress response, deepens sleep, and improves anxiety and mood. It also helps digestion, lowers pain, and balances hormones.
Low energy is a symptom that your body needs something. Especially when your tests are normal, it is time to start improving your lifestyle and focus on all aspects of health and healing.
Dr. Natasha Iyer, MD