8 energy sappers – and how to beat them
Find yourself yawning all the time or nodding off as soon as you sit down on the sofa? You may be suffering from TATT – Tired All The Time Syndrome. Here are eight reasons why you might be always tired, and what to do to get your energy back.
Millions of years ago our bodies were designed to react quickly to danger. Like wild animals, we were on constant alert so we could run or fight if threatened. Dr Marilyn Glenville (marilynglenville.com), the UK’s leading nutritionist and author of The Natural Health Bible for Women, says, “This fight or flight response is incredibly clever and thoroughly efficient. It provides instant energy for 5-10 minutes, allowing you to react swiftly to dangerous situations.
“These days, many of us live under chronic stress. However, our bodies can’t distinguish between late trains, missed appointments, spiralling debt, infuriating work colleagues, family disputes and the truly life-threatening stress it gears up to challenge, so it reacts exactly the same as it’s always done.”
But in many people, stress is continuous and the body never gets the long periods of recovery it really needs. “It’s like driving a car with your foot on the accelerator the whole time – even when stationary – because fear and anxiety frequently continue even after a stressful situation has passed.”
There is only so long the body can continue like this until it reaches the end of the line and collapses, as it just cannot keep functioning on overdrive. “The effect is a dramatic drop in energy levels, which can be really quite debilitating,” adds Glenville.
“Around four million women in the UK suffer from anaemia, caused by lack of iron. The symptoms include tiredness, dizziness and a racing heart,” explains Dr Glenville. “Your body needs iron to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body. Without it, you’ll feel lethargic, no matter how much sleep you get. It is better not to take iron supplements unless you know that you are anaemic, so ask your doctor for a blood test to test your haemoglobin level if you suffer from tiredness, then ask them to re-test it after a while to check that your levels are back to normal. To reduce the risk of anaemia, make sure you eat a balanced diet with plenty of green vegetables, iron-fortified cereals and dried fruit.”
If you do suffer with iron deficiency it is important to chose a good-quality supplement, such as Nature’s Plus Source of Life Gold Liquid (revital.co.uk, £15.45), which is packed with antioxidants and whole food-based vitamins to boost your energy,” recommends nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
Your thyroid gland works by producing the hormone thyroxine, which controls metabolism and regulates energy levels. Dr Glenville explains, “If your thyroid produces too little of it you will feel tired. You can also gain weight, your skin and hair will feel dry, you will often feel cold and may be constipated. Most likely you will also feel depressed, forgetful and confused.” Sounds familiar? “Ask your doctor for a thyroid test. If you have an underactive thyroid, your doctor will prescribe medication to boost your hormone levels,” says Dr Glenville.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
If you feel tired and are eating a healthy diet, you may be deficient in vitamin B12, which helps to carry oxygen around the body so is a must for energy. Cassandra Barns explains, “B12 is a water-soluble B vitamin that can be made in the body as well as sourced from food. Bacteria in our small intestine are able to synthesise this essential vitamin, however we need to ensure we have healthy gut flora for this to happen effectively. In addition, vegetarians and vegans can also be prone to B12 deficiency as the best sources are meat and fish. Apart from including eggs, liver, salmon and sardines in your diet you can also try taking a supplement, such as Quest Vitamin B12 (revital.co.uk, £6.25)”.
According to Diabetes UK, an estimated 7 million Brits have pre-diabetes and 15 per cent of the UK population are on the way to developing Type 2 diabetes. Dr Glenville explains, “This is partly to do with high-sugar diets, obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood is too high and your body is unable to convert it into energy because there is not enough insulin, or the insulin produced isn’t working properly. The body then breaks down its stores of fat and protein to try to release more glucose and the problem gets worse. This is why people with untreated diabetes feel tired and lose weight. Other symptoms include urinating often and extreme thirst.”
Ask your doctor for a blood test. If the test is negative for diabetes then it could be that your tiredness is caused by unstable blood sugar levels. “Cravings for starchy or sweet foods can mean you have a blood sugar imbalance. To keep your blood sugar levels, steady avoid sugar and refined foods such as white flour, as well as caffeine. Eat every three hours and load up on low-glycaemic foods such as fish, eggs, hummus, green vegetables and fruits such as pears, grapes and apples. Replace pasta with basmati rice and have porridge for breakfast instead of packaged sugar-laden cereals,” adds Shona Wilkinson, head nutritonist at NutriCentre.
Brits can’t sleep – 10 million prescriptions for sleeping pills are written each year in England. A disrupted night’s sleep affects you physically and mentally. In the long run you end up with a massive sleep debt that your body can’t repay, no matter how much shut-eye you get.
“To increase your chances of a good night’s sleep make sure your bedroom is a calm and relaxing place and your mattress is comfortable,” advises Dr Glenville. “Block out noise and light, as it will impair the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Sleep in a well-ventilated but not cold room (around 13-18°C) as body temperature falls at night to promote feelings of sleepiness”.
If you need an extra help treat yourself to relaxing bath with lavender essential oil. “You can also try taking a supplement, such as Synergistic Magnesium by Quest Vitamins (revital.co.uk, £6.25), which works as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ and helps to relax muscles. Magnesium is also vital for the function of GABA (gamma-amniobutyric acid), a calming neurotransmitter that your brain requires to switch off,” says Barns.
Not how, but when, you work out could be draining your energy. “You should not exercise intensely just before bed as this will make your adrenaline, heart and respiratory rates pump and you won’t be able to sleep,” says Dr Glenville. “Also, if your exercise routine is too intense, long or vigorous, instead of energising you as moderate to mild exercise should, it will be draining you.
“Do exercises such as running or aerobics in the morning and focus on milder activities later in the evening. Try a walk at the end of the day or a yoga session to calm your mind and stretch your muscles. Don’t go the other way though and cut out exercise altogether as no exercise will trap you in a vicious cycle of tiredness.”
Shona adds, “‘When you are exhausted, exercise may be the last thing on your mind but regular physical activity can gradually improve your energy levels. Don’t think that you have to go for an eight-mile run – just a brisk 30-minute walk a day can help boost energy levels significantly.”
Vitamin D deficiency
It is now thought that our energy levels can be affected by a lack of vitamin D. “This vitamin is thought of as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and its receptors are present in the central nervous system,” says Barns. “It can affect neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are linked to our moods and feelings of well-being and energy. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can include muscle and joint pains, low immune function, sleep problems, mood swings and low energy. The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sun rays. However, especially during winter months, it’s almost impossible, so try taking a vitamin D supplement instead. Go for Forte D 4000 by Quest Vitamins (revital.co.uk, £12.69)”.