Health & Nutrition with Rosie Shelley
BEING tired all the time is of the most common complaints GPs say they deal with, so common in fact that they shorthand it TATT.
Yet it’s almost an unquantifiable complaint; there is no agreed definition of tiredness and no objective measurement of the feeling of energy, there might just be a sense that we’re not able for the everyday demands of life.
And the challenge for those professionals is compounded by the fact that there are many causes for fatigue: simple overwork, lack of quality sleep, stress, anxiety, relationship or other emotional problems, low iron, vitamins B and D, folic acid, co-enzyme Q-10 or potassium levels, heavy periods, allergies or sensitivities, obesity and inactivity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, low thyroid function, or adrenal exhaustion/insufficiency. The GP should be your first port of call if you suspect any of these medical causes.
Protein for breakfast
The bottom line is that food, aside from being a pleasure in itself, is fuel for the body’s engine, and we need sufficient calories and a whole host of nutrients to keep that engine firing.
Cultures throughout the world and throughout history have arrived at their own versions of the same optimum model, which is a combination of protein, fats and complex carbohydrates (that includes vegetables and a little fruit), but protein is central when it comes to energy. We know now that it specifically excites the orexin cells in the brain that boost alertness levels and your metabolic rate. Even (or especially) at breakfast time, include some form of protein such as eggs, fish, beans or yoghurt and seeds, along with a source of fibre (fruit, veg, nuts, oats or other wholegrains) for digestive health. Refined carbohydrates like sugar and anything white actually suppress the function of orexin cells. Avoiding sugars, sweeteners, energy drinks and white carbs are crucial to keep blood sugar on an even keel and prevent those slumps in energy and mood.
More specifically, ensure that you’re not wasting your calories and calling on existing reserves of nutrients by eating processed foods, and focus on those that are rich in the relevant vitamins, minerals, antioxidant plant chemicals, co enzymes and essential fats. Iron, vitamin D and essential fats (found in red meat, eggs, oily fish, leafy greens, beans, lentils, wholegrains, nuts and seeds) are vital because of their role in the activity of mitochondria (the energy factories of cells), of serotonin (involved in sleep and mood), and of normal hormone balance.
The iodine in seaweeds, fish and shellfish is vital for a healthy thyroid, which governs energy and metabolic rate. Folic acid is used in the formation of red blood cells, B vitamins, co-enzyme Q-10, magnesium and zinc are needed for energy metabolism, and sulphur rich foods will help your body expel the toxins that can tax your physical and mental reserves. Go for onions, garlic, eggs, sardines, greens and beans, and eat a rainbow of fruit and veg for all round antioxidant activity. Wherever possible cut down on your toxic load by choosing organic foods and personal/household products.
Digestive health is so important because you are less ‘what you eat’ than ‘what you absorb’. Fermented foods like natural yoghurt, and a good probiotic supplement, will help you get the best out of what you eat. And drinking plenty of water, or herbal teas, will assist in the production of energy cells; dehydration is a common hidden cause of fatigue.
If you need coffee to get you going, some might say that indicates a problem that needs to be addressed. We know now that coffee is a healthy addition to the diet, but give yourself a cut off point of 2 or 3pm to avoid it interfering with sleep patterns. A few cups of tea day is no problem, especially because of its lower caffeine levels and its theanine content, which relaxes while it revives; green tea is especially good on this score. And Clipper makes an organic Super Green Energise Tea, which contains revitalising mint, turmeric and ginger.
And even if exercise is the last thing you feel like doing, just get up and go out of the door— at some point you’ll realise you’re actually feeling revitalised as the endorphins kick in, the metabolism speeds up, the stress hormones evaporate in the fresh air.
Experts say that even 10 minutes, three times a day, will help. Fitness is your best ally in the fight against fatigue and poor immune function, while regular activity and relaxation are your twin best friends when it comes to that all important good night’s sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation has also just confirmed that a short nap (no more than twenty minutes or you’ll just feel groggy) can restore mental and physical energy levels.
And a study involving 30,000 women found that going to bed and getting up earlier can reduce the risk of vitality-sapping depression by 12% to 27%.
Best fatigue busting foods
Oily fish, white fish, organic meat and liver, eggs, yoghurt, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa, oats, brown rice; leafy greens, broccoli, watercress, red cabbage, chillies, ginger, garlic, red onions, red peppers, tomatoes, avocadoes, butternut squash, seaweeds, berries, bananas, apples.
Supplement: High strength vitamin B complex, vitamin D, co-enzyme Q-10 (especially if over 40), a good probiotic such as BioKult.