Do you find yourself reaching for a third cup of coffee in the beginning of the day or wanting to nap under your desk? Do you notice that you can’t muster up the enthusiasm to hit the gym or go to that thing you said you’d go to?
Low energy and being tired is often blamed on lack of sleep. Lack of sleep is actually only one of a few different possibilities that could explain why you’re having low energy.
4 Reasons That Could Explain Your Low Energy Problems
1. Increased Stress
Why: Over time, chronic stress can deplete your adrenals. Your adrenal glands, perched right atop your kidneys, make cortisol and DHEA in an attempt to help your body handle stressful situations. If you’re used to spending your days worrying, overworking, or just generally freaking out, your adrenals try to help out by hitting you with frequent doses of fight-or-flight energy. Chronic stress can lead to low cortisol levels and DHEA levels —a condition known as adrenal fatigue.
Solution: A blood test that measures cortisol and DHEA levels can reveal where you can improve or supplement. Optimal DHEA levels are between 99 – 341mcg/dL. If your cortisol number is out of range when you get your results (>23 mcg/dL), you’ve got some stress reduction to do. And at the very least, you can work to counteract some of its more damaging effects. Some suggestions include:
- Cut down on the uppers and ease up on the downers. Caffeine and alcohol are modern staples; Unfortunately, they both contribute to high cortisol. Look to long-term use of adaptogens to help keep your highs and lows in check.
- Adaptogens: Adaptogens are a class of substances that can reduce the physical effects of stress. From herbs like panax ginseng, rhodiola rosea, holy basil, and astragalus, to supplements like magnesium, theanine, and phosphatidylserine, there are a number of pills, teas, and tinctures you can take to help reduce elevated cortisol levels.
- Get regular sleep and more of it. While it might seem impossible to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, having a regular bedtime and wake-up time can help keep your cortisol in check.
- Be still. Remind your body what relaxation feels like. Even taking a few deliberate deep breaths can help reduce stress. Eventually, you can build up to sitting meditation for even more powerful reductions.
2. Thyroid Imbalance / Underperforming Thyroid
Why: The Thyroid is a powerful gland (located in your neck) and spends its days converting nutrients to energy, helping to regulate body temperature, aid digestion, and enhance cognitive ability. Over 10% of the U.S. population will have a thyroid condition at some point in their lifetime. Of those with thyroid disease, 60% are unaware that they have it.
Solution: An advanced Thyroid test will help identify and improve thyroid challenges, because the numbers will show you exactly where you stand. Look for panels that test: TSH, Total T4, Total T3, T3 uptake, Free T4 Index, Free T3, Reverse T3, Free T4.
After you have a snapshot of where you’re at, you can make a plan to course correct through nutrition, supplements or medicine, depending on what your physician recommends that is tailored to your unique biochemistry.
3. Poor nutrition, resulting in micronutrient deficiencies
Why: Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that play an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning. Certain micronutrients are tied to energy levels, such as iron. The tiny amount you need is crucial to normal body functions. If you do not have enough iron, your body cannot make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells, and you may develop anemia, a disorder that occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin in the blood. Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, difficulty breathing, dizziness, headaches, feeling cold.
Solutions: Eat iron-rich foods to increase your iron levels. Meat, seafood, poultry, beans, peas and dark, green leafy vegetables are rich in iron. A blood test can reveal deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals in addition to iron, such as vitamin B12, vitamin B9, and vitamin D.
4. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
Why: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is usually experienced by adults in the winter, ultimately resulting in depression. Studies found 80% of SAD sufferers to be women, age 23 is the average age of noticeable symptoms, and distance from the equator is associated with higher likelihood of experiencing SAD. Symptoms of SAD during fall and winter include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
Potential culprits of SAD include insufficient vitamin D levels, and sub-optimal melatonin and serotonin levels.
- Light therapy. The ultraviolet light in special lamps promotes synthesis of vitamin D in skin cells.
- Vitamin D supplements. Usually in pill or liquid drop form, vitamin D supplementation has been as effective or even more effective than light therapy in alleviating symptoms of depression. Dosage recommendations vary anywhere from 500 IU to 50,000 IU (international units), depending on the source. For example, the Vitamin D Council recommends 10,000-50,000 IU, while the Endocrine Society recommends 1500-2000 IU with an upper limit of 10,000 IU. However, the general consensus is that deficiency is more likely than vitamin D overdosing, especially when vitamin D levels can be tested with a standard blood draw, so it may be better to take more than take too little.
- Melatonin supplements. Although SAD is theorized to be caused by excess melatonin levels, some individuals may find the opposite problem: too little melatonin, usually manifesting as trouble falling asleep, and caused by night-time exposure to blue light from smartphones and modern lighting. 1-3mg of melatonin has been found to alleviate insomnia.
How WellnessFX Can Help
The most accurate way to understand what’s affecting your energy levels and long-term health is through your biochemistry. Having the data puts you in the driver’s seat because once you test, you’ll have a baseline that informs what adjustments you should make next. Get started today by getting a blood test and making the commitment to #OwnYourHealth.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.