Fighting Fatigue & Boosting Energy Naturally
Feeling tired is a wide-spread problem for about 20% of our population who possess so little energy their exhaustion interferes with their ability to enjoy a normal life (9).
The simplest, natural treatment for fatigue is rest and sleep. Sadly this solution is often not effective when the lack of energy is caused by an underlying health problem, medication, or chronic long term stressor (9).
Thankfully there are a wide range of solutions that are effective, affordable and easy to implement.
Sunshine and Temperature
Light has an acute, immediate and alerting effect on mood and performance so spending your lunch-break soaking up sunshine* is an easy energy boost for your afternoon (3).
Bear in mind though 75% of us report worsened fatigue when our core body temperature heats up. So to prevent the 3pm slump sip on cool drinks and open a window / turn on the air conditioning when you are back at work and need to concentrate (6).
Boosting Nutrient Intake
Eating too many processed foods may lead to fatigue and poor concentration. Young to middle-aged adults especially women with demanding lifestyles, who are physically active yet whose food choices are based on convenience and/or regular attempts to lose weight have been found to be at greater risk of nutrient deficiency and fatigue (5).
As we age our need for nutrient dense foods increases so eating the same foods you enjoyed in your 20‘s may no longer work in your 50‘s (5).
From a naturopathic perspective the best way to consume a diet rich in energy-giving nutrients is to eat foods in their most natural state. Specific supplements should then chosen to fill individual gaps to meet your own personal health goals, balance underlying conditions and/or counteract deficiencies caused by medications.
Using Supplements to Boost Energy
Multi-vitamin mineral supplement
Often I get asked if a general multi-vitamin mineral supplement is worthwhile and if you are taking it to boost energy and prevent fatigue there is evidence of benefit.
A placebo-controlled, double blind, randomised trial on 216 healthy women aged 25–50 taking a daily multi-vitamin mineral found fatigue was reduced with multi-tasking and mathematical tasks completed faster and more accurately after 90 days of supplementation (4).
B12 and Iron
B12 and iron are well known nutrients to relieve the fatigue caused from anaemia (1).
B12 deficiency is most commonly caused as we age by the reduced ability of the stomach to digest animal protein (1), the conscious choice to restrict/eliminate animal foods in vegetarians/vegans and is found in over 10% of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the most common form of low thyroid function) patients (2).
Iron deficiency anaemia is common in menstruating women with inadequate dietary intake of iron rich foods, people with compromised absorption of nutrients in the small intestine as in coeliacs disease or in cases of intestinal bleeding (1).
Excess iron intake is dangerous so before supplementing iron always check with your GP or naturopath.
Choosing a Supplement
Potentially there are many other nutrients helpful in boosting energy including magnesium, B group vitamins (5) and Coenzyme Q10 (7).
The choice of what to eat or what to supplement must be based on your own personal needs and individual circumstances.
If always prefer my clients to get their nutrients from food rather than a manufactured supplement so before I prescribe a solution I run through this quick process to work out which option will match the client’s health goals and lifestyle the best:
• Analyse nutrient content of all foods and drinks consumed over a few days
• Test specific nutrients levels for example iron and B12
• Compare the optimal level of the nutrient required to meet the health goals against the potential amount available via food sources in the diet
• Choose a supplements to fill gaps not able to be met through food.
A day when you don’t move makes you feel more tired yet for some this sounds counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t we feel rested and therefore more energetic if we don’t exercise? Researchers found physical activity reduced the chance of feeling fatigued regardless of the amount of nighttime sleep in adults aged 20 to 59 years (10).
Fatigue when overweight
Researchers found in overweight people fatigue is more likely to be caused by diet and exercise as well as emotional and psychological stress than sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea (11) .
So if you are overweight and fatigued seek out support to create an achievable plan for reducing emotional and psychological stress as well as strategies for enjoyable movement and healthy eating to boost your energy and fight fatigue.
There are herbs that have been studied for their anti-fatigue results with promising early evidence-supporting the use of: Rhodiola rosea, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Schizandra chinensis, for increased endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness (9).
A favourite of mine is Rhodiola rosea especially for stress-related fatigue as in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel groups in both males and females aged between 20 and 55 years over 28-day period found Rhodiola had an anti-fatigue effect with increased mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome (8).
If These Do Not Work Then What?
Fatigue is a common symptom of many health conditions and it is often one of the first symptoms to show up as the body tries to talk to you about how it is feeling. For this reason when fatigue is not related to poor sleep, changes in exercise, food intake, a stressful situation, or a medication I always want to investigate further!
What’s your favourite energy boosting, fatigue busting solution?
* Normal and safe precautions for sunshine exposure should always be taken. For more information check-out https://www.skincancer.org
1. Balducci, L. (2010). Anemia, fatigue and aging. Transfusion Clinique et Biologique, 17(5), 375-381.
2. Boelaert, K., Newby, P. R., Simmonds, M. J., Holder, R. L., Carr-Smith, J. D., Heward, J. M., … & Franklyn, J. A. (2010). Prevalence and relative risk of other autoimmune diseases in subjects with autoimmune thyroid disease. The American Journal of Medicine, 123(2), 183-e1.
3. Cajochen, C. (2007). Alerting effects of light. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 11(6), 453-464.
4. Haskell, C. F., Robertson, B., Jones, E., Forster, J., Jones, R., Wilde, A., … & Kennedy, D. O. (2010). Effects of a multi‐vitamin/mineral supplement on cognitive function and fatigue during extended multi‐tasking. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 25(6), 448-461.
5. Huskisson, E., Maggini, S., & Ruf, M. (2007). The role of vitamins and minerals in energy metabolism and well-being. Journal of International Medical Research, 35(3), 277-289.
6. Meeusen, R., Watson, P., Hasegawa, H., Roelands, B., & Piacentini, M. F. (2006). Central fatigue. Sports Medicine, 36(10), 881-909.
7. Mizuno, K., Tanaka, M., Nozaki, S., Mizuma, H., Ataka, S., Tahara, T., … & Watanabe, Y. (2008). Antifatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition, 24(4), 293-299.
8. Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica, 75(2), 105.
9. Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2009). Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 4(3), 198-219.
10. Resnick, H. E., Carter, E. A., Aloia, M., & Phillips, B. (2006). Cross-sectional relationship of reported fatigue to obesity, diet, and physical activity: results from the third national health and nutrition examination survey. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2(2), 163-169.
11. Vgontzas, A.N. Bixler, E.O. & Chrousos, G.P. (2006). Obesity-related sleepiness and fatigue: the role of the stress system and cytokines. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1083, 329-344.