Natural ways to boost your energy, according to a naturopath
We’ve all felt tired before. Maybe we didn’t sleep well one night and the next day we felt like crap, leading us to bad decisions that day – we likely skipped the gym, ordered pizza instead of cooking, and weren’t as productive overall. If we got a good night’s sleep the next night, we probably felt back to our normal-self, ready to take on the following day by the horns with improved natural energy.
But imagine feeling this sense of fatigue on most days (or every day!) of the week? You can imagine the vicious cycle that follows. Low energy is one of the most common complaints I hear from my patients. They feel tired ALL THE TIME. But while they’ve come to see me because they have bigger health goals in mind like losing weight, getting pregnant or regulating their hormones, with very little energy it is pretty challenging to stick to any goals, let alone ones that can take tremendous motivation and effort.
Enhancing overall natural energy is one of the foundations of all treatment plans, because low energy is “an obstacle to cure”. So if you are working towards any goal, but you’re fatigue is getting in your way, here are some things to think about.
The Low Hanging Fruit
Of course, if sleep is an issue, there is a clear understanding of why someone may have low natural energy. But I see many women who complain of low energy looking for other ways to boost energy, rather than working on their sleep patterns. 55 percent of women aged 18 to 64 report having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
Sleep needs to be the first place your efforts go if you are feeling fatigued. Here are some simple boundaries to start with:
- Set a consistent bedtime and wake time. Get out of bed when your alarm goes off.
- Create a bedtime routine that starts about 1 hour before you want to fall asleep. This is important to prime the nervous system for sleep and to help you fall asleep faster. Adding in a mindfulness practice can have huge impacts on your sleep.
- Eliminate all screens and bright light 1 hour before bed.
- Sleep in a completely dark room and exposure yourself to bright light (preferably the sun) as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is not only associated with low natural energy levels, it is also linked to weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hormonal dysregulation, longer time to conception, death from all-causes, depression, anxiety, and reduced overall well-being.
Ensure Adequate Hydration:
Here is a simple thought: are you drinking enough water? Fluids are essential for maintaining blood volume and transporting nutrients throughout your body. Studies have shown that even a mild state of dehydration can lead to feelings of fatigue and low mood. Depending on the size of your body, your need for water will vary, but around 2L is probably a good goal for most. Use your urine as a marker – if it is very yellow, you need to up your intake but if it is generally clear or light yellow, your body is likely well-hydrated.
Tip: I tell all of my patients to buy a pretty water bottle, one that they will want to bring everywhere with them. This way you will be reminded all day to get your fluids in!
Ditch the Sugar & Processed Foods:
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to grab that quick and sugary snack for a rapid burst of energy. And you may actually feel better in the short term. Researchers have found that people report feeling an increase in energy and a decrease in tiredness immediately following a snack high in sugar, however, about 1-2 hours later, these same participants report a further increase in tiredness and reduced energy.
Processed foods (ie. most things that come from a package) and those that contain high amounts of sugar cause a quick spike in blood glucose and then insulin, leading to a rapid crash in energy. This can quickly become a vicious cycle. Instead of choosing processed foods:
- Focus on whole foods, the ones that are found naturally– eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables
- Prioritize meal prep – make healthy lunches and dinners ahead of time and make and pre-packaged snacks for the week so they are there in times of need.
- And if consuming food high in sugar, add a quality protein source to slow the blood sugar spike.
Other Ways to Address Natural Energy Fatigue
Address your Stress:
Humans are not well-equipped to handle constant high stress. If you’ve been living a busy and stressful life, it is time to re-evaluate, before you burnout. High stress is significantly associated with fatigue, for many reasons. Studies show that stressful work weeks are associated with a decrease in total sleep time and people who report the highest perceived stress also report the most sleepiness. It has also been found that higher perceived stress is associated with higher nighttime cortisol levels and these individuals experience more restlessness at bedtime.
Small doses of stress are normal and unavoidable, and our bodies can bounce back quite quickly. However, it’s the long-term, high stress that we need to worry about since it can lead to many health consequences. For strategies to reduce stress in your life and avoid burnout, check out my post on Adrenal Fatigue here.
Move your Body:
When your body feels tired, you may feel like rest is what you need and that expending more energy will leave you worn out. But, research shows that exercise, especially at a low to moderate intensity, actually acts on the central nervous system to increase natural energy and reduce fatigue. This means you may want to skip the HIIT, but make sure not to skip out on exercise altogether. Choose to do something like a light jog, or a brisk walk. You may even opt for some slow and control resistance exercise.
Uncovering the Cause
If you’ve been struggling with fatigue for a while, it’s a good idea to do some basic lab testing to ensure you find the underlying cause or contributing factors to your fatigue. Some important markers to have tested include:
- Complete blood count: this will determine if your fatigue is due to anemia.
- Ferritin (iron): low iron is linked to low energy.
- Vitamin B12: low B12 levels are linked to low energy.
- Vitamin D: low levels are linked with general tiredness.
- Thyroid Panel: fatigue may be a sign of a thyroid dysfunction.
If stress has been elevated for a long time, a 4-point salivary cortisol test may be indicated as well.
Supplements to Boost Energy
Since there are many reasons why someone may feel fatigued, it is important to take supplements that are specific to your concern. Here are some general recommendations:
- Based on your bloodwork it may be recommended to start taking a supplemental form of vitamin B12 (or B12 shots for a quick boost), iron, and/or vitamin D.
- Ashwagandha: This botanical medicine has been traditionally used as an adrenal tonic, improving the body’s resilience to daily stressors. It has been shown to improve natural energy levels, calm anxiety, and reduce feelings of depression.
- Rhodiola: Also a botanical medicine, Rhodiola is well-known for its ability to increase physical and mental performance, even in healthy individuals.
- Panax Ginseng: This botanical has been used to boost energy for many, many years. It has anti-fatigue properties, it may help improve cognitive function and it has been shown to increase overall well-being.
With the busyness of our modern lives, and the stress that comes along with that, fatigue is a common complaint. It is important to understand why you are feeling fatigued and work on the root cause to get real and lasting results.
No matter what, improving your sleep habits, altering your diet, adding more movement, and reducing stress levels with providing so much benefit to your life.
If you’ve been feeling sluggish for some time and are ready to have an individualized approach to care, I’d be happy to work with you. Book a free 15-minute discovery call to find out if we’re a good fit!
In good health & getting your mojo back,