It's important to note that if you are experiencing persistent fatigue or other symptoms that are impacting your quality of life, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider or a nutritional therapist to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Low energy could be a result of many different things. In nutritional therapy, we aim to address the whole person and take a deep dive into anything which could be causing your symptoms. We will assess your medical history, family medical history, lifestyle factors as well as your mental health and dietary intake. This information will be used to formulate a nutritional and naturopathic plan to support your symptoms as a unique individual.
That said, there could be many simple things which could be causing your low energy levels. In this article we will provide a brief overview of how diet, lifestyle and supplemental factors could be used to improve your levels of energy, as well as introducing various functional testing options.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): CFS is a complex disorder usually presenting as severe fatigue that cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition. Other common symptoms may include sleep disturbances, headaches, and muscle pain[i].
Thyroid health: The thyroid gland produces hormones that play a key role in metabolism and energy regulation[ii]. Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can cause fatigue and other symptoms[iii]. Subclinical thyroid dysfunction is a relatively common condition, particularly among older adults and women, and may be detected during routine blood tests. Subclinical thyroid dysfunction refers to a condition in which the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are abnormal, but the person does not have any overt symptoms of thyroid disease[iv]. This is an incredibly common cause of persistent low energy seen in clinic. In the functional testing section below, we discuss this in more detail.
Burnout: Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that results from chronic stress. It can cause feelings of fatigue, low motivation, and reduced productivity. A type of burnout includes adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a term that is sometimes used to describe a collection of symptoms, such as fatigue, and mood changes, that are thought to result from chronic stress and the resulting impact on the adrenal glands. Another type of burnout includes overtraining syndrome, which is a type of burnout that can occur in athletes and other people who engage in high-intensity training or exercise[v].
Poor diet: A diet that is high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can lead to nutrient deficiencies and inflammation, both of which can contribute to low energy levels. There are also many allergies and intolerance and many other types of gut disturbances and digestive distress such as irritable bowel disease and Coeliac and gluten sensitivity, which may contribute to symptoms of low energy[vi].
Lack of exercise: Regular exercise can help boost energy levels by improving cardiovascular health, increasing muscle strength, and reducing stress and anxiety[vii]. If you are currently finding exercise difficult, any form of gentle movement will always be beneficial for the body. Gentle exercises include some restorative forms of yoga, tai chi or simple a short walk or jog at your own pace[viii].
Sleep disturbances: It may seem obvious, but sleep is often overlooked in our busy lives. Sleep is so important for the health of our body and minds. Poor sleep quality or too little quantities of it can lead to fatigue and other symptoms, such as irritability and difficulty concentrating[ix].
Simple vs. complex carbs: What is a simple carbohydrate?
Simple carbs are made up of either one or two sugar molecules (monosaccharides and disaccharides). They provide your body with a short burst of energy, because their structure is so small, they’re easier to digest and can, therefore, be easily used by the body. This is good right? In some cases it can be good, such as for high intensity exercise, many athletes may use simple sugars for an energy boost. However, generally speaking, in terms of our energy levels on a day-to-day basis, their fast digestion rate means that they cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar levels. This is usually followed by a crash that may leave you feeling sluggish[xii].
Examples of simple carbs you might want to cut down on or avoid include white bread, breakfast cereals, sweets and sugary chocolate, fruit juice, and processed or refined grains with added sugars.
What is a complex carbohydrate?
Because of their more complex structure and fibre content, complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, resulting in a more gradual and sustained increase in blood sugar levels[xiii].
What is the glycaemic index?
The glycaemic index is a measurement of how quickly and how far a carbohydrate-containing food raises your blood sugar levels. Foods considered to have a high glycaemic index are rapidly digested and absorbed, causing a quick and large rise in blood sugar levels, followed by a rapid drop.
By contrast, foods with a low glycaemic index are slowly digested and absorbed, causing a gradual and sustained increase in blood sugar levels. Therefore, as previously discussed, choosing foods with a lower glycaemic index, such as complex carbohydrates, can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote health overall[xiv].
What’s more, studies have found that diets high in high glycaemic index (GI) foods, which are typically high in sugars and low in fibre, may be associated with reduced alertness and increased sleepiness[xv].
What about caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant that can provide a temporary boost in energy and alertness. While moderate caffeine intake is generally considered safe for most people, excessive caffeine consumption or long-term use may have negative effects on energy levels[xvi]. Generally speaking, moderation is key when it comes to caffeine consumption, and people should pay attention to their individual responses to caffeine and adjust their intake accordingly.
Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to support energy production in the body[xvii]. Some examples of energising fruits and vegetables include bananas, apples, berries, spinach, and kale. They can also help the health of your liver and aid in detoxification, which can lift feelings of sluggishness. Try to consume fruits and vegetables of all the colours in the rainbow[xviii].
Slow-release carbs: As mentioned before, slow release carbs are the best kind for our blood sugar levels and maintaining good, steady levels of energy. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body, and whole grains are a great source of complex carbohydrates that are broken down slowly, providing a steady source of energy. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa. You can also get good slow-release carbs from vegetables including sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips etc.
Lean protein: Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body and can also help to provide sustained energy. Examples of lean protein sources include chicken, fish, eggs, and beans.
Green tea: contains antioxidants that can help to support overall health and well-being. Green tea also contains caffeine but may be less likely to result in feelings of jitters because it also contains L-theanine, known to promote feelings of peace. So, it can give you the kick of coffee without the anxiety[xix].
Cytoplan Sublingual Vitamin B12 - Methyl and Adenosylcobalamin (60 caps): Studies have suggested that B12 supplementation may have potential benefits for energy levels and overall well-being[xx]. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in many biological processes, including energy metabolism, DNA synthesis, and nerve function. B12 deficiency can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and low energy levels[xxi].
Spatone iron: Spatone is a brand of natural iron supplement that is derived from the mineral-rich waters of a natural spring in Snowdonia, Wales. Iron is an essential mineral that is necessary for the production of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency, therefore, can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, which can contribute to low energy levels[xxii]. It’s definitely a good idea to get your iron levels checked so you can get your supplemental dose just right for you, and also to monitor that levels of iron are not too high for you as this can cause harm.
Pure Encapsulations Ginkgo 50 160 mg (60 Capsules): Ginkgo biloba is a popular herbal supplement that is believed to have potential benefits for a range of health conditions, including cognitive function, circulation, and energy levels[xxiii].
Kiki Health Maca Powder, Organic 4 Root, (100g): Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is native to the Andes Mountains of Peru. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its health benefits, including its ability to support energy levels[xxiv].
Mushrooms 4 Life Organic Cordyceps Beetroot Latte Mix (20 Servings): Cordyceps supplements are believed to work by increasing the body's production of ATP, a molecule that is essential for energy metabolism, as well as by improving oxygen use and reducing oxidative stress. [xxv]
Viridian Malic Acid 550mg Veg Caps (90 Capsules): Malic acid is involved in the Krebs cycle, which is an important metabolic process that helps to produce ATP, the primary source of energy for cells[xxvi]. Some studies have suggested that malic acid may have potential benefits for energy levels and muscle function.[xxvii]
Cytoplan Ginseng Complex: Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement that is believed to have potential benefits for energy levels and overall well-being. Ginseng is available in several different forms, including Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), both of which are believed to have adaptogenic properties that may help the body cope with stress and promote energy levels[xxix].
Pure Encapsulations Magnesium (Citrate/Malate): Magnesium contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Magnesium malate and citrate are very well assimilated by the body [xxx].
Therapy Bespoke Teas Vitali-T Herbal Tea (50g): Our expertly crafted tea blend features a delightful combination of Tulsi, Mate, Green Tea Sencha, and Siberian Ginseng to give you the boost you need to tackle your day. Tulsi is an adaptogen, known to help the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being[xxxi]. Likewise, Mate is also known to promote energy in the body due to high antioxidant levels[xxxii]
Treat yourself! Try an uplifting scent of NEOM Organics Grapefruit, Mandarin & Eucalyptus Essential Oil Blend (10ml).
This profile can be used to identify an inappropriate adrenal function, and aid in assessing how it is influencing energy levels[xxxiii]. While cortisol is necessary for normal physiological function, chronically elevated cortisol levels have been associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including fatigue and reduced energy levels[xxxiv].
DUTCH (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones) Complete can help identify the root causes of hormone imbalances in men and women, including pinpointing issues with low energy[xxxv].
The activity thyroid gland is inextricably linked to our energy levels. This test analyses serum levels of TSH, total T4, free T4, free T3, anti-TG antibodies, and anti-TPO antibodies, complete with reverse T3 to assess central and peripheral thyroid function, as well as thyroid auto-immunity, for every eventuality[xxxvi].
There is evidence to suggest that people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may experience fatigue and low energy levels as a result of nutrient deficiencies and inflammation caused by the condition[xxxvii]. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, including iron, folate, and vitamin B12[xxxviii]. These nutrients are essential for energy production and can lead to fatigue and low energy levels when they are deficient.
These tests may also be used to look into other factors which may be contributing to poor gut health and therefore may be used to formulate a plan to resolve the issues presented, in order to get energy levels back up to normal standard[xxxix] [xl].
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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.