Fighting Fatigue with Food
It can feel really defeating to need more energy, and do everything you can think of to get, only to end up feeling more lethargic. If you battle fatigue frequently, then you know how debilitating it can be. But did you know that fatigue is the most commonly reported symptom of a thyroid disorder?
Chronic fatigue can be a direct result of an imbalance with your thyroid. This type of common thyroid disorder leaves your body tired from over-producing certain hormones. The overproduction of these hormones can zap your energy and leave you with very little left over for your day.
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate your body's metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and more. Its correct functioning depends on having a consistent supply of certain minerals from food sources. Improving thyroid function might be just what you need to get back on track with lasting energy throughout your day. It all starts with whole foods and a clean diet designed to support your thyroid and help fight fatigue.
So what can you do?
The first simple first step to getting better energy has to do with what you eat. There are certain important nutrients that can help your body get back to balance and create more energy, such as iodine. Iodine is what your thyroid uses to make hormones, but your body doesn’t make it on its own. You must get iodine from your diet and if you don’t get enough, symptoms like fatigue can hit hard.
Selenium is another example. Foods with iodine and selenium are helpful to combat low energy. Selenium helps your body process thyroid hormones, which boosts energy in the body. Both Selenium and Iodine deficiencies have been associated with thyroid disorders. Iodine and selenium work together and must be balanced to prevent deficiency in either one. A great way to get more iodine and selenium in your diet is to incorporate foods like seaweed, seafood (like wild caught cod and shrimp), and eggs into your diet. Popping a few hard-boiled eggs into your morning is simple, but what about seaweed?
Seaweed is fun and so easy — just shred it and add it to rice. Many people also enjoy dried seaweed as a snack, which is especially great if you’re looking for a salty crunch. If your body does well processing animal products, then lean sources of meat are also great sources of iodine and selenium too.
It may seem counterintuitive that the foods you consume can directly help relax your mind and body. But yes, there are foods that can help alleviate stress and combat fatigue. Everyone has different thresholds for stress in their lives and most people handle and interpret stress differently. Work stress and personal day-to-day “to-do’s” alone are enough to send our stress response systems over the edge. When this happens, we can get trapped in the sympathetic nervous system’s response. This “fight or flight” reaction puts other functions in the body on hold while your body sends all available energy to address the event it interprets as danger.
So what should you keep on hand as emergency stash to grab when your stress levels rise?
Chamomile and lavender teas can help alleviate anxiety and can also be used to help fight insomnia. If you need an extra boost for better shut eye, try adding valerian root to your tea before bed as well. Take care not to overdo the tea drinking before bed or you’ll find yourself taking midnight strolls to the bathroom!
Gradually incorporating herbal teas into your diet can help you if you’re trying to cut back on the caffeine. Lavender and sandalwood essential oils behind the ears and in a warm bath can also do the trick to calm the central nervous system and get your body into a less agitated state. Meditation and deep breathing exercises pair well with a steaming cup of herbal tea as well.
Before you head out for your next workout, forgo the Gatorade or artificial energy drink, and grab your homemade electrolyte drink. Dehydration and loss of electrolytes can sneak up on anyone, and these contribute to fatigue. Store-bought electrolyte drinks come with as much sugar as some sodas, and that sugar can adversely affect your energy levels. Making your own electrolyte drink is as easy as adding about ¼ teaspoon of good quality sea salt or enhanced minerals into your water. This will add an array of beneficial and energy-boosting minerals to your body. You may also add lemon and/or coconut water for taste and a potassium boost. This is a great way to stay hydrated throughout the day, too. You’ll be doing your body and wallet a favor with these homemade electrolyte drinks! These are also great to drink while recovering from being sick.
Adding high-fiber foods to your diet will help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. Soluble fiber found in foods like okra, chia seeds, and bananas give your body a chance to absorb nutrients and sugar. It also has the added benefit of lowering the levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. Bananas get bonus points for potassium. If your fatigue is caused by adrenal dysfunction, your potassium levels are properly low and need to be supplemented. Bananas might just give you the energy boost you need without the caffeine jitters and crash. Chia seed pudding is an easy way to get extra fiber into your diet. Drop chia seeds into your favorite nut milk overnight in your refrigerator and you’ll have a delicious and filling breakfast waiting for you in the morning.
Let’s talk about fat. The good kind of fats, that is! Fats are the most energy-dense food. Add an avocado to your salad to benefit from the delicious, slow-burning healthy fat. Olive oil, salmon, and nuts are all good sources of healthy fats, too. This is because these foods have monounsaturated fats that burn slowly, and allow the body to utilize energy longer. Bringing these foods into your diet in moderation will help restore energy to the body. Keep a handful of nuts (try the thyroid-supporting Brazil nut) on hand any time you start to yawn or feel like you need a nap in the middle of the day. Getting your blood sugar back up with this slow-burning energy source should help kick out the tired and get you back on track.
There are a few quick fix tricks you can try to reclaim energy and fight fatigue. Eating small meals throughout the day is important. Small, frequent meals can prevent your blood sugar from crashing and causing the downward spiral of fatigue. Eating too much in one sitting can bring on the urge to nap, as your body digests the feast, so small meals please.
Make sure you’re hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink enough water and deprive your cells of this crucial element of energy. when we Starting the day with a tall glass of warm lemon water can give the same boost as a small cup of coffee. Eating too much in one sitting can bring on the urge to nap, as your body digests the feast, so keep your meals small!
Watch Out For Caffeine & Sugar
Have you been overdoing your Venti triple-shot caramel macchiato habit? That caffeine and sugar overdose can send you over the edge and cause a major energy crash. Both sugar and caffeine cause immediate spikes and subsequent crashes. Those readily available sweet coffee drinks you can buy at any coffee shop will send you fairly quickly into a tailspin of fatigue. Tapering yourself off of caffeine and sugar can be tricky, but it can be done faster than you might think.
So remember, stick with whole foods, including slow-burning carbs and mineral-rich fruits, vegetables and leafy greens and you’ll start to feel your energy coming back.