No.1 – Lack of energy

When you’re tired all the time, you’re miserable. Miserable and grumpy, and not the best company in the world either.

Lack of energy is by far the most common complaint I hear. Surprisingly, many of the people who suffer from fatigue are young – perhaps only in their 20s or 30s. Instead of bouncing off the walls with energy and youth, they say they are exhausted and they don’t know why. A woman once came to see me for a consultation because she was terrified. She had just landed a demanding new job in finance, managing a team of people for which she knew she had to be on the ball, all the time. But feeling exhausted all the time meant that she might blow it. She didn’t, because once the cause of her fatigue had been identified she was able to deal with it and gain the energy she not only needed but should have had in the first place.

If fatigue is preventing you from getting on with your life you need to find out why. First, ask yourself the blindingly obvious. Are you getting enough sleep? If someone tells me they go to bed late and get up early I tell them to get more sleep. If you sleep enough but are still fatigued, see your GP and ask about testing for anaemia. Or perhaps your thyroid is not working properly. If you find it difficult to lose weight, but easy to gain it, and generally feel sluggish and apathetic, you may have an underactive thyroid. Again, you need to see your GP about this, and possibly have a blood test to examine your thyroid hormone status. These tests can save you a lot of time. Once the obvious has been eliminated, it’s time to look at your diet.

Of all the symptoms that people complain of, I find that ‘tired all the time’ is the easiest and quickest to deal with. Very often, the cause is an ability to maintain even blood sugar levels. A diet high in refined carbohydrates with inadequate protein and fat levels will leave you tired. That is because your blood sugar level is erratic rather than steady. There’s nothing like a diet of carbohydrates to disturb your blood sugar – as I discuss in chapter 2 of I Wish I Hadn’t Eaten That. Do you eat something like cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a bowl of pasta for your evening meal? Do you generally eat a lot of bread, pasta, rice and potatoes? It could be that you need to up your protein intake and remove some of those carbs. Beans and lentils are fantastic alternatives as they provide slow-release energy and are also good vegetarian sources of protein.

In my book I also discuss other possible causes of low energy: food intolerance, adrenal fatigue and digestive problems. I’ve seen it time and again: remove the food to which you are sensitive and energy levels quite suddenly soar. If you are highly stressed, this can impact on stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Prolonged stress can result in reduced levels of the hormone cortisol. This can leave you with not only chronic fatigue but depression, apathy and even sore muscles. This condition is very much linked to blood sugar levels and balancing blood sugar is an important step in supporting the adrenal glands.