Feeling fatigued is a wide-spread problems for about 20% of our population who possess so little energy their exhaustion interferes with their ability to enjoy a normal life (9).
Are there evidence-based solutions that boost your energy that don’t leave you crashing and worse-off?
The simplest, natural treatment for fatigue is rest and sleep. Sadly this solution is often not possible or effective in cases when the lack of energy is caused by an underlying health problem, medication, or chronic long term stress (9).
Thankfully there are a wide range of solutions that are effective, affordable and easy to implement.
For a quick overview of the fatigue busters check out the mind map below. For more detailed information I’ve included the evidence-based rationale behind each of the strategies.
Sunshine and Temperature:
Light has an acute, immediate, alerting effect on mood and performance so spending your lunch-break soaking up sunshine* is a easy change to your routine to boost your afternoon energy (3).
Balance your sunshine exposure with the finding that 75% of us report fatigue when our core body temperature heats up. So to prevent the 3pm slump sip on cool drinks and 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 that boosted you 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 are then chosen to fill individual gaps left by the diet, to meet personal health goals, balance underlying conditions 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). Maybe this is the key to my lifelong confusion with algebra?
B12 and Iron
B12 and iron are well known supplements to counter fatigue caused specifically from anemia (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 anemia is common in menstruating women with inadequate dietary intake of iron rich foods, people with compromised absorption of nutrients in the small intestine as caused by 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
There are many other food sources and supplements to boost energy including magnesium, B group vitamins (5) or Coenzyme Q10 (7). The choice of what to eat or take must be based on your own personal needs and individual circumstances.
The Evidence-Based Health Solutions’ approach to determining which supplement is correct for your health is to:
- Assess your diet via analysis of the food you eat
- Based on your individual needs test specific nutrients levels
- Compare to the optimal level required to meet your personal health goals based
- Using foods containing required nutrients meal plans are created
- Supplements chosen to fill the gaps not able to be met through your grocery bill.
Exercise, Diet and Stress Relief:
A day when you don’t move actually 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).
We know that when we are heavier with a higher body mass index (BMI) we have an increased likelihood of the disturbed sleep pattern, sleep apnoea, which causes daytime drowsiness. However a study examining this exact problem found daytime sleepiness in people with high BMI was associated primarily with metabolic and psychological factors and not sleep apnoea (11).
What does this mean? Well these researchers concluded fatigue in the overweight is more likely to be caused by controllable metabolic factors such as diet and exercise as well as emotional and psychological stress (11).
So if you are overweight and fatigued a cohesive program tailored to support you holistically addressing your mood, food and movement needs will boost your energy and enjoyment in life and fight fatigue.
Many plant extracts have exhibited good anti-fatigue effects in early evidence-based experiments: Rhodiola rosea, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Schizandra chinensis, Panax ginseng, Cordyceps sinensis, Pseudosasa japonica and Camellia sinensis (9).
Significant anti-fatigue effects have been demonstrated with the high quality research of placebo-controlled, double-blind studies for: Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra chinensis and Eleutherococcus senticosus giving increased endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness (9).
Rhodiola rosea is particularly useful in stress-related fatigue. If you love reading evidence: Rhodiola rosea was studied 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. The study concluded that repeated administration of R. rosea exerted an anti-fatigue effect that increased mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome (8).
If These Do Not Work Then What?
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing fatigue. Fatigue is a common symptom of many health conditions and often one of the first symptoms to show up.
Often we attribute our tiredness to aging but isn’t it worthwhile investigating?
If you would like to investigate what you can do about the fatigue you are experiencing or want some help incorporating and personalising these or other measures into your life: Evidence-based Health Solutions 0411 55 2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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.