Sixteen years ago, I visited my primary care physician back in Israel, complaining about severe fatigue. I felt literally sick and tired from being tired. My physician looked at me and said no wonder you feel so tired you are packing your entire life to move to a different continent. It is tiring physically and emotionally. He was right, of course, but me being in the midst of it, could not see the whole picture. Sometimes it takes a family member or a friend, and sometimes your healthcare provider reminds you that you have good reasons to be tired. You may need to step back a little and replenish your reserve.
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints I hear from my clients, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts about fatigue.
Fatigue by itself is not a condition or a disease. It is a symptom of imbalance. It reflects the ability of your cells to produce energy.
If you consider the body a balanced ecosystem, all symptoms, including fatigue, are a manifestation of either an excess or deficiency in the system. When your cells either do not get what they need to produce energy or get too much of it, they struggle with energy production.
But first, let’s tackle the issue of expectations. We are a culture of “doers .”We ask each other, “how are you doing?” not “how are you being?” We tend to measure our value by how much work we can do or how busy we are. So the first thing to ask yourself when you feel fatigued is whether there is a good balance between doing and being in your life??
Acute Fatigue VS. Chronic Fatigue
If you come to me complaining about fatigue, I will try to figure out if your fatigue is acute or chronic type. Some of the questions that I will ask are:
How long ago or when did you start to feel fatigued?
Anything important changed in your life since you started to feel fatigued? (Think of a new mama or a big project at work)
I will look for any event that could cause fatigue (Think head trauma, medical condition, or a life-altering crisis such as losing a loved one).
For people who are experiencing short-term acute fatigue due to a temporary new stressor, I would recommend:
Resting and getting a good night’s sleep is the foundation of helping the body replenish. Getting 7-9 hours in a dark room at night will help you feel more energized.
Water is essential for carrying nutrients to your body’s cells and taking away waste products. Roughly 50% to 60% of your body weight is water, yet you constantly lose water through urine, sweat, and breathing. When you are low on fluids, your body may feel tired and weaker than usual. Consuming a sufficient amount of fluids in beverages and water-filled food (such as fruits, vegetables, and soup) will help replenish the water your body loses throughout the day and can help you maintain your energy.
Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate and is also added to some popular beverages. For some people, a cup of coffee or a can of cola is all it takes to get a little energy boost. But caffeine is diuretic, meaning its stimulates urine production that might lead to dehydration.
As a young mother, I remember how tired I was from sleepless nights but also not having the time to cook myself a meal and sit quietly and eat it. (if you have a young mama in your life, the best gift that you can give her is a cooked nutrient dense meal) Your cells rely on nutrients for energy production. Proteins (vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B12), minerals like magnesium and selenium, and Amino acids like glutathione are essential for energy production.
I know that when you are tired, the last thing you want to think of is exercising, but your cells need nutrients and oxygen for energy production. When you move, you breathe deeply and increase your circulation, allowing more nutrients and oxygen to reach your cells.
Herbs for acute short-term fatigue are stimulant herbs. Most adaptogens are stimulants that should be used for a short time to help you manage a stressful patch. Think about them as if you over withdraw money from your bank account. If you do it all the time or do not replenish the funds, you will get in real trouble.
My favorite stimulating adaptogen is Schizandra.
Schizandra is an adaptogen with a long history of use in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). The berry is known as “Wu Wei Zi” or the “five flavors herbs” because its taste is described as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and pungent.
Here are some of the benefits of Schizandra berries.
- Schizandra is an adaptogen known to balance hormones, specifically stress hormones.
- By reducing stress, Schizandra increases your immune system function and resilience to disease.
- Schisandra is a known stimulant that can boost energy and endurance.’
- The red berry of Schizandra contains antioxidants that promote enzyme production in the liver and protect the liver against oxidative stress.
- Schizandra reduces inflammation in the body. By doing so, it decreases the wear and tears on the tissue caused by chronic inflammation.
- Schizandra was used to treat neurodegenerative diseases and increase cognitive function.
I love to empty 2-3 dropperful of schizandra tincture into my water bottle and sip it throughout the day.
The “doer” trend of the western lifestyle does not allow time to heal and regenerate the nervous system after prolonged stress, be it physical or mental. Instead, the expectation that we get back on our feet is trying and tiring for the body.