Category Archives: Fatigue

Lack of sleep causes gene changes

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We all want enough sleep so we’re less cranky and more alert. We want it for our kids too. But recent research found an even more important reason: Sleeping less than six hours a night for one week can lead to more than 700 changes in the way our genes behave. Among these are genes that regulate stress, our ability to fight disease, our sleep-wake cycles, inflammation, and aging.

Researchers believe this helps explain why chronic sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress, and depression.

Sleeping less than five hours a night has also been linked with greater risk of death.

Early mornings hard on youth

Researchers are increasingly sounding the alarm about the ill health effects of early mornings. They suggest elementary school start at 8:30, middle and high school at 10 a.m., and university classes at 11 a.m.

These wake up times better match the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Early starts are particularly onerous on youth because sleep is when they develop mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sleep deprivation can also be fatal as sleep-deprived teens are more likely to get in car accidents.

One study found British students were losing an average of 10 hours of sleep a week, making them more deprived than doctors on a 24-hour shift.

Another study of 900,000 children globally found American youth are the most sleep-deprived.

Most workers should start the day at 10 a.m.

Children and teens aren’t the only ones who should start the morning later. Research has also found early work times are not in sync with the internal clocks of working adults in their 20s and 30s. In fact, the nine-to-five day is best suited only for children under 10 and adults over 55.

Meanwhile, young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are the most sleep-deprived group of any age sector. This translates to a more drastic impact on gene expression that can raise the risk of various health disorders.

Limit screen time at night to facilitate sleep

Although our body clocks may be more in tune with later wake times, poor habits play a role in sleep deprivation, too.

Adults and children are on their smart phones and tablets late into the night, not only forcing themselves to stay up too late, but also over-exposing their internal clocks to too much “artificial daylight.”

The blue light emitted from LED screens used on smart phones, tablets, computers, and LED televisions are similar to the daylight.

This suppresses the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, while keeping the adrenal hormone cortisol active. The result is insomnia and poor sleep.

It’s important to limit screen time at night. If that seems like too much to ask, wearing orange tinted glasses can limit the blue wavelengths from entering the eyes and induce evening sleepiness.

A small study of Swiss teen boys showed they felt significantly more sleepy at night after wearing the glasses at night for just one week. Also, apps for your devices such as f.lux reduce blue wavelengths emitted from your screen as the sun goes down, resulting in less eyestrain and better sleep at night.

Poor sleep can have many causes including those I’ve already mentioned, but also blood sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances, brain-based issues, and more.

Ask me for more advice on improving your sleep.

How to avoid those daily afternoon crashes

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Do your eyelids droop and does your energy flag every afternoon around 3 to 4 p.m? Is your answer to energy crashes a soda, coffee, energy drink, or sweet snack to sustain you until dinner? If so, you’re making a bad situation worse.

Even though it’s fairly common, the “afternoon crash” isn’t normal. Instead it’s a sign of unstable blood sugar  which wreaks havoc on the rest of your body’s systems. The afternoon crash means your blood sugar has dropped too low for your brain and body to function normally, causing you to become drowsy, mentally foggy, tired, and unmotivated.

The first thing most people reach for is a quick fix — caffeine or sugar. These may wake you up for a while, but they send an already imbalanced blood sugar system into another roller coaster ride of peaks and plunges. When this happens on a regular basis (several times a day for most people), it sets you up for chronic blood sugar imbalances including hypoglycemia and insulin resistance, a precursor to adult-onset diabetes.

How to avoid the afternoon crash

Wondering how to survive until dinner without a croissant and tall double mocha?

1. High protein breakfast: Eat a high-protein breakfast with plenty of healthy fats such as olive, avocado or coconut oil; a minimum of carbohydrates; and no added sugars or sweeteners. This provides your body with the necessary nutrients to bring it up to speed after a night of fasting (thus the word “break fast”), and allows your blood sugar to stabilize and get on a steady plane for the day.

Two examples:

  • Turkey sausage with steamed greens and sweet potatoes.
  • Smoked salmon or two eggs with sliced avocado, sauteed vegetables, and half a baked yam.

The idea of a savory breakfast might sound strange if you’re used to cereal or toast, but your body will quickly thank you for it. You’ll also notice a difference at 3 p.m.!

2. Minimize fruit, high-carb foods, and added sugars: Every time you eat fruit, high-carb foods (such as white rice, bread or noodles), and added sugars, you spike your blood glucose and the body has to struggle to bring it back into balance. Do this too often or too dramatically, and you can damage your body’s ability to handle glucose properly, causing hypoglycemia and/or insulin resistance (yes, you can have both at the same time). Blood sugar imbalances also create a hard-to-fight cycle of craving and bingeing. 

TIP: Always eat a bit of protein or fat when you have something sweet to slow down the uptake of glucose and a blood sugar spike.

3. Energy crash? Eat smart: If you find yourself slipping into the afternoon blahs, don’t reach for stimulants or sugar, no matter how much your brain shouts for them. Instead, grab a snack high in protein and healthy fats, with perhaps a bit of healthy carbs included. This powers your brain with useful nutrients and avoids the blood sugar crash that follows a caffeine or sugar binge. And don’t forget — if you have a mid-morning snack, the same rules apply. Two snack examples:

  • A quarter cup of pecans and a handful of plantain chips.
  • A boiled egg with sliced carrots and avocado.

TIP: prep your morning and afternoon snacks each night before bed, so you can bring them to work and avoid the panicked rush to the café or candy machine.

4. Caffeine in moderation: Caffeine is hard on your adrenal glands, the glands that manage how you deal with stress. If you would rather give up your right arm than your daily cuppa, just make sure you drink that coffee early in the day, and make it a single shot. Even better, learn to love a healthy, brain-energizing drink such as kombucha or a veggie smoothie. They make great conversation starters at the water cooler, too!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll find yourself easing out of those afternoon crashes. Your energy will be more consistent throughout the day and you won’t feel the need to resort to snacks that spike and crash your blood sugar, brain function, and energy level. Feeling doubtful? Try it for a week and then decide.

Seven reasons exercise recovery can be difficult

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If recovering from exercise is so difficult it feels like it’s ruining your days and sapping your motivation, you may be suffering from loss of exercise tolerance. Exercise is supposed to make you feel better and give you more energy, not make you feel worse.

The occasional off day is nothing to worry about, but if you find you’re consistently having a hard time handling your workouts, it’s important to find out why.

Symptoms of poor exercise recovery

  • Can’t complete normal workouts
  • Difficulty recovering after exercise
  • Need a nap after exercise
  • Unexplained depression
  • Loss of general motivation or enthusiasm
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Aggression or irritability for minor reasons
  • Weakened immune function
  • Loss of menstrual cycle
  • Symptoms of leaky gut

Seven things that can cause poor exercise recovery

1. You’re overtraining: It’s possible you’re simply taking too much on during your workout. Anyone can make this mistake. Try backing off for a couple weeks; if your symptoms change, overtraining could be your answer.

2. Your body wants a different kind of workout: Ways to exercise include extended aerobics, high intensity interval training, and weight training. Try a different form of exercise for a few weeks and see how you feel.

3. Insufficient protein intake: The U.S. RDA for protein is .08g per kg of body weight per day (1 lb = 2.2 kg). Macronutrient requirements vary depending on age, health, and diet, but for some this may be too little to recover. Many active people feel better eating protein at rate closer to 1.4 to 1.8g/kg daily. Do the math and experiment with your protein intake.

4. Inappropriate carbohydrate intake: How many carbohydrates one should eat is a controversial topic, but at the end of the day we’re all unique. If you frequently feel run down you may be eating too many carbs…or too few. Too many carbs can cause blood sugar to skyrocket and plummet so energy levels crash. Too few can short you on fuel so that energy lags. This is especially true if you have adrenal fatigue and are struggling to adapt to a low-carb diet. Experiment adjusting your carb intake with healthy produce-based carbs, such as sweet potatoes.

4. Not enough sleep: Sleep is key to exercise recovery. Are you getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night? If you’re having unexplained sleep problems, ask me for advice as many health issues can cause poor sleep.

5. Micronutrient deficiencies: Staying well nourished can be difficult if you’re busy. If your body is low in vital nutrients such as Vitamins D and B12, iron, and other minerals, it can affect your ability to recover from exercise. Ask my office about making sure you’re meeting your micronutrient needs.

6. Low adrenal function: Your adrenal glands are the walnut-sized glands atop each kidney that manage your body’s ability to deal with stress. Americans are stressed out and as a result many people suffer from compromised adrenal function  This is a common cause of constant exhaustion and an inability to recover from exercise. If you’ve lost your get-up-and-go, adrenal function is one of the first things to consider.

7. Chronic inflammation: If you have an autoimmune disease that is not being managed or that is constantly flaring, or if you suffer from chronic inflammation, this will hamper your ability to recover. Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, or psoriasis. Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include joint pain, digestive difficulties, inflamed skin, or brain fog. If your body is already struggling to function in the face of chronic inflammation, exercise will put it over the edge and recovery will be difficult.

These are some common factors that can hamper exercise recovery, although there are many more, such as compromised thyroid function or a defect in your MTHFR gene, which plays a role in detoxification and metabolism. Untreated MTHFR can affect energy levels. Fortunately, it’s easy to diagnose and treat.

Any time you notice a change in your energy level or ability to recover from exercise, there is a reason. Don’t push it, and don’t ignore it. Ask me for support in helping you find underlying causes of poor exercise recovery so you can feel and function better.

Adrenals often wrong target with chronic stress

510 adrenals wrong target stress

When stress levels go too high, the first thing many in the alternative health do is support the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and secrete stress hormones. Popular supplements include adrenal glandulars (adrenal tissue from animals), minerals, B vitamins, and a variety of herbs — all focused on boosting the ailing adrenal glands.

Although this is a sometimes a valid approach, more often the real target for support should be the brain. The adrenal glands simply take orders from the brain to manufacture and secrete adrenal hormones such as cortisol, our primary adrenal hormone. The brain has stress pathways that sometimes need support.

When stress becomes chronic and intense, the adrenal glands flood the brain and body with too many stress hormones. This exhausts the adrenal glands and eventually they fail to make enough cortisol. When this happens you don’t have the energy to handle even mild stressors, such as a common virus or a bad day at the office. As a result, fatigue sets in and your overall quality of life diminishes.

Although the adrenal glands may need support, the best thing to do is target your brain health for stress support. This will not only help you feel better but also slow down brain degeneration. Chronic stress has been shown to literally cause the brain to atrophy  or shrink. In turn, a degenerating brain stresses the body, creating a vicious cycle.

One of the first things to look at when supporting brain health is whether it is getting enough of the basic nutrients it needs, such as essential fatty acids and methyl B-12. Are you low in vital brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or GABA? Are you sending enough oxygen to the brain with good circulation, which is best boosted by exercise? Do you have anemia or blood sugar imbalances that rob the brain of good health and function?

Nutritional compounds that support healthy stress responses and target the brain include phosphatidylserine  which dampens the effects of the inflammation caused by stress on the brain.

Herbs called adrenal adaptogens also have a powerful effect on stress pathways in the brain. They include Panax ginseng extract, ashwagandha, Holy basil extract, Rhodiola rosea, and eleuthero. They have a synergistic effect when used in combination — ask my office about adrenal adaptogens.

Too much stress inflames the brain, which compounds stress and ages the brain too quickly. A common symptom of brain inflammation is brain fog. If your entire body is inflamed or if you have an unmanaged autoimmune condition, it is very possible your brain is also inflamed.

Another way chronic stress promotes brain degeneration is by constricting blood vessels and blood flow, depriving the brain of oxygen.

The best way to address stress is to cut unnecessary stressors from your lifestyle. It’s also important to address lesser known factors that are still very stressful, such as poor diet, unstable blood sugar, inflammation, food intolerances, or poor circulation.

Stress is your body’s way of trying to warn you that you’re in danger and putting your well being at risk. Ask my office for ways to mitigate the effects of stress on your health and wellness.