Fatigue is a chronic issue plaguing millions of people worldwide. We all get tired now and then, whether it's because we've been working nonstop during the day or simply because we've chosen the wrong foods or skipped exercise. For many people, getting sluggish during the afternoon or early evening can place a serious damper on one's work and social life. You're not meant to always be tired, because your life is meant to be full and you're meant to be active as much as you can. Of course, rest is a very important aspect of repairing and healing; however, it is when that tired feeling becomes a constant issue that causes the real concern.
5 Simple Reasons You Feel Sluggish
Feeling sluggish is not fun, especially if you have a busy schedule. Here are some of the reasons you could be experiencing a temporary or even chronic state of sluggishness.
1. B12 Deficiency
Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells. It's also one of the several B vitamins essential for converting your food into glucose, the preferred energy source for cells. B12 only comes from animal foods, and while vegans are certainly at risk, even meat eaters have been shown to have B12 deficiency.  Supplementation is crucial for anyone experiencing less-than-ideal energy levels, particularly if diet is poor. Find a good quality vegan source for B12 to ensure safety.
2. Imbalanced Thyroid
Your thyroid is responsible for the regulation of many different hormones, and a sluggish thyroid translates to sluggish energy. Why? When hormones are out of balance, they can lead to confusion, weight gain, and fatigue, hallmarks of hypothyroidism. Although an imbalanced thyroid doesn't always mean hypothyroidism, it is still important that you find ways to support its function. Iodine is essential for balancing the thyroid,  as is exercise, sunlight exposure, and proper sleep.
3. Hormone Imbalance
As mentioned in #2, hormone balance is the most important thing when it comes to keeping your energy levels in check. The root cause isn't just directed to the thyroid; there are a number of confounding factors related to poor energy, and hormones are just one of the fragments of the whole. An improper level of testosterone and estrogen, too little human growth hormone output, and not enough thyroid hormone production all intertwine and deplete your ability to think and act properly.  Living a healthy lifestyle is key for preventing hormone disruption, and this includes avoiding pesticide-laden fruit and vegetables, getting enough exercise, optimizing your vitamin D levels, and receiving plenty of rest.
4. Impaired Digestion
You may be surprised to hear that your energy levels have something to do with the state of your gut. It turns out that if you're not digesting the food you're eating, you're probably also not absorbing an adequate supply of energy-giving nutrients. All nutrients provide energy, either directly or indirectly, and if you're lacking the enzymes to digest foods and you're not receiving vitamins, glucose monomers, and minerals, you're not going to be experiencing excellent energy levels. Not only is enzyme supplementation a must for anyone suffering from poor digestion, probiotics can help regulate digestion, as well.  Reducing stress is also helpful for getting your body out of the sympathetic state (the fight-or-flight state, where digestion is stopped) into the parasympathetic state (the relaxed state where digestion is effective).
5. Not Getting Enough Exercise
Exercise burns calories, lifts mood, and research also suggests it may improve energy. While it may sound counterproductive, vigorous or even light daily activity can boost metabolism and activate certain areas of the brain responsible for an increased perceived energy level.  It may not just be psychological, however, because exercise improves glucose uptake by making cells more sensitive to insulin. When your cells are receiving the energy they need, then you can be sure your energy levels will benefit.
Other Tips for Improving Your Energy
Improving your diet is the first step you should take for getting your health in line, and this includes your energy. Eliminate all simple sugars, only eating organic berries and some fruits. Increase your organic raw vegetable intake, and include more nuts, seeds, and herbs into your daily regimen. Be sure to eat enough calories, too, in order to provide yourself with enough energy to think and be active. Get plenty of quality sleep each night, shooting for at least 7-8 hours. Optimize your vitamin D levels and get out in the sun. Sunlight actually balances serotonin and melatonin and stabilizes your circadian rhythms. This can go a long way in keeping your energy levels balanced and in rhythm with your sleep-wake cycles.
What tips can you share for fighting sluggishness and increasing energy? We'd love to hear them!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM