Managing Tiredness and Fatigue

Many people in this society admit they feel tired, mostly due to busy lives and long working hours, and once they relax they feel an even deeper sense of fatigue.

Unfortunately, there is no healthy quick fix; there isn’t a tablet to relieve tiredness. We live in a society that fuels itself on caffeine for fast stimulation but this is a short term solution and brings its own problems. Caffeine increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and sometimes exacerbates anxiety. It can create an addictive cycle of a surge of energy causing a slump afterwards followed by the need for another quick energy fix.

With this in mind, all aspects of your lifestyle need to be examined to ensure that every possible reason why you might be tired is addressed. This means looking at

• what you eat
• when you eat
• the amount of water you drink
• how stressed you are or have been, and
• whether you have convalesced long enough after a major illness

Diet, supplements and herbs

A rich and varied diet is a good start; you need to make sure that you are getting enough carbohydrates, fats and protein with adequate minerals and vitamins, so that your body is able to work as well as it can. There are so many different ideas nowadays about what is the right diet that it can be confusing to know what to eat. Personally, I don’t think there is one specific diet that suits everyone, and therefore it is important to know your own individual reactions to certain foods. Some people do find they have higher energy levels when they cut out wheat and grains and others don’t.

If you are feeling tired it is worth aiming for a diet that contains about 40 % complex carbohydrates, 20 to 25% protein and 25% fat. Complex carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body but one that people rely on too much. Carbohydrates provide a ready source of energy which is used quite quickly in the body, but fats and protein provide a much slower release of energy which can help with maintaining more constant energy levels. Protein and fat for breakfast can be particularly important as they provide long term fuel for the day.

It could also be worth limiting the amount of refined sugar you eat so that you avoid the energy crashes that come from high sugar food. If you are tired it is easy to reach for that cake or chocolate bar, but the energy it gives you is short lasting and you will soon feel a slump.

Monitoring your exact intake of vitamins and minerals can be hard so as a general rule I always recommend trying to eat food of every colour as frequently as possible to ensure you are getting the full spectrum of necessary nutrients. If you know that you have not been eating much fruit and vegetables for a while it could be worth supplementing with a good multivitamin for a month to give your levels a boost.

If you are vegan, vegetarian or a woman who has heavy periods and you are feeling tired you might be low in iron or vitamin B12 think about getting those levels checked. If you are low, I would recommend, depending on your deficiency, supplementing with bio-available iron or an absorbable vitamin B12 like methylcobalamin for a couple of months to get your levels back up, then concentrating on wholefoods to keep them there.

Vitamin D deficiency can also be a cause of tiredness, which can easily be checked with a blood test. During the summer we can make an adequate amount of vitamin D from direct sun, but in the winter this is not possible so a supplement would be needed.

Eating regular meals stabilises blood sugar levels which can help to prevent energy crashes. Food is your fuel and without it you will not go very far, so with that in mind it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to eat breakfast – particularly one high in protein.

The importance of staying hydrated

Also, staying hydrated is important as dehydration can cause you to feel tired. Each person’s water requirement will be different but thirst or dark coloured urine is a good indicator of dehydration.

The effects of stress and anxiety

Long-term stress can really take its toll on the body and is a very common reason for tiredness. The adrenal glands, that are situated on top of the kidneys, release the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol which help the body adapt to stress. This stress response evolved as a short term survival mechanism. It should not to be present on a daily basis, which can be the case when stressed. This long term stimulation will deplete the adrenals. Herbs like Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Astragalus and Siberian Ginseng are useful adaptogenic herbs that support the adrenal glands and help recreate stamina and resilience in the body without being overly stimulating.

Chronic anxiety and insomnia are also causes of fatigue and can be helped by taking magnesium and a vitamin B complex which can calm and relax the mind and body, whilst there is also a wide range of herbs that can be useful including Oats, Passionflower, Skullcap, Valerian and Vervain.

Hormones and tiredness

Another reason why you might be feeling tired is that you have an under active thyroid. In this case the other symptoms that accompany tiredness would be: feeling more cold, putting on weight and needing to sleep more. If you have any of these symptoms consider a visit to the doctor to get a blood test for thyroid function.

Other hormonal changes during premenstrual and perimenopausal times can also make you feel tired. During these times it is important to focus on eating well, and if this is not possible taking a good multivitamin, supporting your adrenals with herbs and taking time to rest and rejuvenate if possible.

Tiredness should not be by a permanent fixture in your life. By finding the specific reason for your tiredness and utilising the support that is available to you in terms of advice, nutrients and herbs, your energy levels should gradually improve.

[This article was originally published by Wild Oats Natural Foods, where I advise on herbs, supplements and nutrition]

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On Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies explained

If you suffer from seasonal allergies you should start to think about how you can support your body’s response to the allergens and reduce the severity of your symptoms before the season starts. The symptoms of allergies can range from sneezing, watery eyes, runny noses to sore throats, swollen glands and headaches. The main culprits are the pollens from grasses, flowers and trees, and daily pollen counts can be indicative of how bad the symptoms could be on any given day. Pollution can also exacerbate symptoms.

Seasonal allergies occur when the body produces allergic antibodies to substances that should be seen as harmless to the body, such as pollen. In people sensitive to these allergens, exposure causes the release of chemicals including histamine from cells in the nasal passages, eyes or airways. This then results in inflammation and irritation to the lining of the eyes, nose and throat.

There is not one specific herb or supplement that can reliably work for each person. People respond to different herbs and supplements. Having an understanding of an overall treatment strategy is useful and can ensure more success in treating the allergic reaction. Some things to consider would be to try and reduce overall inflammation in the body, support general immunity and use anti-histamine herbs and supplements.

Reducing inflammation

Reducing your overall systemic inflammation is an effective way to lessen seasonal allergy symptoms. One way to do this would be to increase the amount of flavonoid-rich foods into the diet. Colourful berries and vegetables, rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, can be eaten daily.

Avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, including processed foods and common food allergens such as dairy, sugar and gluten (particularly in wheat), could help. Increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. High quality omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals in your body. Foods high in omega 3s include edamame beans, wild rice, walnuts, lots of types of beans, flaxseeds, eggs and cold water fish, such as wild salmon, trout and sardines. As a supplement, fish oil is the richest source of omegas 3s, but you can also take hemp seed and flaxseed oil.

There are some natural histamine compounds that can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Quercetin, a type of flavonoid, has been shown to stabilize mast cells. Mast cells are specialized immune cells that produce histamine and other inflammatory compounds in response to an allergen. Quercetin is found in high concentrations in red onions, capers, kale, dock, watercress, fennel seeds and buckwheat. You can also buy it as a supplement. It is often combined with bromelain, a natural anti-inflammatory derived from pineapples. Quercetin and bromelain enhance each other’s anti-inflammatory actions. In addition, bromelain seems to increase the absorption of quercetin into the bloodstream. Vitamin C is believed to be a natural antihistamine if used at high doses, around 3,000mg to 5,000mg a day. A natural rich source of vitamin C is rosehips, the dark red or purple fruit of the rose plant. You can harvest these in the autumn and dry for tea in the hayfever season, or you can find them as a supplement.

Supporting your immune system

Seasonal allergies often have a root in an imbalanced immune system. There are immune modulators which can be used to lessen the immune system’s overzealous response to allergens which include astragalus and the medicinal mushrooms including reishi and shitake mushrooms. You can take these as powders, tablets or as tinctures.

Using herbs

There are several herbs that are known as anti-allergy herbs which help reduce symptoms, predominantly by acting as natural anti-histamines and reducing the inflammation produced by the body during an allergic reaction. These include nettle leaf, elderflower, eyebright and thyme, chamomile, yarrow and plantain.

Some herbs help with the excess mucous produced and are known as anti-catarrhals and include herbs like elderflower, plantain and eyebright. Other herbs are known as mucous membrane tonics and help with chronically inflamed mucous membranes; these include plantain, eyebright and golden rod.

These herbs can be combined or you can try just one. They can be taken as teas or tinctures, drinking at least 2 cups a day as a tea or as a tincture start with 5 ml (1 teaspoon) 2 times a day. To make an herb tea, add 1-2 tsp of dried herb to a cup of boiling water. Leave to stand for at least 10-15 minutes and drink. The real benefit of using Herbal Medicine is that there are so few side effects. Many conventional medicines prescribed for seasonal allergies, on the other hand, tend to make you drowsy and tired.

Sometimes it can be as simple as drinking a nettle and elderflower tea to reduce symptoms, and at other times, people need to try all of the above before they see their allergies improve.

[This article was originally published by Wild Oats Natural Foods, where I advise on herbs, supplements and nutrition]

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What does ‘detox’ actually mean?

The term ‘detox’ is often surrounded by controversy and confusion.


Milk Thistle seeds support liver function

It is important to realise that detoxification is a natural process in the body that occurs all the time. It is our body’s way of ensuring that our inner environment remains consistent. Predominantly, it is the liver that breaks down anything toxic to the body and eliminates these toxins alongside our other waste products through the intestines, kidneys, lungs and skin.

So does this mean that there is no need for detoxing, if the body is able to do it naturally?

Unfortunately we live in a dirty, stressful world with excessive alcohol and drug use, artificial food ingredients, and environmental pollutants – all these affect the body’s natural ability to detoxify and eliminate.

I understand the process of ‘detox’ to mean improving and optimizing the function of the body’s own detoxification systems and ensuring that we are eliminating our waste efficiently. This can be done by decreasing the amount of toxins we put into our bodies, while at the same time supporting the body’s detoxification and elimination systems through a change in diet, lifestyle and use of herbs.

Typically ‘detox’ programmes are done in the spring as the body and mind are coming out of hibernation. Many of the spring herbs are perfect for supporting elimination and can be picked fresh and used in teas and decoctions. Most often though it is after Christmas with the overindulgence of rich foods and alcohol that people feel the need to ‘detox’, so the herbs are available as teas, tinctures and capsules.

My recommendation is not necessarily a ‘detox’, but to have a period of eating simply, increasing vegetable intake, limiting intake of alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks and smoking, drinking approximately 1.5 litres of water daily, daily exercise and getting at least 8 hours of sleep a day. Alongside the lifestyle changes, herbs can make sure the liver is working efficiently and encourage elimination. Symptoms of inefficient elimination could include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, excessive wind, smelly and dark urine, spots, acne, and general malaise.

One of the most important ways of helping the liver’s natural regeneration is to stop drinking alcohol for a period of time. Herbs like Milk Thistle, Artichoke and Dandelion Root can be used to improve liver function and regeneration, especially after times of excess. Stimulating digestion and therefore elimination through the intestines can be done with bitter herbs like Centaury, Artichoke and Dandelion Root; to be effective they need to be taken before meals, and the bitter taste cannot be disguised. It is, after all, the stimulation of the bitter receptors that triggers the increased release of digestive acid and enzymes which helps with elimination. Eating more fruit and vegetables can add fibre to the diet, but herbs like linseeds and psyllium seeds, drunk with lots of water can add bulk and help with sluggish digestion.

Herbs that help with elimination through the kidneys are usually drunk as teas, and include Dandelion Leaf, Nettle and Golden Rod. Dry skin brushing can support elimination through the skin, as well as traditional ‘blood cleansers’ called ‘alteratives’. Blood cleansing herbs include Red Clover, Nettle, Heartsease and Cleavers. Epsom salt baths can also support elimination from the skin.

You can choose a few of those herbs and use them in a combination. After a few weeks of this simple living, supported by herbs, you should start to see an improvement in how you feel. If you would like support with this process and an individual plan, please book a consultation.

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Welcome to my new blog!

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