"So Tired! Two Powerful Ways to Boost Your Energy"
by Margaret Gedde, MD, PhD
Are you often tired? Most of us have a low energy phase
now and then. For some, it's a struggle to pull together enough
energy to function day by day.
Too little sleep and eating too much sugar or starch can
make you run down and tired. But if you get a reasonable
amount of sleep and eat balanced meals, but are still
dragging through your days, something else may be
Two imbalances that can leave us
unfocused, unmotivated and exhausted are low adrenal
function and low levels of the neurochemical dopamine.
These are very common situations, but most doctors don't know to
look for them or what to do to help.
Here's how to tell if you have either of these
imbalances - and simple steps to feel better right away.
1. Support Your Adrenal Glands
If you can
trace the beginning of your fatigue to a
stressful period in your life, or have been burning your
candle at both ends for a while, you may be running
low on cortisol.
Cortisol has a bad name in
much of the popular press, but it is the number one hormone
our adrenal glands use to keep us going.
Adrenals are our frontline protectors against all
varieties of stress - physical, emotional, mental and
even spiritual - such as lack of sleep, chronic illness,
infections, surgeries, overwork, anger, worrying and bad
relationships to name a few. So any stress that lasts a
while, or a single major stress, can wear your adrenals
out and leave you with low cortisol.
Signs of low cortisol (in addition to being tired) include being easily overwhelmed,
feeling distracted, finding it hard to pull yourself
together to get things done, having trouble making
decisions and being easily startled. You may be thirsty
a lot. Mornings are usually
difficult, but you may feel better by evening. You may
wake up each night at 2-3 am and not be able to get back to sleep.
It's typical of adrenal fatigue that when you're
sleep for a very long time, like 12-16 hours, you feel
The best test to check
how your adrenals are doing is a 4-tube saliva test. It
should measure cortisol in four samples collected at
different times during the day, and measure DHEA (another
adrenal hormone) in one of the samples.
If your cortisol is too low, either by symptoms or by
testing, what can you do to feel better?
Your best bet
is to add a high quality adrenal glandular supplement,
available at supplement stores. This is an animal
product – freeze-dried adrenal glands from sheep
or cows – so look for an organic product such as those
that come from New Zealand.
Start with one capsule of adrenal glandular 1-2 times per
day. See if this lifts your fatigue and helps you
concentrate and get done what you need to. You can safely increase
to 2-3 capsules several times per day as needed. Adrenal glandular
supplements may increase stomach acid though, so if you
have acid stomach issues, take the supplement with food.
herbs can also boost adrenal function, though not as
powerfully as adrenal glandulars. Most supplement
stores have several varieties to choose from.
Given enough support,
rest and time, tired adrenal glands can heal up. In the meantime,
adding adrenal support supplements can significantly change your days for the
2. Boost Your Dopamine
Our nervous system has two basic parts – the stimulating side
("the gas pedal”), and the calming side ("the brakes”).
Dopamine is the top stimulating messenger of your
nervous system. Dopamine is all about focus, drive, motivation,
get-up-and-go, let’s do it now.
When you’re low on
dopamine, you feel dull, unmotivated and tired. Nothing seems
very interesting. When
left to yourself you might sit in the same spot for
hours. This can feel terrible!
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to boost dopamine
levels. The amino acids L-tyrosine and
DL-phenylalanine (DLPA) are your body's natural
dopamine precursors. When
you take L-tyrosine and DLPA as supplements, your body converts them
into dopamine, and your alertness and energy level get a
Both of these amino acids are available at supplement stores. They have
somewhat different effects, so you may wish to try both
or use them together. Start with 500 mg of L-tyrosine or DLPA
and see how you do. If you feel nothing at first or if it does seem to
help, increase to 500-1000 mg several times a day as
needed to support your energy.
Here's a caution: if your nervous system is also low on
the calming side (if your brakes are in bad shape),
dopamine boosters can make you feel irritable or edgy.
If these supplements have this effect on you, you may
need to mend the brakes of your nervous
system before you can benefit
from DLPA or L-tyrosine. (Serotonin is the "big cheese"
of your nervous system brakes.)
Dopamine, serotonin and a number of other
neurotransmitters can be measured in a morning urine sample
to give a broad look at your nervous system balance.
If low cortisol or dopamine are behind your fatigue -
even in part - then supporting your adrenals and
boosting dopamine can turn you back into a sharp, active
Disclaimer: Remember, this article is not medical
advice. It is for your information, and the suggestions
here may not fit your situation. Be sure to consult a qualified health
practitioner about your health concerns.
© 2005-2009 Gedde Whole Health LLC.
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