Do you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning or feel your energy dip mid-afternoon?
As well as the obvious factors like sleep and stress, your diet might also be playing a role in how energetic you do or don’t feel. Here are five reasons why your diet may be leaving you feeling tired.
We can survive weeks without food but only days without water. This is because our body is around 60% water and all your vital organs require water to function.
When you’re dehydrated your blood pressure drops decreasing blood flow to the brain. Even mild dehydration will affect your ability to concentrate, your memory and can leave you feeling sleepy and fatigued.
Prevention is always better than cure. So rather than waiting until you feel thirsty, when you’ll already be 1-2% dehydrated, sip water regularly throughout the day. Aim for 1.5 to 2L a day and remember caffeinated and fizzy drinks don’t count towards your water intake but herbal teas do.
2. Low blood sugar
When our blood sugars drop below optimal, one of the main symptoms we experience is fatigue. Carbs and sugar are your body’s preferred sources of energy, so if it’s running low it will make you slow down. Other symptoms associated with low blood sugar include feeling shaky, angry, poor concentration, low mood and headaches.
Blood sugar crashes are common if you don’t eat for a long period of time or they will result from eating something high in sugar or carbs (particularly refined white carbs). This is because when our blood sugar levels shoot up after eating these types of food, the body releases insulin to transport the sugar into the cells. Then your blood sugars drop very quickly triggering you to experience all the symptoms listed above and making you crave a quick energy pick me up from carbs or sugar again.
A far healthier choice is to keep your blood sugars balanced. This keeps your energy steady and your brain happy. The best way to do this is to choose complex carbohydrates like whole grain rice and oats, eat whole fruits and vegetables which provide fibre to slow the release of the glucose they contain and to include protein at every meal.
3. Food intolerances
For some of us, certain foods will trigger an immune reaction because our body simply can’t digest and tolerate these foods. There are many reasons food intolerances begin but often it’s linked to issues within the gut and problems with digestion.
When we eat a food which our body can’t tolerate we trigger an immune reaction, our body may become inflamed and we may experience brain fog, allergic-type reactions like itchy or red skin, a runny nose, joint pain and digestive symptoms from diarrhoea to constipation, as well as fatigue.
Removing foods we suspect may be causing a reaction is the best way to assess whether the food is the issue. Talk to me if you’d like to discuss a possible food intolerance and how you might be able to identify triggers and reduce symptoms and flare-up.
4. Large portions
We’ve all experienced that post gorge fatigue but do you know why it happens? Digestion is a complicated process and it takes a huge amount of energy to process the food we put into it. It can take hours for your digestive system to process a large meal and often within that time we’ve eaten yet more food. So our digestive system is constantly working to breakdown our food and extract energy and nutrients from it.
Consuming processed foods increases the work the digestive system has to do and can even trigger an immune response as processed foods often contain ingredients your body doesn’t recognise (see point 3).
Try to give yourself a break of 2-3 hours between meals – if this is a struggle you may need to look at improving your blood sugar regulation.
5. Nutritional deficiencies
If you’re not getting sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals in your diet, in particular b-vitamins and iron which are required for energy production that may explain why you’re feeling more tired.
These nutrients specifically are found in animal protein sources, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and beans and pulses. Most commonly it’s vegetarians and vegans who will experience nutrient deficiencies which cause fatigue, but there are many other factors which can also cause deficiencies including poor digestion. If you’re worried, it’s best to get a blood test to check your levels. This can be arranged through your GP or another health care provider.
Please note, fatigue is a complicated issue as I’m well aware from my personal experience, and if you’ve been struggling for some time there may be something more going on so it’s always best to speak to your GP first to check for any underlying issues.
If you’d like to discuss your fatigue / low energy and how your diet may be playing a role?