Archive for the ‘Tiredness’ Category

Boosting energy with high energy foods

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Summer is here, the days are longer and the nights are shorter and you want to feel as energetic as possible to make the best of them. In the last few issues of Natural News we’ve looked at a number of ways to boost your energy naturally. Last month we looked at herbal energy boosting helpers. This month and next we’ll take a look at natural ways to boost your energy through simple dietary changes.

Discover the zest

There’s a reason nutritionists tend to recommend lemon juice as the first drink of the morning. If you’ve ever been to a health farm or to India for that matter, you’ll know that lemon juice is typically drunk immediately on waking. The reason is that lemon juice is a wonderful digestive aid. If your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally it doesn’t matter how many so-called ‘super foods’ you eat, you won’t be getting the ‘good-for-you’ nutrients your body needs to produce energy.


Lemon juice, being a digestion-boosting power-house with an energising tangy flavour, is therefore exactly the right drink to kick start both your metabolism and your energy levels first thing. So as soon as you wake up – before getting dressed or having breakfast – drink a glass of lemon juice.

To make energy-boosting lemonade you will need:


           2 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. ½ to 1 organic or unwaxed lemon)

           300-500ml water

           1 tsp organic Grade B maple syrup (optional)

           pinch cayenne pepper


Use fresh lemons only, and mix your lemonade fresh just before drinking. Adding a pinch of cayenne pepper adds extra zing to the flavour as well as a stimulatory heating effect that speeds cleansing and elimination. Grade B maple syrup (Grade A is over-processed and refined) adds a sweet taste for those who find the drink too bitter.


Dynamic breakfasts

A mobile phone needs recharging regularly so that its battery doesn’t run down, and it’s the same with your body. When you wake up in the morning your body has been without food for many hours and it needs refuelling.


The old cliché about breakfast being the most important meal is true. Brains need a regular supply of glucose to function, and in the morning there isn’t much glucose up there, so never skip breakfast. If you do you’re likely to hit an energy wall at around 10am. Eating breakfast will boost your energy first thing and help stop your blood sugar from dipping during the morning. In other words, it will give your body and mind the energy they need to function optimally, setting you up for the day ahead.


Eating breakfast also kick starts your metabolism (fat-burning), so if you have weight to lose, skipping breakfast is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You need to get your metabolism up and running as soon as possible so that it isn’t on hold during the day and clinging onto the fat reserves you don’t need.


You may not feel like eating 2 minutes after you jump out of bed, so give yourself a little time to wake up before eating. And don’t just grab any food for breakfast; you need to make sure that what you are eating is optimum fuel for your body and brain. Avoid coffee/tea, white bread and muffins and sugary cereals made from refined grains because these will only give you a short lift and then your blood sugar can come crashing down. Make long lasting energy-boosting choices instead.


Dynamic breakfast choices include:

• A bowl of organic cereal that is low in fat, sugar and salt with milk (organic cow’s, organic soya or rick milk) with a herb tea.

            • A boiled egg and wholemeal or rye toast with fruit smoothie.

• Porridge topped with berries and ground nuts or seeds and a herb tea.

• For rushed mornings, a fruit or protein smoothie can be made the night before. In the morning just shake it up and drink as you get ready to start your day.


Freedom from trans fats

Banned in Denmark, and linked to cardiovascular disease and weight gain – trans fatty acids must go. If you ditch the transfats you will eat less of the junk that clogs your system and leaves you feeling sluggish, tired and bloated. In the long term you can also stave off high cholesterol. One study showed that by increasing consumption of trans fats by just 2% it can increase the risk of heart disease by a massive 30%.


Many manufactured foods have trans fats in them, including margarine, cakes, pies, biscuits, some vegetable oils and ready meals, as well as cheap chocolate, confectionary and ice cream. Instead of margarine it is better to go for a small amount of organic butter. Look on the label in the ingredient list for the words ‘hydrogenated fats’ as this is how the trans fats will appear. 


Avoid the rush

The typical way many of us find ourselves eating is a small or non-existent breakfast followed by a light snack during the day and a big meal at night. Sometimes people don’t eat anything at all until their evening meal which can be as late as 8.30pm. Stacking your calories like this isn’t a good idea and will almost certainly lead to fatigue and energy-draining weight gain.


In the fasted state your body will reduce your metabolism (fat-burning) and then – when you do eat before you go to bed – your body has little opportunity to produce energy and burn any of the calories that have been consumed. The result: poor digestion, weight gain and fatigue.


For sustained energy release you should start the day with a healthy breakfast, have a mid-morning snack, then lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and then supper. Eating every few hours will avoid a rush of blood sugar followed by a low, keeping your blood sugar levels and your energy levels as stable as possible. A snack doesn’t have to be anything more than a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds. The important thing is to avoid going for long hours on nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar.

For steady energy release, try to make the basis of your daily meal pattern a healthy proportion of unrefined carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes) and protein (fish, eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa and seeds) to keep your blood sugars balanced. It’s an excellent idea to avoid sources of saturated fat from red meat, fried and fatty fast foods, cakes, pastries and crisps, and to concentrate on obtaining omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower oil.


Raw potential

Eat something raw at the start of every meal. By eating foods in their natural state you can access their valuable energy-boosting nutrients more easily. So, without going overboard, begin each meal with something raw – for example an apple at breakfast, a stick of celery or some chopped cucumber with lemon juice and olive oil at lunch or supper.


Always remember that fresh food becomes unhealthy if it’s cooked unhealthily, for example if it’s deep fried or boiled for too long. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook at all. Certain foods, such as eggs, meat and fish, can be dangerous to eat raw and need to be cooked thoroughly. Try to balance cooked food with more raw food, perhaps 50:50, and cook gently at a lower heat and for longer if necessary. Steaming is the best way to cook veggies, stir-frying is good for fish, and poaching is useful for eggs and fish. Interestingly, some nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes are found at higher concentrations when the food is cooked rather than when the tomatoes are raw. So variety is the key. 


The big chew

Most people think that digestion begins in the stomach, but it actually begins in the mouth. The process of chewing is a vital part of good digestion, and therefore of good health and steady energy levels.


Avoid eating on the run. You need to chew your food thoroughly if you are to digest it properly and get the maximum benefit from what you eat. So don’t eat at your desk while working and try to avoid grabbing a bite to eat as you run from one appointment to another. Make time to ensure that you eat a proper meal rather than just the fuel you need as quickly as possible.


The next time you have a meal or snack, concentrate on noticing every morsel: what it looks, smells and tastes like. Count to five between each bite, or put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. It doesn’t really take much time or effort to chew your food, and what you get in return is better digestion, better health, more energy and a greater enjoyment and appreciation of food.


(Next month: Boosting energy with more high energy foods)

Boosting energy the natural way (continued!)

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Summer is here! The days are longer and the nights are shorter and you want to feel as energetic as possible to make the best of them. If you aren’t feeling as full of zest as you know you should the chances are you’ll reach for a quick fix stimulant, like tea, coffee or a sugary snack, to give you a boost. But the long-term effects of stimulants are always bad because, as you’ll see below, they actually make you feel more tired in the long run:

Alcohol is made from yeast and has a similar effect to sugar in your body, giving you a temporary high followed by a long low.

Coffee is a diuretic which depletes your body of vital energy-boosting nutrients and it also contains caffeine which disturbs normal sleep patterns, making you feel even more tired.

Many fizzy drinks contain caffeine, as well as sugar and colourings, which act as stimulants that play havoc with your blood sugar levels causing short lived energy highs and prolonged energy lows.

Tea is a stimulant with similar but weaker effects to coffee, and it contains tannin which interferes with the absorption of energy boosting minerals.

Chocolate contains theobromine which has an action similar to, but not as strong as, caffeine.

Medications for the relief of headaches also contain caffeine.

Cigarettes contain cancerous chemicals and the stimulant nicotine which is a sedative in large amounts.


Stimulants are your body’s greatest energy drainer, so one of the most important steps you can take to boost your energy naturally is to give up, or cut down on, stimulants. Giving up all these stimulants at once would be impossible for most people, as well as being incredibly stressful. The first step, therefore, is to identify which stimulants you are using as pick-me-ups to get you going when your energy is flagging, and to cut down consumption of them gradually.


To cut down on stimulants without suffering try the following:


Sugar: When you crave something sweet, eat some fruit. Don’t replace sugar with sugar substitutes like artificial sweeteners as these do not help you re-educate your taste buds. Take the sugar bowl off the table and give yourself a month to gradually cut down. Read labels and find healthier alternatives. Stick with it and after a few weeks you will find that your taste buds adapt.

Coffee: Coffee is addictive and it takes about a week to break the habit. You may find yourself feeling groggy for a few days but this will remind you how addictive and bad for you too much coffee is. Instead of coffee, drink herbal teas or coffee alternatives, such as dandelion coffee. After a week you can go back to one or two cups of coffee a day, but as a treat not as an energy booster.

Tea: Tea isn’t as energy draining as coffee unless you drink gallons of it a day. Two or three cups a day is fine, but it’s still worth experimenting with herbal teas, green tea (which has less caffeine than black tea) or drinking your tea slightly weaker.

Chocolate: If you adore chocolate, you don’t need to give it up completely. Just eat it in moderation, for example four times a week rather than every day. Most important of all, don’t use it as a pick-me-up as it will have the opposite effect. Remember that good quality dark chocolate will have a stronger stimulant effect because it has higher cocoa solids. Go for fruit with a handful of nuts and seeds instead if you need something sweet and satisfying.

Alcohol: If you drink a lot, start by reminding yourself that you don’t actually need to have a glass in your hand to have a good time. Set yourself a weekly target of three to five drinks a week and stick to it. If you find this impossible, seek professional help.

Smoking: This is perhaps one of the hardest energy-draining habits to break and one for which you may need to seek advice if you want to quit. It really is worth persisting though, as many people who give up find that their energy levels soar. To reduce your cravings you need to boost your body’s ability to eliminate chemicals and a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and drinking lots of water can all help to detoxify your body.

And finally, try some herbal energy boosters instead. Last month we looked at how your daily multivitamin and mineral, along with additional vitamin supplements if you need them, can make a big difference to your energy levels. This month we’ll take a look at some of the most effective energy boosting herbs.

Energy boosting herbal helpers:


There are a number of herbs that you can add to your meals or take as supplements to replenish your energy levels.


Aloe Vera has been used for thousands of years as an immune booster and skin healer. It can also boost energy by improving digestion and blood sugar balance. Always read the labels, especially with aloe vera juice, and avoid preservatives such as benzoic acid or sodium benzoate. If you need help in which make to buy then call The Natural Health Practice who supplies the different brands that I use in the clinic on 01892 507598.


Ashwaganda is an Indian herb that seems to have potent immune-boosting and anti-stress properties. Ashwaganda has an earthy flavour that is an acquired taste and you can take it in capsule and tincture form.


Bee pollen is not strictly speaking a herb, but it is often recommended by herbalists because it’s one of nature’s superfoods – power-packed with nutrients, including amino acids, minerals, vitamins and enzymes. One or two teaspoons of fresh, raw pollen a day is suggested as an energy booster. Some people may be allergic so take a few grains first to make sure you are not.


Burdock root can be used like carrots, and boosts energy by increasing circulation.


Cinnamon is a herb widely used in cookery that can boost digestion and metabolism. Even just a little cinnamon, such as small amounts sprinkled on toast, can do the trick. A dash of cinnamon or half a teaspoon with every meal may help keep blood sugar levels in check and energy levels balanced.


Garlic may have a mild blood sugar lowering effect. And, like oily fish and oats, garlic is also linked with heart health because it can lower cholesterol. Optimal doses are not known but, taking your social life into account, try to consume reasonable amounts on a regular basis. You can grate it on your food, use it in cooking or take it as a one-a-day supplement (choose aged garlic where possible).


Ginger is a herb commonly used in cooking that can aid the digestive process and in turn increase your energy.


Ginkgo is great for those that tend to forget things very easily or have a hard time maintaining concentration levels. It helps improve memory and mental alertness throughout the day.


Ginseng is a very popular product with numerous different health benefits and is used by many people around the world. It is believed to help the body adapt to stress and can help balance blood sugar levels and boost mood. Siberian ginseng – rather than the more intense Asian ginseng – is generally recommended for energy boosting, and studies have shown that it can help combat fatigue.


Maca is marketed in some countries as an alternative to vinegar, and is suggested to have libido- and stamina-boosting effects. Studies have yet to confirm this, but there is no doubt that maca is power-packed with minerals that can boost energy, such as iron and calcium.


Nettle helps to balance and regulate blood sugar, which is vital for healthy energy levels. It is also mineral-rich and studies suggest that it can nourish the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys and release adrenaline and cortisol. You can eat nettles as a vegetable or you can make an infusion by putting 34 tablespoons of dried nettle leaves in a cup or mug of near-boiling water. Steep this for an hour, and then strain. You can use the infusion as a base for soup or stew or you can simply drink it.


Rosemary is believed to boost mental alertness and memory. To help you stay awake at your desk, put a few drops of the essential oil on a cotton ball and place the ball on your desk as you work.


Schisandra is a Chinese berry that is often used to boost mental and physical stamina. It is available at health food stores in powder or capsule form.


Spirulina is an algae and a concentrated source of high-quality, easily digestible, energy-boosting nutrients that can help balance blood sugar.


St John’s Wort has the ability to work as a mild antidepressant. There are many brands of St John’s Wort on the market and they can vary in strength and potency.


Turmeric is a powerful herb used in curry dishes that can aid the digestive process and, in turn, increase your energy.


Soak it up: Stress is exhausting and lavender, chamomile, lemon balm and passion flower are all herbs that can increase your energy by helping you relax and get more sleep. You can take any of these as a tea or a tincture any time you feel tense, or before bedtime to help you sleep. A soothing herbal bath can also aid sleep. Try adding lavender, rosemary or lemon to the water and let the soothing vapours relax and calm you.


Note: Remember, herbs are generally safe, but caution should always be taken when you ingest them. To be on the safe side, if you are pregnant or hoping to be, suffer from allergies, are on medication or have a pre-existing medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, you should not use any herbs without consulting a qualified practitioner or your doctor first.

Natural ways to boost your energy (Continued!)

Friday, May 1st, 2009

With summer just around the corner you want to have all the energy you can to enjoy the longer days. If your energy levels aren’t as high as they should be, don’t reach for caffeine or chocolates or other stimulants to give you a boost. Try these natural energy boosters instead. Last month we looked at how simple lifestyle changes, such as adjusting the temperature of your morning shower and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, can make a significant difference to your energy levels. This month we’ll take a look at some of the most effective energy-boosting supplements, beginning with that healthy-eating-and-living essential: the multi vitamin and mineral.

Get your multivitamin and mineral boost:

A healthy diet is always the basis for healthy energy levels, but because it isn’t always easy to get all the nutrients you need for optimum health in your diet, taking supplements may be extremely beneficial. Even if you eat all the ‘right foods’, modern agricultural and production processes remove much of the nutritional value. For example, almost 80 per cent of zinc, a vital mineral for energy production, is removed from wheat during the milling process to ensure that bread has a longer shelf life.

The term ‘supplement’ covers a broad range of vitamins, minerals and plant extracts that should be taken to complement – not replace – a healthy, balanced diet. The most popular supplement is the multivitamin and mineral that most nutritionists regard as a good insurance policy, which can be taken over the long term.

To maximise your energy potential you can’t afford to be deficient in any of the essential vitamins and minerals, so on top of a healthy diet you should consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day.

If you combine supplements with other energy-boosting strategies – such as healthy eating, stress management and eating a balance of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, oily fish and nuts and seeds – you may be able to leave fatigue behind.

A number of vitamins and minerals help us to turn food into energy and you need them in varying amounts to feel your best during the day. So you need to make sure that your multivitamin and mineral combination contains at least vitamins A, C and the B complex, as well as calcium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, selenium and zinc. You also get what you pay for in terms of quality with supplements, so it’s better to have half a quality tablet a day than the full dose of a mediocre one. (Have a look at to see the different supplement companies that I use in the clinics).


B complex, high strength:

When it comes to energy-boosting, studies have shown that the B complex vitamins – thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid (B5)and biotin – are most often linked to optimum mental and physical performance.

B vitamins help turn carbohydrates into the glucose energy that fuels your cells, muscles and brain. Each of them works in a slightly different way. For example – vitamin B3, found in eggs, brewer’s yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains and fish, helps release the energy from protein, carbohydrates and fats. It is needed to metabolise toxins and to form red blood cells and hormones. It also promotes a healthy digestive system, central nervous system and skin. Vitamin B5, found in eggs, nuts and whole grains, is needed for the conversion of carbohydrates to energy. Vitamin B6, found in avocados, bananas, fish, meat, nuts, seeds and whole grains, helps form neurotransmitters – the nerve chemicals that send messages to the brain. Vitamin B12, found in cheese, eggs, fish and yogurt, makes red blood cells that contain iron-rich haemoglobin and deliver energising oxygen to your cells. Folate or folic acid, found in leafy green vegetables, soya and whole grains, works with vitamin B12 and makes amino acids – the building blocks of life-sustaining protein.

If you aren’t getting enough B vitamins in your diet it will increase your risk of fatigue. As you get older you also need more Bs because over the years our bodies absorb less vitamin B12, even if we eat foods rich in it. Vegetarians can also often be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Symptoms of B12 deficiency include headaches and fatigue.

The B vitamins work together like a team, so to supplement it is best to take a high-strength vitamin B complex supplement every day containing the whole range of B vitamins.


The energy vitamin:

The energy-boosting benefits of vitamin C go far beyond its immune system potency. Along with a host of other benefits, vitamin C makes a chemical in your body called carnitine, which is needed by your muscles to burn energy. Vitamin C is essential if you want to turn the clock back. As an antioxidant, it protects your skin from environmental damage, prevents age spots and speeds up cell renewal for a more youthful glow. It also boosts collagen production, which means fewer wrinkles. Vitamin C can also help you cope better with stress, and boost your mood and libido. When you are low in vitamin C this will show up in lethargy and fatigue.

Major sources of vitamin C are fruits (such as oranges) and vegetables (such as broccoli), but most of us simply don’t get enough vitamin C a day. As most multivitamins and minerals don’t contain enough vitamin C, supplementing separately may be one way to get your zing back. Most nutritionists recommend supplementing with 500mg twice daily.


The magic of antioxidants:

Antioxidants are substances found in vitamins and minerals that are crucial for your body to create energy from the food you eat. In addition to vitamin C (see above), vitamin E, manganese, selenium and beta-carotene (which should all be included in a quality multivitamin and mineral supplement) vital energy-boosting antioxidants that you may also want to supplement with include:

·         Alpha lipoic acid: This incredible antioxidant helps metabolise carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and keeps other energy-providing antioxidants, such as vitamin C, in your body for longer. You can get lipoic acid from foods like broccoli, but even if you eat lots of green leafy vegetables you are unlikely to get your recommended daily amount.

·         CoQ10. Co-enzyme Q10, a vitamin-like molecule present in all human tissue, is a vital catalyst for energy production because it boosts production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the molecule that fuels all your body’s cells. Deficiency in this molecule can leave you feeling tired. Food sources include fish, broccoli and the germ portion of whole grains. Studies have shown that people can increase their stamina with a dose of 50–120 mg per day. To be effective, this supplement must be taken with food because it needs fat to be absorbed efficiently, or the Q10 supplement should contain oil for maximum absorption.

·         Zinc: Like vitamin C, zinc is a powerful immune-boosting vitamin that can also boost digestion and metabolism, and help balance your blood sugar. It is also crucial for mental alertness and a healthy libido. Low levels of zinc can leave you feeling tired and apathetic. To boost your intake eat more whole grains and make sure your multivitamin and mineral supplement contains zinc. If you don’t think you are getting enough zinc you may want to take a daily 15 mg supplement.


Power up with Carnitine:

Carnitine is a substance that can power your cells’ inner engines – the mitochondria – by carrying fatty acids across cell membranes so they can be burned as energy. Foods rich in carnitine include avocados and dairy products; the body also makes its own supply, although this does decline with age. Studies show that 1000 mg of carnitine daily can boost stamina and reduce fatigue.


Essential energy:

The essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, are crucial for healthy hormone function and blood sugar balance, and are needed by every cell in your body. They work to keep your skin smooth and soft and your mood upbeat (remember that the human brain consists of more than 50 per cent fat cells). Given that fatty acids play such a vital role in health, many researchers believe that a deficiency in essential fats, especially omega-3, is a leading cause of fatigue and poor health.

To ensure you are getting your essential fats take a supplement of Omega 3 fats containing at least 700mg EPA and 500mg DHA per day. If you are a vegetarian and don’t want to take fish oil supplements, you can take 1000mg linseed (flaxseed) oil per day. (For a good Omega 3 supplement see Omega 3 Plus on the Resources Page).

 (Next month: Boosting energy naturally with herbs)