From The Desk of Josh Gitalis

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Fatigue is the number one reason people go to their doctors. It is a common symptom often masked with stimulants and sugar highs. Just look at what the most used drug in the world is, caffeine.

Caffeine gives the the body an artificial sense of awakening by stimulating the release of stress hormones. These stress hormones put us into “fight or flight” mode which is a state of heightened awareness.

Sugar and high glycemic index foods (cookies, pastries, gluten, candy, etc.) are also used to achieve more energy by quickly spiking blood sugar levels. After the high, the individual crashes and then needs to seek out another stimulant.

This pattern is detrimental if carried out over many years.

There a few very important things to explore before going to your doctor, before reaching for that unhealthy snack, and before using caffeine. They can be the cause of your fatigue and should always be addressed first, before investigating other possible causes.

1. Dehydration

A newborn infant is about 75% water, and then we dehydrate as we age. At any rate, humans are mostly water. We need water to fuel an abundance of chemical reactions in the body. We can last a month without food, but we will perish after a few days without water. It always astounds me when a client tells me “I don’t like the taste of water.” How could we become adversed to something that is so fundamentally necessary for life? (I actually discussed a possible mechanism for this in a past blog).

One of the first symptoms people feel when they are dehydrated is fatigue. When I refer to dehydration, I’m not necessarily talking about the thirst-provoking, hot-day, red-face, type of dehydration. I’m referring to a dehydration that’s subclinical, that we feel way before the thirst response kicks in. In fact, Dr. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries For Water, discussed how we are already highly water-deficient by the time the thirst response kicks in. Therefore, drink before you feel thirsty.

2. Sleep

The average human needs about 8 hours of sleep. Babies need the most, and as we age we require less. The ideals of Ayurvedic medicine say that we should work 8 hours, play 8 hours, and sleep 8 hours. Sounds great, right?

Sleep is the ultimate state of restoration, and if you wake in the morning tired, you are most likely not doing your work. You are either not sleeping deeply (affected by caffeine, alcohol, and drugs), not sleeping at the right times to match circadian rhythms, or simply not getting the required amount for your body.

3.  Specific Vitamin and/or Mineral Deficiency

The two most common deficiencies that I see in my clinic are vitamin B12 and iron. They are both critical nutrients for blood cell formation. When we don’t have enough blood to transport oxygen around the body, one of the first symptoms is fatigue. In addition, iron is a critical cofactor in the krebs cycle, which is the process by which we make energy. No iron, no energy.

4. Adrenal Fatigue

How many times have you been chased by a bear in the past week? The answer for most of you is probably zero. Your body has probably felt, however, that a bear was on your tail. Why do I use this analogy? A real threat (the bear) and a perceived threat (job, relationship, financial, traffic, violence) are all processed the same way in your body.

When you feel threatened (real or perceived), your adrenal glands fire, releasing a cocktail of stress hormones. These stress hormones are critical for your survival in a life-threatening situation. After the threat has passed, we then clear the hormones out of the blood stream and enter into a restorative state of rebuilding. This process was coined the general adaptation syndrome by Dr. Hans Selye, a brilliant endocrinologist. The most critical feature of the stress response, Dr. Selye discovered, was if an individual had enough time to recover from the stressor, they would become stronger. But if the stressor was persistent enough  preventing the organism to recover, the individual would burn out and possibly die. In this day and age, there are stressors everywhere, and people are never getting a chance to “disconnect” and give the adrenals a rest.

5. Food

It would be much more convenient if we were snakes and only had to eat once a month. But unfortunately the hunger signals speak to us multiple times a day, telling us to top off the energy tank. Food is fuel. There’s no way around it. If you put in low grade fuel, like processed, chemically-fortified, food-like substances, you get suboptimal output. If you put into your body whole, organic, minimally processed nutrient-dense food, your body will perform to it’s potential.

– Josh