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If you suffer from chronic low energy, you’ve probably been to see your doctor but he came back telling you all your lab results were normal. But you’re still tired and still wondering what else can be causing your symptoms.
So let’s look deeper at what’s behind fatigue and the ways you can get your energy back.
Not just physical fatigue
Fatigue often manifests as low mental energy too. Take this short questionnaire:
- Do you forget things easily?
- Has your sense of smell or taste deteriorated?
- Do you get headaches for no reason?
- Do you have difficulty tolerating disturbances around you?
Low emotional energy must be considered in the fatigue picture. Mild depression (dysthymia) has typical characteristics: low energy and motivation, low self-esteem, and a low capacity for pleasure.
I believe these begin as painful experiences that result in toxic memories and emotions. These ill emotions typically are not dealt with completely and get buried, yet remain in your physical body tissues. So as part of the healing process, you must learn to dwell on happy thoughts in order to replace the illness with health if you can. This raises your emotional vibrational frequency. This takes training and practice to heal from negative thought patterns.
Yet changing low mood energy also requires improved physical health. While we once blamed viral infections for the inflammation of the brain that led to sore muscles and body fatigue (it was called myalgic encephalitis), further research led to the discovery of reduced mitochondrial bioenergetics. It appeared that something was “poisoning” the mitochondria. I’d like to share more about this research.
I first learned about the importance of the mitochondria from Jeffry Bland, Ph.D., who is considered now the father of “functional medicine.” That work is being furthered by Mark Hyman, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine since September 2014
A few years ago, researchers found an exceptionally high incidence of biomarkers that measure caustic oxygen substances. Then they put 30 chronically fatigued patients on a low-allergy, rice protein-enriched diet along with supplements and followed them for 12 weeks looking for symptom and blood changes.
The patients were given zinc, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin E supplementation. As you might expect, the blood biomarkers of mitochondrial dysfunction improved markedly — and so did the patients’ symptoms of fatigue.
Other research has shown more nutrients to work well for reversing fatigue. Martin Pall, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University who personally developed chronic fatigue and then set out to investigate the biochemistry of the illness. He found many answers and decided to become his own first test patient. Within a year he completely recovered and then published his finding. His protocol for “mitochondrial resuscitation” includes the following:
- Inhaled glutathione and inhaled vitamin B12 in the form of hydroxocobalamin.
- The flavonoids ginkgo, cranberry extract, silymarin and bilberry Anthocyanidins, Flavonoids from green tea, citrus, grape seed extract, ginkgo, soy, olive, hawthorn, blueberry and purple rice are effective antioxidants.
- Carotenoids including lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and B carotene.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: reduces oxidized glutathione, tocopherols (vitamin E), vitamin C and flavonoids. In other words, it recycles them to be anti-oxidants again.
- Riboflavin 5′-phosphate (reportedly treats migraine headache too).
- Methyl donors protect mitochondria and improve mood, energy, alertness, concentration and visual clarity. These are Betaine (trimethylglycine, or TMG), S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), and Acetyl-l-carnitine (more effective than L-carnitine).
- Taurine: an antioxidant and neurotransmitter. It stimulates GABA production, the natural form of gabapentin (Neurontin®).
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from fish, borage or flaxseed oil.
- Curcumin, honokiol (from magnolia), cat’s claw, vinpocetine and feverfew all reduce inflammation.
- Chlorella, spirulina and blue-green algae are potent antioxidants.
- Vitamin B6, as pyridoxine phosphate and vitamin B12 (as hydroxocobalamin); folic acid in the form of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
- Buffered vitamin C: 500 to 1000 mg/day, taken several times per day.
- Mixed natural tocopherols (vitamin E), not synthetic alpha-tocopherol.
- Minerals: selenium as selenium-grown yeast; magnesium as malate; zinc (modest dose), manganese (low dose) and copper (low dose).
You can read more detailed explanations of each nutrient at prohealth.com.
Other phytonutrients known to resuscitate your mitochondria (consumed in whole food) are resveratrol (from grape skins and peanuts), epigallocatechin gallate (in green tea), curcumin (from turmeric), isohumulones (from hops), quercetin (from buckwheat), watercress and dill. Siberian ginseng and licorice boost your adrenal gland production when low cortisol is a cause for fatigue. Adrenal extract can be used too.
Calorie restriction and nutrient-dense food increase energy
Calorie restriction is another way to boost energy. Professor Clive McCay at Cornell University has performed more than 75 years of research, proving that calorie restriction without malnutrition leads to a prolonged and healthier life in many species.
His monkey studies were most impressive. In time, the control monkeys looked like geriatric cases — stooped over with poor fur texture and faded color, limited joint mobility and early death — compared to the calorie-restricted monkeys who looked and acted much younger, plus had far healthier blood biomarkers. This was evidence that plant foods along with a slight calorie reduction keeps us younger and protects our mitochondria, while too many empty calories from sugars, processed flour foods, processed oils and excessive animal meat over too long a time ages us and shortens our lifespan.
Therefore, consuming nutrient-dense low calorie, mostly raw food is a key to boosting energy, not by starving your body with insufficient dead (empty calorie) food. Even more powerful than consuming raw food is a “juice fast,” also called a juice “feast.”
My daughter, Cali, just completed a 30-day juice fast (fresh juicing only — no solid foods) and reports a dramatic energy boost of mind and body. In my personal experience of coaching patients through a liquid cleanse for 3-10 days I discovered the same trend. Every aspect of health and feeling good improves, including mood and energy levels.
Other ideas to improve energy
What else improves mitochondrial function? We know that strength-training alternating with aerobic exercise helps to strengthen mitochondrial function and improve cellular energy production. We know this because well-trained athletes have doubled the metabolic capacity (and double the mitochondria) compared to sedentary people.
If you’ve ever been sedentary and then attempted to hit it hard at the gym, you know the pain that results from not enough energy-producing mitochondria: lactic acid is produced by anaerobic metabolism, resulting in seriously sore muscles.
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- Pall M.L. (2007) Explaining “Unexplained Illnesses”: Disease Paradigm for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity,fFibromylagia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Gulf War Syndrome and Others. Harrington Park (Haworth) Press, New York.
- McDonald RB, Ramsey JJ. Honoring Clive McCay and 75 Years of Calorie Restriction Research. J Nutr. 2010 Jul; 140(7): 1205–1210.