Quick! One a scale of 1-10, how tired are you RIGHT NOW? Is anyone’s answer ever lower than 5???
Most of us know we probably don’t get enough sleep – working long hours, investing a lot into our families or extra-curricular activities.
But how many of us ever consider how much our diet plays a role in our daily level of fatigue?
According to Dr. Jennifer Doan, a naturopathic doctor who spoke about fatigue at the JCC last week, diet management is one of the most significant factors in controlling fatigue. Never mind the fact that is also has a significant affect on how well we sleep those few hours of shut-eye we actually get in!
Brief science lesson: our adrenal glands – located right above the kidneys – produce life-saving, stress-managing hormones like cortisol, testosterone and estrogen in order to battle all of the grief, physical or mental load we experience. Whether it be from working too hard, emotional stress, illness or many other avenues, the adrenal glands have to keep up with the demand we put on our bodies. When they can’t keep the pace we suffer from what’s called Adrenal Fatigue. This causes our bodies to do many bad things including the break down of tissue or muscle to convert to energy, crave more bad foods (seeking the cortisol reaction to insulin), lose focus, become short-tempered, struggle to sleep, suffer from pre-menopausal symptoms (hopefully only for women), have weaker immune systems, lower libidos and many other symptoms. But let’s be honest; I had you at lower libidos, didn’t I?
Needless to say, these symptoms lead to more stress, which makes us crave the cortisol stimuli brought on by carb-filled foods and the vicious cycles goes on while our bodies plummet and waste away.
However, while lifestyle may make it difficult to get the sleep we need on a regular basis (really, who gets 8+ hours of sleep every night?), the key, Doan explained, is keeping our blood-sugar or glycogen levels in a good place as often as possible. This, in turn, prevents a high demand of insulin, which saves our adrenal glands from needing to produce an overdose of cortisol to “catch” the insulin. Controlling blood-sugar levels actually reduces stress and sets our bodies up to crave less unhealthy food as well. Now we will be ready to do stressful things like watching the Canucks play!
When we do feel stressed or exhausted, sitting down with that bag of chips or crying into that bucket of ice cream isn’t actually going to make us feel better. It’s more likely to eventually make us feel worse. And not just in the belly!
When you do hit that craving, find something that is filled with protein or healthy fats. Not only will they fill you up better and longer but, because they take more time and energy to digest, they will prevent an insulin spike and keep your blood-sugar levels in order, sparing your adrenal glands.
You will also be one step closer to a better night’s sleep and a better day when the sun rises once again!