Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Anna Simon, BS, Ellen M. Martin
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of any disease, especially autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases. Even healthy people can feel fatigued because of lack of sleep, poor diet, dehydration, and stress. We want you to feel like your best self, so we did the research on how food, movement, and sleep can affect your energy levels. Here are our best tips to fight fatigue:
Avoid inflammatory foods
Inflammatory foods increase inflammation in the body, tend to exacerbate disease symptoms, and can lead to fatigue. These foods include processed meats, sodas and sugary beverages, salty snacks, packaged sweets, and refined carbohydrates.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods help to reduce inflammation in the body and may reduce symptoms, including fatigue; these are therefore the foods you should focus on including in your diet. Luckily, there are many anti-inflammatory foods, including turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, berries, flax and chia seeds, walnuts and almonds, olive oil, and salmon.
Cocoa is high in antioxidants and is thought to increase energy levels¹. People low in iron are also prone to fatigue and should consume high-iron foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, dried apricots, seafood, legumes, quinoa, and tofu. Check out our guide to food therapy to learn more about nutrition and how to experiment with food as therapy.
Drink water, not caffeine or alcohol
It’s okay to drink caffeine, but if you have to drink it every day to properly function and feel high energy, you may want to consider weaning yourself off it or at least reducing your daily dose. When you become reliant on caffeine, going a day without it can plummet your energy levels, negatively affect your mood, and lead to headaches. Start by decreasing your daily caffeine intake and transition into drinking caffeinated tea, decaf coffee, or just water in the morning. It’s especially important to know how quickly or slowly you metabolize the xanthines. If you notice that coffee or chocolate come on slowly, you may need to strictly limit your afternoon dose to keep from interfering with sleep. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to avoid soda, sugary drinks, and alcohol, opting for water instead.
Get some morning exercise
It can be hard to get out of bed and feel energized in the morning, but starting your day with some movement can help: go for a walk, do some yoga, or stretch (which can be more beneficial than you think). Exercising in the morning jump starts your metabolism and increases blood flow and circulation. It’s even better if your exercise gets you out for morning sunshine, which helps keep your circadian cycles on track, improving your baseline mood and making it easier to sleep at night.
Revive yourself in the afternoon
When you hit that afternoon lull, try an active movement designed to increase your energy levels such as Tai Chi & Qi Gong. If you feel stressed, try breathing exercises or meditation to relax your system. Remember, stress can cause fatigue. There are so many different ways to move your body, but it is important to find the right therapy cocktail for your body. Our guide to movement therapy can help you on this journey.
Keep your circadian rhythm on track
Our circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour biological clock: when your clock is off, your energy levels are off. How do you make sure your circadian rhythm is on track? It is important to try to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep. Another tip to keep your energy levels up is to expose yourself to sunlight in the morning, jumpstarting your circadian rhythm and giving you that “I’m ready for the day” feeling. A low-dose (1-3mg) melatonin supplement at night can also help.
Optimize your sleep environment
You can set yourself up for a good night’s rest by curating an optimal sleep environment.
Any sources of light can disrupt your sleep, from the light coming through your window to the light blinking on your cell phone. Wear an eye mask to help shield your eyes from light sources, and make sure you close your shades or go the extra mile and buy blackout curtains to completely prevent light from entering your room. Turn off your phone (or put it in night mode if you need the alarm), and use tape to cover up any other sources of light. It’s also a good idea to avoid using electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light can disrupt your circadian rhythm. There are also apps, such as f.lux, that allow you to control the color of your screens, reducing blue light as you coast down to bedtime.
Temperature is another important factor to consider. Keep your bedroom cool enough to feel comfortable under your bedding – it can be hard to fall and stay asleep if it is too hot or too cold. A trick for those who have trouble falling asleep is to take a warm bath or shower and then ride the cooling temperature down into sleep.
Loud sounds such as barking dogs or honking cars keeping you up at night? Use a white noise machine to help mask any loud noises. A fan, HEPA filter, humidifier or dehumidifier are also good sources of masking noise.
Even in the right environment, getting good sleep can be tough, but luckily there are programs such as Sleepio – which uses CBT – that can help target your personal sleep problems.
We hope these tips help you reduce fatigue and feel energized and ready to conquer the day. What do you do to fight fatigue? Let us know in the comments!
- Campagnolo, N et al. “Dietary and nutrition interventions for the therapeutic treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: a systematic review.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434800/#jhn12435-bib-0039
- Sullivan, A, Nord, C, & Evengard, B. “Effect of supplement with lactic-acid producing bacteria on fatigue and physical activity in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.” Nutrition Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2642862/