Tired? It May Be Your Lunch

Integrative Medicine Doctor By Amy Shah, M.D.
Integrative Medicine Doctor
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows.

Tired? Never refreshed? Feeling that afternoon slump?

Welcome to the real energy crisis of the modern world. I never made the connection between my energy slump and my diet until I started looking more into nutrition and how the body functions in response to stress.

Once I replaced these top energy draining foods with energizing ones, in addition to trying various herbs and activities, my body started to heal and my hormones and energy re-balanced.

Here are the culprits that I had to cut out.

1. The morning cup(s) of Joe

I, like probably 100 million people, really enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. So what's wrong with it?

Coffee and energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, which is a stimulant drug. This drug creates a feeling of an electricity surge that runs though your body. It stimulates your adrenal glands, which are little walnut-shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They secrete a lot of your stress hormones (your fight or flight response hormones), one of the main ones being adrenalin.

When adrenalin is released, you feel an initial surge of euphoria. But, as you've probably experienced, that adrenalin soon starts to wear off and you crash. Then, you seek out more caffeine to get that surge again, which becomes the crux of the problem.

In today's world we are quite overstressed and have natural surges of adrenalin all the time — when we are late and rushing, when we are mad at the car in front of us in traffic, etc., etc., etc. Combine these natural occurrences with the multiple doses of caffeine and you get at the cause of the low energy epidemic.

We're more tired than before, even though we are consuming more caffeine than we ever have.

The more stimulation you bring upon your body, whether from stress, intense physical activity or caffeine, the more you are wearing down your adrenal glands. As that happens on a daily / weekly / monthly basis, it's only a matter of time before your body starts to shuts down.

Solution: Try decaf (Swiss water processed is best), green juice, or just taper down to 1 cup a day

2. That Sugary Snack

When you eat something sugary, like a muffin (which can also be called a cupcake without frosting) or candy, you get an initial surge of energy from the rise in blood sugar.

But in response to this rise in blood sugar, your pancreas produces and secretes the hormone insulin to remove glucose from the blood to be stored in your muscle, liver and fat cells. So, since insulin works to remove the excess sugar from your blood, the more sugar you eat the more insulin is released. The clearance of high amounts of sugar by the insulin leads to low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia). When your blood sugar crashes, you start feeling jittery and anxious, and begin to search for that quick sugar fix to stop the symptoms.

In the long term, chronically high and low blood sugar levels also drain your adrenal glands, setting you up for chronic profound fatigue.

Furthermore, if you're eating a lot of sugar, over time, your body's cells can become desensitized to insulin, leading to diabetes (type 2-insulin resistant).

Solution: My best trick for breaking the sugar cycle is to start your day off with a low sugar (like a green smoothie) or no sugar breakfast. When you do have sugar, pair it with fiber to slow down the absorption so there is less of a spike. This is precisely why a whole fruit, like an apple, is far better than apple juice (no fiber).

3. Dairy & Wheat-Laden Foods

Did you know that wheat and dairy are the two most allergenic foods in our modern diet? Did you also know that even people who are not "allergic" to it develop intolerances? One of the known mechanisms for those with celiac (gluten sensitivity) and celiac like disease is very similar for the one proposed for cow's milk sensitivity.

Celiac disease sufferers get "leaks" in the intestinal lining when they are eating gluten, as well as atrophy of the intestinal villi. This allows gluten and other foreign substances access into the bloodstream, impairing nutrient absorption. We postulate that people with dairy sensitivity have the same problem (usually to a lesser degree).

Solution: Try to get off of dairy and wheat for 30 days to see what happens with your energy and other symptoms. Easy substitutes for that lunch sandwich is to ask for it on a bed of lettuce instead of bread. I also find roasted nuts and lentils a great snack when you want to reach for cheese and crackers.

Other energy boosting activities/foods/supplements that I used to re-balance my energy:

Of course, low energy can be a sign of a larger illness such as thyroid, autoimmune or adrenal problems. So, if the techniques above just aren't working for you or you just feel "off", go to your doctor to get tested.

Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard...
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Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from...
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