22 Feb Understanding vitality/energy and fatigue – 5 ways to reduce fatigue and boost energy and vitality naturally
22 Feb 2023
Fatigue is something that everyone will experience at several points in their lives. It is most often a result of poor diet, lifestyle, emotional factors, or a side effect of medication(s).
Sometimes fatigue can be a symptom of an underlying illness or condition that requires treatment, meaning fatigue is not the condition itself (not to be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome). Nonetheless, reduced levels of vitality can have a debilitating impact on so many areas of our lives.
All the potential factors leading to reduced vitality are many and varied, so we can’t go into all areas in this article, however, below, we will discuss a couple of the major factors that influence vitality levels.
If we can get our diet and lifestyle on track, we may find that we can easily reduce fatigue and boost energy and vitality levels naturally, therefore these are the main factors we will cover in this article.
Energy and Vitality from the foods we eat and the air we breathe:
From a Chinese medicine perspective, our postnatal energy/Qi (that which comes from external sustenance) is a result of the food we eat, combined with the air we breathe. The Stomach ingests and breaks down the food we consume, which is then passed to the Spleen-Pancreas. The Spleen-Pancreas takes the pure Qi from the food and combines it with the air inhaled by the Lungs to create a form of Qi/Energy that our body can utilise. The Small Intestine receives the food from the Stomach, then extracts and separates the pure from impure aspect of our food (extracts nutritive substances) and moves it into our bloodstream where it is delivered throughout the body to perform its functions. This is the reason in Chinese medicine that the Heart (which pumps and moves blood) has a close connection with the Small Intestine (which helps to create blood through moving nutritive substances into the bloodstream from food).
As far as Chinese medicine is concerned this is the basis of how Qi and Blood are created within the body, and they are substances that drive our levels of vitality. If we are not creating enough Qi and Blood to sustain our health, we will experience fatigue and a lack of vitality.
From a medical science perspective as opposed to the Chinese medicine understanding, there are several similarities in the way our nutrients are absorbed through the digestive process. Proper digestion is needed to extract and absorb nutrients from our food that go on to become the building blocks for our cells, blood, body tissues, and more.
We also have a great deal of scientific understanding about cellular respiration and the usage of oxygen, and the expulsion of carbon dioxide and its movement in the blood stream, and how the Lungs play a key role in this process. Efficient breathing and cardiovascular health will influence the movement of oxygen through our body and the efficient expulsion of carbon dioxide.
The digestive and respiratory pathways are essential bodily processes that effect the fundamental workings of the body, and our levels of vitality on many levels. If they are working efficiently (whether we approach that from a medical science perspective or a Chinese medicine perspective), they will positively impact our energy and vitality levels. Of course, the better the quality food and liquid we take in, and the better the quality of the air we breathe, the better it is for us too!
An important factor that also connects to the points above- if we are expending more energy than we are taking in, we will also experience fatigue. If our digestive and respiratory processes are working fine, but we are not consuming enough of the nutritive substances that our bodies require to sustain health and life, fatigue will ensue.
Energy and Vitality through proper rest and recuperation:
One of the biggest lifestyle factors that affects vitality levels and leads to fatigue is sleep quality and quantity. During sleep is the time when our body has the opportunity to repair its cells and tissues, regenerate blood cells and detoxify our blood. This process is interrupted if we are not sleeping effectively or when we don’t sleep for long enough periods of time. In turn, our cells and blood cannot be repaired correctly, and will not perform their functions optimally.
If you are not sleeping correctly or your sleep quality is sub-optimal, I would recommend you focus on improving it first as this major lifestyle change will have a huge impact on your health and levels of vitality. I have written an article about sleep that you can access here, which provides several pointers to assist you in improving your sleep.
Seeing an acupuncturist can help to correct sleeping difficulties, combined with the right Chinese herbal prescription(s). Many of our patients are sleeping better than they have slept in their entire lives and are reaping the benefits of improved vitality levels.
5 ways to reduce fatigue and boost Energy and Vitality naturally
There are certain things we can do throughout the day to ensure we are skilfully creating and conserving energy and vitality. Here are 5 of my favourite ways to help reduce fatigue and boost energy naturally.
(Please note that the following points are generalised advice and may not be applicable to all. If you experience ongoing fatigue from an unknown cause, it is best to consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.)
Start the day with a filling, protein rich breakfast
Eating a breakfast rich in protein is a great way to set up your energy for the day. The amino acids found in protein rich foods are required to create certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin. This helps you feel more physically energised and mentally alert. Protein breaks down slowly in the body, so it helps keep you fuller for longer. If you pair this with complex carbohydrates, you will have a great boost of nutrients to sustain your body throughout the day. Some examples include oatmeal, eggs on wholemeal toast or breakfast burritos with beans.
Your cells need oxygen to make energy. If you are a shallow breather, your lungs are not taking in enough oxygen to fulfil the body’s energy requirements. Your blood also needs to be properly oxygenated to be able to deliver essential nutrients to the tissues. You may also experience poor concentration, headaches, dizziness or coughing if you are not taking in enough oxygen. As mentioned previously, the air we breathe in plays a massive role in creating Qi. I often find that many of my patients are not breathing effectively. Many people only breathe into the upper section of their chest, which affects their ability to take in enough air. An exercise often recommend is to help retrain the body to take deep inhalations. Begin by placing your hands on your lower abdomen below your navel. When you inhale, feel the breath entering the lower portion of your belly where you have placed your hands. The goal is to see your hands move as your breath fills your lungs and expands your lower abdomen. This should deepen and lengthen your inhalation and exhalation. You may find this difficult to begin with if you are not used to deep breathing but keep practicing and it will become easier and more instinctual.
It seems counterproductive if you are feeling tired, but movement is great to improve fatigue. If you live a primarily sedentary lifestyle, Qi and Blood will not be circulating around your body effectively. In turn, this will make you feel sluggish and unmotivated. During exercise the body releases certain neurotransmitters, such as adrenalin and noradrenalin. This can help to energize you by increasing blood circulation, and by breaking down fat and carbohydrate stores to provide more energy to the body. Thus, a quick walk or short burst of exercise can perk you up, even when you initially thought you were too tired to do it!
On the other hand, if you are only doing high intensity exercise (and feeling regularly fatigued as a potential result), you may be overusing your stored Qi and Blood. Try some low intensity, restorative movement to break up your high intensity training. You may also find that you are more effective during your high intensity training as a result.
Doing things that bring you joy and excitement
It may sound a little cliché, but there is nothing more exhausting than living a life of monotonous obligation. Emotional or mental exhaustion can be very taxing on the body and play a massive role in physical fatigue if left unchecked. Hobbies and personal interests may also help counteract burnout from overwork and chronic stress, which can help you sustain your energy in the long run. Taking time for our personal interests can boost endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin – the ‘feel good’ hormones! From a Chinese medicine perspective, joy is the emotion of the Heart. The Heart is the emperor or ruler of all the other organs, so it’s condition will affect the flow of Qi and Blood in the rest of the body. The less stressed and happier we are, the better we can circulate Qi and Blood, and the better we will ultimately feel.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine
Everyone experiences fatigue for a different reason. A Chinese medicine practitioner can help identify why you are experiencing fatigue and how to minimize any barries to healing. For example, if you have digestive issues, you are likely going to struggle to create enough Qi and Blood to feel energized. Your acupuncturist may work on your Spleen and Stomach to ensure that you are able to transform your food into the vital substances needed for optimal function of the body and mind. Chinese herbs can also be very effective to boost Qi and Blood levels and nutritive substances in your body. Your Chinese medicine practitioner will recommend a formula based on your specific needs. Sometimes we need an extra boost to get things moving so acupuncture and herbal medicine are always a great way to boost up the body’s natural energy stores!
So, before you go having a few extra cups of coffee to help your afternoon slump, try some of the tips listed above! You can also book in an acupuncture appointment with me here to help the process along.
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