Staying Active and Energetic

by Dr. Chad Larson All too often, by the time a person goes on vacation they are too wiped-out to enjoy it. Sometimes they even get sick. When the body gets depleted, the adrenal glands get overworked and the immune system goes down. When the immune system goes down we become a susceptible host to the local pathogen du jour. The body can get depleted in many ways, but let’s review three of the most common:
  • Psychological Stress
  • Pain and Inflammation
  • Blood Sugar Imbalances
Psychological Stress This is the type of stress that we are most familiar with. When we feel “stressed out” we are usually referring to something (or many things) that has mentally and emotionally drained us. This type of stress activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system and produces the fight-or-flight response. This important response is not meant to continue indefinitely, so if this type of stress continues unchecked, the system falls short on its ability to keep up with the demand and fatigue ensues.  Pain and Inflammation Most people think of muscle pain and joint inflammation. When these imbalances are in a chronic state they can be especially draining on the system. But there are other sources of pain and inflammation which may be less familiar but in some cases are more severe to the body. Oxidative stress is a process by which free radicals attack DNA. Free radical are generated by smoking, excess sugar intake, excess physical and emotional stress, heavy metal toxins (mercury, lead, iron, etc.), radiation (x-rays, UV, etc.), trans fats (hydrogenated oils), certain drugs, chronic infection (gut pathogens, gingivitis, etc.). Free radicals are believed to play a role in more than sixty different health conditions, including the aging process, cancer, and heart disease. Blood Sugar Imbalances Insulin causes fat storage. Insulin causes fat storage. Insulin causes fat storage. When excess insulin is secreted in response to excess sugar consumption, the blood sugar (glucose) is stored in fat cells. Normally, the glucose is used by the cells of the body and mostly stored in the muscles and the liver. But when there is more than the body can use, insulin forces fat cells to take in blood lipids called triglycerides and fat cells grow. Our daily energy is very dependent upon our blood sugar balance. If our blood sugar is too low we can become mentally and physically fatigued. Low blood sugar can come from either skipping meals or making unhealthy food choices like sweets, pastries, or any refined and processed flour product (such as breads, pastas, cookies, chips, and crackers that are not 100% whole grain). So now that we have discussed some of the common causes of a lack of energy, let’s talk about ways to get healthy healthy energy levels that will truly keep you going all day long with no jittery feelings or the inevitable crash? Adaptogens Borrowing from long traditional uses and strong clinical science, certain herbal adaptogens and other traditional herbs have been shown to decrease symptoms of fatigue, stress, anxiety, neuralgia, depression, and sore muscles. Adaptogens are also known to increase stamina and enhance physical performance. What is an adaptogen? In 1947, Dr. Nikolai Lazaren defined an adaptogen, “as an agent that allows the body to counter adverse physical, chemical, or biological stressors by raising nonspecific resistance toward such stress, thus allowing the organism to ‘adapt’ to the stressful circumstance.” This definition still holds true for today, but now also includes an ability to balance endocrine hormones and the immune system. Here is a list of the most effective adrenal adaptogens: Maca For around 2000 years Maca has been an important traditional food and medicinal plant in its native growing region. It is regarded as a highly nutritious food and as a medicine that enhances strength and endurance and also may act as an aphrodisiac. During Spanish colonization maca was used as currency. Eleutherococcus senticosus Eleuthero use dates back 2,000 years, according to Chinese medicine records. Referred to as ci wu jia in Chinese medicine, it was used to prevent respiratory tract infections, colds and flu. It was also believed to provide energy and vitality. Eleuthero has been shown to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance without the letdown that comes with caffeinated products. Research has shown that eleuthero improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle. This means that a person is able to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recover from workouts more quickly. It is also useful when the adrenal glands are depleted as it may help alleviate symptoms of fatigue and stress. Cordyceps In ancient China, cordyceps was used in the Emperor’s palace and was considered to have ginseng-like properties. A number of studies indicate that cordyceps may have an immuno-enhancing and antioxidant effects. It was also reported that cordyceps has demonstrated an ability to increase energy and endurance as well as reduce the onset of exercise-related fatigue. Some athletes who participate in endurance exercise events, such as distance running, swimming, cycling, adventure racing, etc., rather than sprinting, weight-lifting, etc. notice an improvement in exercise capacity and tolerance from supplementing with cordyceps. Turmeric The active constituent of turmeric is known as curcumin. Curcumin has been used for thousands of years as a safe anti-inflammatory in a variety of ailments as part of traditional Indian medicine. It has been shown to have a wide range of therapeutic actions. First, it protects against free radical damage because it is a strong antioxidant. Second, it reduces inflammation by lowering histamine levels and possibly by increasing production of natural cortisone by the adrenal glands. Third, it protects the liver from a number of toxic compounds. Fourth, it has been shown to reduce platelets from clumping together, which in turn improves circulation and may help protect against atherosclerosis. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has four clinical trials underway to study curcumin treatment for pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer’s, and colorectal cancer. Ginseng Panax (Asian) ginseng roots are taken orally as adaptogens, aphrodisiacs, nourishing stimulants, and in the treatment of type II diabetes, including sexual dysfunction in men. Rhodiola rosea The Vikings used rhodiola to enhance physical strength and endurance, and it was commonly used by many Northern peoples to treat fatigue, poor physical endurance, nervous system disorders, and infections, and to enhance fertility. Rhodiola rosea is effective for improving mood and alleviating depression. Russian research shows that it improves both physical and mental performance, reduces fatigue, and prevents high-altitude sickness. Rhodiola rosea’s effects are attributed to its ability to optimize serotonin and dopamine levels, due to monoamine oxidase inhibition and to its influence on opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins. Ashwagandha Ashwagandha stimulates the activation of immune system cells, such as lymphocytes. It has also been shown to inhibit inflammation and improve memory. These actions may support the traditional reputation of ashwagandha as a tonic or adaptogen – counteracting the effects of stress and generally promoting wellness. Coenzyme Q10 I would also highly recommend Coenzyme Q10 to boost your energy. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is used by the body to transform food into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy on which the body runs. For various reasons, the supply of CoQ10 can become depleted in the body affecting the production of ATP. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals. The key features of CoQ10 are:
  • Support for the heart and entire cardiovascular system
  • Antioxidant and immune enhancement
  • Production of ATP, the metabolic energy on which the body runs
Evaluate Your Adrenal Hormone Supply   Additionally, we recommend you have an evaluation of your adrenal hormones. If you have an imbalance of your main adrenal hormones – cortisol or DHEA – your energy and sense of wellness can be affected. Depending on the results of the Adrenal Hormone Test, a therapeutic protocol can be determined that is specific to your individual needs. Please do your part and make healthy dietary and lifestyle choices in addition to the above recommendations. Please avoid excess amounts of sugar, including sweets and any refined processed grain product, like breads, pasta, crackers, chips, cookies, etc. Choose only the 100% whole grain variety. Also, regular cardiovascular exercise has been shown to increase physical energy and improve sleep.