Feb 3, 2023
It's safe to safe that the majority of us have experienced low energy at some point in our lives and while there are many reasons why this occurs, looking at the foundation of energy production in the body can help us understand why.
Mitochondria are commonly referred to as the powerhouse of the cell. They take the food we eat and help turn that food into energy for cells to use. Adenosine 5’ Trisphosphate, also known as ATP, is the primary molecule for storing and transferring energy in cells, in the mitochondria.
For optimal function, our mitochondria require proteins, fats, and sugars. Specifically, when it comes to energy metabolism and ATP production, there are several nutrients that are needed. Some of these include Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, B-vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, CoQ10, Melatonin, Zinc, Lipoic Acid, Magnesium, and Taurine.
So what causes our mitochondria to not work effectively and efficiently other than nutrient deficiencies? Things like stress, sleep deprivation, environmental toxins, gut dysbiosis, and certain medications can interfere with optimal mitochondrial function. While this is very individualized, it’s important to manage these interferences while ensuring you are eating a well-rounded diet consisting of nutrient-dense, whole foods.
Some lifestyle factors that can help support mitochondrial function include exercise, sleep, and nervous system regulation/chronic stress.
While exercise is important for mitochondrial health, it’s all about balance. Consistently exercising at high intensities or simply exercising too much can have the reverse effect. Some symptoms to watch for to determine if you are over-doing it are feeling tired more than usual, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and slow recovery times. Finding the right balance for you is key!
We still live in a society where our mantra is “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” but unfortunately, that will most likely negatively impact our quality of life. Simply put, sleep deprivation = mitochondrial dysfunction. Sleep is an essential part of ATP energy metabolism so to optimize mitochondrial function, we need to prioritize sleep (1).
Mitochondria play an important role in balancing our nervous systems. Disruptions of energy homeostasis from mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to neuroinflammation and all sorts of nervous system disorders (2). While I believe supplements can play a role in chronic stress management and energy support, getting to the root cause is your best course of action. Working with a qualified practitioner to process your stored trauma will not only help to increase energy but will likely help with other negative symptoms related to nervous system dysregulation.
When we are feeling weak or lacking energy, one often associates that symptom with low iron. And with good reason! Iron plays a key role in producing hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells, that carry oxygen from your lungs to every cell in your body. “Iron gives you energy because it allows your tissues, muscles and cells to receive and absorb oxygen.” (3).
Heme vs. non-heme Iron
Heme Iron is only found in animal flesh while non-heme iron is found in plant foods. Studies show that heme iron is more efficiently and easily absorbed, so if you are vegan or vegetarian, you may want to consider taking a supplement (4).
When looking for a plant-based iron supplement, it’s important that it contains the proper chelators and nutrients to help the iron absorb (5). For example, Ascorbic Acid greatly improves non-heme iron absorption in the small intestine, so eating foods high in this nutrient or taking a supplement with your plant-based meals is recommended (6).
Knowing your iron levels is also important not only because of possible deficiencies but having too much can be toxic.
If you want to look at a different approach to iron deficiency, read this article HERE.
Greens & Protein
For multiple reasons, we sometimes need extra nutrient support in our diets. Periodically supplementing with protein and greens powders can help to increase nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, and protein of course, which all play an important role in energy production.
With many greens and protein powder options in the market, it’s important to choose an organic, minimally processed, and well-rounded product. Even better if it is third party tested so you know exactly what you are getting.
When choosing a greens powder, a fermented or raw juiced blend is preferred. Greens can be hard to digest for a lot of people so anything to improve absorption is key. Specific herbs that support energy production like Ginseng and Gotu Kola are also an added benefit to any greens powder, but I will talk more about those below.
Same goes for protein powder, especially vegan protein powder - digestibility is important! Not only for utilization of nutrients, but no one wants to feel bloated after their protein smoothie. Fermented, sprouted, and/or raw with added digestive enzymes are all great options.
Protein and greens powders are really a personal preference so finding one that works for is important.
So many women (and some men) struggle with low thyroid function and surprisingly, a lot of us are often misdiagnosed. Several symptoms of underactive thyroid can include hair loss, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, depression, constipation, muscle cramps and of course fatigue/low energy.
Our bodies require a certain amount of thyroid hormones for energy production, so when our thyroid is underactive, we can often feel fatigued, weak, and experience overall low energy (7).
While the most common cause of low thyroid function is iodine deficiency, there are also a lot of other reasons why your thyroid might not be functioning optimally (8).
These can include:
It’s important to eat a well-rounded diet, specifically focusing foods high in iodine, zinc, copper, selenium, Vitamin A (retinol), and other mineral & vitamins that support thyroid function. Just as important, you want to be mindful of how much cruciferous vegetables and soy products you consume as well as managing stress and reducing environmental exposures. To learn more about the thyroid, please read this article HERE.
It’s important to note that some women have “normal” blood work AND still have symptoms of low thyroid function. If this is the case, please work with a practitioner who understands this so further testing can be done. And as always, ensure you speak with a health care provider before taking any supplements.
These water-soluble vitamins play a very important role in energy production. B12 is probably the most popular b-vitamin when it comes to energy and for good reason! B12 helps support red blood cell production and converts fat and protein to energy.
The most concentrated food source containing all the B-vitamins is brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast. Some other great food sources of b-vitamins are liver, germ/bran from grains, nuts, beans, peas, and dark leafy greens.
Did you know that many b-vitamins are produced in the gut? If you have a healthy intestinal flora and are eating a variety of whole foods, you will likely support healthy b-vitamin production by bacteria in your intestinal tract.
Stress (chronic), strict diets/fasting, excess alcohol, a diet high in processed foods, and some pharmaceuticals like antibiotics & the birth control pill can cause b-vitamin deficiencies in some people. Supplementing with a b-complex might be beneficial in these cases.
As mentioned above, there are some common herbal extracts that can help improve energy. These include:
Gotu Kola – this herb is commonly found in natural energy formulas but doesn’t contain caffeine. This clean energy herb helps to enhance cognitive function, reduce stress, and improve energy.
Rhodiola – Also known as the “burnout buster” this herb is commonly used to help increase energy when dealing with fatigue from chronic stress.
Siberian Ginseng – Various studies have shown that ginseng increases energy and helps ease chronic fatigue (9,10). Struggling with your workout? Ginseng may also help to enhance your physical performance (11)
Cordyceps – Among it’s many functions, this tonifying medicinal mushroom is thought to indirectly support ATP production (energy) through it’s powerful antioxidant properties (12)
The core of our body’s functioning.
Life can certainly be a wild ride, and a hormone imbalance can make it a Roller coaster ride! Water retention, heavy periods, irregular menstrual cycles,…
Article from: https://womensense. com/natural-approach-hormone-health/
Healthy hormonal balance is essential for a woman’s quality of life during her reproductive and menopausal years.