Let me ask you, how in tune with your own body are you really? Do you notice that certain foods make you feel more tired? Do some foods make you break out or feel more anxious? It’s usually a lot easier to figure out the problematic foods that you are eating. However, sometimes our symptoms are caused by the foods we’re NOT eating. When it comes to exhaustion and energy, it’s difficult to trial and error the right foods to fight chronic fatigue. But I’m going to give you a good place to start!
Sometimes it seems like an uphill battle to fight chronic fatigue. You try to get a good sleep, go to bed at the same time each night, eat healthy and exercise when you can. But, often it feels like everything you do in life just makes your fatigue worse.
I’ve been there, those days when all you can think about is when it’s time to go back to bed. Those evenings where you feel guilty for, once again, declining a social function because you’re too tired to move.
While chronic fatigue isn’t always a sleep deprivation issue, doesn’t it seem like the best thing to do is just sleep more?
Let’s talk a little bit about sleep and how you can start to improve that area first.
What Controls Your Sleep
Have you ever gone to bed exhausted only to lay awake for hours? Or fallen asleep okay but woken up around 3 am to watch the clock tick by until your alarm goes off?
Yep, been there, done that. WAY too many times!
These sleep issues are frustrating, not to mention disheartening and even depressing! The good news is that, for most people, you can fight chronic fatigue by helping to balance some pretty important hormones.
Your body has two main hormones to manage your sleep and waking cycles – melatonin and cortisol.
When everything is working as it should, your melatonin will be at its highest around 9pm and your cortisol will be at its lowest. Conversely, your cortisol will be at its highest around 7am and melatonin will be at its lowest.
The bad news is that it doesn’t take much for these two hormones to get messed up. Chronic stress, the wrong type of diet, caloric restrictions, imbalanced gut bacteria and chronic low-grade inflammation all contribute to hormonal imbalances.
How To Balance Your Sleep Hormones
Luckily, there are a few very effective things you can do to help rebalance these vital hormones.
First, let’s chat about stress and how addressing and reducing it can help a LOT to fight chronic fatigue.
For women who consistently feel ‘wired and tired’ or who lead a very stressful lifestyle (think, family commitments, long work hours, abundant exercise, and demanding deadlines), self-care is super important to help you sleep.
If you’re not sure if your lifestyle is high-stress, well, let me just start by saying, there’s a good chance it is! You’re busy, you’ve got a lot going on, and you probably have to run in a hundred different directions each day. This is high-stress! This is just life in the 21st century!
While I know you’re crazy busy each and every day, I do want to emphasize the importance of self-care and stress management.
All you need is 10 minutes a day to help rebalance your cortisol hormones and help bring it back to a normal range and rhythm. Just 10 minutes of deep belly breathing every day can improve your cortisol levels so much and help fight chronic fatigue.
You’ll sleep better; you’ll fall asleep and stay asleep so much easier!
Besides deep belly breaths, you can try saying positive affirmations, meditating, stretching, yoga poses or even just laying quietly and listening to music. Self-care doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive. I’m not talking about hitting the day spa once a month for an expensive pamper package. Just some quiet time alone with or without your thoughts will help you fight chronic fatigue and get that much needed sleep.
If you get a second wind before bed, this is cortisol spiking when it shouldn’t be. You should definitely consider a daily relaxation habit each evening to help regulate your sleep hormones.
Foods to Fight Chronic Fatigue
And, of course, your diet is the other major factor affecting sleep and energy. (Hey, I’m a nutrition consultant so of course I’m going to talk about food, right?)
I discovered a few foods that made me sleepier than normal through trial and error. It took awhile and I really had to keep track of my food and my symptoms, but eventually I figured a few things out.
For me, and for many women, the foods that contributed to my chronic fatigue were dairy (especially cheese), wheat, and sugar! For me, it’s pretty much all sugar unless it’s naturally occurring in whole foods, like apples or berries. I’m okay with those; I am NOT okay with refined sugar or even natural sugars found in raw honey or maple syrup (too concentrated, I guess).
You may need to keep a food and symptom journal for a few weeks to discover your own trigger foods.
But, to get you started, I have a few foods you can add to your diet to help!
Foods that fight chronic fatigue will generally fall into the category of ‘anti-inflammatory’ foods. This is because pro-inflammatory foods (dairy, wheat, gluten, corn, red meat, nightshades) typically kick your immune system into overdrive.
Inflammation will spike your cortisol and impact how well your body produces melatonin. If you struggle to sleep well, it’s a great idea to take a look at your diet and remove any potentially offending foods.
On the flip side, add in some nutritious anti-inflammatory foods to help fight chronic fatigue.
Enjoy 6-8 servings of healthy fat from minimally processed plant sources, such as extra virgin olive oil, virgin organic coconut oil, or even raw nuts and seeds.
Your brain loves fat. So do your stress and sex hormones. In order to fight chronic fatigue, healthy fats reduce inflammation and promote production and balance of your hormones.
Your body uses resources from fatty foods as fuel to produce your stress and sex hormones. Healthy fat reduces overall inflammation. And a decent amount of fat in your diet helps to balance your blood sugar.
Now that you know what you can do to fight chronic fatigue, it’s time for you to take action.
The easiest first step is to swap out high-carb foods at breakfast and replace them with healthy fats. For example, instead of adding maple syrup or bananas to your oatmeal, try stirring in a spoonful of nut butter and topping it with fresh berries. Or, swap out your jam for mashed avocado on your toast, and top it with an egg for a delicious, filling meal.
And, schedule 10 minutes each day for some good quality stress management. The best time to take a mini-break from life is an hour or two before bed to help you start to unwind.
Alright, I’d love to hear what food swaps you’re trying and self-care activities you’re setting up so please comment below!