Women at every age and stage of life can experience low energy, fatigue, and exhaustion. The naturopathic approach to restoring vital energy is to use strategies that address low function in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is a major part of the neuroendocrine system, which controls reactions to stress and regulates many body processes, including mood and emotions, sexuality, and energy storage and expenditure.
If you’re an otherwise healthy woman, but feel that your energy and vitality aren’t what they could be, here are some energy-boosting behavioral strategies, herbs, and nutrients that can help.
1. Mental floss. A key to restoring and maintaining vitality is to become conscious of your present thinking patterns and choices and how they may be affecting your health. “Mental flossing” every day means setting aside quiet time to clear your mind of all the accumulated debris and clutter from technology, media, to-do lists, and negative thoughts. It also means repeating positive self-talk—mantras such as I make choices that benefit me, or I focus on the positive. Doing this once a day replenishes energy and fights burnout.
2. High-fiber, low glycemic foods. Vegetables, the number one energy-boosting food, should make up at least a third of your diet. Because vegetables are high in fiber, the bulky part of the food your body doesn’t digest, they prevent you from feeling hungry too soon after a meal. And because they’re low on the glycemic index–a measurement of how quickly a food converts into sugar in your body–vegetables prevent extreme highs and lows in blood sugar so you have more energy, improved mental function, and a heightened sense of well-being. Fruits are great too, but try not to eat too many high-sugar varieties, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and mangoes.
3. Moving your body. Our bodies were designed to move and work. Fatigue and low energy are often our body’s way of calling out for more movement. When you exercise, you’re not only getting in shape and moving your limbs, you’re also shaping your mind and moving your emotions. Find something you love to do, whether it’s dance, competitive sports, martial arts, or hiking, and try to do it at least four times a week. The more you exercise, the more likely you are to continue doing so. Best of all, exercise pays you back by giving you even more energy.
4. Detoxing your home. All the chemicals we’re exposed to inside our own home can become a major drain on our energy. Our detox organs, especially the liver and kidneys, have to work so hard to process all these chemicals that they become overburdened—then we’re exhausted. Toxic chemicals can be found in household cleaning products, personal care products, cosmetics, nonstick cookware, plastic food-storage containers, and manufactured foods. Replace all of these items throughout your home with healthy, natural alternatives.
5. Rhodiola. This potent herb has long been used to boost physical endurance, energy, and moods, and to heighten mental clarity, sexuality, and speed recovery time after exercise. It assists you in adapting to stress, which prevents adrenal fatigue, and supports thyroid-gland function, which further protects your adrenal glands from being overburdened. The recommended daily dose is 100-170 mg in a standardized form containing 2.6 percent rosavin.
6. Siberian ginseng. Used for centuries to strengthen the body, Siberian ginseng contains compounds that can help you overcome stress by supporting your adrenal glands’ hormone production. It also increases mental alertness and energy, enhances one’s sense of well-being, and boosts sex drive. The recommended dose is 110-200 mg, containing a standardized extract of 0.5 percent eleutheroside, 2-3 times daily.
7. Reishi. Reishi contains compounds with numerous health-enhancing effects, including adrenal gland support. If taken regularly over the long-term, it has a cumulative beneficial effect on your kidneys, stimulating your “chi,” to allow for a powerful, slow-motion transformation of your sexual energy, which contributes to an overall feeling of vitality. The recommended daily dose is 800-1,200 mg, containing 14 percent polysaccharide and 4 percent triterpene.
8. Vitamin C. When you go through acute or chronic stress, you can lose a lot of vitamin C through your urine and may experience stress-induced adrenal fatigue. Vitamin C is important in your body’s production of adrenal hormones. If you’re having low adrenal function and are under a lot of stress, take a minimum of 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice daily.
9. Pantothenic acid. Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid plays a key role in your body’s production of adrenal hormones. For adrenal fatigue due to stress, the recommended dose is 250 mg twice daily. You can also get vitamin B5 from foods, including whole grains, legumes, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
10. Having sex. Getting your sex life up and running is essential for vital energy flow. What’s more, it creates a virtuous cycle–the healthier and more energetic you feel, the stronger your libido gets. The stronger your sex drive, the more often you’ll enjoy lovemaking. Recharging your sexual energy is good for overall health. All of the energy-boosting strategies here will help to revitalize your libido as well.
* * * * *
Dr. Laurie Steelsmith is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist with a 20-year private practice in Honolulu. A leading spokesperson on natural medicine, she has appeared widely on TV, radio, and in print. She and her husband, Alex Steelsmith, are coauthors of Natural Choices for Women’s Health (Three Rivers) and Great Sex, Naturally (Hay House, July 2012). Special Offer: The first 30 readers to sign up for Dr. Steelsmith’s women’s health newsletter will receive a free bottle of Steelsmith High-Potency Multi-Vitamins.