By Margaret Adamek, PhD, Natural Solutions
As far back as I can remember, I was tired. All of the time. No matter how much sleep I got, no matter how much coffee I drank, my fatigue simply overwhelmed me. I had a terrible time waking up. By late morning, I could hardly concentrate on my job. Mid-afternoon brought an intense urge to nap, and by early evening I was ready for bed. I experienced occasional spurts of energy throughout the day—usually fueled by something sweet or caffeinated, but nothing I could sustain. My exhaustion affected my work, my ability to exercise, and my upkeep of personal affairs. Throughout these decades of fatigue, I faced deadlines where I cranked up enough nervous energy to make it through—but then I’d collapse for several weeks.
Feeling exhausted and unproductive was compounded by a low-level depression, which, for me, translated into inertia and a lack of motivation. Because I didn’t cry a lot or stay stuck in bed, I never recognized these as characteristic symptoms. Furthermore, I was forever anxious. With each passing year, my symptoms became more severe, and I began to experience mood swings that made me (and those I loved) miserable. Life was chaotic, unhappy, and unhealthy, even though I looked healthy, slim, and put together. My doctor and a therapist recommended medication for my depression and anxiety, but I felt uncomfortable going the pharmacological route.
Fortunately, around that time some new research emerged in the nexus between nutrition and neuroscience that explained in part what was happening to me. Scientists had already established the “food-mood” connection, linking diet, brain chemistry, and blood sugar regulation. Popular writers generated practical, food-based solutions for some of the most prevalent mood disorders, publishing how-to books that helped people alleviate their symptoms through dietary changes. I thought I was beyond that. After all, I cooked from scratch, ate lots of organic produce, limited my saturated fat intake, and was primarily vegetarian for many years. Yet I also skipped a lot of meals, consumed sweets every day, and relied on a moderate, but constant caffeine fix. My personal breakthrough came when I realized my fatigue, depression, anxiety, and moodiness shared a common root cause. Even though my overall diet was relatively healthy, a few bad habits and a serious sugar addiction were seriously affecting my moods.