Use Nutrition to Beat Fatigue (And Feel Better)

Use Nutrition to Beat Fatigue (And Feel Better)
Photo credit: https://istockphoto/RossHelen

As a population we are all so tired. We all want to feel better, and good nutrition is the first step.

I was in a car repair shop the other day, thinking about how nutrition and fatigue were related. Could a poorly functioning body be approached like a poorly functioning car?

Humans and cars both need their own forms of nutrition.  Could they possibly be related?

Use nutrition to end fatigue. Begin to think like a mechanic!

The car, like a body, effectively needs its own car-related nutrients to work. When one of these “nutrients” is deficient, like an empty fuel tank or a dead battery, the other systems won’t work. The machine won’t run.

Our car needs energy (fuel) and an electrical system (electrons). It has a nervous system of wires to keep everything timed and coordinated. It needs a key, and a working battery. It needs a spark to get things going. And gas. And oil. And tires.

In fact, there are a number of systems that must be in place for the machine to work well and efficiently.

The human body is the same way.

Our bodies don’t run well when they are deficient in nutrition. A six-cylinder car needs six functioning spark plugs. It will run, poorly, on five cylinders and five plugs. Our body is the same way. It needs to have the right amount of spark, the right kind and amount of oils, and the right kind of fuel.

Our fatigue can be caused by a deficiency of nutrients. And for this reason, nutrients can be used to heal fatigue.

Accelerate your path to health with 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Understand what the body needs. Check under the hood.

If we can’t define what is needed, then we will have no way of knowing what is deficient. A single nutritional deficiency or excess can translate into a wide variety of clinical symptoms.

The concept of nutrition has been sanitized and simplified by the powers that stand to make money off of what is interpreted to be “nutrition.”

Our nutritional state is not satisfied by simply consuming a packaged food that promotes equivalency of the US-RDA of vitamins.

The body requires five classes of nutrients to keep the engine tuned.

1) Minerals

  • Are the building blocks of bone. Think calcium and magnesium.
  • Maintain electrical gradients across cells to allow muscle tightening and relaxation.
  • Are cofactors that push along enzymatic reactions.

2) Fats make up the walls of each and every one of our cells. With healthy fats, like the Omega-three fats, our cells are supple and fluid. Other ‘bad’ fats, like saturated (hydrogenated) fats, stiffen our cells and decrease cellular and immune function.

3) Amino Acids are used to make muscles, organs, tissues, and the levers that connect them. They are the building blocks of several neurotransmitters, and are used to produce hormones such as thyroid and insulin.

4) Vitamins are molecules that help cell signaling and communication, and serve as cofactors to push along enzymatic reactions.

5) Nutrients are molecules found in nature that are required for our biochemical workings, such as CoQ10, or Alpha Lipoic Acid.

Step 2: Consider your biochemistry to really understand what is driving your fatigue.

I want you to understand the basics of how your engine runs. When we better understand how our physiology works on a cellular level, the concept of nutrition becomes easier to understand.

  • Nutrients function like building blocks, enzymatic “keys”, and cellular tools.
  • Nutrients are sources of energy
  • Nutrients are used for molecular signaling

A nutrient isn’t just a supplement, mineral or food. It is an essential cog, a specific tool, or a unique connection that drives the human body. Nutrients are essential links; they are the keys to biochemical locks.

Lacking proper nutrition is like trying to build a house without a hammer. It just isn’t going to work. (And you don’t want to be using the wrong kind of nutrition, either. You wouldn’t put regular gasoline in your diesel truck.)

Step 3: Approach your health problems as you would your car problems.

It all goes back to the story about the automobile. If you were to be driving along, and suddenly the car was to stop, what would you first consider? Of course, you would look at the fuel gauge to see if you were out of gas.

You would consider a “nutritional” deficiency in the car, and then make a measurement (look at the fuel gauge) to determine the level.

Presumably you would then respond to the measurement. Maybe you would call a friend or your spouse. Either way you would rapidly realize the next step to “repair” the car would be to add gas.

Cold day and the engine won’t turn over? Your diagnostic brain would likely go through a similar process. “It’s probably the battery” you would think to yourself. And you would probably be right. Your car was “deficient” in electricity. A set of jumper cables would likely solve the problem.

To beat fatigue, first recognize that our body, our “machine”, can’t run well without proper nutrients. When we use the right kind of nutrition, the machine runs better. We feel better.

The fast lane to nutritional health: Know what nutrients your body needs, and why you need them

Let’s start with the two most basic nutrients:

  • Water
  • Oxygen

Now, this may sound pretty simple, but these are perhaps the two most important nutrients for the human body. The human body can live for only about three days without water, and only for six minutes without air. Both of these essential molecules, water and oxygen, contain the oxygen atom, H2O, and O2.

Oxygen has a unique place in our cellular biology. In biochemistry, the cellular currency is carried in electrons, the small, negatively charged particles that zip around the positively charged atomic nucleus.

Electrons are constantly leaping between molecules, and either giving up or using energy in the process. As with so many things in Biology, there is a sweet spot.

Too much oxygen, and we develop a degree of oxidative stress, which wears on the machine, grinds down our gears, and over time degrades all of our metabolic systems.

Too little oxygen, and we fail to turn the oxygen-requiring, energy-making machinery. We build up lactic acid in the process.

Wait a minute, did you say lactic acid? Isn’t this the molecule that causes the burn with weight lifting, or running up a hill? Could this be a component of my fatigue? Could it be decreasing my energy?

It could.

When we don’t provide enough oxygen for our cells, we hurt. We don’t make energy. Our muscles get heavy and burn. We get aches and pains; foggy thinking; low libido. We get tired all the time.

Water and Oxygen are the two most easily replaced nutrients in the body. And they are absolutely free!

Amino acids: Our building blocks for bumper-to-bumper health

We use amino acids to make

We will dedicate an entire blog post to the importance of amino acids.  For now we just need to revisit what proteins and amino acids are, and why a deficiency in amino acids could be a contributing part of your fatigue.

Amino acids are molecules. They are linked together, end to end to form a chain, which is then known as a protein. Our DNA provides a template for the arrangement of amino acids into a protein. DNA tells our cells what proteins to make.

As our DNA is read, additional amino acids are linked to the growing chain. It is like adding beads to a string. Over time electrical and physical interactions between these amino acids causes this elongating protein to buckle and fold into a three-dimensional shape.

Picture ten slender, small bar magnets held end-to-end, positive to negative poles, dangling freely in space. Now imagine taking your hands and gathering these magnets into a ball. Their linear relationship would be lost, but a static clump of magnets would remain.

This is how proteins are assembled from your DNA. Amino acids are first laid out like boxcars, then they are folded into a three-dimensional shape. Common shapes of proteins are

  • Muscle fibers
  • Skin, tendons and ligaments
  • Organ tissues, such as heart, kidneys, and the gut.
  • Enzymes (which drive biochemical reactions)

Some of these three-dimensional protein shapes are shaped into muscle fibers. Others form collagen, which is responsible for our skin, tendons and ligaments. Still others fold into enzymes, which conduct cellular business, and drive our metabolism. Some proteins make up the scaffolding of our organs.

There are 20 different amino acids our DNA has to pick from, so making a protein off of a strand of DNA is like beading a necklace with 20 different choices of beads. The selection and relationship of differently shaped and colored beads defines the design of your necklace.

The selection and relationship of amino acids on the string defines the function of the protein.

Could your fatigue be from an amino acid deficiency?

The body can make eleven of the amino acids from scratch.  Nine are essential. An essential amino acid must be obtained from the diet. Try making a beautiful necklace when your choice of beads is limited. Our body is faced with a similar challenge when the essential amino acids are scarce.

What causes an amino acid deficiency?

You might have an amino acid deficiency contributing to your fatigue if you:

  • Don’t eat enough protein
  • Don’t digest and absorb the protein that you do eat
  • Are on acid-blocking medications, such as omeprazole
  • Have an intestinal infection, such as a parasite, or yeast

Amino acids, when assembled into proteins, are the foundation of all of the body’s cellular functions. With optimized amino acids, you will have the correct building blocks to make your proteins, hormones and neurotransmitters.

So far our car seems to be running a bit better!! We have a functioning carburetor, which mixes oxygen with the fuel, and a functioning radiator and cooling system, which adds water. Next we’ll make sure that the frame is intact. Like a car, our body requires critical metals like magnesium, zinc and iron.

When magnesium, zinc and iron are more precious than gold

Remember the Periodic Table? We need to revisit it to understand human nutrition.

This is the colored table that lists all of the elements, starting at Hydrogen (the smallest element) to the newly named Organesson (the 118th element, discovered and named in 2016).

Minerals can be single elements, like gold, or combinations of molecules, like salt (sodium plus chloride). They have defined molecular structures, and they are essential for our biochemical workings.

We get our minerals through our foods, which obtain these molecules from the soils. We either eat the plants, or the animals that eat the plants. If we don’t take the minerals in our diet, or don’t absorb them, over time we can develop a relative deficiency.

The four most important ions in the body are Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium. Selenium and Zinc are similarly important. Here are a few essential facts about some of the more common minerals.

  • Magnesium and Zinc together are required for about 600 different enzymatic reactions. Magnesium alone is involved in over 400!
  • Sodium and Potassium are responsible for maintaining an electrical charge across the membrane of each cell in the body. Every cell in the body is a mini-battery! When our cells get sick, they don’t work well. They don’t hold a charge. Our internal batteries run down.  We lose energy.
  • The ions Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium are responsible for every nerve impulse in the body! Are you minerals too high or too low? There’s a good chance that measuring and optimizing these minerals could greatly impact your fatigue.
  • Calcium and Iron are two minerals that can can cause fatigue when they are too high. Be sure to consider this. All of these minerals are easily measured.

Fix your fats, fix your fatigue

Remember how in the 1970-1980’s it was felt that fats were bad? Fats were thought to make us fat. The country embarked on a high carbohydrate, low fat craze that continues to cause disease today.

A fat is little more than a string of carbon atoms in a row, with hydrogen atoms jutting on either side. Our body needs fats, but it needs the right kind of fats.

The membrane of every cell in the body is made up of fat. Good fats allow your cells to work their best.

Putting the wrong kind of fat into your body is a bit like putting the wrong kind of motor oil into your car. Everything just gets gummed up.

If you are tired, think about what kind of fats you are putting into your body.

Trans fats and hydrogenated fats are thick and linear. They pack together tightly in the cell’s membrane. The cell becomes stiff, and the proteins that normally float through the membrane become less mobile. The cell becomes less dynamic.

Other fats, like the Omega-3 fats found in sardines and salmon, keep the cells flexible and mobile, even at low temperatures.

What if your body was made up solely of hydrogenated, saturated fats? It would stay rigid at room temperature, like a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar.

A healthy, energetic body is packed with the healthy Omega-3 fats, like those found in fish oils.

A salmon swims contentedly in 33-degree water. Its fats are still flexible and mobile, even at low temperatures. Now picture a salmon made with a high percentage of the fats found in a Hershey Bar. It would be stiff, less mobile, and less active.

We can measure and modify the fats that go into our body.

Be a salmon, not a Hershey’s Bar.

Stay vital with vitamins

The term ‘vitamins’ covers a broad range of molecules responsibility for our physiology. These are generally large molecules, with a variety of functions.

Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants, which means that they help to buffer some of the extra electrons from our biochemical processes. They buffer oxidative stress, and our cells make energy more efficiently.

Are you fatigued, and inflamed? Optimizing these vitamins, by both diet and supplementation, may help you to feel better.

Vitamin D acts like a steroid hormone, binding regions of our DNA and telling the cells to start linking together amino acids into proteins. Extensive research associates deficiencies in this fat-soluble vitamin with just about every disease state, including chronic fatigue syndrome.

The 9 B vitamins are involved in many biochemical processes that are responsible for making energy, namely B2, B3, B6 and B12. These four B vitamins are essential for the energy-making pathways. Folate (B9) is important for DNA replication; B12 is essential for normal nerve cell function.

The ability to:

  • make cellular energy
  • rid ourselves of excess inflammation and oxidative stress
  • detoxify
  • orchestrate DNA replication and
  • optimize neurological functioning

depends on sufficient stores of vitamins.

With vitamin deficiencies, our cellular machinery doesn’t work so well. It becomes sluggish, depleted, worn out. We call these cellular breakdowns symptoms.

Ever wonder why British sailors were known as Limeys? It has been long recognized that trans-oceanic sailors developed the disease scurvy in the absence of vitamin C. But limes traveled well, and keep the crews healthy. Sailors sucked on the limes–captain’s orders–to avoid disease.

Perhaps your symptoms are the result of a vitamin deficiency.

If you feel sluggish, depleted and worn out, it may be time to start getting down to some basics. It is time to really consider how your nutritional status could be contributing to your symptoms.

Ready to use nutrition to feel like a sports car again?

We need to start thinking about our health in part like our car repair person thinks about our car.

Getting healthy again requires more than just hanging an air freshener from the rear-view mirror.

We need to begin to evaluate systems. Consider about what is being used for fuel, the ability to convert this fuel into energy, the wiring, the oils and lubricants, and frame that holds it all together. When we consider each of the contributing parts, we can identify the factors that need attention.

Nutrients can fix your fatigue.

So Nourish Vitality.

Learn to use nutrients to keep the engine humming, to get into gear, and to get back into the fast lane on the road to optimal health.

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