Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Beating Chronic Fatigue

Millions of people wake up every morning exhausted and worn out. In fact, tiredness is one of the most common problems we consult GPs about. The stress of post Christmas bills, the lack of sunlight and the lingering effects of the festive binge all take their toll in February, the most depressing month of the year.

Chronic fatigue has become an epidemic and, although you must see your GP if you’ve suffered exhaustion for several weeks as underlying medical conditions like anaemia, thyroid problems, diabetes and many others may be responsible, all too often the help that’s forthcoming may do more harm than good.

Zinc deficiency is a common cause, but excessive tiredness is also a symptom of depression, so many GPs are likely to prescribe antidepressants. But antidepressants interfere with the body’s absorption of zinc, so you end up in a vicious circle.

Food is the basic key to your body’s energy levels as the calories it contains are converted into fuel to power our bodily functions. So the first step in fighting fatigue must be to make sure you’re eating enough. The average woman needs around 2000 calories a day. Thanks to the obsession with weight-loss diets, many women try to get by on far fewer.

All foods provide calories, but it’s good calories you need. A healthy diet should provide 50 per cent of its calories from good carbohydrates, 10 - 12 per cent from proteins and a third from fat (23 per cent from unsaturates - oily fish, olive, seed and nut oils - and no more than 10 per cent from saturates - animal fats and dairy products).

The key to feeling energetic is keeping your blood sugar level constant - which won’t happen if you dash to work or school on just a cup of tea, eat half a sandwich at lunchtime and arrive home too tired to prepare a meal.

Grazing may solve your problem, but that doesn’t mean nibbling through a day of energy-robbers like crisps, sweets, doughnuts, chocolate, chips and endless cans of fizzy drink. These high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat snacks give an instant energy boost, followed by a dramatic drop, so you yo-yo your way through the day.

Add the following to your daily menu and feel the difference within a week:

• Baked potatoes - a brilliant nutritional package, rich in fibre, vitamins B and C and lots of potassium. Eat with tomato sauce and salad.

• Pasta - an instant source of energy from complex starches that fuel your system for up to four hours. Mix with tuna, tomato sauce, stir fried vegetables or just a drizzle of olive oil and garlic.

• Beans - baked beans do have added salt and sugar (organic manufacturers add less) but they’re a wonderful source of energy, protein, minerals and fibre. All canned beans are as nutritious, but rinse well to remove excessive salt.

• Bananas - nature’s instant energy food, packed with potassium, zinc, iron, B6, folic acid and slow-release calories, they’re also easily digested.

• Sweet corn - rich in complex carbohydrates and a perfect source of slow-release energy. Add to salads, soups, stir fries or just eat whole.

• Fruit - fresh or dried, provides instant energy and protective nutrients.

• Nuts and seeds - more slow-release calories and important vitamin E rich oils. A handful of fresh nuts and dried fruit provides longer lasting energy than chocolate and contains other essential nutrients. Pumpkin seeds are rich in the anti-fatigue mineral, zinc.

You only need small changes to switch from energy robbers to energy boosters.

Sugar-coated cereals
Meat pies, pasties, salamis etc.
Biscuits, sweets, chocolates
Salty snacks
Sliced white bread
Convenience foods
Burgers and hot dogs
Squashes, fizzy drinks

Porridge, muesli, Shredded Wheat
Fish, organic beef, lamb, poultry
Dried fruit, bananas
Baked or boiled potatoes
Fresh nuts and seeds
Organic whole meal or rye
Simple home cooking
Veggie pizza, shish kebab in pitta
Water, fresh juices

Food combining. Not eating starches and proteins in the same meal certainly appears to help people with chronic digestive problems, but it won’t give you more energy or better health.

Candida. There’s no scientific evidence to support a yeast-free diet for the vast majority of people. Some practitioners advise extreme and unhealthy regimes in the belief that chronic fatigue is caused by the yeast organism, Candida albicans. Even if it were, why avoid baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast or any of the other totally unrelated yeast organisms?

Food allergies. Half the population seems to believe they’re suffering from allergies. Diagnosed by irrational, unacceptable and unproven techniques, this approach to chronic fatigue leads to restricted nutrition and adds more health problems on top of exhaustion,

You can’t live on junk, take pills and expect to be healthy. To fight exhaustion, you need to avoid the energy robbers and increase your consumption of the healthy boosters.

But these supplements will help maintain increased energy:

Karma – licensed herbal extract of St.Johns Wort
Ginseng - traditional reviver from the Orient.
Rio Trading Guarana - energy seeds of the Brazilian rainforest.
CoQ 10 - improves conversion of food into energy.
BioStrath Elixir - boosts nutrient absorption and immunity.
Artichoke extract that stimulates liver function.
Rhodiola – look out for a brand new anti-stress licensed herbal remedy available at larger Boots stores from early March. This new product, Vitano, not only relieves stress, but also addresses fatigue and exhaustion, which are common symptoms of stress.


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