Lack of energy is a common complaint these days. However, when one goes seeking “energy” it is good to remember the old adage: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” The cup of coffee, can of soda, cigarette or ephedrine pill will give you temporary energy, but you are going to pay for it later. This is because stimulants work by stealing energy from elsewhere, to provide it when you demand it. When that energy wears off there is a crash, and your base energy level will be lower than it was when you first ingested the stimulant.
The area of the body that is most abused by the use of stimulants is the adrenal glands, which also happen to be your first line of defense against stress. The adrenals are involved in many functions essential to well being. These include regulating heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and digestion, and they also produce some of the sex hormones. But from an “energy” perspective, what they do that is most important is to regulate our “fight or flight” response.
In our distant past, a danger signal would jump-start the adrenals to mobilize the resources of the body for immediate activity, so that we could fight or flee the danger. In modern life, most of the danger signals must be ignored. When your boss yells at you, you can’t hit him and you can’t run away. All day long, every day, the stressors are triggering our adrenal response: bad drivers, family problems, job worries, sirens and high or low level noise in the work place, to name but a few.
Constant stress combined with stimulant use (remember even sugar has stimulant properties,) will finally exhaust the adrenal glands so that they can no longer provide the energy you need, when you need it. They can also malfunction in the direction of producing too much energy when you don’t need it (i.e. anxiety and panic attacks.) Adrenal exhaustion can contribute to the development of hypoglycemia, insomnia, depression, allergies, menopausal symptoms, circulatory problems, and immune malfunction. And of course to low energy, which at it’s extreme can lead to such conditions as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Now, what can we do to help our poor exhausted adrenals? Firstly, a good diet is essential. This means, as much as possible, avoiding refined sugars (including honey, maple syrup and fruit juices,) and appreciating that, as far as your body is concerned, all refined carbohydrates (breads, pastas, pastries, white rice and white potatoes are the same as sugar. Eat on a regular basis, with healthy snacks in between (whole fruit, nuts, seed etc.) and an emphasis on protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates (whole grains, yams and sweet potatoes).
Certain nutrients are required for adrenal health including vitamin. C, vitamin B-6, Magnesium, and Zinc. Take 500mg to 1000mg of Vitamin C with each meal, a good multi-vitamin that contains at least 20-30mg of B-6 (along with all the other B vitamins) and 15-30mg of Zinc. For those trying to repair worn out adrenals, the addition of extra vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid) at about 250mg 3x per day (with meals) will be of noticeable benefit. Licorice tea can also be supportive though, contraindicated in cases of high blood pressure.