Practitioner of Ayurvedic and Chinese natural medicine
    First North American Serial Rights
    c2008 Pat O’Brien


Natural Fatigue Fighting Foods, Herbs, and Supplements

    When exercise leaves you exhausted, rather than refreshed, you may be over-training. Then again, you may be physically depleted or what the Chinese refer to as "chi" deficient. Chi simply means energy or vitality. It is that life force or source of energy that keeps our immune system strong, organ function healthy, and fatigue away. True chronic fatigue or chi deficiency is more likely if you have any of these visible signs: 1) Your energy drags all day long, day after day 2) By mid afternoon, you are always ready for a nap. 3) Exercise makes you tired. 4) You catch every virus cold or flu that goes around 5) It takes your body and immune system several weeks to fight off a cold, not days. 6) Eating makes you feel more energized, not sluggish. When chi is zapped, fatigue can be at an all time high. If this deficiency occurs for some length of time, it can produce an underlying weakness in the body, along with adrenal depletion. When this happens, it’s time to decrease the intensity or duration of your exercise program, revamp your diet, and add in natural supplements or herbs. Also make sure that you are getting plenty of uninterrupted sleep and rest. A day off  here or there from work or exercise, wouldn’t hurt either, and is not a bad idea.

    You can begin to fight fatigue by first scrutinizing your diet. Make sure it has plenty of nutrient rich, anabolic building, and water increasing foods such as: oatmeal, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pancakes, pasta, rice, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, tofu, beef, poultry, seafood, and peanut butter. Plenty of dairy is a good idea as dairy is classified as very nutritive, heavy and moistening, counteracting dehydration, blood deficiency, and weakness. Good vegetables and fruits that also fall into this category include: sweet winter squashes, yams/sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes and sauce, artichokes, zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers, avocado, bananas, oranges, pineapple, kiwis, dates, figs, purple/red grapes, melons, pears, peaches, plums, and even lemonade. Avoid living on too many salads, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, carrots, beans, berries, cornbread, or even white potatoes which all can drain energy and dehydrate the body. Make more of your beverages real fruit juice or nonfat milk, and skip the teas which can be dehydrating and lacking in adequate nutrients.

    Excellent adrenal tonic herbs include: marshmallow, licorice root, rehmannia, fo-ti (He-shou-wu), ginseng (Chinese, Siberian or American), shatavari, ashwaganda, Solomen’s seal, slippery elm, codonopsis, wild yam, lycium berries, longan berries, amalaki, and hawthorne. These can be taken in capsule form or even extract form. Many natural supplement and herb companies now make formulas with these herbs as the main ingredients. Just make sure they are listed as the first ingredients on the label, and make up the majority of the herbs actually listed. (Avoid ginseng, ashwaganda, amalaki, and hawthorne if you tend to get headaches or migraines. Also avoid ginseng if you have high blood pressure or any skin disorders such as psoriasis.) The key here is to take the herbs over a long extended period of time- for several weeks, maybe even several months to see optimal results. These classification of herbs will help build up the body and diminish any type of deficiency gradually. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to also take a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement with extra vitamin C. Oily fatty acid supplements such as flax seed oil, borage, or evening primrose could also be added. Seaweeds such as Irish moss and kelp are now available in capsules, and they too can boost stamina, along with amino acid tablets, and dairy or soy protein and vitamin shakes.

    The second class of supplements used for treating fatigue are true "stimulants" such as ephedra, kola nut, guarana, white willow bark, yerba mate, and yohimbe bark. These latter herbs are often found in energy rush formulas, as well as dietary aids, as they all increase heart rate, pulse rate, metabolism. They "mask" fatigue by stimulating the central nervous system. Even though they don’t truly cure fatigue, they can provide an immediate temporary surge of energy. Often they are found together in energy supplement formulas called "stacking". By stacking or combining the herbs together, their effects are increased. I highly recommend either consulting your health care practitioner before considering them, or using them in small dosages on an occasional basis, since their side effects in extremely sensitive individuals can include insomnia, nervousness, hyperactivity, tremors. Ephedra is the most dangerous of the bunch, and was banned by the FDA recently, as it was linked to strokes, heart attacks and seizures. Yohimbe is classified as a spicy, warm, energy stimulating, and drying herb, but should be avoided by people with high blood pressure. Kola nut and guarana contain considerable amounts of caffeine. White willow bark is the natural derivative of aspirin, therefore has pain relieving properties, as well as the natural occurring caffeine found in aspirin. It is also blood thinning and caution should be exercised if one is already on blood thinning medication. Chromium, not mentioned before, is a milder, safer alternative. It is a natural occurring mineral used to help control blood sugar and sugar cravings. It has a mildly stimulating effect, hence the reason you see it in weightloss or energy increasing formulas. If what you’re after is an immediate temporary "rush", then a good cup of strong coffee may also do the trick!