Still tired? In my last post we discussed the importance of sleep and the effects of a high sugar diet on our energy level. Chronic fatigue has copious amounts of contributors beyond just high sugar and lack of sleep though. Vitamin D, our adrenal health and our thyroid can also play their part in our fatigue.
What is vitamin D, where does it come from and what does it do? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin also known in its active form as cholecalciferol or vitamin D3 and is found naturally in very few foods. Salmon and tuna are two natural sources of the vitamin. Many other nutritional sources have the vitamin D added. The biggest contributor of vitamin D is the sun (Health, 2016).
Vitamin D is used in the body to help absorb calcium, but it doesn’t stop there. There is also research that shows vitamin D helps our muscles and immune system function. It is also suggested that vitamin D might help prevent some cancers, treat diabetes and heart disease (Clinic, 2017). Adding to that list, Vitamin D has also been shown to be protective against autoimmune diseases, neurocognitive dysfunction, mental illness and infertility (Pludowski, 2013).
With the sun being the main supplier of vitamin D, it is important to have your vitamin D checked before the shorter days of winter approach. Also talk with your functional medicine provider on what vitamin D supplement will work best for you.
Stress seems to be prevalent in most people’s lives and it affects our bodies in more ways than one. Our adrenal glands, which react in response to stress, are located on top of our kidneys and are responsible for hormones that regulate metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, sex hormones etc. If our adrenals are not functioning correctly we could be in hormonal mess.
One crucial hormone regulated by the adrenal glands in response to stress is Cortisol. Cortisol alone plays a role in metabolism, inflammation, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation along with the sleep/wake cycle (Medicine, 2017). Cortisol is controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and in order for the body to function optimally, cortisol must be kept in check. When stress is prevalent, the hypothalamus signals the anterior pituitary to stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol (Wilson, 2014). When this happens, cortisol signals the body to release glucose (sugar) into the blood so that our bodies’ large muscles are ready to fight or ready for flight. To make sure glucose stays in the blood stream, cortisol inhibits insulin, the hormone responsible for glucose storage. With cortisol in the blood stream, our arteries constrict and blood pressure increases. If we are functioning normally and the stressor is eliminated, glucose is reabsorbed and our blood pressure returns to normal (Aronson, 2009).
By just looking at cortisol, one hormone released by the adrenal glands, we can see that our adrenal glands have the ability to affect everything we do. If we allow stress, lack of exercise, poor diet, etc. to affect us, we force our adrenal glands to work overtime and become fatigued. Symptoms in include; decreased stamina, decreased productivity, craving salt, not feeling rested, decreased libido, increases in illnesses, mild depression, hypoglycemia, and requiring caffeine or stimulants to keep going during the day (Wilson, 2014).
Tired yet? Take another sip of coffee, we have one more contributor to consider.