Energy Crisis: Understanding the causes of low energy

Its one thing to know that you are overworked and tired, but what really counts is knowing why and what can be done about it. For my patients I want to examine the following areas as cumulative factors that are contributing to their energy, or lack there of.


Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your sleep and what the answers indicate

Do you fall asleep easily?:

  • Yes:This may be a good sign, indicating that you have a healthy night routine that allows you to unwind at the end of the day and hit the pillow with minimal stressors keeping you awake. This may also indicate that you are so exhausted from the day that there is nothing that will keep you awake.
  • No: This may be a sign that your evening routine doesn't allow you to de-stress. Your cortisol is elevated late into the night and your brain just won't shut off. This is a situation that responds well botanical medicine and setting up a night routine.
  • Do you stay asleep?:

  • Yes: This is good, it indicates that your stress is not disrupting your sleep.
  • No: This may be an indicator that your stress is causing your cortisol to rise in the middle of the night, reducing your hours of REM sleep. It can also be caused by training yourself to be hyper vigilant at night, most commonly listening for the baby crying. In either case botanical medicine can be helpful as well as diet changes to help reduce blood sugar crashes while you sleep
  • Do you wake rested?

  • Yes: Well aren't you lucky.
  • No: This may be a sign that your sleep is too short, or that your adrenals aren't able to start in the morning as they should. Here nutrient supplements and diet changes are key, but botanical medicine can also be helpful.
  • Diet:

    These are some of the key questions that can indicate the dietary link to your energy levels.

    Do you find you have energy crashes at the same time most days?

  • Yes: This can be a blood sugar balance problem. Another indication that this is the case is if you don't have the energy crash on the weekends. This can be addressed by eating more regularly as well as specific nutrients and botanicals.
  • No: This is good, but consider what foods you are using to keep your energy up. If you are relying on many sugar hits consisting of simple carbohydrates or sugars then there is still work to be done.
  • Is your digestion consistent and symptom free?

  • Yes: Excellent, you will likely have a relatively balanced diet with foods that your body doesn't react to.
  • No: There may be a number of issues to work on here. There may be issues of foods that you are sensitive to, there may be dysbiosis, there may be insufficient water and fiber, and there may be a stress component that is decreasing your body's ability to digest the food it needs. In any case, supplemental nutrients will help in the short term to allow the body to repair and resume normal functioning.
  • Do you get energy crashes after some meals but not others?

  • Yes: This may be an indication that the meal was too rich and now your body must spend so much of its resources in digesting it, that you feel the energy drop. It may also be a sign that the meal was high in simple sugars and lacked the fiber, protein, and fats to allow for a smaller rise in blood sugar. It can also be a sign that your body's response to insulin is dysfunctional, which can be an early indicator for diabetes later on. Finally it can be a sign that your body is mounting an immune reaction to one or more of the foods in the meal. In any case, you will have to look more closely at what you eat and assess if that particular food is healthy for you.
  • No: Fantastic, one less thing to worry about.
  • Do you have trouble sustaining exercise or doing repeated sets of weight lifting?

  • Yes: Most commonly this is an indicator that you aren't getting enough calories or adequate macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein). It can also be a lack of sufficient micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), but this is less common.
  • No: If you are not exercising then this obviously doesn't count.
  • Mental function:

    This question relates generally to how stress impacts mental function.

    Is your thinking foggy like you aren't as quick mentally as you used to be.

  • Yes: There are many factors that can have this impact but the most common are drug side effects, sleep deprivation, and alcohol consumption. These can be helped with sleep, diet changes, nutrient supplementation, and botanical medicine. Some of these therapies only require short term treatment during times of peak stress, while others may require longer therapy.
  • No: This is great, but sometimes we aren't aware of how foggy we are until we try.
  • Immune function:

    Remember that your immune system uses a lot of energy and nutrients to fight off infections.

    Are you constantly getting sick?

  • Yes: Most commonly nutrition and stress are central to this problem. During cold and flu season supplementation can be very helpful in reducing the frequency and duration of infections which will mean your body won't burn as much energy on fighting infections. Even low grade infections have an impact, so don't just ignore it because the symptoms aren't too severe.
  • No: Excellent.
  • Hopefully these questions will be able to guide you toward the areas that will have the greatest impact on your energy levels. There are serious pathologies that can impact energy, so I would recommend discussing your energy with your health care provider, but most of the time it comes down to lifestyle factors. If you are an athlete then you have to be more critical of your energy, because you will not be able to get maximum training benefit by using Band-Aid approaches like coffee and sleeping pills.