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Fighting fatigue

Foods and supplements to help reduce the symptoms of fatigue

There are many lifestyle and medical reasons why people feel fatigued or tired long-term, and if you do, get checked out by your doctor for underlying reasons. Temporary fatigue can be natural in some circumstances – lack of sleep, overwork, stress, pregnancy and more.

How to minimise fatigue

A healthy diet containing plenty of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, all the range of vitamins you need plus iron may help minimise fatigue symptoms. A frequent cause of feeling tired when you can count out all the causes listed above is that you have been eating too much refined carbohydrate/sugar. These can give you spikes in blood sugar levels – at first boosting energy and then bringing you down low. A big, high-carb meal can also divert blood and oxygen from the brain to the digestive system to handle it and this can result in feeling sleepy. The solution is to eat high-protein, moderate-carb meals, especially during the day, and make any carb that you do eat ‘complex’ or minimally refined, as this has less impact on fluctuating blood sugar levels.

• Being low on iron can make you feel tired so make sure you are getting plenty of the iron-rich foods in your diet and see your doctor for an anaemia check.

• Dehydration can make you feel tired, so get regular drinks throughout the day – but avoid alcohol as that can make you feel tired too.

• Eat regularly and, if you are very physically active, consider that you may need to increase your calories.

• If you are getting older and feel tired all the time, you may benefit from taking supplements of Co-Enzyme Q10, a compound that has an important role in the production of energy, and production of which can decline as we age.

• Chronic tiredness may also be linked to gut bacteria.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, sometimes called chronic fatigue syndrome, is said to affect 150,000 people in the UK at any one time. It can last for months or even years, is highly disabling and sufferers frequently have to give up work or school.

As ME is not a medically recognised disease, it’s diagnosed by ruling out other conditions that could be causing symptoms, and treatment simply aims to relieve those symptoms.

The NHS says that the cause of ME is not known, but it may result from an infection such as glandular fever, a hormone imbalance, immune system problems, mental health problems or a genetic predisposition. Recent research at the USA Columbia University has discovered that there are differences in the gut bacteria of those with chronic fatigue syndrome compared to their healthy counterparts. This may eventually lead to more positive and targeted help for sufferers, but more research needs to be done.

• Follow a basic healthy diet, including plenty of potassium-rich foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as oily fish and whole grains.

• For some, various dietary supplements seem to help. One trial showed quite significant improvement in symptoms with a regular combination of evening primrose oil and fish oils.

• Another showed that a course of magnesium injections helped – oral magnesium may also be helpful, as may co-enzyme Q10.

• Regular moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to improve wellbeing in some sufferers.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, sometimes called chronic fatigue syndrome, is said to affect 150,000 people in the UK at any one time.

Extracted from The Food Bible: The Ultimate Reference Book for Food and Your Health (£25, Pen and Sword).

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