Energy: A Little More Please
Who doesn’t want a little more energy? There is hardly a day that goes by where this writer is not faced with this question. It is probably the number one request asked of health care practitioners and is also one of the most difficult to diagnose and treat. Supplements used for increasing energy are numerous and quite varied in how they influence our levels of vitality. This article will attempt to address some of the more common causes of fatigue and how to deal with them.
Before we discuss how to get more energy a brief discussion on how our body metabolises the food we eat to create energy might be helpful. Simply put between putting that morsel of food into your mouth and that food getting burned as fuel in the cell, many steps need to occur. Miss a critical nutrient, enzyme or co-factor and you affect the way the body will react. Digestion first begins in the mouth with food being mechanically broken down by chewing and the addition of salivary enzymes so chew your food well, (your mother was right!). Miss this step and you are severely taxing your digestive system and its ability to extract nutrients. If necessary adding probiotics and digestive enzymes can assist in this process helping to maximize the amount of nutrients you can absorb. Remember your nutrition is only as good as what you absorb not what you put in your mouth. Bottom line, in order to maximize your energy levels you need to optimize your nutritional intake.
Assuming that your food has been sufficiently broken down by chewing, stomach acids and pancreatic enzymes, (and that is a very big if!), it now has to make it across the lining of the small intestine. This is a critical juncture and the point at which a lot of dysfunction can occur. Case in point, the modern diet includes large amounts of grains and dairy products along with copious amounts of modified oils. By some accounts 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant with a similar number exhibiting some degree of sensitivity to gluten. Furthermore modern farming has increased the gluten content of our grains because it enhances texture and taste as well as its handling, to our detriment. Suffice it to say, humans and many of our farm animals are simply not designed for consuming grains. The gliadins found in many of our grains end up damaging the mucosal lining of the intestine compromising nutrient absorption and contributing to conditions such as “leaky gut”. This fact is probably one of the greatest contributors to the ever increasing incidence of irritable bowel and other digestive disturbances. In these cases healing the gut is just as important as avoiding the triggers. Superstars in this category include glutamine and zinc carnosine along with herbs like slippery elm, marshmallow as well as aloe vera juice. For these people especially foods should be well cooked and easy to digest. Hard to digest plant fibers should be avoided as these tend to irritate the intestinal lining. Many people try to increase fiber contact when they have gastric difficultly which often proves disastrous.
Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream the nutrients must be processed by the liver, which is why intestinal integrity is of vital importance. Nutrients or any substance that bypasses the hepatic delivery system by leaking into the bloodstream without going to the liver first gets treated as a foreign antigen. It is generally believed that most auto immune conditions are greatly influenced if not directly caused by conditions occurring from poor gut integrity. In the next section we will delve more deeply in to the role the liver plays as master regulator of our energy metabolism.