Top Tips to Boost Your Energy
Who doesn’t want a little more energy? There is hardly a day that goes by where I, the writer of this article, am 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. 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 must 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. 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 condition 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 into the role the liver plays as master regulator of our energy metabolism.
Energy: Pass the Butter! (Part 2)
Out of all the vital organs, the liver is perhaps the most critical when it comes to metabolizing our food/fuel into energy. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is often called a silent epidemic. Primary causes include an over abundance of calorie rich, yet nutrient poor foods common in the North American diet. The liver is a biochemical workhorse, involved in burning fat for fuel, helping to eliminate excess nitrogen, contributing to the metabolism of endocrine hormones, storing vitamin A, protecting against infections as well as detoxifying drugs and environmental toxins. Any type of damage to the liver will ultimately affect whole body health. Steps to mitigate damage to the liver from excess fat accumulation would include choline rich foods such as egg yolks and liver as well as nutritional supplements such as lecithin, phosphatidylcholine, inositol and methionine.
But to truly understand and get to the heart of the issue, one must understand the critical role that the mitochondria play in the production of energy. Mitochondria are tiny little organelles that are situated inside the cell, like a “furnace” they provide the power necessary to drive biochemical reactions in the cell by converting glucose from sugars or ketones from fats, into the energy carrying molecule ATP. During extreme states of fasting the body will also convert proteins into energy, but only as a last resort when all other forms of fuel are exhausted. Cells in the liver are some of the most densely packed with mitochondria with somewhere between 1000-2000 mitochondria per cell making up about 1/5th of the cell volume. Any disturbances to the healthy functioning of these organelles will greatly compromise our well being and energy levels. Crucial to that end is the efficient use of oxygen and other nutrients and in order for that to occur the cell and their mitochondria require quality raw material.
The bottom line, it’s the cellular membrane and its composition to large degree that regulates the flow of nutrients in and out of the cell. Too much of the polyunsaturated seed oils from soy, corn, canola, sunflower and their like lead to the cell membrane being too fluid and “leaky”. Furthermore, these oils tend to be highly damaged in their processing and when used in high heat methods of cooking undergo further damage. These fats are no longer functional and can only impair cellular metabolism as their shape no longer fits properly into the membrane. When the cell does not get its nutrients then energy cannot be produced efficiently and health suffers, with the worst-case scenario being cancer. Many believe that cancer is the cell’s last-ditch effort at survival when the mitochondria are no longer able to use oxygen to produce energy, in fact at this stage energy is being produced anaerobically largely in the cytoplasm of the cell with lactic acid as a by-product. In this context it becomes vitally clear to eliminate as many damaged or processed fats as possible! All processed foods contain fats that have been modified in some way. Beware of foods claiming to be “trans fat free” as manufacturers can make this claim when the serving size contains less than .5 grams of trans fat. Add up the servings in these foods and the trans fat content quickly adds up.
To maximize the health of the cell remember to include many of the healthier oils into the diet like the omega 3’s and 6’s such as flax and hemp in their cold pressed unrefined form and never to cook with them! Olive oil being a mono-unsaturate is more stable than the previously mentioned oils but many still feel it is best used cold. For cooking the best fats are saturated fats that are highly stable like coconut oil, palm oil or even lard and butter! These types of fats contain a lot of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Saturated fats also provide an excellent source of fuel to the body and are great at revving up the metabolism as well as adding structure to the cell membrane. Saturated fats also protect the more fragile omega 3’s and 6’s in the body allowing for their better utilization. But use organic sources for animal derived fats as toxins tend to bio-accumulate in the fat.
This article has been provided my Mario Alonzi. Mario Alonzi, B.Sc.