Photo: ThinkstockBy Mehmet Oz
Has your energy level been low? Have you felt exhausted, despite regulating your sleep and stress? If so, you're not alone. Nearly one-third of US primary care patients report significant fatigue, accounting for 7 million office visits every year. Learn four surprising reasons that could account for your exhaustion, along with Dr. Oz's unusual-but effective-cures. Of course, if your energy level is unusually low, get your blood checked by your physician.
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Bad Bacteria in Your Gut Prevent Deep Sleep
Two-thirds of the world's population--over 4.5 billion people--have bad bacteria known as H. Pylori living in their stomach. This harmful bacteria can be a major source of fatigue. Your stomach's inner lining produces acid to digest food, while simultaneously creating protective mucus to guard from this acid. H. pylori bacteria invade the stomach, destroying your protective mucus layer and leaving you vulnerable to ulcers, or tiny sores on the stomach's lining. While you sleep, acid can escape the stomach through these ulcers and flow up into your esophagus, causing a sore throat and ruining your ability to get deep, restorative sleep. Additionally, as blood escapes from the ulcers, it may cause anemia, further lowering your energy throughout the day.
Fortunately, H. Pylori infection is easy to detect and treat. A simple breath test from your doctor will detect the bacteria. Antibiotics can kill the bad bacteria and acid-reducing medications will treat the ulcers. You can also try taking antacids before bed; if they seem to lead to a better night's sleep, it may indicate the presence of H. Pylori.
Phlegm Build-Up May Clog Airways
Healthy breathing draws oxygen through your nose and down to your lungs, giving your body the energy it needs. But as you sleep, phlegm can build up in the back of your throat, blocking the passage of oxygen from the nose to the lungs. You may compensate by breathing through the mouth, but a recent study shows that doing so is correlated to a significantly lower blood-oxygen level, which can lead to fatigue. Gargling every morning, whether with mouthwash or salt water, can help clear the throat's phlegm, allowing more oxygen to reach the lungs which boosts your energy.
Your Morning Coffee Could Be Making You More TiredMany of us turn to coffee or tea for a morning pick-me-up, but it could be the cause of your fatigue for two reasons. First, when consumed in excess, coffee causes a surge in your metabolism, followed by a crash. Second, caffeine has a dehydrating effect. When you wake up, you tend to already be dehydrated from not drinking water for hours. If you don't consume any other beverages, your coffee could cause further dehydration and drain your energy. The key is to drink caffeine in moderation and to drink a full 8-ounce glass of water around the same time as your morning cup of joe to stay hydrated.
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Your Clothes May Be Too Comfy (and the Wrong Color)
Getting too comfortable may actually make you more tired. Baggy and stretchy clothing makes it much easier to slouch, which strains your joints and muscles as they work extra hard to distribute oxygen throughout your body. Dressing up not only prevents slouching, but also boosts confidence. Confidence, in turn, tends to improved posture, allowing for healthy breathing.
The color of your clothing may also be tiring you out. Dark colors like black, navy and brown stimulate the secretion of melatonin--the chemical that makes you sleepy. The good news is that studies show there are many colors to keep you energized. White clothes suppress sleep-inducing melatonin and boost serotonin--the feel-good chemical in your brain. Red is good for an aggressive kind of energy. It's also been shown to increase blood flow and stimulate adrenal glands. Yellow has been proven to stimulate the brain, build self-confidence, and encourage optimism.
Unexpected Cures for Your Fatigue
Eggs and Cantaloupe
Even though it may be an unusual combination, eggs and cantaloupe could be a winning duo to beat your fatigue. Eggs are an inexpensive and low-calorie source of protein on their own, but they're even better when paired with a complex carbohydrate like cantaloupe. The protein in the eggs helps slow the absorption of the fruit's sugar, preventing sugar spikes and sustaining energy throughout the day.
Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that naturally grows on the head of a caterpillar. An animal study determined cordyceps helped improve metabolism, which can alleviate fatigue and increase physical endurance as you age. In 1993, two female Chinese athletes beat world records for the 1500-, 3000-, and 10,000-meter runs and attributed their success to cordyceps supplements. Try 3g per day. They're available for about $7 at health food stores.
Normally, cacti are best admired from a distance, but the Nopal cactus, also known as "prickly pear," can be an effective cure for your fatigue. It's sold fresh, dried, and in jams for use in Mexican and South Western cuisines. Nopal is also available as a supplement. It's packed with antioxidants that can help the liver detoxify the body and reduce inflammation-related fatigue. Try 1000 mg with a full glass of water per day. You can buy Nopal cactus for about $12 at health food stores.
"The Walrus" Exercise
Although you may get a few looks at the gym, this unusual exercise is a great way to boost your energy. First, lie on your stomach with your arms outstretched on the floor in front of you. Plant your palms and use the strength of your arms and core to pull yourself forward and upright. Hold that position for a second, then lower your body, extend your arms. Repeat this while traveling across the floor like a walrus on the move. As with all exercise, "the walrus" speeds up your metabolism. Additionally, by working often-neglected muscles, you'll be activating new areas of your brain involved in coordination and muscle memory. Most importantly, this back-arching exercise is a great way to stretch, improve circulation, and relieve the muscle tension that could be bringing your energy level down.
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