Life is one long process of getting tired – Samuel Butler
Ever feel like being tired is accepted by society as just a part of life as an adult?
Fatigue has to be one of the most frustrating things. It makes you struggle to concentrate and feel cranky, irritable and moody. It also brings on that awful brain fog where you’re trying to get things done but feel like you’re moving through mud.
But life doesn’t have to be a perpetual state of tiredness. We can turn this around!
It comes back to the two fundamentals: gut and stress.
When it comes to the involvement of the gut and stress in fatigue, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Did the disruption in gut bacteria cause the stress, leading to fatigue? Or did the stress cause the disruption in the gut bacteria, leading to fatigue?
First, let’s discuss the stress response. The stress response is a process which is tightly regulated by a system called the HPA axis. The HPA axis is essentially like a radio transmitter – the brain receives a stress signal and sends a message to the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline.
The interesting part about the HPA axis is that not only does it get activated by external stressors, it also gets activated by internal stressors, including a disrupted gut microbiome.
IBS and depression are both associated with an imbalance of gut bacteria and overactivation of the HPA axis. Inflammation in the gut – especially high levels of the inflammatory compound lipopolysaccharide (LPS) – causes activation of the HPA axis.
Interestingly, serotonin also regulates HPA axis function, and 90% of serotonin is made in the gut. Low serotonin causes dysregulation of the HPA axis.
On the flip side, activation of the HPA axis affects the gut composition and increases gut permeability (causes leaky gut). It becomes a vicious cycle.
So, it’s unclear what came first. But the important thing is that they both lead to the same place – fatigue.
Constant activation of the HPA axis – whether stress-induced, gut induced or both – eventually leads to HPA axis dysregulation (more commonly known as adrenal fatigue).
Adrenal fatigue happens when your body has been outputting stress hormones for too long and at too high levels. The body isn’t made to be in a state of stress, but unfortunately, it now is due to our modern lifestyles and diet. The system literally burns out. It’s like when a bike chain comes off – the bike can’t be pedaled anymore.
You then get altered cortisol patterns which either create energy fluctuations during the day, or you will feel exhausted all day but perk up after dinner.
When I was working in corporate this is exactly how I felt. I would wander through the day with low energy and even want to fall asleep on the way home, but then would pick up after dinner and struggle to sleep. It’s a bit like being on one of those crazy grabatron rides – all you want to do is get off and rest but you’re stuck to the walls and it keeps going around and around.
So what’s the solution?
We need to improve our stress resilience. Notice that I didn’t say ‘get rid of stress’.
Stress will always be there, and situations can rarely be changed. All you can do is change your response to that situation, and you do that by building emotional resilience through mindfulness and nourishing your body with a fresh, whole foods diet.
Diet is critical as it feeds healthy gut bacteria and provides your body with the nutritional support it needs to respond appropriately to stress. Mindfulness techniques will equip you to be able to better deal with stressful situations when they arise.
Would you like more energy? I’d love to invite you to my free upcoming masterclass! It’s called 3 Secrets to Amplify Your Energy – Why Your Gut is Key to Vitality, Productivity and Performance in Your Work. Click here to register.