Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Managing Fatigue

Fatigue! It's common with Crohn's and colitis sufferers, especially when they have a flare up since a significant amount of nerve energy is directed to healing, and often even when we're in remission we get fatigued for many reasons. Ultimately, anyone fighting illness or chronic diseases is more apt to fatigue and tiredness that a healthy person.  

So, what can we do to fight fatigue? Fatigue is often related to a lack of nerve energy, or lack of certain nutrients. 

Nerve energy is essential to our health and absolutely needed to fight illness, disease, and fatigue. With Crohn's and colitis, if you have a flare up, much or most of your nerve energy goes toward managing your symptoms, and sleep is the best cure for a lack of nerve energy. Sleep is the most effective way to replenish your nerve energy.

Stress management is crucial to nerve energy as well. If you're stressed, your solar plexus, which radiates nerve energy throughout your body, contracts, and you simply have less nerve energy. 

Also, because certain nutrients can be a factor associated with fatigue, a diet rich in vegetables is helpful. Vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables, have the majority of the nutrients that when lacking, contribute to fatigue: iron, magnesium, B12, folic acid (B-9), and potassium.

Iron is a mineral needed for hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen. When iron levels are low, red blood cells can't carry enough oxygen to the body's tissues, causing fatigue. So if you're iron deficient, a whole food supplement, or green leafy vegetables will help. I'm a big fan of juicing, so whenever I have any issues with my gut, juicing is better because the leafy veggies are a little tough on the GI tract, and the nutrients of juice is absorbed very quickly while giving the GI tract a rest.

Vitamins B12 and B-9 (folic acid) are needed for the production of red blood cells. B12 helps the body use iron and is also required for proper digestion, the absorption of food, the synthesis of protein and the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. 

Also, B-12 is produced in the GI tract, and it is difficult to get enough B-12 from Crohn's and colitis sufferers because B-12 is typically in protein foods that are the longest to digest and are acid forming, which isn't good for our GI tract and often triggers a flare up. I eat only plant based whole foods, but they don't contain vitamin B-12, So I self administer vitamin B shots. 

If you add supplements to your diet, shots are the best to administer if possible because they're more immediate and bypass the GI tract. If you take oral supplements, try to get the type that dissolves in your mouth or drops if you have Crohns in the upper GI tract. I don't like taking pills of any sort, even supplements, as I believe they aren't the most gentle on your upper digestive system. If you have UC or Crohn's only in the colon or rectum, a whole food supplement is fine to take, however.

B9 is needed for the body to produce red blood cells. Because it's easily destroyed during cooking, it is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Eating raw vegetables, beans and nuts usually is sufficient for B-9.

Magnesium is needed for the production of ATP, Adenosine triphosphate, a coenzyme used as an energy carrier in our bodies' cells. It is the main energy producing molecule in the body. So, when magnesium is lacking our cells are less able to produce energy and this leads to fatigue and tiredness. Magnesium is easily obtained through fruits, vegetables and fish.

Finally, potassium is a mineral that is needed for organs to properly function. Low potassium is associated with cancer, digestive disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome among others. Again potassium is found in fruits, vegetables and fish. 

Green leafy vegetables contain all of these nutrients other than B-12. No other food that I know of contain as many of the essential nutrients to fight fatigue as they do. But during a flare up, they are not gentle enough on the GI tract to eat, so consider adding a green juice to your daily routine. I drink about 16 oz a day of green juice that includes all of the required nutrients above, except B-12. It is my diet source for fighting anemia, fatigue and keeping my nerve energy strong. 

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