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Gut Health: The Key to Vibrant Energy

Gut Health: The Key to Vibrant Energy

Can you relate to this? You wake up feeling tired and sluggish, facing a jam-packed day. You ask yourself, “How on Earth am I supposed to get through this day?” No time to dwell on it – you grab your coffee and off you go.

By lunch, your energy has plummeted. Not just physically, but mentally, too – yawning, brain fog, staring at the screen, or zoning out.

And when it’s time for bed, you’re too wired to sleep. It feels like it takes forever to fall asleep, or you sleep so lightly, tossing and turning, that you feel you haven’t slept at all. And sometimes you doze off for a short time but just can’t seem to stay asleep.

Fighting Fatigue
“Fatigue” is a common complaint to both naturopathic and medical doctors. Low energy, difficulty concentrating, and sleep problems are often misdiagnosed as adrenal fatigue. NDs will often diagnose adrenal insufficiency, recommending adrenal or thyroid supplements. An MD might order an awkward and artificial sleep study. More commonly, though, the solution offered is pharmaceutical – a sleeping pill to knock us out or an addictive anti-anxiety medication to “calm” us.

And it’s not just doctors getting this question. “How can I increase my energy?” is among the top Google searches! Americans are exhausted. We want more energy, and to get it, we reach for sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, or “energy” drinks.

However, none of these “fixes” address the root cause of our exhaustion. Our lifestyles often disrupt our diet, exercise, and sleep routines, leading to a vicious cycle of stress.We often try changing everything at once – a recipe for failure that relaunches our stress cycle. Conversely, a reductionistic, symptomatic approach hasn’t solved the underlying problem, either. So, are we even addressing the right things?

Is the Problem Actually in Your Gut?
Tired? We think the problem lies in our adrenals or thyroid. Brain fog? We believe the problem lies in our brains. Can’t sleep? We assume the issue is with our internal clock.

In reality, these issues can point to a problem along the gut-brain axis (GBA). Instead of focusing solely on adrenal, thyroid, or brain issues, consider the GBA as a potential source of and solution to these problems. The GBA is our communication system between our second brain in our gut and our true brain in our head. It influences our energy, focus, concentration, sleep, and more. Its components overlap and its feedback systems are complex and redundant, emphasizing just how important it is.

The good news is that working with the GBA allows a very customizable solution. We know specific probiotic strains play specific roles in our mental wellness – some reduce stress by lowering cortisol, some improve GABA transmission to help us sleep, and some increase our feel-good neurotransmitters, helping us reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood, motivation, and cognition. Knowing this, we can rebalance the biome with probiotics tailored to specific symptoms.

Prebiotic fibers support the colonization of beneficial bacteria, while botanical extracts like guayusa, pomegranate, matcha, and bee pollen can enhance energy, mental clarity, and a feeling of well-being. OPC, a component of grape seed and pine bark, can help improve concentration and focus while lending a calming effect. In Europe, specific OPCs are considered first-line therapy for ADHD.

Although you can’t go wrong with adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating a variety of fiber-rich, fermented foods, consulting a holistic practitioner to help pinpoint exactly which natural solutions will work best for you can shortcut your route to a less stressed and more energetic you.

Dr Dana Lapointe is a naturopathic physician and certified mental wellness coach, practicing in central Connecticut since 2010. She recently founded the Health Empowerment Access League (H.E.A.L.), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to empower low-income Americans by providing online health education and increasing access to effective, noninvasive, natural-care options. Dana offers telemedicine, online coaching, and group wellness programs. For an appointment or more information, call or text her office at 860.217.1171.