Hibernation: Dealing with Persistent Fatigue

IF THE ENERGY HITS THROUGH THE EDGE, difficulties are easy to overcome or not notice at all. But maintaining a constant “charge” level is not easy. How to open a “second wind” when strength is running out, we figure it out together with experts: the head of the Center for Somnology CDC MEDSI on Krasnaya Presnya, the doctor of functional diagnostics of the highest category Tatyana Surnenkova, nutritionist, clinical psychologist-nutritionist, member of the Union of the National Association of Clinical Nutrition Anna Ivashkevich and therapist, geriatrician, doctor of the “Online Doctor” project Tatiana Prokopyeva. 

Why do we “hibernate” 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition in which increased fatigue is felt, performance is reduced, and concentration is noticeably impaired. Often, headache or muscle pain suffers, sleep disorders occur – for example, insomnia or apnea. Moreover, these “symptoms” do not disappear after a good rest, as is the case with ordinary fatigue , when it is enough to get enough sleep or take a short break to recuperate . The causes of chronic fatigue, as a rule, are several at once: frequent prolonged stress, poor quality sleep or lack of sleep, unhealthy diet, alcohol abuse, smoking, hormonal disorders. Sometimes the Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, or herpes virus can lead to a problem. 

Clinical psychologist and nutritionist Anna Ivashkevich notes that diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome is not easy: there are no indicators that would accurately indicate the presence of a deviation, and the list of symptoms is too wide. However, in a recent study by scientists at the University of California, San Diego, it was found that all carriers of chronic fatigue syndrome have a slowed down cell metabolism. In this case, all biological processes are inhibited, and the state of the body resembles the hibernation of animals. To get out of energy-saving mode, the body must receive a signal that the stress is no more. Such a “signal”, according to the researchers, is a regular eight-hour sleep – the absence of the latter for a long time leads to malfunctions in the nervous system and brain.  

According to another study , the processes in chronic fatigue syndrome are similar to inflammatory ones – in the blood test, an increased concentration of immune proteins associated with inflammation is noted. Scientists are sure that if this condition persists for several years, you should not count on a quick recovery. According to Anna Ivashkevich, a complex of methods helps to “restart” the body, which may include massage , yoga , meditation, work with a psychologist, and the therapy itself takes from 4-6 months to a year on average.   

What to eat so as not to get tired

In most cases, chronic fatigue is associated with a lack of energy. It occurs for several reasons at once – due to poor quality sleep, lack of balanced nutrition and lack of oxygen. The main source of energy is food. If the diet is unbalanced, that is, the balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates is disturbed, a breakdown after a while is inevitable. A striking example is a carbohydrate – free diet, the observance of which in many cases depletes the body, provoking rapid fatigue, apathy and even manifestations of depression. In addition, on average 20% of the total energy expenditure is spent on the digestion process, especially a lot of it is needed for the digestion of proteins. But experts note that digesting food rich in so-called xenobiotics – synthetic substances foreign to a living organism – forces the body to expend even more energy in order to ensure the elimination of these harmful compounds.

Tatyana Surnenkova advises to diversify the usual diet with lean meat, seafood, mainly green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains and dairy products. It is especially beneficial to add fish to the diet, which contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The doctor also recommends eating small meals every two to three hours – this will allow the body to regularly receive the necessary portion of energy. Deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the body can also be the cause of poor health and weakness. According to therapist Tatyana Prokopieva, vitamins trigger the work of enzymes that accelerate chemical reactions in cells. This facilitates digestion and boosts metabolism. The doctor draws attention to the fact that with increased fatigue, irritability, lethargy, memory impairment and frequent colds, the body may lack vitamins of group B (B1, B6, B12), C, as well as iron, magnesium, zinc or iodine.

The normal functioning of the thyroid gland depends on the latter – hormonal regulation of protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. In terms of chemical composition, vitamins and minerals from food do not differ from their synthetic counterparts, but the latter is easier for the body to assimilate. In addition, most of the vitamins are lost during food processing. For example, vitamin C completely disappears from freshly squeezed juice an hour after pressing, and vitamin B1 disappears from brown rice when grinding cereals (when the rice turns white). However, before you start drinking vitamins or vitamin-mineral complexes, it is important to consult with a therapist and take urine and blood tests.

What is the sixth mug of coffee fraught with?

According to Tatyana Surnenkova, there is nothing wrong with drinking a cup of coffee at breakfast. It’s another matter when you drink five or more mugs of an invigorating drink per day : the effect of caffeine is short-lived, and the stimulation of the cardiovascular system is significant. Insomnia or drowsiness, loss of energy, headache are common “side effects” of coffee. Tatyana Prokopyeva draws attention to the fact that caffeine is a psychostimulant that stimulates energy, but at the same time slows down the recovery of the nervous system. A person who is addicted to coffee falls into a vicious circle: the recovery time is increased, and the body is losing energy faster and faster and requires another portion of caffeine.  

In addition, even organic coffee often contains a large dose of cadmium (this is due to the harvesting of grains) – a powerful psychostimulant that, when used frequently, not only provokes nervousness, but also causes addiction (it can be easily confused with caffeine addiction). Anna Ivashkevich adds that coffee provokes the production of the hormone cholecystokinin, which triggers the digestion process – the production of digestive enzymes and bile. If the drink is drunk on an empty stomach, then there is nothing to digest – and heartburn may occur. Although it has not yet been proven that coffee can cause gastritis or peptic ulcer disease, in case of such unpleasant sensations, it is better to change your habits. To stop drinking coffee too often or give it up altogether, experts suggest replacing the drink with chicory, cocoa, herbal tea.   

Where to get energy

According to Tatiana Prokopyeva, any load – physical, intellectual – in a non-stop mode can lead to overwork. The human body cannot function like a machine and it takes time to recover. On the other hand, moderate regular physical activity, on the contrary, helps the body to better cope with fatigue and stress. Walking in the fresh air for at least 15-30 minutes a day and ventilating the premises is another way to feel more invigorated. Lack of oxygen leads to hypoxia, that is, oxygen starvation, which impairs performance and disrupts metabolic processes.

Another option to replenish energy reserves is to go through some of the relaxation procedures. For example, floating is a non-contact relaxation method in which the flow of nerve impulses entering the brain from the senses changes . During the session, a person is immersed in a pool of warm saline solution, which holds the body on the surface, creating a feeling of weightlessness. This allows you to relieve muscle tension, get rid of anxious thoughts, restore circadian rhythms and get a proper rest. However, experts note that for good health, it is not enough just to go through the procedure, drink a handful of vitamins or conduct an energetic workout – you need to act in a complex, and most importantly, regularly. 

How to distribute the load

A balanced diet, good sleep and regular physical activity are the accumulators of physical energy. For example, a clear sleep and rest routine creates a feeling of stability and ensures the normal functioning of the entire nervous system. The ability to correctly distribute the load helps to avoid overwork, for example, not grabbing at everything at once during the working day. A lot of energy also goes into communicating with people – offline and on the Internet. To save energy, experts advise against taking negative comments from others to heart: their reactions may be caused by health problems, family difficulties or difficulties in solving work issues. 

You should not dwell on thoughts about what exactly you are doing wrong – it is better to think about how to improve the situation. The human brain tends to cling to negativity, and it can be difficult to “switch” it to something pleasant. But, according to the doctor Tatyana Surnenkova, if you mentally imagine a positive emotion, it is not difficult to experience it in reality. And it is worth practicing, because prolonged stress not only takes energy away, but also provokes psychosomatic disorders.  

Does fatigue affect libido?

Low libido, that is, decreased sexual desire, can also be associated with overwork. The right emotional attitude and the ability to relax are the points without which it is difficult to enjoy intimate relationships. To increase libido, experts advise developing sensuality, that is, listening to your feelings in a variety of situations. For example, when taking a shower, you should focus not on thoughts about work, but on how the body reacts to streams of water, and feel the soft foam of the gel on the skin. You can also use breathing techniques – deep breathing sharpens the sensations.

Sometimes physiological disorders become the reason for a decrease in sexual desire – then adjustments in the diet will help increase libido. First of all, you should normalize the level of zinc, which is found in fish, seafood, egg yolk, prunes – it is involved in maintaining a stable hormonal background. The amino acid citrulline (its sources are garlic, ginger, watermelon) improves the production of enzymes that increase blood circulation in the pelvis and stimulate arousal, and B vitamins (found in honey, mountain ash, seaweed), E and potassium (found in avocados, sun-dried tomatoes ) promote the synthesis of sex hormones. But, as in any other situation, do not postpone going to a specialist if you suspect a problem: a decrease in libido can be caused by a variety of reasons, from hormonal to psychological.

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