When you feel run down, do you look for a magic energy pill? It could be a shot of espresso or your favorite coffee or energy drink, dark chocolate, vitamins, or maybe even sweet treats that are not so healthy. When you feel fatigued, dragged out, and out of steam, you have to look at the reasons why. Coffee, snacks and chocolate make you feel great for a few moments, but you have to discover the underlying cause of your lack of energy. You’ve heard the cliché “you are what you eat” and that makes sense. The food you eat creates the cells of your body, so you literally are what you eat. But even more important, you are what you digest. If your body can’t digest the foods you eat, you won’t benefit from them. Start by examining what you eat. Processed foods may not have many nutrients to begin with, even if the package says “Fortified with vitamins.” The amounts of vitamins may be based on government guidelines, but these are calculated from the minimum amounts you need to avoid serious illness, not the amounts you need for optimal health. Processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates, can be sending your body on a sugar roller coaster of highs and lows (the famous sugar crash), leaving you tired, unfocused and irritable. Eat the rainbow Examine the variety of food you eat. Are you eating a rainbow of colorful vegetables and fruits every day? Do you have good quality protein at every meal? Do you have high quality fats every day, such as coconut oil or Omega-3 fish oils? If you avoid any of these groups because of food intolerances or dietary beliefs, you may be deficient in certain nutrients. You are what you digest If you are eating well, but still have no energy, you may not be digesting your food as well as you did when you were younger. Check into digestive enzymes, probiotics, and fermented foods that culture your inner ecosystem with good bacteria that helps you digest your food. Check for common deficiencies such as low iron, lack of vitamin B, and not enough magnesium. Low thyroid function and adrenal burnout are also common causes of fatigue. A nutritionist, naturopathic doctor or a health practitioner with a knowledge of nutrition can help you figure out your problem and come up with an eating plan to increase your energy. Get active If you live in a cold climate, it’s easy to hibernate in winter. Many of us also work at computers much of the day, and we end up sitting way more than we should. Our muscles and joints are designed to move regularly. Exercise improves blood and oxygen flow to our cells, helps us balance blood sugar, alleviates stress, and supports proper hormone balance. Too much sitting or slouching on the coach, and you’ll feel your energy levels drop. Aim to establish a routine that’s enjoyable and invigorating, such as going for a daily walk with a friend, or taking a Zumba class at a gym. Exercise videos are inexpensive and fun, and can get you moving for a boost of energy. Relieve stress Most of us are stressed to the hilt. Living in a chronic state of fight or flight eventually wears us down and burns us out. We need to take breaks and recharge our bodies and minds. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, and just plain laughing at cats on roller skates on YouTube can break the stress cycle. Rehydrate You may feel tired because your body is crying for water. Too little fluid can be mistaken for exhaustion, and can cause lightheadedness, muscle aches, and more serious symptoms. Experts suggest we drink half our body height in water, so if you are 5’4’’, or 64 inches, you should drink 32 ounces, or 8 cups of water a day. A good way to get to this level is to drink at least 2 glasses of water first thing in the morning. Your body is naturally thirsty and dehydrated when you wake up. Filling your body with life-giving water early in the day will naturally give you more energy. Then sip water during the day, and try to drink one glassful before each meal. Before you know it, you will reach your water-drinking goal. Sleep soundly The leading cause of fatigue is not enough or poor quality sleep. If you have trouble getting or staying asleep, you know about it. But you may not know if you have sleep apnea, a condition where your breathing is disrupted. Snoring, gasping for air, and restlessness while you sleep are signs of sleep apnea. Often a family member can help in identifying this condition. Here are two natural sleep aids worth a try. Take 250-300 milligrams of magnesium at night. It relaxes your muscles and helps you sleep. In fact, there’s even a brand called Natural Calm. Magnesium is a vital mineral we all need, and it’s depleted from our soil. Many people have started sleeping well just by adding this mineral. Another relaxing ritual is to take a hot bath before bedtime. Add Epsom salts, which are rich in magnesium, and a few drops of lavender essential oil. The magnesium relaxes your muscles from the outside in, and practically pulls the stress out of your body. Then crawl into bed, and you are likely to sleep like a baby. Let the sunshine in Finally, get your energy from the source that animates all life on our planet –the sun. Contrary to what the sunscreen commercials tell you, our bodies need sunlight to create Vitamin D, which is actually an essential hormone. We need it for every system in the body, including for building bones and cartilage. Be sensible about sunlight, and don’t allow your skin to burn, but experts now say that 20 minutes a day of soaking up sunlight will give you the Vitamin D your body craves. So instead of shunning the sun, embrace it!